Is the Atheist Community a Cult?



and you proceeded to do what I think is a very witty and often splendid an important insight in demolishing these cultic aspects of religion but can I put a personal point to you that it seems to me that you then go on and create a kind of cult out of atheism itself if you've been as active in the Atheist community as I have you've probably heard someone called the atheist community a cult most people who have said this to me have just hurled it as a kind of comeback in response to me calling a certain MLM or religious group a cult they've said the dictionary says that a cult is just a group of people devoted to a particular object or figure so that makes atheism a cult to a smaller group of people have actually claim that the Atheist community is manipulative hateful and run by secret puppet masters out to brainwash kids into destroying religious freedom do those claims have any merit well I've talked about cults here before and I have a very particular way of examining groups and determining whether or not their cult so it's only fair that I utilize the same method to analyze the Atheist community the first step in that process is to define the word cult in a way that's actually useful the dictionary definitions of the word don't have much utility one is a religion regarded as unorthodox or spurious that definition allows anyone to call any religion they don't like a cult I think that there are unorthodox and spurious elements to every religion but it would it be useful for me to call all religions cults no another definition is great devotion to a person idea object movement or work under this definition certain parts of the Atheist community could be considered a cult but so could sports fans many schools clubs and every religious group to have ever existed so that's not really a useful definition either all of this is why when I describe something as a cult I make it clear that I'm not using the useless dictionary definition of the word I consistently describe something as cult-like if it adheres closely to a model developed by psychologists and cult experts Steven Hassan called the bite model my longtime subscribers have heard me explain this before but I'll go over it briefly for newcomers Steven Hassan classifies cults not by sighs enthusiasm or level of social acceptance but by the level of unethical manipulation they use on their adherence Hassan calls this manipulation undue influence his bite model outlines multiple methods of undue influence categorized into four modalities behavior control information control thought control and emotional control if a group utilizes a significant portion of these tactics they're occult so like I said it's only fair that we examine the Atheist community in light of the bite model to see if it's really a cult something to keep in mind as we do this the atheist community is rather amorphous there is no central power structure to the community at all there are several organizations that put on conferences and do charity work and there are plenty of popular figures in the community which have followings but there are no official schools of thought or practice because of this it can be hard to nail down what anyone means when they say the Atheist community I first saw this issue in the making of this video so I came up with a solution I'll define the community in two ways and compare both against the bight model when I refer to the community as a whole no that I'm referring to organizations with large memberships like American atheist Freedom From Religion Foundation and secular Student Alliance as well as two individuals I've interacted with in small meetup groups and online the other way I'll defined the community is by looking at the example of the most prolific and interconnected atheist group I know of the atheist community of Austin in Austin Texas I actually visited the group and film their activities just for this video if any subset of the community is a cult it would probably be a group like the ACA right well let's see as we jump into the bite model behavior control promote dependence and obedience as a whole and on the level of the ACA the Atheist community actually seems to prize independence individuality and rebellion against undeserved Authority because of this a lot of us actually joke that getting a theist to band together can be a lot like herding cats modify behavior with rewards and punishments there's no structure that I know of within the community that has ever done anything like this a lot of us atheists join the community to avoid religious systems that do that the ACA is no exception here's a few at once dictate where and with whom you live restrictor control sexuality clothing or hairstyle regulate what and how much you eat or drink and deprive you of seven to nine hours of sleep no like I said the community actually seems to encourage individuality the only control on any of this that I've ever seen encourage is for sex to always be consensual other than that I don't know of any rules imposed within the ACA or in the community at large exploit you financially there are plenty of people in the Atheist community who make money from speaking out as atheists I'm one of those people and I make ad revenue from my videos and receive donations from people who want to help me keep releasing videos for free I don't know of any other activists in the community at large which takes a substantially different approach how does the ACA make money and is it exploitative though they have a few sources of revenue one they produce nine online shows which are an ad revenue on YouTube several of those shows also have patreon accounts where donors can pledge to support them they sell merchandise from those shows in their building as well lastly they accept donations on