Cults and Zealotry: What the *#@&;?

Valerie Rice | February 8, 2021

Photo by Mike Chai on

I have seen the term “cult” thrown about on social media so very much lately, and have even been guilty of using it myself. I am pretty sure most people are not even sure what we are talking about. I mean, what do you think of when you see this term? Jonesboro? Waco? Trump? AHS? We are so desensitized to zealotry and language that meaning has been lost in translation. This is pretty dangerous. So let us break down the mechanics of cult ideology, shall we?


By definition a cult is a social group held together by their charismatic leader and ideology. This means that it CAN BE but is not necessarily a religion, political group, or organization. Basically, the above examples are all valid if viewed correctly. So yes, Trump has a cult, as we saw on AHS, and in real life. Moving on. Not every cult is listed as such. We know of the famous ones, thanks to their nefarious deeds. No need to give them credit here, though. Cults are dangerous. It takes a special kind of madness to create on, and a special type of person to be enthralled by one under normal circumstances. So how do we get these strange social predators? 


There are books everywhere about these people, so I’m going to give you a brief list of what to look for. First of all, they demand blind and unquestioning obedience. A cult leader is never wrong and a follower may never question them. They also have an exaggerated sense of entitlement, which is why we associate them with religious groups, because they often proclaim to be sent by or an incarnation of, god. They are super sensitive about what others say or think about them and can’t handle criticism. They completely ignore the needs of others. I could go on, but click here for more.


The person above sounds absolutely horrid, right? Well, yeah. They  are. Why in the world would anyone follow someone like that? It isn’t just the charisma and the promises. Well. There is no “one type of person,” but there are a few contributing factors. I’m going to paraphrase, but click here. The typical cult follower is someone who is experiencing personal problems such as addiction, mental health disorders, is vulnerable socially, and may have family members involved in the cult. Anxiety is the number one issue that affects those who join cults. This makes a whole lot of sense when you consider that a successful cult leader appears strong, loving, and fills his followers with fear prior to promising to make things all better. Sound familiar? It should. It really, really, should. 


Alright, what this really means is that we have to draw a line. At what point do we censor? Well, I would say we should have started years ago with “alternative fact” and questioning science. No, no, no, don’t get on me about religion and beliefs, I am an atheist and do not want to hear it. I am talking about allowing a leader to run wild with BS and nobody fact checking or holding him in line. The result is a dangerous miasma of Cut 45, Republicans, Moderates, Democrats, and Leftists battling it out after a disastrous attempted coup and nobody holding anyone accountable. Yes, I AM still on that. Why? Why would I do this to you? Welp dude, our entire country is mentally ill. The. Entire. Country. I said it. Our congress members are experiencing PTSD, Stockholm Syndrome, and pulling strings as ordered. We are a mess. The people have been gaslit and are just as traumatized and confused.


Okay, I’m done. The purpose of this exercise was two-fold. I wanted to illuminate the cult mentality and also shake some cobwebs free so that we can acknowledge that the last few years have NOT BEEN NORMAL. I hear it everywhere, not just social media and family or clients, but in the stores and on the streets. We are sick and suffering and confused. There are not enough therapists to swoop in and fix us because they are all shook as well. So let us breathe. Let us step back and think. I would love it if everyone could pause before speaking or acting and ask “is this true and how do I know?” Peace in the land, that’s what we need, and it comes from each and every one of us. Until next time: Be Well!


M. Rousselet, O. Duretete, J.B. Hardouin, M. Grall-Bronnec,Cult membership: What factors contribute to joining or leaving?,Psychiatry Research, Volume 257, 2017, Pages 27-33, ISSN 0165-1781, (

Published by vrice2010

A mother, an author, a nerd. After many years working in the fields of mental health and developmental disabilities, graduating from the University of Phoenix, and pouring my talents into my local community, I decided to spread my wings and reach a wider audience.

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