Reza Aslan, a religion scholar and former CNN host who has written extensively about Islamic fundamentalism, is featured in a new Big Think video in which he asks the question of whether the followers of President Donald Trump constitute a “religious cult.”
Aslan begins by noting that Trump received unprecedented support from American evangelicals during the 2016 presidential election — even more than former President George W. Bush, who identified specifically as an evangelical.
To examine why this could be, Aslan pointed in part to the rise of the so-called “Prosperity Gospel” that was once seen as completely heretical by most Christians, but that now has garnered a significant following.
“The essential gist of [Prosperity Gospel] is, ‘God wants you to drive a Bentley,'” Aslan explained. “That what Jesus really wants for you is material prosperity… Many white evangelicals looked at Donald Trump and what they saw was a wealthy man, and that wealth, as far as they were concerned, was just a sign of God’s blessings.”
However, Aslan said this alone does not explain why evangelicals, who once were the most likely people to say that a politician’s personal morality matters, now say that they aren’t at all interested in the president’s morality.
“Atheists in America think a politician’s morality is more important than white evangelicals,” Aslan said.
“The only explanation I have for it,” he continued. “Is that Donald Trump has turned a large swathe of white evangelical Christianity into a cult — a religious cult.”