their website and during their show times the key to determining if any of this is exploitative is examining the way they prompt their donors luckily I have footage of them doing this there's one in two dollar donations that keep us going every week is because so many people were able to just give a little bit give what they could that we're able to keep the lights on though we're able to keep this building open seven days a week it's the reason why we're able to go up from two shows to nine um it's why they were in the higher me if you cannot donate that is okay share it out write a good review those things get us out there so that more people can see it hitting the subscribe button actually matters a lot so please please do if you can donate please consider becoming a patron our patreon is patreon.com slash talk heathen to me notice the difference between this type of prompt and even the type of prompt the average Christian Church gives with the ACA they don't evoke the commandments of a higher power don't establish a rule of a percentage of your income that you must give they don't imply negative consequences if you don't donate and don't build unrealistic expectations of reward if you do is this exploitation I really don't think so finally restrict leisure time and activities and require you to seek permission for major decisions no again individuality is the name of the game here for behavior control the atheist community including the ACA scores zero information control deliberately withhold and distort information most entities within the community seem to uphold free and open inquiry as one of their core principles I don't know of any organizations which discourage educating oneself and asking questions about anything the ACA is a great example of this their shows are mostly oriented around receiving calls from theists answering questions hearing out objections and engaging in debate this is not undue influence for video from speaking to ex members and critics and discourage access to non cult sources of information again I don't know of any organization or entity in the community which forbids anyone from speaking to anyone the ACA for example lacks any rules regarding who their members can contact or what sources they're allowed to study there's actually a joke within the community about how US atheists want everyone to read every religion scriptures for themselves because that's just the best way to create atheists divide information into insider versus outsider doctrine well I don't think entire atheist organizations do this I've seen individuals do it religious people can be seen as alien in a way which I actively discourage the ACA does not seem to do this as an organization which can be seen especially in talk heathen and ACA show often hosted by its president Jamie and its communications director Eric we don't hate you we just I think you're wrong and by wrong we mean way that we don't believe that God believes you holder sufficiently terrified generate and use propaganda extensively a lot of media comes out of the atheist community but I wouldn't call much of it propaganda there's no mandate to consume any of it to be part of the community and the media itself such as the a CAS is characterized by open debate and the encouragement of critical thought this is not to say that all atheist media is good media because that's definitely not true it's just that for the most part it's void of the manipulative characteristics of religious and political propaganda use information gained in confession sessions against you Gaslight you to make you doubt your own memory require you to report thoughts feelings and activities to superiors and encourage you to spy on and report other's misconduct in the community as a whole no hierarchy there's no one to report to to confess to to exploit you as their subordinate although the ACA does have hierarchical leadership they do not take confessions encourage reporting the thoughts of yourself or others or attempt to make you doubt your own memory everyone is allowed to do their own thing so long as it does not demonstrably violate the safety or privacy of others thought-control instill black versus white us versus them good versus evil thinking it doesn't seem that the Atheist community encourages the lack of nuance and one's thinking because of this there is a great deal of diversity of thought within the community I address the US versus them attitude previously and I said it does happen on an individual level however I can't say this of the community as a whole or of the ACA change your identity possibly even your name know nothing of the sort is required you can be who you want to be with no one to disallow it use loaded language and cliches to stop complex thought induce hypnotic or trans states to indoctrinate teach thought stopping techniques to prevent critical thoughts allow only positive thoughts and use excessive meditation singing prayer and chanting to block thoughts all and no there are no rituals or common practices taught within the Atheist community and critical thought is strongly encouraged some cliches are propagated but if you want to see what happens when someone within the community challenges those cliches take a look at my recent video where I did just that and received a fantastic response on the day I went to the ACA to film a fan there actually told me they appreciate my videos because I challenge those cliches reject rational analysis critical thinking and doubt I hope I've already emphasized enough just how much the atheist community prizes critical thinking not everyone is good at it of course but between the countless videos websites and podcasts all centered around rationality and critical thinking within the community it's apparent with this community values this is the only