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cults

The End of the World: Bart Ehrman on What the Bible Really Says About the End

Shermer and Ehrman discuss: Ehrman’s religious journey • Who wrote the Bible and why? • how to read the Bible and the book of Revelation • Who wrote Revelation and why? • why Jesus spoke in parables • why worry about climate change if the world is going to end soon? • David Koresh and Waco • Reagan and end times politics • how Jesus became a capitalist and militarist • faith healers, televangelists, and other Christian con artists • Christian ethics and what Jesus really said about the poor…

Steven Hassan — Combating Cult Mind Control, Freedom of Mind, and The Cult of Trump

Shermer and Hassan discuss: types of cults, their characteristics • cult leader profiles • the influence continuum • mind control • brainwashing • Project MK-ULTRA • Scientology • NXIVM • strip search hoax • social media mind control • neuroscience of mind control • authoritarian mindset • Trump’s mind-control techniques • breaking free of cults.

eSkeptic for April 30, 2022

Michael Shermer Speaks With Louis Theroux About Neo-Nazis, Jimmy Savile, UFO Cults, and Scientology. PLUS: In SRC Report PCIS-006, we take a look at Conspiracy Theory Endorsement by Media Viewership.

Louis Theroux on Neo-Nazis, Jimmy Savile, UFO Cults, and Scientology

Shermer and Theroux discuss: how documentary films are made • religious fanaticism • UFO cults • Scientology • neo-Nazis • anti-Semitism • prisons, pornography, and prostitution • Jeffrey Epstein and Jimmy Savile • self-help movements and gurus • deception and self-deception • social proof and human conformity • are humans naturally rational, irrational, or both?

Mike Rothschild on how QAnon became a movement, cult, and conspiracy theory of everything, based on his book The Storm Is Upon Us

Its messaging can seem cryptic, even nonsensical, yet for tens of thousands of people, it explains everything: What is QAnon, where did it come from, and is the Capitol insurgency a sign of where it’s going next? Mike Rothschild is a journalist specializing in conspiracy theories. He has been collecting stories for years through interviews with QAnon converts, apostates, and victims, as well as psychologists, sociologists, and academics. He is uniquely equipped to explain the movement and its followers.

eSkeptic for September 28, 2021

In episode 213, Michael Shermer speaks with Mike Rothschild, a journalist specializing in conspiracy theories, about QAnon and its followers, based on his book The Storm Is upon Us: How QAnon Became a Movement, Cult, and Conspiracy Theory of Everything. PLUS, we present as a free PDF download the Memorial Tribute to Skeptic’s Art Director and Co-Founder, Pat Linse, which appeared in Skeptic 26.3 (2021).

Robert Cialdini — Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion

In episode 187, Michael speaks with Robert Cialdini — New York Times bestselling author of Pre-Suasion and the seminal expert in the fields of influence and persuasion — about the psychology of why people say yes and how to apply these insights ethically in business and everyday settings.

eSkeptic for June 8, 2021

In episode 187, Michael speaks with Robert Cialdini — New York Times bestselling author of Pre-Suasion and the seminal expert in the fields of influence and persuasion — about the psychology of why people say yes and how to apply these insights ethically in business and everyday settings. PLUS, the newest issue of Skeptic magazine (26.2: Drug Trips & Reality) is now available in print and digital formats.

Kevin Dutton — Black-and-White Thinking: The Burden of a Binary Brain in a Complex World

Michael Shermer and Kevin Dutton discuss: black-and-white thinking in: physics, biology, psychology, politics, economics, society • categories and why we need them • when does a hill become a mountain? • How many grains of sand makes a heap? • from quantitative scaling to qualitative categories • How can there be dozens of genders if there are just males and females? abortion • stereotypes • tribalism, xenophobia, & racism • the difference between a cult, a sect, and a religion…

eSkeptic January 19, 2021

In episode 153 Dr. Michael Shermer speaks with University of Oxford research psychologist Dr. Kevin Dutton about his new book Black-and-White Thinking: The Burden of a Binary Brain in a Complex World.

Cults, Myths, and Religion

Dr. Michael Shermer considers the characteristics of cults, how they differ from sects, religions, and myths, the role that myths and religions play in culture and people’s lives, and what Scientologists really believe.

eSkeptic for April 3, 2020

Dr. Michael Shermer considers the characteristics of cults, how they differ from sects, religions, and myths, the role that myths and religions play in culture and people’s lives, and what Scientologists really believe.

Hugo Mercier — Not Born Yesterday: The Science of Who We Trust and What We Believe

Not Born Yesterday explains how we decide who we can trust and what we should believe — and argues that we’re pretty good at making these decisions. Hugo Mercier demonstrates how virtually all attempts at mass persuasion — whether by religious leaders, politicians, or advertisers — fail miserably.

eSkeptic for January 28, 2020

In Science Salon # 101 Michael Shermer speaks with Hugo Mercier about his new book: Not Born Yesterday: The Science of Who We Trust and What We Believe.

Amber Scorah — Leaving the Witness: Exiting a Religion and Finding a Life

In this revealing conversation Amber Scorah opens the box into the psychology of religious belief to show how, exactly, religions and cults convince members that theirs is the one true religion. A coming of age story of a woman already in her thirties, this unforgettable memoir examines what it’s like to start one’s life over again with an entirely new identity.

eSkeptic for December 31, 2019

In Science Salon # 97 Michael Shermer speaks with former Jehovah’s Witness Amber Scorah about the psychology of religious belief and her new book Leaving the Witness: Exiting a Religion and Finding a Life. PLUS Peter Kassan reviews Artificial Intelligence: A Guide for Thinking Humans by Melanie Mitchell.

eSkeptic for March 29, 2017

It was 20 years ago this week, March 20–26, 1997, that 39 members of the Heaven’s Gate cult “graduated” from this life to ascend to the UFO mothership that they believed would take them to an extraterrestrial paradise.

eSkeptic for February 10, 2016

Most Americans continue to grow up without thinking very deeply about other religions (other than mocking them on a superficial basis), and never question the assumptions of their own faith. In this week’s eSkeptic, Donald Prothero reviews Sacred Cows: A Lighthearted Look at Belief and Tradition Around the World, by Seth Andrews, in which he does all that, and more.

All Sacred Cows

Sacred Cows (detail of book cover)

Most Americans continue to grow up without thinking very deeply about other religions (other than mocking them on a superficial basis), and never question the assumptions of their own faith. In this article, Donald Prothero reviews Sacred Cows: A Lighthearted Look at Belief and Tradition Around the World, by Seth Andrews, in which he does all that, and more.

Stranger Than Fiction: A Review of the HBO documentary, Going Clear: Scientology and the Prison of Belief

Donald Prothero reviews an explosive new documentary film about the controversial Church of Scientology.

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