Jesus ‘n’ Mo ‘n’ the cultish

Today’s Jesus and Mo, called “cult2,” gives the Heavenly Duo a moment of pause. One can argue whether either “cult” has a single living leader who claims divine mandate for his actions, but you can argue that below. 2016-03-16


  1. Matt
    Posted March 16, 2016 at 12:36 pm | Permalink

    They could have gotten themselves off the hook by adding one more line. Cults have less than 100 million followers. If you have more than that, your thing is not a cult it’s a great religion.

    • Torbjörn Larsson
      Posted March 16, 2016 at 12:56 pm | Permalink

      Wouldn’t it be a large cult?

  2. Ken Kukec
    Posted March 16, 2016 at 12:49 pm | Permalink

    Here’re a couple Chicago guys (ok, one of ’em a Canadian playing a Chicagoan) who were also on a special mission from above.

  3. Michael 2
    Posted March 16, 2016 at 12:51 pm | Permalink

    It’s pretty simple.

    US: Religion, truth, all good words.

    THEM: Cult, lies, all bad words.

    But that’s for groupies. For libertarians “us” and “them” have no meaning; replaced by “me” and “you”.

  4. eric
    Posted March 16, 2016 at 1:03 pm | Permalink

    I would’ve added the line: “cults parasitically subsist off the ‘voluntary’ contributions of their followers.”

    • Charlie
      Posted March 16, 2016 at 4:18 pm | Permalink

      I would add that a cult does not allow adherents to freely leave. Apostasy, anyone? Shunning?

  5. JonLynnHarvey
    Posted March 16, 2016 at 1:05 pm | Permalink

    Cultishness IMO should be described on a spectrum from 0 to 10 (like Dawkins theistic probability scale from 1 to 7) without a clear demarcation point.

    Religious/Spiritual Groups that encourage members within their framework to think for themselves are lower on the cultish spectrum. Those that turn their followers into virtual zombies rank high. I’m inclined to give Scientology, Jehovah’s Witnesses, and above all ISIS very high cultish ranking.

    In early Christianity, there was significant internal division over how much Christians should cultivate an appreciation of secular culture. One the one side was that crusty reactionary Turtullian (described recently by Bible scholar Paula Fredriksen as the 2nd century equivalent of the tea party) who scornfully asked “What does Jerusalem have to do with Athens?” a question to which the more free-thinking and free-wheeling Clement of Alexandria would have asked plenty.

  6. Walt Jones
    Posted March 16, 2016 at 1:07 pm | Permalink

    A couple of commenters on the site define the difference as whether the leader (who knows that it is made up) is alive or dead.

    • Posted March 16, 2016 at 1:46 pm | Permalink

      Wouldn’t that have to be modified to say “believed to be alive or dead”. I am pretty sure the Xtians believe Jesus to be living. And correct me if I am wrong, but isn’t the other guy said to ascended to heaven quite alive riding a variant of the horse?

      • Walt Jones
        Posted March 17, 2016 at 12:07 pm | Permalink

        Good point, even if that point of theology is confusing: if Jesus isn’t dead, he just had a bad weekend for our sins.

  7. Posted March 16, 2016 at 1:09 pm | Permalink

    Notice that all four panels are identical except for the dialogue balloons, and the last panel is a complete do-it-yourself Jesus and Mo cartoon creator kit.

  8. Ken Kukec
    Posted March 16, 2016 at 1:21 pm | Permalink

    There’s a saying among linguists that a “language” is just a dialect with an army.

    Well, a religion is just a cult with an established clergy, liturgy, and IRS section 501(c)(3) tax exemption.

    • Brujo Feo
      Posted March 16, 2016 at 3:04 pm | Permalink

      With apologies to Sastra, who makes a pretty good analysis, below, I have to agree with Ken here, especially as to the last factor.

      A cult is just a religion that hasn’t bought enough legislators. Yet.

      • Ken Kukec
        Posted March 16, 2016 at 8:14 pm | Permalink

        Yeah, Washington, D.C., is like the shrine at Lourdes for institutional religions. Cults — like Scientology and early Mormonism — arrive there, speak the requisite prayers and offer the appropriate donations, and their cult-like sins (like polygamy) are redeemed, providing them rebirth as a “religion.”

    • Posted March 16, 2016 at 3:47 pm | Permalink

      Nice definition. Part of the problem is the size issue as mentioned by other posters. In a sense, everybody is the member of a cult somewhat. I think of the military itself which tries to be a cult. You’re a Marine forever for example. I mean the LDS churches run by the Jeffs (sp?) are more extreme than the Catholic Church but they certainly have a lot in common too.

  9. sshort
    Posted March 16, 2016 at 1:29 pm | Permalink

    The difference is only in size and influence.

    The similarity is inculcating fear. Fear of the other, always, but first and most importantly, fear and distrust of oneself.

  10. Stonyground
    Posted March 16, 2016 at 1:40 pm | Permalink

    I think that longevity is one of the main factors. I have a book on cults by Colin Wilson. The rather long winded title is ‘The Devil’s Party, a history of charlatan messiahs. All of the cults examined by the book tended to follow the same pattern. The sheep tended to start out being totally devoted to their leader. After a while some of them would start to have doubts and the leader would start to get paranoid and his control freakery would spiral out of control. This would cause the sheep to be even more doubtful. At this point the cult would either fizzle out and the followers drift away, or else it would explode in a conflagration of violence. I think that a cult that continues long enough after surviving this process becomes a religion.

    • eric
      Posted March 16, 2016 at 2:22 pm | Permalink

      You failed to close your quote, so that is a long winded title. 🙂

      /pedant mode.

