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Cult Bashing

Cult Bashing

39 comments written by Ken Hutchins

Cult Bashing

by Ken Hutchins

This article was written in 2005. We believe that it has never been published in any format. Its present posting is in response to the following comments (complete with grammatical errors and abbreviations) by Scott Springston and Fred Hahn:

“Hey, I’m just trying to help you guys reach a broader audience than just the few cult like members that you have.”—Scott Springston

“Of course I can see how SS members or Nautilus,REN-EX or whatever members can get caught up in the cult/hype…”—Scott Springston

“… much (not all) of what is said by the SS/Renx proponents WRT it’s superiority has not been shown to be true. YET, many of them talk as if it is. It’s bad science. It’s cult-like talk.”—Fred Hahn

In the year 2001, I was interviewed approximately 200 times by various magazine columnists, radio and television show hosts, and newspaper writers. During this time I grew increasingly concerned that some interviewer would eventually put me on the spot and ask me if my organization was a cult. I agonized over this possibility, especially regarding my answer, if questioned.

A partial collection of the many magazines featuring Ken Hutchins and SuperSlow between 2001 and 2004. There were also many interviews on radio and television including twice airings of NPR’s “All Things Considered.”

I did not want to answer with denial. Whenever I have witnessed others in denial about some issue, the denying party consistently sounded weak and guilty. In fact, the use of denial seems a natural and forgivable red herring in any crime mystery.

Shortly before encountering an interview where the feared question was indeed popped, I came to an epiphany regarding cults. So when asked if I was a cult leader, I proudly answered, “Yes.”

This answer surprised the interviewer, who represented the Fox News affiliate from Tampa. My complete reply was something to the effect of, “Yes, but let’s first briefly define, cult. A cult is a group of people who stand behind a certain belief system and/or its charismatic leader. We just described the Pilgrims, the Quakers, the Baptists, the Catholics, the Amish, the Democratic Party, the Marines, the Daughters of the American Revolution, any fraternity or sorority on any university campus, the National Science Foundation, the American Cancer Society, and the Rotary Club, just to scratch the surface. Our forefathers from Europe fled oppression for their beliefs and came here and settled in various enclaves to eventually form a country promoting freedom of belief and speech. The United States is basically a collection of cults and this is a major reason to be proud to be a citizen here.”

A meeting of the investigators at the Nautilus-funded Osteoporosis Study at the University of Florida Medical School during the early 1980s. Pictured are Keith Johnson, MD, Brian Dutoit, PhD, Ken Hutchins, a nurse, Brenda Hutchins, and the project secretary. Here our little cult planned our rituals, so to speak.

Ken Hutchins delivers a negative-only neck flexion exercise to a study subject. (Don’t Ever Do This!! Bad Idea!!). This was Ken’s cult ritual—right?

The interviewer then said, “Turn off the camera. We can’t use that.” And I then asked, “What do you mean, you can’t use it? Granted, this is off topic, but, generally speaking, the most important information you’ve recorded in years.” He didn’t respond.

I continued to reflect on my answer for several weeks, sometimes wishing I could have stated it better. I also noted how the media has emotionally charged the word, cult, to imply something disparaging. From here I came to realize that to label a group as a cult in this manner evolves to become an acceptable and subtle form of bigotry.

For example, if I want to disparage my competition as possessing values or practices I don’t respect, I can probably get away with calling them a cult easier than if I grouped them under any other obvious stereotype. And to do so with certain groups crosses the legal line into hate speech. Offhanded and intended snobbery like “cult” is legally allowed, but, in a way, serves the same purpose. However, there is no reason for such a put down to stick, since we all live in multiple layers of cults.

For the record, cult is the root of culture and various cultures comprise our society at large. A sect is merely a further subdivision of cult—not to be confused with occult.

A panel discussion during one of the Nautilus Seminars held in Lake Helen, Florida five times each year during the early 1980s. Left to right are Ellington Darden, PhD,  Brenda Hutchins, Ken Hutchins, Boyer Coe, and Tom Laputka (moderator). Was Nautilus a cult? Of course it was. And Nautilus was in good company like the rest of Americana!

