Republicanism a cult? That explains a lot.


This article begins by wondering what Marshall Applewhite was thinking as mixed the poisons for the Heaven’s Gate cult, before they committed mass suicide. And then it leaps immediately to describing what the Republican party is doing.

Republican Roy Moore, removed from the Alabama Supreme Court for his erratic behavior and banned from the mall for harassing teenage girls, has cloaked his campaign for the Senate in the language of “spiritual warfare.” As such, he is the most apt representative of the Republican Party in our age of cult politics. Moore is pitching himself as God’s candidate and his voters are slopping it up like poisoned applesauce. The party of “family values” is about to send a known sexual predator to the Senate because God wants them to. This would be startling, except they already used the same reasoning to put a known sexual predator in the White House.

The same magical reasoning infects Republicans tax reform plans. We are in the eighth year of continuous job growth, the eighth year of economic expansion, and the eighth year of a head-spinning stock market boom. Corporate profits are at record levels and the economy has been redlining at full-employment for almost three years. By any marginally credible economic reasoning, this would be an ideal moment to raise taxes, curb debt, make investments in public infrastructure, and just generally do the things one does at the peak of a long economic expansion.

At this moment, why are Republicans trying to slash taxes for the wealthy? Why would someone castrate themselves and commit suicide? Because that’s what the cult demands.

I don’t think it’s a stretch at all, especially since the Republican cult stitched itself mouth-to-anus with the Religious Right decades ago. If you want to see an egregious expression of this behavior, watch this interview by Anderson Cooper with a Moore spokesperson — she’s got nothin’ but her insistence that Moore is a godly man who tried to support God’s commandments and the Declaration of Independence says we’ve got a Creator, and that’s all that matters, and all of his wacky statements and the court decisions can be ignored.

I think we atheists have been thinking small. We try to get religion out of government, but what we really need to do is get this cult-like religious behavior out, no matter whether it’s tied to a named and admitted religion or not.

Comments

  1. Matt Cramp says

    I read Thought Reform and the Psychology of Totalism by Robert Lifton about eight years ago. It’s written about the early days of Communist China, with its re-education camps, and I think it is a little rigid in places, but the chief insight is still relevant: totalist thought systems, the ones where the insane truth is obviously right and everyone else who doesn’t see that obvious truth is a monster that can be safely destroyed by any suitable means, aren’t tied to ideology, but particular traits that compound into something deeply abusive.

    Lifton examines several Western institutions in the book, comparing them to his hypothesis and seeing which traits they had, but where he best succeeded was with cults, which almost always exhibit something recognisably linked to the core traits he identified. (Obviously he wasn’t 100% right the first time, and later literature refines his ideas.)

    Evangelical Christianity, and the Republican Party, exhibit similar traits. (Despite what you’d expect, the American Catholics don’t. They’re just regular awful.)

  2. markgisleson says

    Your best post in ages!

    Now dig up an online quiz to see if your kid isn in a cult.

    Apply it to the Clinton campaign.

    Explains a lot, doesn’t it?

  3. Jeremy Shaffer says

    Republican Roy Moore, removed from the Alabama Supreme Court for his erratic behavior…

    A strange way to start. If anything, Moore was removed from the ASC for behavior that was anything but “erratic”. In fact, his behavior was very much so predictable and consistent.

    The party of “family values” is about to send a known sexual predator to the Senate because God wants them to. This would be startling, except they already used the same reasoning to put a known sexual predator in the White House.

    You know, I’ve seen the “sometimes God uses flawed people for His own purposes” as a reason to vote for Moore, and I remember seeing it as a reason for voting for Trump last year as well, but I have to wonder if the people who use this reckoning has ever stopped to think the purposes in question is to highlight the utter corruption of the Republican party?

    I kid! I don’t actually wonder that. Not at all. I know they would never allow themselves to contemplate such a thing.

