Cult Shopping – A Search for Belonging

June 17, 2011

I’ve detected a certain hole in my life here recently. This hole is not so black that it sucks all else into it, yet it’s presence has created a type of longing, a need to belong to something, anything, to fill the void. These flaws of mine, these fragile human emotions. These needs, wants and desires sitting just beyond the periphery of my control, sucking me into a vortex of self-reproach. It is time for me to go shopping. It is time for me to become something better, something more, something of consequence. I need to evolve beyond the base that surrounds me. The options are many, so just how does one choose?

The Tea Party

(Express, Patriots, for Prosperity, Nation, Federation, ConglomulationMasturbation and all other associated factions and brain fractions)

Ok, I like it when people congregate together, united under a banner of disparate beliefs yelling racist, unintelligible slogans about fascism, government-sponsored baby killing and oppressively high taxes.  I really get incensed when poor, lazy people (especially if they are Mexican or Black) think they have a right to receive healthcare for which they didn’t even pay! Why should I have to fork over my hard-earned beer money when some dumbass 5-year poor-sot-of-a-kid gets chicken pox? I digress…what else? Well, I like to let my emotions air-out in public beyond the oppressive accountability of logic and reason. This process is cathartic and deeply connects me to like-minded people wrapped in red, white and blue with Jesus resting humbly on righteous lips.

This cult looks pretty good, but the ideologies are a little too wide-ranging and sometimes I doubt my coherence when I’m yelling. I think I could use a bit more structure, some ‘rails’ if you will to keep me on track, on point with the message. To this end, I think it would make good sense to define some concrete terms and talking points to carry the weight of the message. Additionally, I’m going to need some emotional ‘Spackle’  to help fill that hole, a hole which simply cannot be plugged even with the most disembrained political venting.

Landmark Forum

Ahhh, structure, beautiful STRUCTURE! I have found you in plentiful supply! And a leadership, oh wonderful authoritarian leadership, scowling on critical thinking as it attempts to bubble-up from the flock! Add to that a heavy dose of unqualified psychotherapy and psychological manipulation leveraged to create a dependency among followers. Oh sweet, sweet emotional euphoria achieved only through the inculcation of anxious dependency on the group and, more importantly, its leaders. Destabilize me through deprivation, abuse and control, then, build me back up into a subservient being acting on a script with a tailored vernacular (‘winning formula’, ‘strong suit’, ‘create a possibility’, ‘breakthrough’, ‘rackets’ , ‘the vicious cycle’, ‘already always listening’, ‘being authentic’) connecting me to my fellow drones. Masquerade your harassment as a method of friendly, caring support and exploit me both psychologically and financially while fraying the threads of previously established relationships built over many years. Subtle manipulation to extract my true authenticity? A sublime sort of authoritarian poetry!

(click here if you want to see a BRILLIANT docu-infiltration of a Landmark Forum in France entitled “Journey to the Land of the New Gurus” …oh you know you want to click down this rabbit hole!)

Hmmm, lots of structure and doctrine here, but what I really need is something with a religious pretense and a reputable figurehead. Perhaps something with an extra-terrestrial vibe to help nurture my otherworldly tendencies.


Ahh, the perennial favorite. It has some bona fide star power behind it and a clear, methodical history which pulls heavily from speculative fiction (of which, I must say, I am a Harry Potter nutter to the core!). It also has a scientifically valid ‘auditing’ method which can detect the most deeply implanted memories in my immortal (yes, I am an alien…cool huh?) brain going back trillions of years. Once detected, I can pay a small earthly fee to get those suckers sussed out. Wham!! I’m all better and I didn’t need some bogus shrink to pump me full of drugs. Did I mention I’m a motherfucking alien? That’s super cool. Super Star Trek cool.

(or, if you have some time… and prefer to hear it from the founder’s mouth:

I like the self-improvement aspects of both the Forum and Scientology, but I’m looking to go farther, plus, I think I need more than just a dead figurehead. I need a flesh and blood leader, a charismatic demi-god who can opiate my troubled mind, take me by the hand in the direction I’m supposed to go.

Aum Shinrikyo

Alrighty then, a blind yoga master who charges me thousands of dollars to drink tea made from his pubic hairs? Say no more, I’m in. What? What’s that you say? Drugs to manipulate my levels of anxiety, survival training, sleep and food deprivation and endless hours of mind-numbing chanting? Yeah right. Next your going to tell me “there’s a helmet I can wear that will transmit God’s brainwaves directly into my head”. No shit, really?

