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The Cult of Reason (wikipedia.org)
56 points by opaque on Sept 15, 2018 | hide | past | favorite | 25 comments



I though it will be about Less Wrong.

(Discussion with a friend, who identifies with the crowd: "Is it a cult? Yes, but a good one!")


There was also an "atheist church" in London https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-21319945

I wonder if they were aware the concept has quite a history.


From the article:

> It's a nice excuse to get together and have a bit of a community spirit but without the religion aspect

> It's not a church, it's a congregation of unreligious people.

Seems more a gathering of same-minded persons than a real cult.


What's the jumping off point at which a gathering of like-minded people becomes a cult? Can "cult" be used to describe religious groups (or very zealous factional groups) without the pejorative connotations of the colloquial term? Or is "cult" basically a universally negative appellation?


No, a cult is like a mental disorder... by definition if it's not causing harm in the person's life it's not a disorder. Many cults disguise themselves as religious groups.

Here's some more differentiators, but you can search "warning signs for a cult"... there's no standard list that I'm aware of.

- Separating people from their outsider friends&family

- Over time absorbing all of member's financial assets

- Punishment for leaving

- Members discouraged from questioning orthodoxy

- Non-volunteer or otherwise coerced unpaid labor

- A culture of hiding information from outsiders

- The leader has exclusive claim to ultimate truth

- Regardless of harm, the leader's behavior is justified


For me, the biggest warning signs are separating us & them, especially when the them are family outsiders, and punishment for leaving (or other normal behaviors, like associating with outsiders, etc).


1. You generally require a charismatic, authoritarian leader who has strong central command over the group and whose word is law; tenets that actively lead the congregation to act against their best interests; and a dogmatic belief system with strict limits on interpretation of religious teachings (really just the first point again).

2. The classical definition of "cult" has almost no overlap with today's perjorative evolution of the word and just means a system of worship.


It is interesting in the footnotes that it indicates the name originally doens't have the negative connotations it seems to have in english

``` The word "cult" in French means "a form of worship", without any of its negative or exclusivist implications in English; its proponents intended it to be a universal congregation. ```


"Culte" is neutral and "Secte" is the negative word.


Wouldn't "the Sect of Reason" be a much better English translation then?

"Culte" in French and "sect" in English are neutral.

"Secte" in French and "cult" in English have negative connotations.


I briefly considered it, however "Sect" does suggest (from its root) that it's an offshoot of some larger religion, which isn't the case here.


Perhaps it depends on the connotation they were going for or the one it developed. Like Ivan the Terrible. A more accurate translation to the current connotations would be "Ivan the Terrifying".


Cult has only recently (etymologically speaking) become a pejorative in English


Which is funny, because at least in my experience "cult" that's pretty strong negative connotations, but "sect" has either very weak negative connotations or is outright neutral.


It seems profoundly weird to me, though this might just be due to not understanding the sociology of the time and place, to actively attempt to force a belief in reason through coercion. It seems self-defeating. I can understand a longing for reason to spread and gain acceptance... but to conclude that this desire justifies overriding the individual thinkers freedom to decide for themselves would be an unsupportable argument. The furthest I could see going would be to forbid indoctrination of the youth in unreasoned ideologies since children have limited ability to challenge what they are being taught (at least they did at the time). But if you are 'persuading' people to believe in ideas which claim objective, reasoned basis through abandoning reasoning with them and resorting to force, it would be right for all to reject you as a hypocrite.


"A madman is not someone who has lost his reason but someone who has lost everything but his reason." - GK Chesterton


What's the context of this quote? When I search it on Google one of the front page results is actually this HN comment. It's hard to find more information about GK Chesterton's broader point.



I guess Chestertons broader point is that avoiding feelings, existing culture etc gives very bad results, exactly like what happened during the French Revolution.

Edit: misread the question originally, though it asked about the reason for including it here. Rewrote it to answer the actual question.


I believe it’s from either the first or second chapter of “Orthodoxy”. It’s on Project Gutenberg. http://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/130


>Many contemporary accounts reported the Festival of Reason as a "lurid", "licentious" affair of scandalous "depravities"...

Sounds a bit like Burning Man


I studied the Revolution as part of the national curriculum of 1st year of HS, and this "religion" was as crazy as the description of it sounds, and part of the ambient madness of the following years. It seems to me to be more the expression of collective madness than Lumières's ideals.


It wasn't covered in any detail by my school curriculum, so I've been catching up. I had no idea they "reformed" so many aspects of civci life, including the calendar https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/French_Republican_Calendar


"They" being the revolutionaries, not the members of this cult.


Thomas Paine also started a deistic religion during the French Revolution-

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Theophilanthropy




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