The fundamental characteristic of cult-like thinking is the belief that the members of the group have some amount and kind of secret knowledge: something that most people cannot see or refuse to recognize. Thus, the affected person goes around behaving as if everyone not in is dumb or unenlightened, and therefore not worthy of respect or consideration. It almost never occurs to such a person that the people they deign to talk to who disagree with them have given the topic plenty of critical thought and have come to a different conclusion. This type of thinking leads to some distinct characteristics, that I think are indicators of cult-like thinking. Some of the ones I can think of are:
1. Believing everyone else doesn’t see: Typical remarks would include ‘Wake up people!’ ‘Open your eyes!’ ‘How can everyone be so blind!’ and ‘Don’t you people see?!?!?!’ (Note the exclamation point after each… almost always these are exclamatory remarks.)
2. Since the affected person is irrationally convinced that they have secret and ultimate knowledge, they do not feel the need to treat other opinions, ideas, or people with respect. Hence, when their belief is criticized or questioned, they usually resort to insults and ad hominem attacks.
3. Condescension: Since everyone not in doesn’t know, when affected people talk to others they speak as if they are addressing someone of low intelligence who can barely put two thoughts together.
4. Belief in many, many, conspiracy theories. I think this is caused by the desire to be more and more and more in the know. So, once a person has swallowed one conspiracy theory, the others go down with more and more ease.
The last point has a tragic societal side effect. Since there are indeed real, actual, and dangerous conspiracies, but nut jobs talking about Chem-trails or Illuminati make talking about real conspiratorial scandals very difficult. For example, the Operation Fast and Furious, where apparently the sitting President is now covering for the Attorney General of the United States who apparently is much more involved in a scheme to sell weapons to Mexican drug cartels than he claims. No one wants to sound like a crazy nut-jub ‘vaccines are more dangerous than the disease’ person. And yet, people do sometimes work in secret for their own ends regardless of the danger and cost to others. Hundreds of Mexicans have died by weapons that the Federal Government forced gun shops to sell to known gang members with no real plan on tracking the guns, except when they show up at crime scenes, as in when people had already died. But to suggest that President Obama might be involved in this would have been considered lunacy until today when the President basically admitted involvement since executive privilege only extends to the president, his correspondence, and state secrets.
So, how do we deal with people who think like cult members… I don’t know yet, so far I am usually a fan of ignoring them… anyone have better ideas?