*Disclaimer: we shouldn’t have to say this — read the title ffs — but this is probably going to offend some of you. You’re welcome.
We live in an increasingly complex and well-defined world. Once upon a time, if you wanted to know why stars were or how mountains happened, someone would just make up a story about a giant dragonfly that pooped it. Nowadays, we can look on Wikipedia and find out the genus of that giant dragonfly and learn that it’s endangered because of Big Oil.
More and more people are drifting away from traditional religion (For the purposes of this topic, we mean the dignified cowering before and worship of the invisible being in the sky their parents were into, as opposed to the silly cowering before and worship of the other invisible beings in the sky weirdos are into). Some consider this a crisis of faith that will have disastrous effects. Others are like, IT’S ABOUT TIME FOR FUCK’S SAKE. We, the authors of this blog, will remain neutral on this topic until one side or the other ponies up and hands over some moolah.
Regardless of where you fall on that scale, people can have a hard time leaving their unquestioned beliefs behind. There are a lot of positives to religion, after all. There’s no reason to throw the baby out with the bathwater. Unless it’s a heretic baby which must be purified in the fires of truth. Which, um, please don’t. But, let’s face it, for a lot of people, traditional religions just don’t cut it anymore. They’re so, well, traditional, along with hidebound, ho hum, meh. Where’s the fanatical, reality-denying loyalty? Not really really. How about the charismatic leader father figure telling us what to do? Not so much. It’s easy to like your regular old religious belief system, but it’s a lot harder to LIKE-like it. So, for those people that are just not excited by that boring old Grampa religion (Boo!), if they encounter a sexy new GILF (Gramma I’d Like to Fellowship-with) religion, they’re already primed for it. But how can you tell if this cult is the one for you? It’s all got to do with quality of life, i.e. sammiches.
You know how it seems like everyone is doing Keto or going gluten-free or Narcotics Anonymous or [insert fad here] diet? It may surprise you to learn that this is nothing new. Cults have restricted their followers’ diets for hundreds, probably thousands of years (if time is real, of course). Some don’t eat pork because they read Charlotte’s Web as kids and it fucked them up. Some don’t eat meat on Fridays because fuck fish. Some eat hotdogs on Fridays because they’re Omega-level trolls. (It’s okay. Not every joke is for everyone.)
Food restrictions serve various purposes. Maybe meat is freaking expensive and bad for you. Or maybe there’s a moral component, like don’t eat babies because it makes us sad. Or maybe Fat Jimmy, of Fat Jimmy’s Pork Emporium, needs to learn to call the messiah’s sister back after what seemed like a lovely date, instead of breaking her heart. So no more pork will be purchased from that infidel!
But thinking about food restrictions having a purpose is, at bottom, beside the point. Some food restrictions seem reasonable (“Don’t eat lava”). Others, not so reasonable (“Chocolate is the Devil’s moisturizer”). Food restrictions are ultimately arbitrary and nonsensical, the same way that rules making us wear pants are. The point is that a cult has to have rules, and if the rule is indistinguishable from common sense, then it’s not really a rule, is it? If your cult’s dietary restrictions are along the lines of “avoid foods high in trans fats and sugar,” you cult is — we’re sorry to say this — super boring.
So, you need to find a cult with food restrictions that fit your busy, modern lifestyle while also being unreasonable and outdated. Lots of people are off gluten or meat, for example, but how about taking it a step further and avoiding all foods that maintain a shape without the help of a container? The great thing about this is blenders. Also, pudding. Another example might be to only eat foods our hominid ancestors the Paranthropus ate, which would include roots, tubers, bark, and probably small animals to supplement. Paranthropus had huge molars for grinding this crap up — you can set a quarter on one of those babies and still see enamel around it, until they eat the quarter. Imagine how strong your jaw muscles will be after just a few months of living on nuts, roots, and small change. The big takeaway here is that a cult is going to ban things that you actually like to eat. But that’s all part of the indoctrination, i.e. preparing you for The Big Reward.
Other food restrictions that you might find worthy are ones that ban:
- Foods that start with a vowel
- Anything that can be folded into thirds
- Foods from the back end of the animal
- Yucky vegetables
- Curly fries that curl to the left
We’ve all seen the documentaries or news reports about the cultists whose bodies are found, dressed in burlap sacks or some kind of homemade, formless garments meant to discourage individuality. Frankly, this is an offensive generalization. Just because you’re in a cult, doesn’t mean your inevitable suicided or ritually murdered corpse can’t be found in more aesthetically pleasing garments. Some of them are downright fashionable. #notallcults
But there are certain things you should watch out for regarding cults with dress codes. Avoid cults that require dressing in vertical stripes, which emphasize how out of shape you are. Cults that require bright colors such as red are better, because bright colors are slimming.
Some of the more provocative cults eschew clothing all together. This certainly saves on laundry bills. Also, given our penchant for eating like slobs, which we offset by never exercising, that naked thing is going to discourage snoops, big time.
Most cults have some kind of holy scripture, usually cobbled together from a Wikipedia article on Zoroastrianism. This can be questionable; we were specifically told there would be no reading. Honestly, nobody reads the book, anyway. Imagine how surprised Christians would be if they read the Bible, for example.
But how can you judge whether this cult’s sacred text is a good one without doing a deep dive, i.e. reading the thing?
- Is it confusing? The primary purpose of religious texts is to confuse inquisitive kids or neckbeards and shut down any curiosity or individuality. It’s best if whoever wrote it either did a lot of shrooms, was a big fan of Joyce, or both, so that they can achieve the right level of impenetrability in the text. Made up languages that have to be deciphered with magic devices are especially choice.
