Just thought I’d leave a link to a good podcast on an interesting topic that might interest some forum readers: the Heaven’s Gate cult. Compassionately made by someone who knows what it’s like to hold strong cultish beliefs. Interviews with cult members and families of cult members.
I listened to this podcast about month or so ago. I listen to quite a few podcasts at work.
I agree with your description of the podcast’s approach to the subject: compassionate; sympathetic; showing them as vulnerable human beings trying to make sense of existence.
I think most of the Heaven’s Gate members had certain shared qualities: an ambiguity about sex; looking for an alternate family with which to belong; probably a higher than average intelligence; imagination; social awkwardness; looking for meaning to existence; a love of science fiction.
I think the last quality — a love of science fiction — is perhaps the most interesting. I think this explains to a certain extent, why they fell for such a crazy line of bullshit from Tee and Do about space aliens inviting them to make the next leap in human evolution.
I think that people who have a creative imagination and a higher than average I.Q. are frequently fans of science fiction. You need a certain imagination to accept the alternate realities in science fiction, as well as a faith that science and technology will enable humans to travel to other planets and contact alien species. Good science fiction includes believable science as a the basis of the story which means that the reader should have some knowledge of science to be able to go along for the ride.
In the case of the Heaven’s Gate followers, however, these qualities actually made them more vulnerable to lunatic ideas than more ordinary people. They could visualize Applewhite’s crazy notions with more clarity and then use their intellects to rationalize why these ideas were true.