Another Epiphany

If I, Ken, take a narrow view of our society, I am not necessarily a bigot; however, I might scorn the Branch Davidians, Jim Jones and his Jonestown, as well as those religious sects that worship by dancing with poisonous snakes. Therefore I must admit to being a conditional bigot. After all, I am cool with all the major religions and races in this country.

Rhetorical Question: At what threshold does a “cult” rise to the distinction of a formal religion? What’s that magic number? One?… More than one? How much more than one? A baker’s dozen?

But if I expand my horizons to include all of present humanity as well as to admit that tolerance is ideally unconditional, I might openly condemn the cannibalistic practices of a New Guinea tribe or the virginal sacrifices of another tribe in some other remote locale. And if I expand my horizons temporally rather than just geographically, I might consider disgusting the ancient Spartans who sent their boys, upon reaching the age of seven, away from their mothers to live in a homosexual bivouac, or the Karankawas of the Texas coast who routinely fed all their female newborns to their dogs. Taken in this broader context, my intolerance with these practices and their belief systems makes me a bigot.

The first discovery of a Karankawa grave site on Galveston Island in 1962. Note the shoes and feet of Ken’s sister, Kathy, at the top edge of the field. Melvin Hutchins, MD, Ken, and Kathy Hutchins assisted T. E. Pulley, PhD excavate this site for the Houston Museum of Natural Science. Note that the Karankawa diet was almost exclusively raw oysters during the winter months on the island.

Approximately 20 years ago, a friend and computer engineer once proclaimed to me that he was a “mainframe bigot.” I laughed and asked, “What do you mean by that?” He replied that part of his job in his company was to enable the various desktop personal computer users to interface with the company’s mainframe computer. At that time, there were many different PC manufacturers requiring differing interfaces. Apparently this frustrated his primary focus of doing mainframe maintenance.

Another friend and practicing attorney recently told me that he once took several business courses from an instructor who was fond of using the term, “selective tolerance.” At any opportune moment the instructor would utter the term under his breath in a clever, but cynical manner. We both mused that, “So that’s what we are, selectively tolerant… hmm?” Reciprocally speaking, we are therefore, as stated before, conditional bigots.

By the way, the origin of bigot literally means by God.

The Resulting Problem with Total Tolerance

If I, Ken Hutchins, on the other hand, am totally tolerant—if I can openly accept without criticism all the practices and attitudes of the world—past and present—then and only then can I be labeled as completely non-bigoted and non-prejudicial. However, I am now beset with another problem. Ken Hutchins has no convictions.

I see this as a messy paradox, especially for any legal or justice system. Are laws in a society merely arbitrary? (Isn’t arbitrary from the root of arbitration… hmm.) If not, where are the lines between practical, arbitrary, and just?

We are certain that Arthur Jones would not have liked the distinction as a cult leader. Most of us seem to overlook that we all participate in cults. And to infer that anyone is party to a cult is neither disparaging nor distinctive. Photo by Ken Hutchins.

{ 39 comments… read them below or add one }

avatar Joshua Trentine December 18, 2012 at 12:18 pm

I really enjoyed this post by Ken, not only the content, but I love to see the old Nautilus pictures. Last Christmas I sat at Ken’s and looked at old Nautilus pictures all day…I bet I saw 500….I would like to get these into future articles….he has stuff that nobody has ever seen.

Ken and I have discussed the Karankawa tribe many times at lunch as I consume my favorite lunch of 24 raw oysters at one of our favorite restaurants in Altamonte Springs.

“Note that the Karankawa diet was almost exclusively raw oysters during the winter months on the island.”

Ken has some interesting theories as to why this was such an effective diet for these people, in this region, over the winter months and for whatever reason I continue eat 20 to 40 oysters per day in the winter months too….maybe I’m part Karankawa. 🙂

In my bodybuilding talk at the Future of Exercise conference I list what I consider to be the best foods for creating an environment conducive for bodybuilding…Oysters remain high on my list for a variety of reasons and make for an interesting choice when combining certain foods.

