QAnon isn't a cult, according to this historian -- the truth about the movement is even more unsettling

QAnon isn't a cult, according to one historian, but it's still in danger of becoming one.

The white supremacist conspiracy theory has been compared to a cult almost since it first sprang up online, but historian Thomas Lecaqu explained in a column for Religion Dispatches that arises mostly from wishful thinking by those on the outside of the group's twisted ideas.

"I know it would be comforting, to believe that it’s a weird fringe, in the grasp of charismatic leaders, that the people are brainwashed and alien, that it is Not Us, Not American, foreign and Othered in as many ways as we can say it," Lecaque wrote. "We want QAnon not to be our neighbors. The pastor at the megachurch we drive by on the way to work. The nice couple at the farmer’s market. The cashier, the bank president, the people two pews over, your friends from high school you only see on Facebook."

"We want QAnon to be something out of sight and out of mind," he added.

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What it actually is is a belief system shared by about one in five white evangelical Protestants, Hispanic Protestants, and Latter Day Saints, according to a survey from last year, and the movement has adopted many ideas from evangelical Christianity and imported its white supremacy from the same Protestant teachings that helped give rise to the Ku Klux Klan and the 1980s "Satanic Panic."

QAnon also patches together New Age beliefs, supernatural "X-Files" conspiracy theories and celebrity worship, especially one splinter group gathered in Dallas by online conspiracist Michael Protzman that does appear to be morphing into something like a cult.

"We know that 'cult' is not an appropriate term for just any religious grouping," Lecaque wrote. "It’s a political term for a movement. But Protzman’s group bears all of the hallmarks of that problematic term, in the way we mean it post-Jonestown, post-Heaven’s Gate. And while they may make a distracting spectacle to write about, I hope we’re watching for ways to get their members out, before it can become the next media sensation to use the term after a tragedy. Protzman’s group is embracing the problematic political term; we need to make sure they don’t embrace the ending that often goes with it."