American author and journalist Tom Wolfe wrote about the Jonestown massacre (of the religious followers of Jim Jones) on November 18, 1978 in Esquire magazine in 1979:
“Among other things, Jonestown was an example of a definition well-known to sociologists of religion: A cult is a religion with no political power.”
Wolfe also included this line in his nonfiction book In Our Time (1980). “A cult is a religion with no political power” has been frequently cited.
Major world religions such as Christianity, Buddhism and Islam are not “cults” (according to Wolfe’s definition) because they have many followers with political power; Jim Jones’ religious practices had a small following, so it can be defined as a “cult.” Similar definitions of a cult include “a cult is a religion someone I don’t like belongs to” (cited in print since at least 1988) and “a cult is a religion that you don’t understand and don’t like” (cited in print since at least 1991).
Wikipedia: Tom Wolfe
Thomas Kennerly “Tom” Wolfe, Jr. (born March 2, 1931) is an American author and journalist, best known for his association and influence over the New Journalism literary movement in which literary techniques are used in objective, even-handed journalism. Beginning his career as a reporter he soon became one of the most culturally significant figures of the sixties after the publication of books such as The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test, a highly experimental account of Ken Kesey and his Merry Prankster, and his collections of articles and essays, Radical Chic & Mau-Mauing the Flak Catchers and The Kandy-Kolored Tangerine-Flake Streamline Baby. His first novel, The Bonfire of the Vanities, released in 1987 was met with critical acclaim and was a great commercial success.
JONESTOWN Among other things, Jonestown was an example of a definition well-known to sociologists of religion: A cult is a religion with no political power.
17 November 1988, Los Angeles (CA) Times, “Ten Years After Jonestown, the Battle Intensifies Over the Influence of ‘Alternative’ Religions” by Bob Sipchen, View, sec. 5, pg. 1:
As one often-quoted definition has it: “A cult is a religion someone I don’t like belongs to.”
26 January 1991, Los Angeles (CA) Times, “Cult Label Protested,” Metro, pg. 5:
I once heard it said that a cult is a religion that you don’t understand and don’t like.
The Columbia Dictionary of Quotations
By Robert Andrews
New York, NY: Columbia University Press
A cult is a religion with no political power.
TOM WOLFE (b. 1931), U.S. journalist, aulhor. In Our Time, ch. 2, “Jonestown” (1980)
TBNweekly.com (Tampa Bay Newspapers)
Huckabee’s surge has a sting
By CLARENCE PAGE
Article published on Wednesday, Dec. 26, 2007
I have heard respectable Christian ministers declare on national television that Mormonism is “not a religion” but a “cult.” That erroneous put-down reminds me of the author Tom Wolfe’s observation: A “cult” is a religion that lacks political clout.
That’s long been the story of ethnic and religious prejudice. We can be frightened about that which we don’t know much about.
The Quotable Intellectual:
1,417 Bon Mots, Ripostes, and Witticisms for Aspiring Academics, Armchair Philosophers...and AnyoneElseWho Wants to Sound Really Smart
By Peter Archer
Avon. MA: Adams Media
“A cult is a religion with no political power.”
—TOM WOLFE (1931–)
is an American writer and journalist known for such nonfiction books of reportage as The Right Stuff and for novels such as Bonfire of the Vanities.
New York City • Government/Law/Politics • Sunday, November 04, 2012 • Permalink