I hope everyone enjoys this article, I should have another one up in a week or so. Otherwise we will be off of the comments section until Jan 7th, 2013.

Happy Hoilidays from the RenEx Team,



avatar Joshua Trentine December 18, 2012 at 12:31 pm


The same person that accused us of being a “cult” is THE low carb cultist…if such behavior is to be criticized…he loses every argument on every level.

Not to mention this high fat–no carb movement is a recipe for long term metabolic damage. I don’t recommend people go this way…..



avatar AC December 30, 2012 at 6:27 pm

Hi Josh,

I am not high fat-no carb. At the moment I have been losing fat just fine simply counting my calories and reducing portion sizes of whatever it was that was previously eating.

I have been toying with the idea of buying one of Gary Taubes’ books to see what all the fuss is about with this low carb/paleo/primal diet movement that seems to be so big at the moment.

I would be very grateful if you could point me in the direct of websites or books that support what you are saying about long term metabolic damage being done by these diets, as it’s something that I have heard nothing about, apart from you writing the comment above.

I would very much like to look at both sides of the argument rather than just go with the flow because everyone else seems to be saying that we should.

Many thanks,



avatar Joshua Trentine December 18, 2012 at 12:31 pm

OK…see you all in January!


avatar Scott Springston December 18, 2012 at 12:33 pm

For some 30 plus years talking, reading about and getting and using Nautilus has always been at the top of my list of things to do.I’ve always said that if I belong to any cult it would be the Jones/Nautilus cult. The big difference I find between the Jones cult and the REN-EX cult is that somehow Jones could attract more followers than he turned off to his product. I can’t say the same for REN-EX hense I try to give advise to REN-EX that might help them gain better overall acceptance.Why do I do this? Because inspite of all the negative talk about REN-EX on certain forums I still think there is good stuff to be learned from the folks at REN-EX. REN-EX may not be the new Nautilus but REN-EX has good stuff to offer for certain needs.


avatar Mark Lloyd December 19, 2012 at 7:16 pm

Arthur Jones used a vocabulary that wasn’t immediately grsped by newcomers, and was an aggressive, rude, arrogant sonofabitch. It that your point?


avatar Scott Springston December 20, 2012 at 12:39 pm

Yes Jones was all you say and still people followed with eager anticipation to hear what he had to say next. It’s really a hard thing to explain. Perhaps it was because his machines were so superior to what had been around then and he was a very convincing writer that his obnoxiousness could be over looked? Whatever allowed Jones to be accepted so well is not something I can explain at this time. It is clear though that these days a friendly approach would work much better than an approach where one contends that his way is the best and only way and all else is inferior or a waste of time. Even Jones admitted that big muscles could be built with out his machines.


avatar Mark Lloyd December 21, 2012 at 12:31 pm

Perhaps more of the masses -would- consider RenEx if the company took your advice. Speaking for myself, however, I became convinced of Ken’s sincerity & dedication, (& soon afterwards, his correctness), by his willingness to -not- look like a “nice guy”, sharing his outrage with what he believes are incorrect methods, & the people who perpetrate them, often via fraudulant “research”. The other thing that gives me confidence in Hutchins is his willingness to publicly change his mind & methods in the face of new evidence. How many other do that? Even Arthur was less virtuous in this regard. Nothing worthwhile’s easy. I suspect that if RenEx was made to look attractive to the average slug, he’d quit after one workout. Of course, this the mainstream fitness club method : Sell’em a membership, and hope they never come back. RenEx may indeed be making a business huge error by not screwing their clients..


avatar Jeff April 5, 2013 at 1:06 pm

I’m new to all of this high intensity stuff, but that seems to be my observation as well. Arthur seemed to polarize people, but he still won over a massive amount in the end. Nearly everything I see about Ren Ex is what jerks they are or who they are currently fighting with. Sorry, but that’s just what I’ve noticed since stumbling upon hit in the last 6 months.


avatar Joshua Trentine April 5, 2013 at 1:25 pm


Sounds like you are caught in the herd….