community I know of where the phrase doubt is a virtue is taken seriously that's a zero for thought control emotional control instill irrational fears or phobias of questioning or leaving group know the community tends to encourage a rational examination of one's fears surrounding belief it's actually very common for an ex religious person to enter an atheist group admit they still struggle with irrational fears about having left their religion and have other atheists then they have nothing to fear about what they do or don't believe I've never heard an atheist in any part of the community instill fear and others to keep them in the community label some emotions as evil worldly sinful or wrong no the community tends to embrace an evidence-based view of human psychology and individuality down to one's emotions is respected teach emotion stopping techniques to prevent anger and homesickness no I've never seen anything of the sort within the ACA or the community at large promote feelings of guilt shame and unworthiness no there's actually a lot of work done against that countless people in the community report being shamed for having been themselves in their religious past and the atheist community embraces them for who they are the ACA is especially focused on and good at promoting healthy feelings of self-worth shower you with praise and attention love bombing I think the community has definitely become more welcoming over the last year to due in part to the efforts of a newer online activists like holy kool-aid tell-tell atheists godless engineer godless Iowa and hopefully myself the ACA has seen the same change as well is it too much I don't think it's gotten there yet Eric Jamie Meghan Phil David and others will definitely greet newcomers at the ACA with a smile and give them a tour but I've never seen someone overwhelmed with attention personal boundaries are respected threaten your friends and family no way I've never seen anything like that happen shun you if you disobey or disbelieve there's no shunning although some people will unfriend those who leave the community I don't think that's a majority and no organization I know condones of that at all but any of this being done is too much in my view the ACA encourages theists to join them at shows as long as it isn't an attempt at evangelism and their attitude seems to inspire others to be more accepting as well teach that there is no happiness or peace outside the group no the community is preoccupied enough with assuring everyone that you can have peace happiness and morality as an atheist that it doesn't appear that anyone is working to convince theists that they can't the idea promoted within the community seems to be that one can be happy with or without God not that one can only be happy as an atheist obviously with a score of somewhere around zero the Atheist community couldn't be considered a cult according to the bite model right now as it grows and changes however it still has the potential to turn into one as any community does it's wise to do your homework on any group like this before getting involved if I were to join any community united on the basis of common beliefs or disbelief I would need to know that community is aware of these manipulative behaviors and puts forth a concerted effort to avoid them and if they did how so to have that question answered for my viewers in relation to the atheist community of Austin have asked their communications director Eric Murphy to weigh in hey drew thank you for reaching out it's really important that we draw this distinction and so kind of on behalf of the ACA I'll run you through it we have people who come in who get out of cults and it's terrifying and I've consoled people who have found that they lose their family they lose their jobs they lose their community and when you're doing that and you're tackling how to think about the world it's scary and it's a perfect place for a cult and so here's how we're different we we endorse free thought we want people to think for themselves we push for people to form relationships and to be that community that they want to see and be a part of when people come to the ACA they usually are just passing through I mean we have a good local group and it's growing but a lot of people pass through and when they come they come to see a show but what they leave with is well it's a lot of times it's friendships that they keep for a lifetime and we see that we want to grow that and we're not the only ones and so I mean that's why I do it that's why all of us do it we facilitate that communication and we facilitate that growth and that's the difference so to my detractors out there do your homework before calling the Atheist community or the ACA a cult it's not perfect but undue influence is not the name of the game and to those involved in the community right now it's up to us to keep the community alive and ethical you may have more influence than you think acknowledge the influence you do have study up on how to use it properly and then help to build a community that doesn't encourage cult mindsets but liberate speak from them thanks for watching I've been drew of genetically modified skeptic I want to take a minute to plug Eric Murphy's work including the ACA show talk even where he and his co-hosts represent the community very well while they talked to theists collars most of all though I want to recommend Eric's new podcast the Atheist podcast which is crazy high-quality incredibly well hosted and which features an interesting new segment from Matt Dillahunty in every episode give his first episode a listen it'll definitely be worth it link in the description as always go ahead and subscribe check out my patreon follow me on twitter and facebook @ GM skeptic join my discord and until next time stay skeptical you

