(NYT Op-ed) Ross Douthat–The Cult Deficit and what it says about our Time

Twice in the last few months I’ve encountered writers taking note of this shift, and both have made a similar (and provocative) point: The decline of cults, while good news for anxious parents of potential devotees, might actually be a worrying sign for Western culture, an indicator not only of religious stagnation but of declining creativity writ large.

The first writer is Philip Jenkins, a prolific religious historian, who argues that the decline in “the number and scale of controversial fringe sects” is both “genuine and epochal,” and something that should worry more mainstream religious believers rather than comfort them. A wild fringe, he suggests, is often a sign of a healthy, vital center, and a religious culture that lacks for charismatic weirdos may lack “a solid core of spiritual activism and inquiry” as well.

The second writer is Peter Thiel, the PayPal co-founder, venture capitalist and controversialist, who includes an interesting aside about the decline of cults in his new book, “Zero to One” ”” officially a book of advice to would-be entrepreneurs, but really a treatise on escaping what he regards as the developed world’s 40-year economic, technological and cultural malaise.

Read it all.


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One comment on “(NYT Op-ed) Ross Douthat–The Cult Deficit and what it says about our Time

  1. tjmcmahon says:

    In many places nowadays, you can go down to your local TEC or other “mainline Protestant” church, wander through the labyrinth, worship Gaia, spread your prayer rugs out in the parish hall, whatever. Who needs a cult?