Our information is polarizing, many are threatened, I’m sorry if this offends.

Please copy and paste any case where we’ve been “jerks” so i can apologize.


avatar Thomas December 18, 2012 at 12:36 pm


Many are not willing to lay their neck our there and tackle this one. Ken just did. Nice job.

My religion has been called a cult by many for so long now I’m pretty numb to the term. But I did think about it a lot in the beginning, especially after being attacked by people “trying to keep me from going to hell (including my own Grandfather).” It all became rather silly after awhile.

Anyway, that term (cult) is so loosely used and specifically designed to do damage to those it’s directed at, it’s shameful in most instances. When I read Fred using it, I just rolled my eyes and smiled. Again, silly.


avatar John Parr December 18, 2012 at 1:05 pm

Very interesting article, and so true! It’s making me think, hell I’m a RenEX cult member, and damn proud of it. LOL!

Happy Holidays!

PS loved those shoe/boots on Boyer Coe!


avatar Drew Baye December 18, 2012 at 2:00 pm

I’m glad this has been said. Ken and I have talked about this before and I think it is ridiculous for people to use the term “cult” in a derogatory manner because going by the actual definition of the word (as opposed to popular perception of the meaning) almost all of us belong to at least a few.

In addition the the groups listed above, you might also include fans of professional sports teams, celebrity fan clubs, and some extreme sports clubs and groups.


avatar Trace Johnston December 18, 2012 at 2:12 pm

I’m uncertain that a belief system applies entirely to something that has been shown to work. We don’t stimulate muscle growth by just believing in it – although maybe we do to some extent. In any case I can reliably predict results for myself and for most clients. It’s not done purely on faith. But I understand how any organization or group that is organized around a common pursuit can be termed a cult. In business they refer to themselves as a “culture.” That’s a far more respectable term without negative implications.

Anyway, best wishes for the holidays to everyone at RenEx and to all their “cult” supporters. And thanks for this year, it’s been great.


avatar Tom Moreland December 18, 2012 at 4:28 pm

Right on Trace!


avatar Russ Wakefield December 18, 2012 at 6:30 pm

Great response! I think Arthur said there are no experts but there are people with strongly held opinions. The Renex cult tries it’s best to reason out the best available information to make it truly the prime mover in the renaissance of exercise. I’m proud to be one of the cult members.

I’ve seen over the years such great results using Ken’s, Josh’s, Doug and all of those who have contributed over the years to the body of work that my trainees benefit from.


avatar Bill S. December 18, 2012 at 10:51 pm

Perfect timing. I bet there is a lot more in that treasure chest.


avatar David Lee December 19, 2012 at 7:21 am

Great Job Ken!

Josh I would love to hear in more detail your concerns with high fat low carb diets? I know this may take a lot of time, but even just some quick points..


avatar Joshua Trentine December 19, 2012 at 7:15 pm

I hope everyone understands….I really appreciate the questions, but we simply can’t answer anymore questions until we return in January….around the 7th…

Thank you and enjoy the holidays!

ps:I’ll be sure to get plenty of blogs up before then.



avatar Scott Springston December 20, 2012 at 12:47 pm

I’ll be going on Christmas vacation for the next week or so and I never get on forums while at home.I do find forums like this and others ( gee I wonder which one that is?) to be entertaining but as late they have become more of an aggravation than a learning tool. Sometimes I think we are better off without them.
Enjoy your time away from here. I’m sure you need it!


avatar Steven Turner December 19, 2012 at 8:11 pm

I don’t see RenX as a cult, I read that Arthur Jones used the terms self-evident truth or common sense. Not to down play all the hard work of the RenX team, you guys have done a fantastic job in proving a lot of readers with great information and “food for thought” – not the diet question.

Is RenX self-evident truth, common sense or is it a cult?

