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How to Build a Cult

“A crowd of people cheering at an evening concert” by Ezra Jeffrey on Unsplash

Certainty Over Doubt

Last night, I watched the documentary Religulous created by Bill Maher. I saw it seven years ago, and I’m rewatching it cause I wanted to share it with my wife.

It’s the Story of Bill going around religious capitals and interviewing people about their religion. It was not just about Christianity. He challenged Islam, Judaism, Mormonism, etc.

The central theme of the documentary — doubt. Bill Maher is preaching the gospel of “I don’t know.” When someone claims to know the answer to everything, Bill questions their certainty.

And their answers rarely satisfy the laws of logic.

Watch it. Apart from being a laugh fest, it will teach you how to build a Cult. The people he interviewed built massive followings.

Today, the number of Instagram followers, YouTube subscribers, and Medium followers dictate your value. We are all in the race to building our numbers. Even though creating a religion seems different, there are more similarities than I initially thought.

One of the outrageous figures he interviewed was Jose Luis De Jesus. He claims to be the second coming of Christ.

He has this elaborate story where an Angel whispered to him, in private, that he’s the salvation of mankind. I couldn’t believe it when I saw him preaching to thousands of people. They were eating up his crap.

It’s ludicrous that anyone would believe him, but there it was — a crowd of people singing his praises. How is this possible?

One word — certainty.

He’s 100% sure with his claims. Those people who believe him are desperate to find the second coming of Christ. Jose found the people who wanted to hear his gospel.

This is how you build a cult.

People are in search of leaders who will lead them to the right path. These are the people who are hungry for the gospel and will eat it up like they haven’t eaten for months.

They have a specific world view and cult leaders piggy back from it.

Stuck and want to get a kick of inspiration to become an entrepreneur — Gary Vaynerchuck will give it you straight.

Tired of the corporate world, want to travel the world, and make money through online businesses — Tim Ferriss will help you with the four hour work week.

Can’t find the happiness through the material things you’ve bought — Joshua Fields Millburn from The Minimalists offers an alternative thru minimalism.

There are more similiraties than differences.

Gary, Tim, and Josh aren’t any different from the cult leaders from the documentary Religulous. They offer certainty on a specific subject. They offer a solution to a problem. They don’t have doubts, and they will lead you to your desired outcome.

It’s unlikely for Gary, Tim, and Josh to sway from their gospel. Gary will not preach laziness. Tim will not tell you to work twenty four hours and not sleep. Josh will not tell you to buy something that isn’t giving you contentment.

And they will not doubt their message.

If Jose showed hesitation, there would be no congregation to hear his message.

With great power comes great responsibility. If these icons can aggregate thousands of people, they must lead them to a better place. It would be unfortunate if they let them drink the Kool-Aid.

I am hopeful with humans. People are good natured. Everyone is doing it for the right reasons. Except for Jose who’s claiming to be Jesus.

So stop doubting your gospel.

You hold the power to build a tribe — lead them to a better place.

Talk to you soon my friend.

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How to Build a Cult was originally published in The Ascent on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

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How to Build a Cult


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