  4. rietpluim says

    Many things that we do not call religious show remarkable similarities with cults. Homeopathy, acupuncture, all kinds of woo, but also racism, sexism, gender essentialism, ideas that are supposed to be The One Real Truth. “There are only two sexes! Because of chromosomes!!” “We are not racists! We are the superior race!!” Many atheists are infected with it as well. The reality-based community is small…

  5. birgerjohansson says

    Let us not forget the enablers, the cynics who play along to get votes, or promotions or economic backing. Or simply the status of being a part of the “in”group.

    Using the Republicans as an example, many of their congressmen despise the Tea Party followers and/or Trump, they just regard them as useful idiots.
    Dubya himself did not mind gay people very much, he just harnessed homophobia for success and profit.
    Intellectual dishonesty can be found everywhere, but *certain* groups are worse. Some are much, much worse.

  6. dhabecker says

    PING!! That was the nail being hit on the head. Liked comment #1, #2 ?, #3 notes a legitimate quibble, #4 is true, but main post is a PING!!

  7. johnson catman says

    re birgerjohansson @8:
    The teaser on the news that I was listening to this morning went something like “The US House of Representatives has finally passed a gun law.” I should have known it would be expanding the rights of gun owners.

  8. says

    Not a bad idea.

    What I learned in marketing my own business… Don’t invent a new group, build of of another. People don’t want original, they want established.

    For good or for bad.

  9. says

    attacking religion was never a good direction to go. Or branding yourself as atheist, people don’t like this term.
    It is irrationality we need to fight.
    Whether it is evolution deniers, climate change deniers, pro-epidemics (anti vaxxers), any color supremacist, trickle down economists, religious fundamentalist, flat earthers, proponents of totalitarian systems or some of sjw ready to defend their vision of social justice contrary to evidence – all of them should have no influence on legislation or public funds spending.

    You are free to believe in any crap you want, but you are not allowed to push your agenda on everyone if your only argument is “I believe in it without evidence, so you have to adjust to it”

  10. militantagnostic says

    johnson catman @8

    I should have known it would be expanding the rights privileges of gun owners.

    I refuse to consider walking around with a killing machine in your pocket a human right.

  11. says

    Altemeyer’s writings on authoritarianism predict what is happening – it’s “us vs them” and the details don’t matter. It’s coming from both authoritarian parties but not surprisingly the evangelicals are a great reservoir of “us” against any given “them.”

  12. anchor says

    And, like all cults, the oldest and slimiest of humanity’s misdirect strategies is employed. They hide behind the title of ‘godly’, when the whole purpose is to assume the ROLE of a god.

  13. anchor says

    …you know: “I’m Godly. I’m doing what GOD wants. I’m doing what’s best for you.”

  14. says

    @ 12:

    attacking religion was never a good direction to go. Or branding yourself as atheist, people don’t like this term.
    It is irrationality we need to fight.

    Oh fuck off with this nonsense. Religion is irrationality, writ large and flaming all over. I am an atheist, and see little point to pretending otherwise, or trying to “re-brand” atheism. I am what I am. Heh.

    People have been nice, polite, and been constantly caving to the religious for ages on end. What the fuck good has that done? They’re more fanatical than ever.

  15. Azkyroth, B*Cos[F(u)]==Y says

    Or branding yourself as atheist, people don’t like this term.
    It is irrationality we need to fight.

    Make up your mind.

  16. cartomancer says

    The economic positivity in the quotation is a bit misleading. It seems to suggest that the American economy is booming and that the recovery from the crash of 2007 is in full swing, when this is far from the case. Yes, there is a “head-spinning stock market boom” and yes we do see record corporate profits, but the benefits are felt only by a tiny fraction at the top. For most American households real wages are stagnant or falling, quality of living is going down and debts are spinning worryingly out of control. These “eight years of continuous job growth” are the result of well-paid, decent jobs being replaced by greater numbers of low-paid, often part-time or temporary jobs and people being squeezed out of the job market altogether.