Remember that family is always the most important considerations

Josh enjoy the break with your family – don’t reply

Merry Xmas to all


avatar Bradley warlow December 20, 2012 at 2:08 pm

No problem I will ask you questions in the new year. Happy Holidays/ Merry Christmas


avatar Rob K December 20, 2012 at 2:17 pm

Good to see you back in the game!
As a follower and proponent of the SSEG I appreciated your development, science, and advancement.
I read your manual in one weekend and never looked back nor ever did aerbic wotk again!
Please keep active (with JT), but how about limiting the wannabes. They are like scrambled zombies mimicing the science. Thanks for this historic post, and politely distancing your (and JT) efforts from Joe A. too bad he,s back to BBS.

Do you see significant onflict with Max Pyramid or Max Contraction .. or even slowburn?

thank you


avatar Joshua Trentine December 21, 2012 at 9:12 pm


I’ve been fortunate enough to be around some of the greatest minds in the business.

I promise you Joe Anderson is right there with them.

As for your question we will be answering again after Jan 7th.



avatar Joe A December 21, 2012 at 8:58 pm

@Ken (or JT)

If you have time, would you mind responding yo Rob K? I would respond myself, but I need you to put out the official response so I can appropriately mimic it…I wannabe a more disciplined zombie from now on. Thanks.

BTW, I’m not ‘back’ on BBS…so, crisis averted.


avatar Dan Graves December 22, 2012 at 9:54 am


Respectifully, you might be missing their points. Whether Josh politely acknowledges it or not the educated readers come here for him (and Ken) only. Your inputs (and swears) are suited best for the zumba crowds … aka uninformed.
Take this well my friend as you have a much to learn … assuming you’re capable. Josh and Ken’s advancment appears beyond most of these readers abilities. That’s why the posts deteriorate into obscure questions and pointless debates. BTW thanks for leaving BBS and SB alone :>


avatar gmlongo December 22, 2012 at 12:12 pm


I consider myself a very well educated reader, and I was very happy to see Joe A post here…so your conclusion that readers only come here for Josh and Ken is incorrect. We come here for valuable information and useful discussion, and having read Joe’s posts on multiple forums over the last couple years, it is clear that he brings both. Please do not make sweeping statements about a person that you obviously have read little about.


avatar Joe A December 22, 2012 at 2:05 pm


Congratulations on being elected to speak for all the “educated readers”…you must be so proud…

This is a RenEx blog, so it comes as no surprise that people are drawn here seeking input from Ken or Josh (or Al, Gus and Jeff). However, Renaissance Exercise is bigger than Ken Hutchins…it is bigger than Joshua Trentine…it is bigger than any one person. You only marginalize their efforts toward the advancement of exercise by trying to make this about people.

You don’t like me or don’t find value in anything I contribute? I’m perfectly OK with that. I literally have nothing to do with Renaissance Exercise…I’m here learning along with everyone else (and I agree, I have much to learn). But let’s not pretend that I approve my own comments or published my article here…let’s not pretend that I sneaked in the backdoor somehow and have disrupted the whole operation. You want to hero-worship and ignore all others, I believe you’ll be doing so to the detriment of your own learning process.

Further, what does it say about the judgement of “educated readers” if the men they are following are so incapable of discerning the appropriate allocation of their energy, resources and relationships, that they need you to lecture them? If we are dealing with such low functioning individuals, perhaps they should be the ones seeking advice on your blog, not the other way around?

I have nothing further to say about this as it only serves to draw attention away from the topic at hand, away from the product the RenEx team has worked so hard to put forth. If one is inclined to participate in this nonsense, I suggest one of the “HIT” forums, as they seem to love the mindless chatter and name calling.


avatar Rob K December 23, 2012 at 10:37 am



avatar Steven Turner December 23, 2012 at 6:15 pm

My opinion,

Is that everyones opinion should be accepted I for one have learnt a lot from Joe A comments he often can ask the questions that I wanted to ask but has a better way of putting this forward.

