For this edition of Flashback Friday, we’re bringing you Jim Hoberman’s primer on American cults from the October, 1979 edition of High Times.
Relax, America. Don’t worry about those cults. Archvillains Jim Jones and Charlie Manson may be scary, but they aren’t quite the very modern aberrations that the media would like you to think they and their cultists are. Dad and Charlie—not to mention more respectable cult leaders such as Werner Erhard, Reverend Sun Myung Moon or Garner Ted Armstrong—are just the latest models in a continuous tradition of fringe religious leadership that has flourished in this nation from its inception. America’s first European settlers were religious cultists (Pilgrims, if you like), and since then this continent has been a Mecca-like magnet and last frontier for Utopians of every denomination. Our history is filled with prophets crying in the wilderness—and you don’t have to be one to see it’s all coming to a boil again.
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