      Yes I’d agree, (illegal) control freakery is probably a decent ‘rule of thumb’ way of distinguishing between a religion and a cult. Bigamy for the leader is a classic example.

  11. Mark R.
    Posted March 16, 2016 at 2:06 pm | Permalink

    For some reason, (exceptionalism?) America is really good a creating cults. Following is the last words spoken by Doe, the leader of the Heaven’s Gate cult. Most will remember the mass suicide of 39 members who believed they would reach an alien space craft following the Hale-Bopp comet. Chilling what humans will contrive in the name of…whatever.

    Let me say that our mission here at this time is about to come to a close in the next few days. We came from distant space, and even what some might call somewhat of another dimension, and we are about to return from whence we came.

    It requires, if you maybe moving into that evolutionary kingdom, that you leave behind everything of human ways, human behavior, human ignorance, human misinformation.

    If I would title this tape, it would be ‘Last chance to evacuate planet Earth before it is recycled’.
    Last chance to evacuate Earth before it is recycled.

  12. gravelinspector-Aidan
    Posted March 16, 2016 at 2:10 pm | Permalink

    Welllll … but there are plenty of counter-examples of cults that have survived the death of their (lying) founders ….
    Sorry interruption from another channel, literally. I was just listening to this week’s number of “Chain Reaction” (BBC interview programme, on Radio 4 ; one week’s interviewEE becomes the next week’s interviewER. Interesting programme, with some patchiness. Well, this week was the excellent Victoria Coren-Mitchell (see Eyes passim) and the similarly entertaining Sandi Toksvig (arguably Denmark’s “biggest” export between bacon and serial killers on the Oresund Bridge). The latter happens to be a patron of the British Humanist Association. I’m sure there will be an MP3 out somewhere, and it’s worth finding for a fun half-hour.
    Anyway, plenty of survving cults, e.g. Mormonism. And frankly, I cannot believe that acts of blatent flock-fleecing like the magic underwear can be perpetrated by people who do not know that it’s all a lie.
    And in tribute to Alen Coren, again, see Eyes
    passim on the Church of Scientology.

    • gravelinspector-Aidan
      Posted March 16, 2016 at 2:12 pm | Permalink

      Sorry, that was a reply to Walt Jones at #6. And I forgot to closee the itallics on the first “passim”.

  13. Sastra
    Posted March 16, 2016 at 2:39 pm | Permalink

    There are Christian and Islamic cults, certainly, but I wouldn’t label either Christianity or Islam “cults” as such. That’s because the technical definition of “cult” goes beyond philosophical talking points or lip-service to doctrine. It involves how we can examine actual behavior in order to distinguish “ordinary” religion from extreme versions.

    There are many lists, but Robert Lifton created a popular one:

    1)Totalism – This is an us against them philosophy, which is used to achieve complete separation from the past, which is portrayed as filled with the satanic or unenlightened.

    2) Environmental Control – Everything that perspective recruits see, eat, and do every waking minute is carefully manipulated.

    3) Loading the Language – This is the jargon of the cult, which take the form of quick easy phrases and statements that only have meaning to the cultists. Such jargon encourages isolationism and cloning.

    4) Demand for Purity – All actions are judged by the cult’s definition of purity, which is crafted by the leadership to suit their needs. Such definitions are applied in an absolute, black and white, manner. Anything is acceptable in the pursuit of this purity.

    5) Mystical Leadership – The cult leader endows himself with a mystical mantle, often an agent of divine powers on Earth. Confession and denunciation to the leader are ingrained. The victim acquires a pawn-like attitude, wherein devotion and obedience to the leader supersede standards of morality or self-preservation, even unto choices of life and death.

    It’s a blurry line. Not all the groups we label as a “cult” have all the elements, of course. You can have cult-like thinking without the supernatural. The supernatural just places cults in a far better and easier position for isolation and denial.

    Ironically, I think what makes most religions better than “cults” — and their members better than cultists — is the sly, sneaky way they try to incorporate humanist ideals and values into the foundations of their religion. Yes, yes, in Heaven Lifton’s list totally applies and there’s no problem with it … but here on earth in THIS life God wants us to be more open, reasonable, and tolerant. Relax and blend in and trust that God will someday build the perfect cult situation. Only it won’t be a “cult.” It will be a paradise.

  14. Stackpole
    Posted March 16, 2016 at 7:22 pm | Permalink

    All of the above is much too complex, and highbrow.

    The following is NOT original with me (the I’net is our friend):

    The difference between a cult and a religion:

    In a cult there is a person at the top who knows it is a scam…

    In a religion, that person is dead.

    • Diane G.
      Posted March 16, 2016 at 11:21 pm | Permalink


  15. Dominic
    Posted March 17, 2016 at 6:25 am | Permalink

    I saw The Cult when they were still Death Cult… at the Empire Rooms Tottenham Court Rd! circa 1984… sigh…!

  16. Podcast Grouseborque
    Posted March 17, 2016 at 7:24 am | Permalink

    A cult is a religion with no political power.

    –Tom Wolfe

  17. Posted March 17, 2016 at 11:38 am | Permalink

    An organization “Info-Culte” spoke at my high school back in the day (early 1990s) and I remember some of us wondered how what they said didn’t apply to many “mainstream” religions.

  18. Kevin
    Posted March 17, 2016 at 12:21 pm | Permalink

    Cult. Mother dies in plane crash. Children are told that everything is alright, they will see her in heaven, not to worry.

    This is child abuse justified by faith.

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