Dan you do not speak for me as I do have a level of education


avatar Dan Graves December 24, 2012 at 12:58 am

I’m sure you are edcuated, but the exercise is based upon facts that are difficult to grasp unless a foundation is understood. If you really were as smart as you say you … you would have been able to get most answers and follow the experts. That’s why Ken has taken 30+ years to still get to where he is: developing and fine-tuning. The Joea’s stagnate, hi-jack, and regress the topic. We all should listen to the experts that present and teach … as of now the only ones capable on the iblogs are Ken, Fred, JT, Doug, and John … perhaps Dr. Darden if he gets back in the game … of course there are “inactive” experts too (such as Bill and Pete) . At this point in the development it is not about the students or uniformed. Find the answers to your own regressive questions, and let the teachers teach.


avatar Joe A December 24, 2012 at 4:26 pm


Do you not see the irony in your complaining about the Joea’s stagnating, hi-jacking and regressing the topic BY hi-jacking the discussion and making the topic about the Joea’s??

You question other’s ability to follow along while simultaneously demonstrating an inability to track by even suggesting your list of “heroes”. Your hero-worship clouds your judgement by making this into a master-student scenario. Your list suggests you lack the ability to discern “masters” who are even of the same discipline. Something you seem to miss, is that your “masters” (at least the one’s who are actually developing and innovating) ARE THE STUDENTS…they are the most diligent students. The most impressive thing about the men who run this blog is their acknowledgement that they don’t know certain things, that they are investigating further, that they don’t have answers. They are graciously documenting their journey and inviting us to actively participate in the process. If you simply want to “let the teachers teach”, you actually are removing yourself from the responsibility of being a student. Then you have the internet-gall to denigrate others for actively participating, for daring to contribute?

Maybe you would be better off simply reading the articles and forgoing the extra click it takes to view comments…If the article isn’t written by one of your heroes, you can save yourself even more time and angst by not reading it.


avatar Joshua Trentine December 24, 2012 at 4:48 pm

So true! :

“Something you seem to miss, is that your “masters” (at least the one’s who are actually developing and innovating) ARE THE STUDENTS…they are the most diligent students.”


avatar Joshua Trentine December 24, 2012 at 4:52 pm


funny you say this:

“Maybe you would be better off simply reading the articles and forgoing the extra click it takes to view comments…”

I’m very, very close to killing off the comments section of these blogs, as a matter of fact as I sat up writing last night I even consider making this whole blog private…it might save people a lot of time.



avatar Mark Lloyd December 25, 2012 at 4:40 pm

Rather than no comments at all, how about a round-table discussion group of ReEx staff members and associates, elaborating and fine-tuning the initial article, (probably resembling conversations you guys are already having anyway). One suggestion: Re-read each article as if you’d never heard of RenEx HIT, or SuperSlow, and ask/answer the questions you’d have.


avatar Joshua Trentine December 25, 2012 at 9:06 pm


I really love this suggestion:

“One suggestion: Re-read each article as if you’d never heard of RenEx HIT, or SuperSlow, and ask/answer the questions you’d have.”

The vast majority of people that are negative and vocal about what we have to say have some sort of personal bias and make NO effort to evaluate the content.


avatar Donnie Hunt December 26, 2012 at 10:21 pm

Hope everyone is having a good holiday and still enjoying vacation. I liked reading about Ken’s non beat around the bush response to the cult question. Like the article talks about and some of the comments also, we do indeed exist in vast arrays of sub cults or cultures.

I like the current comment format you guys are using. I like hearing what everybody has to say. On the other hand we all only have so much time to read and you guys only have so much time to moderate.


avatar Tom Moreland December 24, 2012 at 5:13 pm

Please do it. It is a total waste of time to provide a venue for these clowns.


avatar Rob K December 24, 2012 at 8:35 pm

Wow … Josh
A read only blog would be incredibly efficient and help the speed of advancement. Perhaps you could incorporate screened q&a … kinda like the BBS Q&A follow up book!


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