When the viewers of a TV show hail every episode as the 'Best. Episode. Evah.".

When the users of a piece of software insist every minor change is a major upgrade, and its forum is a wasteland of LOL, STFU and RTFM.

When the followers of a philosophical system start talking about how it's completely triumphed over all competitors and ended philosophy forever.

When a church or political party gets into the habit or expelling members for insufficient loyalty.

When a country's media repeatedly tells its own citizens that they own the rest of the world.

In short, when you have a milieu full of're fucked.

That TV show has jumped the shark, that software is hemorrhaging users, that philosophy has nothing more to say, that church is a cult around one person, that party is in meltdown, and that country may well start a thermonuclear war in a fit of pique.

Sycophancy isn't just unconditional love for a person of a cause, it's unconditional defence too. Which means unconditional hatred for doubters and rivals.

When the British Empire ruled a quarter of the world, they didn't feel the need to remind everyone of the fact, because they weren't afraid that people would have forgotten. At that time, they didn't need or produce many sycophants.

Sociobiologists only started churning out books like 'The Triumph of Sociobiology' a decade after the field stopped making new claims. Socialists only talked about having faith in 'the international working class movement' when there wasn't such a thing anymore.

The sycophant is always on the defensive, because they're constantly afraid that the object of their affections is under attack, by a competitor...or by reality itself. Thus the sycophant is constantly afraid that their love is unjustified and their doctrine is wrong.

The sycophant is someone with a faith, as opposed to a simple belief. But more than that, they're someone with a great faith - a faith that has to be great because their doubt is so great.

Ultimately, although they'll claim to have the perfect and unalterable truth, the truth isn't what's important to them. What's important is leadership, authority, power, control.

Their world is a metaphorical S&M dungeon - and sometimes not so metaphorical. It's not an accident that so many people with power - or those who crave power - also crave to dominate or be dominated in bed. It's not just that power can be sexy, it can be sexuality itself.

Incidentally, there's a reason why the easiest person to bully is a bully. It's because they don't believe in rights, except the right of power. Which means if you have power over them, you must have the right.

My point though is that this isn't a rare type of person on the fringes of society. They're common, perhaps even the majority. And they're a barometer.

It may well be that your church really is going from strength to strength, just like the pastor says. To check, try expressing some mild doubts or caution. If the response is to provide some evidence of why you're wrong, fair enough. But if there's an implication that you're morally defective for having doubts, it's time to get out quick.

When doubt is a sin - indeed, when doubt is punished - then doubt is exactly what you need.

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