30 Comments

  1. I know most of you guys have at least been told that atheism is a religion. Why do you think people think that?

    July 11, 2019
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  2. Far from feeling part of a cult, since leaving religion behind I feel very alone. Recently I was debating a dear friend concerning a politician who wanted creationism taught alongside evolution. As equally plausible. My friend agreed and said that science and religion were alike in that they both rely on faith. Both should be considered equally. I just stood there. My friend is an otherwise very intelligent man. As an atheist I am sometimes taken back at how far apart I am from even the mildly religious. Stepping away from religion is not an easy road. But I'm convinced it's the most realistic road. Living in the bible belt doesn't help.

    July 11, 2019
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  3. Kholdaimon said:

    I have come to the conclusion that religious people are alien to me. They still have human emotions so I can empathize with them, but their mindset is completely alien to me. I grew up atheïst in the Netherlands, my parents grew up atheïst (born in the 40's), my grandparents were atheïsts (born in the 1920's). I thought religions had died out until I was like 12, we used to go see beautiful churches on vacation, but they were all old and I never met anyone that was religious. I never talked to anyone about their religious beliefs until I was 23 and when I did I found that I just could not understand at all how any intelligent person could hold any beliefs that were so very clearly and demonstrably false.

    I really tried to understand, because my wife was raised Catholic and while she doesn't consider herself religious she does believe in some afterlife or possibly a higher power, just not something associated with any major religions. I tried to understand, I really did, it is just beyond my comprehension how anyone can belief such a thing. And I have an ever harder time understanding why my in-laws still consider themselves Catholic Christians when they believe literally nothing that the Bible says. They are Christians because they were brought up as Christians, apparently… That really, really baffles me…

    It is like asking a psychopath to have empathy, he is just not capable because he has no experience with human emotions as other people do. I don't have any idea how I would entertain a belief that is unfalsifiable. So religious people are alien to me and I talked to other atheïsts in the Netherlands about religion and they echo my thoughts. Even religious people in the Netherlands don't discuss their beliefs, that is considered a private affair, most people would consider street-preachers like you have in the US very rude. So people that grow up in atheïst households might be told some basic version of what christianity entails by their parents, but they have no one to discuss religious beliefs with.

    I think you will find more and more people in North-Western Europe that consider religious beliefs completely alien and incomprehensible and they aren't close-minded or bigots, they are just incapable of relating to a religious or spiritual mindset no matter how hard they try…

    July 11, 2019
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  4. EF ANDMK said:

    There is a definite set of markers that identify "cults". Sorry, Atheists don't meet that criteria. JW does. LDS does. Pentecostals do. Many other right wingnut Protestants come very close to qualifying.

    July 11, 2019
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  5. Fu Inlé said:

    Where can I find the video at 11:38 "Undoing the fear of Hell"?

    July 11, 2019
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  6. Please do a video on AA/NA possibly being a cult or cult like. If you'd like to do a collaboration on secular sobriety please let me know I would love to!

    July 11, 2019
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  7. lemonvolt said:

    Secular cults are very common and do exist, the best examples are everywhere unfortunately there is never 1 leader in secular cults there is commonly pop culture figures worshiped and their word taken as orthodoxy such as "Bill Nye is never wrong and can't be wrong because he is a scientist" most secular cults tend to float around secular scientism or in many cases eco-scientism or modern Gaiaism.

    July 11, 2019
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  8. LIITEMIES said:

    to belief somfting. but it aint religius. so is it? and anti-religius falls to the same but not the same side. sosiety groups popculture groups and religius groups cults. to me it looks like a unneeded mess. to force non existing and not telling straight heard Felt tasted learned experienced (fuck the shitty casino (u know the shitty Picture.. trash post. ))(btw just a do(and no) destroys that shit to hawe better..fucking clown btw putting a dog head would be more accurate)

    July 11, 2019
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  9. NY G-Pa said:

    I don't believe atheism is a cult.
    But then again, I don't believe there's any such thing as an atheist.
    Atheism's most basic tenet (i.e., belief) is it that one must have evidence to support a claim.
    But no atheist can provide anything other than circumstantial evidence or hearsay testimony to help establish as a fact that he or she doesn't believe in god.
    It doesn't matter how many times you stomp on a cross, kiss the feet of a "false" idol or swear that you could never believe in the existence of a creator of any sort, none of these is proof positive that one doesn't secretly fear and love god.
    So instead, the atheist's insistence is that I must take his word for the claim of disbelief–i.e., I'm required to take the "truth" of his atheism on faith–which I see no reason to do, just as I see no reason to accept as gospel, a Christian or theist's claim about what he doesn't or doesn't believe. To do otherwise would be the first step down the road to cultism, or another a faith-based religion (by my definition).
    In other words, and quite ironically, atheists and theists alike, both hold the belief that I must believe in their belief–without providing any hard evidence whatsoever–and accept them for what they supposedly are.
    Ultimately this leaves me not knowing what to believe other than what I can know to be true (even if I don't know how I know those things I know I know) but I'm as skeptical of the "truth" statements made by both "isms" as I am of the "fact" that the world was created from nothing in 6 days, with a 7th day off for god to lie around and pat him-, her- or itself on the back.