Tens of thousands of followers worldwide manufacturing apocalyptic propaganda in anime/manga fashion, Aum Shinrikyo is a compelling choice. Followers don’t simply give voice to their fascination with the end of times, they actually work hard to bring the end of the world by gassing people, extorting members and cultivating member phobia.

Hmm. It sounds pretty good in all, but let me think…

Family Radio

You know, I don’t really want to hurt anyone, I’m actually a very peaceful person. But, I do harbor certain concerns about the end of the world. There’s clearly lots of evidence that the end is near, and I just need someone to consolidate all of these facts into succinct soundbites and advertisements and plaster them all over the world (focus the canvassing on buses…I like buses). Preferably an older gentleman, with a odd mucously-thick, deep voice who lacks any sort of charisma but has a knack for growing healthy sideburns and establishing communication networks. Contribute my money to the efforts you ask? Of course, why the hell wouldn’t I? On September 6, 1994, I mean May 21, 2011, sorry, I’m not good with numbers; I mean October 21, 2011 the world will turn into a flaming ass-pile of nothingness…in this situation, what use will I have for worldly assets?

Hmmm, I don’t usually let my inner skeptic enter a the realm of intellectual thought, but President Bush did teach me an important lesson about not being fooled. It is probably best for me to take his advice in this case. Besides, I’m an alien-lover… can’t we get back to something beyond our mundane existence here on Mother Earth? Clearly we have reached the end of times and there is an abundance of proof that extra-terrestrial beings are instrumental in bringing this about.

Heavens Gate

Oh yeah, this is the shit of Kings! Screw a mere demigod, give me a straight line to the Big Man! Here you get a kick-ass name (I’m going to request PEYODY), a nice haircut, and a ride in a spaceship cruising behind a freakin’ comet! Heading to that next level in a bad-ass uniform, with a super cool space patch alongside my classmates after being brainwashed by my older members who are really Jesus and his Father in human vehicles…WHOA, this is for me! As a bonus, you get to cut-off those rapscallion testicles which is nice cause everybody knows those buggers are just holding you down like a large, sweaty ball ‘n’ chain, completely restricting your ability to soar to the next evolutionary level. Learning the real-facts, the real truth about how to leave self and world behind from a nurturing and caring son-of-a-Presbyterian-minister who cut his teeth teaching music. Oh dear, my beautiful extra-terrestrial, comet-trailing salvation, is almost at hand. I want to belong. I want to believe. I want a $10 pair of black Nikes.

Wait, what the f*ck? They’ve already exited? You mean I missed the comet-ship? Son-of-a-bitch, this had all the goodies I was looking for, now what to do?

Hold On…Scratch All of That…

I don’t have to follow. I can harness my inner strength, be an innovator. There is a self-righteous egotist lurking within, waiting for the opportune time to emerge. I just need a regimen, a blue-print for how to control my flock:


If you are still awake after all that, you should check out my debut novel, Where’s Unimportant at your favorite online book retailer, or at my website:

debut novel by Daniel Shortell

debut novel by Daniel Shortell


before you go, please consider using the following addendum section to aid in your choice of cult:


Isolation factor: An unscientific ranking based on a scale (1 – 10) designed to roughly indicated how isolated from the general population an individual should expect to become  upon entry into a specified cult.

“everyone loves you – consider starting your own cult immediately” (1) <——-> (10) “you will die alone in a strange outfit”

Tea PartyIsolation factor = (5)  “You and thousands of Glenn Beck fans can concoct conspiracy theories and draw tiny mustaches on President Obama together.”

Landmark ForumIsolation factor = (6) “You and several hundred thousand other critical-thinking-haters can empty your wallets and create possibilities together.”

Scientology – Isolation factor = (7) “You and a couple hundred thousand aliens worldwide can chat about your respective states of Clear.”

Aum Shinrikyo – Isolation factor = (8) “You’ll be sipping hair tea with tens of thousands of former communists while putting your PhD to work making sarin gas.”

Family RadioIsolation factor = (9) “You will find companionship among several thousand worldwide doomsday revisionists.”

Heaven’s GateIsolation factor = (10) “You should expect the company of a couple dozen like-minded nuts with cool names and tightly cropped hair.”