- Does it contradict itself? The Bible contradicts itself on the first page. Hard to beat that. That’s what you call a power move. Your religious text should make bold, often confusing, statements and then totally condemn those later on. This, of course, will add to the confusing element and give folks something to argue about. Statements like “The Eternal Gerbil we worship hates you because he loves you” are a plus.
- Dragons, magic, and shit. The best holy texts have all kinds of crazy shit in them that couldn’t possibly have happened, but since it was “long ago,” nobody questions it. Sure, they might say, “That probably didn’t happen, but people believed in stupid stuff like that back then,” but then they never make the connection that those are the same people whose book they’re basing their lives on. No one ACTUALLY believes in mythical monsters like angels and the French popping up, or miracles like raising the dead or there being chocolate in the house in the evening when you really need some. The purpose of this stuff is to open us up to the possibility that life could still surprise us, which is something everyone who’s ever left their hometown already knows. But dragons are pretty cool.
All of these elements work together to encourage Blind Faith. Blind Faith was a British supergroup composed of Steve Winwood, Ginger Baker, Ric Grech, and another guy. But we’re not talking about them. If we were, we’d have to say something about that F’d up album cover. Whaaaaaaat TF was that? But Blind Faith is ALSO what happens when you stop thinking. See, if you start thinking about an arbitrary belief system too much, you’re going to poke holes in everything. Blind Faith is the belief that what you and the other members of your cult “know” is totally true, regardless of all evidence to the contrary. The more confusing and impossible the text, the more people will believe it. Humans are kooky that way.
Before you get offended, notice that we didn’t say thinking was a good thing. In fact, it’s not. It’s terrible. Hey, remember that time you were going to do something, and then you got all nervous about it? What caused that? Thinking. Or, how about the time you got all depressed because of stuff? What’s to blame? Thinking. Thinking is the worst. It never did anybody any good. Sure, you can figure out all kinds of gobble-de-gook, like calculus or science, that nobody else seems to know, but so what? That just makes you more alienated. Thinking never made anybody happy, and it has made all of us miserable at some point. So, yeah, to heck with thinking. Darn it to heck!
You may be asking, but does blind faith make you happy? What are you doing right now? Thinking, that’s what. What did we just say?! Some folks just don’t learn. That’s why they can’t find their way home. (Seriously, though, wtf was the deal with that album cover?)
Different religions have different architectural styles. Catholics and Muslims are known for having beautiful places of worship. Southern Baptists are known for setting up smoke machines in old warehouses. Aesthetics are important. If you’re going to spend the (possibly brief) rest of your life in this underground bunker, you want it to be comfortable or homey or whatever. You don’t want to be embarrassed when visitors (if allowed) come or when the feds invade. There’s nothing worse than the Feds judging your barracks decorating choices.
But cults tend to shy away from any kind of display that might attract attention. The kind of architecture evoked by the words “isolated compound” is what you’re likely to encounter. We’re talking about pup tents, cabins cobbled together from pallets and bathroom tissue, roped off latrine “fields,” things like that. If your cult’s perimeter is an electrified fence topped by razor wire, that’s just because your wise leader is concerned about your safety. It’s the same reason he locks you in at night.
Also, the aesthetics of a cult say a lot about its spiritual underpinnings, or lack thereof. Does your religious leader dress humbly or in a baby blue tuxedo? We’re not saying that one aesthetic is superior to another; that’s something you have to decide for yourself. But, uh, the Catholics probably have it on that one. Just saying.
Remember the Bob Dylan lyric that goes “don’t follow leaders, watch the parking meters?” But what if your leader *is* a parking meter? This would be great if you were hoping to maintain your sedentary lifestyle; just park a couch in front of it and receive the holy wisdom until the red “expired” sign starts flashing. On the other hand, if you’re more of a get-out-there-and-smell-the-UFO-exhaust type, you might not appreciate this as much.
In other words, the kind of leader a cult has says a lot about whether it’s the right cult for you. But it’s not easy to distinguish what kind of leader someone might be. One day leader Bob Holycow is calling everybody “amigo” and it’s hugs all around. Next day, he’s led all his followers into a swamp and told them to beat themselves to death with live catfish while he drinks can after can of brake fluid. So what signs can you look for to help determine a potential religious leader’s potential potentiality?
Do they play a musical instrument? If so, the one they play can mean different things. Guitar tends to imply failed musician. That can include a lot of baggage but also a lot of coolness. A piano player implies a possible working knowledge of musical theory, which equals a big old nerd. Bongos? GET OUT NOW!!
How does the leader expect you to address them? Oh Great Exalted One? That’s fine. Benny (and you are the jets)? Also fine. A leader who wants his name to be determined by the roll of a 12-sided game die, though, is a leader you want to avoid. Sorry, Lothar the Uncola.
We “live” in a late-stage Capitalist “society,” which means, sure, we can’t afford to go to the doctor, but we can also name 37 different herbal cures that supposedly work for anything. Sure, they don’t actually work, but on the other hand we have so many options to choose from. That’s what America is all about. We deserve the same degree of options when it comes to our religions. No longer will we be shackled with one or two options. No more the tired old Catholics, Protestants, Muslims, Jews, or Other; if we want to join a cult of Earth Witches who craft likenesses of our one true prophet, Shia Lebeeff from our own bodily secretions, then we will, Shia-damn it. Look, there’s a void in most of our souls. We’ve shoveled in iPhones, memes, and Starbucks, but none of that has helped. Sure, maybe there’s some other answer, like that our culture lacks empathy and is devouring itself, or that we subconsciously recognize that our time is ending and are self-destructing out of guilt over our own self-indulgence, but doing something about all that sounds like a lot of work. It probably can’t be done, either, right? Why even bother trying. I heard there’s a dude who’s in contact with some aliens from another dimension. They can save us all — as long as we pay, up front. That sounds like a plan. A heck of a lot better one than voting.