Cult Friction - Part 2

The University Record (Trinity College, Dublin)/Week 4 Michaelmas Term, 1998
By Kieran Galvin

Part 1 of this article.

The rise of religious cults appears to continue unabated. While there is nothing wrong with the growth of new religious movements, the motives of some of the more recent additions to the cult family have to be questioned. There are many cults that are allegedly using coercive persuasion and mind control techniques.


Of course religious cults have in recent years managed to attain a certain level of respectability. Such Hollywood luminaries as John Travolta and Tom Cruise are adherents of the Church of Scientology. This not only gives Scientology respectability but it also associates the cult with success. If the rich and famous follow Scientology it must have some value, surely?


Of course there is no credible evidence of Scientology helping any individual to with life and its many vicissitudes. However there are many horrifying stories of Scientology related deaths. An American named Noah Lottick became a member of the Church of Scientology. His behaviour became extremly strange. He once remarked to his parents that his Scientology mentors could actually read minds. When his father suffered a major heart attack, Noah insisted that it was purely psychosomatic. Despite paying over £5,000 for Church counselling, Noah ended up killing himself. Before he became involved with Scientology, Noah was perfectly normal with no psychological difficulties.


Scientology may pose as a real religion but in reality it is nothing more than a devious and dangerous scam that allows unscrupulous individuals to gain financially often at the expense of people's lives.


Mike Garde hit upon many of the reason for the growth of cults in Ireland. It is the lack of religious teaching in the Irish educational system means that many students and young people are easy fodder for cults. Religion is not studied or debated in any meaningful way in Ireland. Some have an almost blind loyalty to their religion while others become so disillusioned that they turn away from religion altogether. RTE have a religious and social affairs correspondent who looks at religion from a societal viewpoint while ignoring the religious. It is mostly not the individual correspondent's fault but a fault of our secular society and its educational institutions that do not allow for adequate religious questioning and debate. Ireland is often seen as a religious country but the level of actual religiosity is low. The fact that people are turning away from mainstream religion in their droves should surprise nobody if they consider the lack of religious teaching and therefore religious knowledge in Ireland today.


The role of the media in Ireland in relation to religious matters is deserving of criticism. Gearoid Keegan's dire warning about "cults" coming to Trinity College and other scare- other scare-mongering stories attracted many to the aforementioned Theo meeting. One hack from that quality Trinity broadsheet, the Trinity News, appears to be suffering from the same malaise that is rampant in Irish journalism.. That is getting the story no matter what. She admitted as much beforehand. She went to the meeting to attempt to get an interview with the leader of some cult or other.


My favourite part of the speech was when he referred to journalists chasing stories. My journalistic friend sitting a mere two seats away from me was too busy writing notes for her scoop to appreciate the insight and downright common sense of his comment on the media. What many students and journalists alike would be better off doing is listening to the likes of Mike rather than paying heed to the exaggerated warnings of those intent on creating a stir. His speech was full of ironic humour with style and simplicity simultaneously. Garde's speech is unlikely to be bettered at any college society event this year.


The fact that there is a lack of religious teaching in the Irish educational system can be seen from the fact that there is no faculty of religion in Trinity College. Mike made the point that perhaps it was the colonial influence of Britain and its lack of religious debate that led Ireland down this regrettable road. Some of Gardeís statistics were worrying but it is for this reason that they should be heeded. For example, you have a much higher chance of being approached by the Dublin Church of Christ if you are a Trinity student.

Key factors

It is very likely that the decline of the role of the Catholic Church as well as the increasingly secular and isolated nature of the modern materialist society are key factors in creating the gap that is gladly filled by such groups as the Church of Christ. I must remind my journalist friend that the story is always there regardless of whether the scavenging and unscrupulous hack goes looking for it or not.

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