    Which are, of course, even more pressing reasons for the government to adopt economic policies that increase taxes on the rich, redistribute wealth and invest in public infrastructure. But the article makes it sound like things are all hunky-dory economically, and the Republicans just happen not to be making best use of that for the public good, when in fact America is in dire economic straits thanks directly to the neoliberal corporate vampirism that the Republicans have been the standard bearers of for the last 40 years.

  17. What a Maroon, living up to the 'nym says

    Re the Anderson Cooper interview: if you can mock his beliefs merely by quoting them, there may be something wrong with those beliefs.

  18. sowa says

    Whoa, Mr Myers. While I agree with this diagnosis, I advise you some introspection. I mean not so long time ago you supported the idea that *certain* terms and descriptors should not be used in conversation so a tiny fraction of population could feel better about themselves. If influencing discourse through direct word policing is not a cultist behaviour, then I don’t know what is.

  19. Ogvorbis: Swimming without a parachute. says

    sowa:

    I agree. It’s time that women (51% of the world’s population), Hispanics, blacks, gays, the disabled, the elderly, the very young, the non-Christians, all those ‘other’ people admit that they are a tiny fraction of the population so us cis-gendered straight white middle-aged college-educated men can use gendered, racist, ableist, ageist, and other insults to keep those ‘others’ in their place. We should be able to use words like c*nt, tw*t, n*gger, sp*c, w*tback, go*ks, ret*rds, and more to make sure that people like me stay where we are — on top. And we need to make sure that these special insults, the ones aimed at all those others, to make sure that the majority of the world who make up that tiny fraction of the population don’t get listened to by real people like you and me, right?

    Yes, that is sarcasm.

    But it is also reality.

    And calling the modern GOP a cult is not even close to being in the same league as gendered and racist insults. See, a member of the GOP can, possibly, wake up and join the rational world. I will never stop being a crippled* mentally disturbed** man with a learning disability***. I am not, however, my disability. I am a human with disabilities. See the difference?

    * Disabled veteran, royally fucked up back
    ** PTSD from service during the 9/11 terrorist attacks
    *** On the spectrum

  20. consciousness razor says

    sowa:

    I mean not so long time ago you supported the idea that *certain* terms and descriptors should not be used in conversation so a tiny fraction of population could feel better about themselves.

    What are you talking about? A link, a quote, or at least something much less cryptic than this, would be helpful.

    I know PZ has argued that transphobic hatemongering is bad. Racial slurs or anti-Muslim bigotry could be other examples. Is that the sort of thing you have in mind?

    If influencing discourse through direct word policing is not a cultist behaviour, then I don’t know what is.

    So, it is possible that you don’t know what is…. Perhaps you should pursue that line of thought.

    “Influencing discourse” doesn’t sound cultish to me. I suppose “direct word policing” has a bit of that flavor, if it’s a fair description; but I have no clue what you’re talking about, so it may not be.

  21. vucodlak says

    @ consciousness razor, #25
    Pretty sure this is what sowa is referring to:
    https://freethoughtblogs.com/pharyngula/2017/11/20/really-its-not-that-difficult/comment-page-1/#comment-1926799

    I don’t really blame sowa for not linking to it; the comment is pretty fuckin’ foolish. It also has fuck-all to do with the topic at hand, but I guess there’s not much point in having a hobbyhorse if you’re not gonna ride it.

    Back on-topic:
    I don’t think “cult” quite fits. They’re too focused on harming outsiders, rather than controlling their own members, to be a proper cult. Sure, they are hurting their own people, but this isn’t their raison d’etre. It’s a side effect of their quest to destroy the Other.

    Hurting the Other seems to be their entire purpose, anymore. They don’t seem to care about anything else. Non-binary people, non-het people, non-white, and non-Christian people are their Other, along with the ‘traitors’ who stand with marginalized groups. They aren’t interested in some esoteric goal, and they don’t make much of an effort to control their own people. They just want to stand on the necks of everyone who isn’t just like them, and it’s just about to the point where they want those people good n’ dead when they do it. That’s not cult behavior. As others have said: this is a pogrom warming up.

