Chapter

The True Believer

Janja A. Lalich

in Bounded Choice

Published by University of California Press

Published in print September 2004 | ISBN: 9780520231948
Published online May 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780520937512 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1525/california/9780520231948.003.0010
The True Believer

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Contrary to popular belief, cults have attracted not the lonely and lost, but rather the idealistic and lofty minded, the curious and well educated. Through arriving at an understanding of the pushes and pulls of such a commitment, the reasons can be deconstructed. This chapter presents some of the main features of comparison between Heaven's Gate and the DWP, reiterating the significance of social context and social structure. The comparison illuminates the parallels in the two groups and the extent to which cultic influences operated to transform at least some of the members from devotees to true believers. The DWP and Heaven's Gate evolved out of two quite different social phenomena, yet similar governing principles or themes emerged in both of these broad social movements. Everything in these two groups fitted together like a three-dimensional puzzle. Inside each group, very little happened by chance. Even outside events were interpreted to coincide with the group's worldview, including the reframing, or reinterpretation, of leaders' and members' personal lives to fit the ideology. Conclusions regarding membership, commitment, charisma, leadership, and the nature of cultic, or self-sealing, social systems are drawn.

Keywords: social structure; ideology; self-sealing system; cultic influence; devotees

Chapter.  10246 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Religious Studies

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