Weird Beliefs and Abusive Cults

Every so often I come across warnings about certain people who claim to be reincarnated fictional characters and who use that belief to suck others in and abuse them. Hell, I spent some time in the inner circle of one of those people, and I’ve got the psychological scars to prove it. Cult leader behavior is shitty no matter who’s doing it.

But what I keep seeing is the conversation taking shape around them believing $weird_thing, and not the part where they conned their housemates out of money, or consistently deprived them of sleep to break them down, or gathered the whole house together to berate someone who did something “wrong” (which could be anything from watching a movie without permission to not being social enough with the group). And the people who stand in line to jeer at how obviously anyone with these beliefs is crazy and should be avoided are doing these small-time cult leaders’ work for them.

Most of the people who got sucked in, in my experience, were people who were already dealing with weird shit. Maybe their favorite fictional character is taking up residence in their heads. Whether it’s an alternate personality, a mask their patron deity uses to talk to them, a random thoughtform, a connection to the ideal form of that character off in the creative aether, or even a “past” life1 in a fiction-spawned alternate universe is irrelevant — I’ve given up on drawing and redrawing those lines, because except in the case of the deity thing, it doesn’t much matter. What matters is that it sure is a thing that’s happening. And along come some people who are very enthusiastic about all this, and understand, and don’t judge. And all the people giving warnings about these people? Why, they’re saying it’s because they believe these crazy things — crazy things which our prospective cult member is experiencing for themselves. It starts to sound like these people repeating warnings are just prejudiced against a belief, not concerned about abusive behavior — and that’s how the cult leader will spin it. Things got blown out of proportion. It’s grudgewank. They just hate these beliefs and don’t understand. The group understands, though. They know exactly what their prospective member is going through, and they’re just good friends who want to help.

And then yet another person is propping up a manipulative asshole’s ego, unless they get fed up with the abuse and make it out on their own… where, if they’ve kept their beliefs, they can never talk about it for fear of being ridiculed for not “knowing better”. If they haven’t, they’re likely to go to the opposite extreme, denouncing their former beliefs and anyone who shares them.

I’ve seen a site run by a former cult member literally refuse to honor someone else’s request for anonymity because the person still believed some of the same things the cult did — despite the fact that this person was condemning the leader’s behavior and encouraging her to take some responsibility for what she was doing. But these beliefs are bad and wrong and we must PUNISH people who — wait, is this starting to sound exactly like the cult’s bullying sessions to anyone else? Kind of makes you wonder who’s done the better job of breaking away from the abuse: the person who’s calling the cult leader out while still keeping their personal beliefs, or the person going for the vicious take-downs of the Bad Guys, like good little cult members do to prove how Good they are.

In short: shit is fucked up, and fucked up in a way that hurts the people we should be trying to help the most. We need some tolerance, not for happy fluffy “All beliefs are equally valid!” reasons, but because when someone goes, “You don’t understand!” the response can be, “Look, this person over here? They have similar beliefs, and I think it’s weird as hell, but they’re not the kind of person who keeps you up for five nights running because they’re under psychic attack or whatever.”

You still get to think it’s weird as hell. That’s totally valid. You don’t have to agree with any of it. But if you’re willing to accept that there are people out there who can believe in all manner of weirdness and not abuse everyone around them, it makes things safer for both vulnerable people and abuse survivors.

…Hi. I’m Jaqui, and I believe in some weird-as-hell things, but I have no tolerance for cult leader bullshit. And that’s the important part.

  1. Shared UPG: linear time is for incarnate existence, and doesn’t seem to hold much meaning outside of it, so it’s possible to have your incarnations “out of order”, as it were, or even explore different potential universes based on things being different. This may partly explain the overabundance of Merlins and Cleopatras out there. []