The Temptation to Cult-ify Too Much | Sojourners

The Temptation to Cult-ify Too Much

‘Sounds Like A Cult’ prompts listeners to question what we fanatically follow.
The cover for the podcast 'Sounds Like A Cult' is cast against a gray-green backdrop. The cover is an illustration of an open human mouth superimposed over a multi-colored background. The podcast's name is in cursive, positioned between the teeth.
Sounds Like A Cult, hosted by Amanda Montell and Isa Medina-Maté / All Things Comedy

WHAT DO CELEBRITY megachurches, a cappella groups, nonprofits, and Trader Joe’s have in common? According to author Amanda Montell and comedian Isabela (Isa) Medina-Maté, they’re all cults. In their hilariously informative podcast, Sounds Like A Cult, launched in 2021, these are just a few of the groups they eye with suspicion. Across episodes, the duo focuses on a group, institution, or brand with a fanatical following and ask, “This group sounds like a cult, but is it really?”

Whether they are calling out the hypocrisy of Starbucks’ refusal to let their workers unionize or critiquing the ways Taylor Swift weaponizes her loyal fan base to dismantle outlets that might portray her negatively, no brand, organization, or person is safe. They often have guests who have escaped (or sometimes still are in) said “cults,” and at the end of each episode, Medina-Maté and Montell share whether that week’s subject fits under one of three categories: a “Live Your Life” cult, a “Watch Your Back” cult, or a “Get the [Expletive] Out” cult. Listening to them is akin to eavesdropping on a conversation between friends, and the tone can switch from serious to breezy in the same breath. “All billionaires are cult leaders, period,” Montell says in an episode about Starbucks. In an episode about church camps, she notes that camps are great at “weaponizing endorphins and calling it the Holy Spirit.” The hosts are alternately analytical, easygoing, and earnest, but they never belittle their subjects for the sake of laughs.

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The cover image for the May 2023 issue of Sojourners, featuring an illustration of blue disembodied hands pulling white strings in various directions in the shape of the Enneagram symbol. The background is a mixture of bright colors of the rainbow.
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