This documentary about a cult, Christian Assemblies International, and its founder, Scott Williams, is notable for the cult’s ordinariness. It was the same old formula: a leader who claims to have direct insight into the mind of god, demands for obedience to the leader, sermons that raged at the evil heathens outside the church, extorting money to support the good works of the tribe (often involving pampering the leader)…all common stuff that is going on in churches all around Morris right now. Of course, Williams carried it further, and starting demanding that the young men in the group have sex with him, and he was scamming huge amounts of money from his congregation.
But what struck me is that in all the pictures and video clips of Williams, he comes off as incredibly boring and uncharismatic. He’s a pudgy schlub; his speeches are droning and awkward. He could be me! There’s just something wrong with people’s brains. We’re too susceptible to the formulaic nonsense behind religion — it’s like it’s designed to trip the gullibility circuits we all have, so that all a walking potato like Scott Williams has to do is recite a familiar pattern with confidence, and some small percentage of people will accept it.
Also, that it doesn’t take much to get rich: he went recruiting in Europe, and built up a congregation of “hundreds”. Hundreds! From countries with tens of millions of people! And that was enough that he could go on a spree, buying up valuable properties, and skipping from country to country, ahead of the authorities as they got wise to him.
That makes sense, too. We’re not talking about someone asking for small donations, ten bucks here, pocket change there, but an organized campaign to get those few hundred people to each cough up 10% of their income, hand over any inheritances, and make extra, large donations. It all adds up.
So there you go. If you’re sufficiently unscrupulous, and willing to embrace the proven con of religious bullshit, any of you can go off and get rich right now. Practice being really sincere and devout — that’s all it takes.