By Scott Roeben
I don't know about you, but I'm thinking of starting my own cult. It seems like everybody has one these days, and I don't want to miss out.
A cult has been defined as "a group of people following the teachings of an unshaven white guy with a blank stare and a propensity for saying things that sound profound, but when you examine them later they make you laugh so hard you're likely to double over and wrench your groin."
The difference between "sects" and "cults" is not easily determined. I looked up both terms in the dictionary, and after some thoughtful contemplation I have no choice but to conclude that Noah Webster was himself part of a cult, a group whose members were drawn together mainly because they were real know-it-alls. I also suspect that they had in common the fact that they all had a tough time finding people in the outside world who could give them a run for their money in Scrabble. It is my informed belief that this Mr. Roget person was also part of the same cult, except that he didn't consider it a "cult"he used another word for it that meant just about the same thing.
The benefits of starting your own cult are pretty obvious:
1) New friends. Through your association with a cult, you will soon meet and bond with new people, many of whom will be your wives.
2) Prosperity. You will amass great wealth as members of your cult sell their homes, belongings and gold fillings and gladly turn the assets over to you. But you should be warned that starting a cult should not be viewed as a get-rich-quick venture. Overhead can be substantial in a new cult. Expenditures will include such things as:
- buying cyanide, nerve gas and ammunition in bulk.
- printing literature for distribution at preschools and airports to help recruit new members and garner donations.
- salaries for public relations consultants hired to put a positive spin on the occasional siege or ritual mass murder, or to deal with the negative publicity generated by those pesky television networks and their irksome investigative reporters.
3) Tax benefits. Many cults qualify as actual religions (use your imagination) and the tax benefits are enormous. Many cultists even go so far as to write off sacrificed chickens and hand grenades as business expenses. It's all completely legal! Isn't America grand?
4) Great outfits. Black goes with just about anything. Need I say more? If so, how about the probability of receiving free forehead tattooing?
Aside from a few small start-up costs, you really don't need much to initiate a cult of your very own. There is no test, no license needed, no height requirement. You just need a few basics and you can be well on your way to really feeling a part of something important.
The first thing you need to start your cult is a compound. The more remote the better. Compounds are necessary for cults because they provide privacy and refuge for their members. They are also convenient because they usually have a great deal of closet space and bunkers.
Next, you must pick a date when the world will end. Scientists say that Earth could continue to exist for another billion years. Scientists are, apparently, idiots. After all, when was the last time scientists sat down and really examined ancient religious texts, or for that matter goat entrails or tea leaves? The signs are clear. The world will end. Exactly when is up to you. Just pick a date.
In choosing a Doomsday, don't worry that your prediction might be wrong. Cults are flexible in this area. If your Doomsday comes and goes, a new date can be chosen as long as you make sure to preface your announcement with the disclaimer that you "heard it directly from a Higher Power." You don't even have to specify which Higher Power. After all, there are no rulebooks for cults. You're on your own. You can do just about anything you want. Try it.
"Henceforth, green shall be known as red. And red shall be known as monkey. And lo, day is night, and the Department of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms is always wrong, especially when they try to take away our air-to-ground missiles, which were a gift unto us from the Higher Power."
Now you begin to see the appeal of cult ownership.
The next thing you'll need if you want your cult to be a success is a group of dedicated followers. There are plenty of them to go around. What kind of people join cults? Well, contrary to popular belief, cult followers are highly intelligent, honest and hard-working people. They have strong convictions, sensible values and a great deal of integrity. They are also good judges of character, and keenly aware of what is true and what is not.
Trust me. If you believed even a word of that, you are a fine candidate to become the newest member of your friendly, neighborhood cult. You may, in the days to come, wish to look into what you might be able to get for your fillings.
In truth, your typical cult member exhibits all the judgment and intelligence of a dust mite. These people are the same ones that are capable of locking themselves out of a tent. Cult members are highly impressionable, lost souls looking for guidance and something to believe in. Much like Democrats.
The main competition you will have for followers will be:
- militias and other paramilitary organizationssuch as Amway and Herbalife
- traditional religions
- the Department of Motor Vehicles and
- Richard Simmons
It is of utmost importance that you choose a name for your cult. When weighing possible names, remember that the name should meet both of the following criteriafirst, it should sound as much like the name of a rock band as possible; second, it should look impressive on the cover page of a summons.
The names of some of our most popular cults fulfill those requirements: The Brethren, Wildfire, The Eminent Way, Humana, Iskon, Order of the Solar Temple, Bhaghwan Rajneesh, The Family, Quabalahand a group that topped the charts for a record-smashing fifty-one daysDavid Koresh and the Branch Davidians.
So, what are you waiting for? Money, power, security. All there for the taking.
Or, if you prefer, you can just sit back and watch other people start their cults. That has a certain entertainment value, too.
Just take care not to wrench your groin.
© Scott Roeben, 2003. All rights reserved.