    July 11, 2019
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  10. 304805 said:

    This video was prophetic when we consider the recent Church of ACA incident.

    July 11, 2019
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  11. BFDT said:

    That atheism is defined as a religion:

    They confuse a "lack of belief" as Matt defines it, with "having a belief in a lack of belief" and then use that strawman to bash.

    Note: The Pinned comment has probably gone over 500 comments/replies and is now closed for more comments. GMS, please pin another one. 😉

    July 11, 2019
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  12. John Jamele said:

    Eric Murphy is a nice guy and I'm sure he does great work, but that great work does not include Talk Heathen, which is regularly surrendered to trolls who are given huge amounts of time to propagandize. He should stay on the other side of the mic.

    July 11, 2019
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  13. You are FULL OF IT, buddy boy….they DENOUNCE peoplewho are atheists and dont believe exactly as they do!!! NICE TRY, but BS!!

    July 11, 2019
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  14. Charlie Belk said:

    Weirdly enough, when I was a part of the SSA on my campus, I noticed that they hit on some of the BITE model (trying to restrict or persuade members to vegetarianism or veganism, odd financial requests, they were not engaged when I began asking questions about the organization, small group of people who were in the "know" and could decide what we discuss and how). Our meetings slowly turned from open discussions to what felt like sermons. I even attended one amazing lecturer speak but the way the whole lecture opened and closed seemed very similar to that of a church (tithes, songs, etc). I ended up leaving the group after pointing this issue out among other issues, along with a couple other members. For me, I believe that it came down to this due to a change is presidential leadership and not the organization as a whole.

    July 11, 2019
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  15. just a bunch of modern day sheep being lead to slaughter smh atheists are supposed to be so much smarter than every one else lol ;half you mind controlled idiots can't spell ;since your so smart prove your creation theory true and explain how transgender is real

    July 11, 2019
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  16. atheism is one of the biggest cults in modern day the supreme leaders are Darwin ,mrs.ohare and stevan hawking; the atheist agenda are behind lgbtq and force theory based creation on education ;college professers push atheism if you don't agree with them you are shunned,ostracized, stupid and called uneducated ,atheist are behind all liberal agendas

    July 11, 2019
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  17. Fenriran said:

    atheism can be seen as an ideology and it can be exploited by fanatics but that true for any organization group

    July 11, 2019
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  18. Sam Sneed said:

    Atheism+ is definitely a cult though

    July 11, 2019
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  19. 666LaVey666 said:

    No. Doesnt need almost 20 minutes to say that. Its simple.

    July 11, 2019
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  20. bill33040 said:

    Unfortunately, Stephen "Rationality Rules" Woodford has been condemned by the Athiest Community of Austin for wrongthink. He had the temerity to question the fairness of biological males competing against biological females after "transitioning". I use quotes only because it is not clear to me whether this includes complete surgery or just lipstick and hairstyle, as if that makes a difference in the present discussion.

    July 11, 2019
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  21. It seems the ACA is getting closer to a cult now, the recent denouncement of Stephen Woodford seems like behavior control. A thing I wasn't expecting to see from the ACA, and I seriously hope I am just mistaken about the facts.

    July 11, 2019
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  22. ganmerlad said:

    Atheism, not believing in a god, is not a cult. It's a personal conclusion…and given the state of religion in the world, it's usually a conclusion one comes to alone, far from any kind of support group. (hence, not a cult) Individual atheists can be in cults though, of course, and they can be obnoxious fan-bois like any other human.

    July 11, 2019
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  23. Lynne Shale said:

    In light of the ACAs denouncement of RR, I'd have to agree with certain groups being cult like.

    July 11, 2019
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  24. Aegle said:

    if i needed a community, i would stayed muslim

    July 11, 2019
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  25. Lonke said:

    The concept of "atheist" community is so weird to me. I've never heard or seen anything like it, besides the occasional religion debunking channel on youtube or the atheism subreddit. But I live in Sweden, one of the most secular countries on earth (which effects are also probably amplified by being young) so I guess we don't have a religious upbringing to bond over.

    July 11, 2019
    Reply
  26. Some Guy said:

    The cult of not believing in any cults?

    July 11, 2019
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