  22. sowa says

    @Ogvorbis: Swimming without a parachute.
    That was… well, not my point at all but thank you for your insight.

    @consciousness razor
    1. If author himself knows what I am talking about, that’s enough for me. I just hope I won’t be ban… I mean deplatformed over this. That would be a shame! 2. Well, if you wanna start with “transphobic hatemongering”, then chances are we have nothing to talk about. 3. That was an euphemism. That’s the word? Yes, euphemism.

    @vukodlak
    Oh, how nice of you. Still on bandwagon, I pressume?

  23. Ogvorbis: Swimming without a parachute. says

    sowa:

    So you are okay with policing your language when it comes to gendered insults? not to mention racist, sexist, ablist, ageist, and other insults of the same sort in order to be inclusive and make others comfortable? But you refuse to police your own language to make others comfortable when it comes to members of the trans-gendered community? Or are you all inclusive when it comes to making people not feel included or uncomfortable? Are you singling out just one group for your refusal to help include people, or are you more catholic is your offensiveness?

  24. says

    sowa @ 22:

    I mean not so long time ago you supported the idea that *certain* terms and descriptors should not be used in conversation so a tiny fraction of population could feel better about themselves.

    The fact that you’re a TERF (or at least embrace those ideas) is your problem, not anyone else’s.

  25. consciousness razor says

    1. If author himself knows what I am talking about, that’s enough for me.

    Apparently, PZ and I have similar perspectives in this regard. What’s so special about him, which keeps him in this conversation and leaves me out, other than the fact that I don’t have a blog for you to troll? I don’t feel insulted at all. However, I do get the feeling you can’t defend your own claims or can’t even state them clearly, hence evasive bullshit like this.

    I just hope I won’t be ban… I mean deplatformed over this.

    This isn’t your platform. If you do have a platform (somewhere else), are you really worried that somebody will come and take it away from you? How would they do that?

    That would be a shame!

    My impression (thanks to vucodlak) is that shame is another one of those things that you don’t understand well.

    Well, if you wanna start with “transphobic hatemongering”, then chances are we have nothing to talk about.

    Then shut the fuck up.

    3. That was an euphemism. That’s the word? Yes, euphemism.

    What was a euphemism, and what is it supposed to be a euphemism for?

  26. vucodlak says

    Bandwagon? Nope. You, personally, offend my sensibilities. You’re disingenuous, you’re deliberately harmful, and… you’re lazy.

    It’s the last one that gets under my skin. Being lazy enough to offend a slothful creature like me is quite an accomplishment, albeit one I wouldn’t be very proud of. And yet you are. You’re full-to-bursting with pride over it.

    No, it isn’t nice of me to say so, or to speak to you the way I do. I do generally try to be nice, and engage in a civil way, but the hurtful garbage in the comment I linked is way over my tolerance. What you said was despicable, shameful, and cowardly. So long as you continue to stand by it, I will not look the other way and play nice.

    Actually, scratch that- I wouldn’t have said anything about it in this thread had you not brought it up. I’ve ignored your comments in other threads that did not relate to this topic. But if you want to start that bigoted crap again, you get the rough edge of my tongue.

  27. drowner says

    @14, Marcus Ranum

    “Altemeyer’s writings on authoritarianism predict what is happening – it’s “us vs them” and the details don’t matter. It’s coming from both authoritarian parties…”

    The details certainly DO matter if you’re interested in truthfully explaining reality. This is one thing that sends me to start tapping out comments when I’m otherwise content to lurk: conflation of two sides in conflict. False equivalence. Both sides do it.

    How can we ever confront and overcome bad ideas if we’re sentenced to be considered the same as that which we defy? How is that even logical? One can both admit that the Democratic Party is imperfect while acknowledging the reality that they are in direct opposition to many harmful Republican policies. There happens to be a high ground! And sitting back, offering nothing but blanket condemnation, is absolutely not helpful. Heck, I’m not too old to remember the term, “empiricism,” being tossed around quite a bit among sciencey types.

    tldr; Rebutting bad arguments =/= Tribalism

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