Cult Paleo: A Family Story

My dad was told by a devout fundamentalist, a Born-Again Baptist, a brother, that he’s a member of a cult: The Paleo Cult.

…I’m busy, with another cookbook review — guess which one — and also editing a video interview with Ricky, from across the pond, and who talks funny. But he lost 90 pounds. No idea how many stones. So this is passion, getting in the way, which are always my favorite posts.

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Lothar Nikoley to the left, at 73. Click to open the hi-res version

Dad & mom came over Saturday.

Since they couldn’t be here for Beatrice’s 52nd (she’s the one attached to my arm; or another appendage, as usual), they came a week later to take her out shopping for a few changes of clothes and a dinner. We went to Palacio (rhymes with paleo) in Los Gatos. I’m the zombie. Have fear. I eat liver.

Having weighed about 40 or so pounds more, I think my dad looks awesomely fuckin’ good for 73. Jesus. Huh? I hadn’t seen him for about a month and when I did last Saturday, I was very pleased. My younger brothers should take a clue, some inspiration, and a dash of shame.

But here’s what’s funny. His baptie fundie brothers — not all — but two in particular who know who they are (and I’m not talking about the fundamentalist preacher — he’s always cool to me) constantly give their older and far wiser brother shit. None are formally educated; neither is my dad. But they have all done very well for themselves in spite of that, and for what I’m saying, here, that’s important. My dad, for instance, with not even an HS diploma, bids construction on some of the biggest projects in the world. There’s no construction project he can’t take blueprints and architectural/engineering specifications of, and deconstruct them all to a spreadsheet of hundreds or thousands of of cost line items that can be easily priced out for any contractor.

The other two have done well too, “among the heathens.”


Years, many years ago, when I saw the horrific and life killing ways of the born-again fundamental baptists, in which cult I was raised from ten on, I talked with my mom over many years, and eventually, she saw and more eventually, they dumped it into the shithole where it belongs. That’s my family. From me to her, to dad and family, and far less successfully, extended family.

That’s because they have zero fortitude discernible to me.

Others didn’t do it that way. The two brothers, specifically? They did it in the worst possibly way. Rather than recognize they believed in a sewer that needed pumping, rooting, and perhaps even a whole waste disposal redesign, changed their lives to be more ou courant, while at the same time, holding on to their “godly” admonishments. Unbounded hypocrisy. Laughing stock. Rather than being the rather poor, economy car-driving fundies of my 70s youth, who didn’t even have a car, they’re now Cadillac fundies with stern guidance for anyone who’ll listen. Few do, but they have a Baptist Preacher to live up to who, as I said, is always cool. I don’t begrudge anyone their beliefs and in this particular case, the man is sincere enough that I only ever love to see him. He’s no poseur. His brothers, half in, are.

Pathetic. My uncles, whom I grew up loving — still loving, but not respecting, anymore — simply aren’t honest, in my view of things. Bible thumping is just, well, uneducated and ignorant. I can’t even spin it for the sake of family.

A couple of moths back, my dad, at the house of his brother: discussion escalated to where my dad was told he’s a…member of a cult. Drum roll, and que the IRONIC. …You know, his 40 pound weight loss, enhanced energy, better sleep, better looks, fat loos to increased leanness and likely a few other improvements you can name.

Well, if it is a cult….no, it’s just not. Never discount the propensity of morons to spout moron, especially if they they hide moron in their own closet.

Richard Nikoley

I'm Richard Nikoley. Free The Animal began in 2003 and as of 2021, contains 5,000 posts. I blog what I wish...from health, diet, and food to travel and lifestyle; to politics, social antagonism, expat-living location and time independent—while you sleep—income. I celebrate the audacity and hubris to live by your own exclusive authority and take your own chances. Read More


  1. Lute Nikoley on September 27, 2011 at 16:29

    I thank you for the kind words about the transformation in my own body, including the dropping of 4 medications I was on. Also my estimating skills. However, as a former fundamentalist, I have NOT abandoned my fundamental belief in God’s Word, the Bible. I do believe fundamentalism is doing more damage than good to the Christian faith. Long live paleo.

  2. JoshS on September 27, 2011 at 16:34

    Wow! You do look awesome Mr. Nikoley!

    I always find the “cult” accusations funny, especially coming from people who believe that a group of 500 people in a tiny craphole city have the magical knowledge to run the lives and affairs of almost 400 million other people.

  3. Jeff on September 27, 2011 at 18:45

    I too was raised Baptist….still recovering from it. What a fucking scam.

  4. James on September 27, 2011 at 19:04

    I don’t begrudge other people’s beliefs, either. Even when I disagree vociferously, I try to be decent, realizing everyone is on a different journey and entitled to their opinions. Some people are so easily
    offended they look for it. Maybe it makes them feel better. I don’t get it.

  5. Matt aka twinwolf on September 27, 2011 at 19:23

    Lute, you look great! Congrats!

