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Digital Subscriptions > Skeptic > 24.1 > The Cult of Falun Gong

The Cult of Falun Gong

How this Group Raises Big Money Using a Dance Troupe and its Own Victimhood

THE CHINESE SECT KNOWN AS FALUN GONG (also known as Falun Dafa) has grown dramatically in recent years using a novel fund-raising technique— dance. While other communal religious groups support themselves selling produce or clothing, Falun Gong uses a high-tech, high-volume dance company known as Shen Yun, with several troupes performing to huge audiences across the world, funding the survival and growth of the group and increasing the wealth of the founder, all while convincing their audiences they are supporting a worthwhile cause.

A cult is defined as “a religion or sect considered to be false, unorthodox, or extremist, with members often living outside of conventional society under the direction of a charismatic leader.”1 The cult of Falun Gong is built around the rambling and sometimesracist musings of a man named Li Hongzi, and has become widespread and accepted in America and across the world. While it claims on the surface to be about wellness and happiness, Falun Gong has all the stereotypical components of a malevolent authoritarian group including magic, lies, a supernatural savior, the threat of a coming doom, and other standard fare of modern cults,2 with the added bonus component of victimhood.

The sect revolves around Li, who displays many of the traits of a “dangerous cult leader” as defined by Psychology Today, including possessing “the answers and solutions to world problems” and “using ‘magical’ answers or solutions to problems.”3 To that end, Li is said to have supernatural powers which he can transfer to others by placing literal, undetectable, interdimensional wheels in the abdomens of his elite practitioners (those who have paid lots of money for his courses and training). This allows them to heal others and even to levitate (somehow never filmed).4

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About Skeptic

BEHE’S LAST STAND COLUMNS The SkepDoc: Is Low-Dose Radiation Good for You? The Questionable Claims for Hormesis, by Harriet Hall, M.D. • The Gadfly: Define Your Terms (or, Here we Go Again), by Carol Tavris ARTICLES Making Gasoline from Water: John Andrews and the Invention of a Legend • Online Gaming: A Virtual Experiment in the Dark Side of Human Nature • Duped by Data Mining • How Science Will Explain and Fix Fake News • The Cult of Falun Gong: A Dance Troupe and Victimhood Raises Big Money • The Opioid Epidemic Misunderstood • Why the Human-Centered View Has Not Served us Well • Behe’s Last Stand: The Lion of Intelligent Design Roars Again • Straw Man on a Slippery Slope: The Case Against the Case Against Postmodernism • A Disproof of God’s Existence REVIEWS Reviews of: The Coddling of the American Mind: How Good Intentions and Bad Ideas are Setting Up a Generation for Failure; The Skeptics’ Guide to the Universe: How to Know What’s Really Real in a World Increasingly Full of Fake; Investigating Ghosts: The Scientific Search for Spirits; Bunk: The Rise of Hoaxes, Humbug, Plagiarists, Phonies, Post- Facts, and Fake News; Hoax: A History of Deception: 5000 Years of Fakes, Forgeries, and Fallacies; Truth’s Fool: Derek Freeman and the War Over Anthropology JUNIOR SKEPTIC Quest for the Truth about Dungeons and Dragons