Why Are We So Fascinated By Cults?

On the first day of my first (and only, as things would turn out) cube-style office job, the HR manager said “oh, there’s one more thing you should know about [my immediate boss], she’s a [member of a very famous group many consider a cult].” This was at the worst point of the early-aughts recession, but even if it hadn’t been, I would have stuck with the gig: I find cults fascinating, which I suspect is always what people who are eventually indoctrinated into cults say.

A couple years later, I was working at the San Francisco Chronicle with folks who were on the tarmac at Jonestown, thus ending any desire I’d ever have to casually say “drank the Kool-Aid” (Zfrom the East Coast, I hear Sarah muttering “Flavor Aid”) when it comes to group belief. But that didn’t keep me from “collecting” cults, from NXIVM to the Branch Davidians to Heaven’s Gate.

I suspect you folks are into cults too, so I’m wondering which cults you collect? Why do you think cults capture our attention in a way that other criminal enterprises might not? And what takes on real life cults — either documentary, Ryan Murphied, or adapted — are the ones that have really stuck with you?


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