In this final chapter of the experiment, let’s review our progress. We’ve established Happy Place and Unhappy Place (comfort vs. terror after death), we’ve given our cult a sense of belonging, we’ve given them a god named FAKE, scriptures named FALSE, and ourselves for leadership and guidance. Now let’s exercise some damage control.
FAKE is exactly that – fake. We made him up out of thin air, so it’s no surprise that he isn’t going to live up to his end of the deal. Our followers will pray to him and he won’t respond, so we’ll tell them to look for his response in natural occurrences, intuition, and even in their inner monologue. Our followers will search for FAKE, so we’ll put him in outer space or into another dimension. They’ll want direction from FAKE, so we’ll tell them to look to our scripture.
Unfortunately, FALSE is also exactly that. So when people find discrepancies we’ll tell them that the problem is with them, not the book. If they dig hard enough, we’ll tell them that the book is not meant to be taken literally. If they feel that the commandments are just freedom-stealing drudgery, we’ll instruct them that these laws are there for our cult’s safety and long-term happiness. We’ll gather our followers weekly to re-indoctrinate them and give them reassurance that they made the right choice exchanging free will for a Happy Place that they’ve never seen.
But even these efforts aren’t foolproof. Since there are many cults, and they all want to steal our followers, they’ll be told by outsiders to question our cult. And they will. So how will we keep them in line?
So far, fear has kept them in line, and there’s no reason to give up on it. We can force people to follow us and our commands under penalty of death, but that only works if we control a government… we don’t hold that kind of power (yet). So we have to make it look like FAKE can kill people himself if they step out of line, through causes that already kill people such as natural disasters. We’ve already ascribed omnipotence to FAKE, so let’s say that earthquakes and hurricanes are his way to keeping people loyal to him and punishing them when they leave.
We’ll also tell our followers not to question, doubt, or test FAKE. After all, FAKE can’t pass a single test, so this is an event that should never be allowed to happen under any circumstance. And if someone does test FAKE, we’ll tell them that he doesn’t want to pass any tests since he already told them that he wasn’t planning to take one. After all, our followers want to believe in FAKE and Happy Place, so they’ll buy this easily.
Last (but certainly not least!), let’s stop referring to ourselves as a cult. We could call ourselves a religion, but even that causes our followers to draw parallels to other religions, ones that they believe are phony. Let’s just call ourselves The Truth, or The Way Things Are, or even Duh.
I hope this thought experiment has been educational. I hope you’ve seen what a cult does to preserve itself, and how any modern religion would closely resemble such a cult. Just don’t apply this education to your own personal FAKE, or he might doom you to Unhappy Place.