Today we were given a presentation about the Flat Earth Society and their beliefs. This turned out to be a very interesting exercise in how cults work. The basis of the belief system is that NASA faked the moon landings and all the rest of the "evidence" flows from that starting point.
The essence of it is to use cognitive dissonance to discourage people from giving it independent thought, or from doing any independent research on the topic. If you receive no other information than what is being handed to you by the leader, then it is easy to believe, especially when the leader is charismatic. Often, the evidence that contradicts is right in front of you waiting to be read, but the leader tells you what the evidence is, and so you don't read it for yourself.
This is the experience described by people who have escaped cults. It is also the experience described by people who have emerged from the jihadist sects of Islam. For those Muslims who have fallen into it and escaped it, they say that the jihadists don't teach you about the parts of the Quran that teach peace and tolerance. The Quran is there in front of them to read, and yet they did not read it. The same phenomenon occurs within Christianity. A charismatic leader will point to Leviticus and say such a thing as being gay is not allowed, and yet comfortably ignore Leviticus when eating ham is described as an abomination.
It was an interesting discussion. If you think you would enjoy having an interesting discussion, then please join us some Sunday.