  6. Bill Strahan on September 27, 2011 at 20:00

    Here’s one for the fundamentalists: Grain is part of the curse for original sin. It’s right there in Genesis:

    Gensis 3:17-19
    17Then to Adam He said, “Because you have listened to the voice of your wife, and have eaten from the tree about which I commanded you, saying, ‘You shall not eat from it’;
    Cursed is the ground because of you;
    In toil you will eat of it
    All the days of your life.

    18“Both thorns and thistles it shall grow for you;
    And you will eat the plants of the field;

    19By the sweat of your face
    You will eat bread,
    Till you return to the ground,
    Because from it you were taken;
    For you are dust,
    And to dust you shall return.”

    As I’ve said elsewhere, if you’re an evolutionist, Paleo makes perfect sense. If you’re a fundamental creationist, Genesis makes it clear that grains and bread are part of the curse for original sin. Prior to that point in the bible they weren’t n a field, they were in a garden. Animals and veggies and fruit. Sounds like my diet. 😉

    I find it easier to get people to shift their opinion of I can take their inertia of a belief system and nudge it in the direction it needs to go, kind of like nudging a snowball rolling downhill. Little nudges can have it end up where you want, and it ends up using the energy that’s already there. It’s like Aikido for conversation.

    • Richard Nikoley on September 27, 2011 at 21:29

      Bill, I hope you don’t take offense but if you can get people on the right dietary track with mythology, more power to you.

      • Cathy on September 28, 2011 at 06:54

        For some reason, when I ask people why they believe in fairy tales, they get offended….

    • Joe Branca on September 28, 2011 at 11:17

      Here’s one out of context that makes me chuckle:

      “One person believes he may eat anything, while the *weak person eats only vegetables*.” Romans 14:2

  7. Bill Strahan on September 27, 2011 at 21:58

    No offense. I figure everyone I speak to falls into two categories in this regard. They either believe in creation, or they don’t. I just want to help people make better choices as far as their diet.

    If I can help them become informed in a way that doesn’t violate their beliefs then the process tends to be easier. Convincing someone that ditching grains is actually good for them is an uphill battle already. Why make it complicated by challenging their root-level belief system as well? It’s just a different conversation.

    Ultimately, I want to be able to deflect any objection and get them to the “try it for 30 days” point as quickly as possible.

    • Lute Nikoley on September 28, 2011 at 22:28

      Bill, you’re absolutely right. I don’t see any point in insulting people while trying to convince them to eat right. I get plenty of static without insulting what they believe.

  8. Gina, Positively Radical on September 28, 2011 at 14:33

    I’m so glad my parents were non-religious. I grew up having to figure life and death out for myself, and I think I did an okay job of it. Once when we were living in Taiwan some nuns were selling books door to door, so I wanted some since I couldn’t get enough books. I ended up with The Story of Bernadette and some others. Mom must have thought I was interested in religion so she had a friend take me to Catholic church once. Mom asked how I liked it. That’s what she did – sent me to stuff like Brownies, then ask me how I liked it, LOL. So I told her it was boring and I didn’t want to go to church anymore.

    BTW, I’m adding a link to my blog, which I had started, dropped, and am motivated to pick up again. Hope it’s not too lame. I appreciate Richard’s blog and really anyone who blogs regularly and with gusto.

  9. Sean on September 28, 2011 at 00:44


    Coolest. Name. Ever.

    The Universe would be terribly out of balance if a guy named Lothar was subsisting on grains and crap-in-a-box. All Lothars ought to be eating Paleo when they aren’t fighting bears with Bowie knives.

    • Richard Nikoley on September 28, 2011 at 06:46

      Of course, that’s what the L is between my first and last name. So I’m cool.

      • Sean on September 28, 2011 at 10:10

        Really? Damnit I’m totally jealous.

      • Richard Nikoley on September 28, 2011 at 10:21

        When I was called Rick as a nickname for Richard as a kid, I carried that until I lived in France in my late 30s. Much of my family still calls me Rick. Beatrice mocks me regularly that I went to Richard because I loved how my late French girlfriend pronounced it. But more than once, I thought of taking my middle name for novelties’ sake. Is it too late to switch at 50? 🙂

      • Richard Nikoley on September 28, 2011 at 10:25

        And need I mention that the correct German pronunciation of Lothar is Lot-har, ie, without they the typical -th- spound Anglos do.

      • Sean on September 28, 2011 at 11:32

        I don’t think it’s ever too late to switch to Lothar. Rick is cool for anyone who’s a fan of Casablanca (guilty), but Lothar is simply epic. I’ve a lot of German and Scandinavian friends but they mostly have neutral-to-wimpy names like Jan, Markus, Per or Anders. I do know an Austrian guy named Helmut, that’s not bad, but Lothar really takes the win.

      • Richard Nikoley on September 28, 2011 at 11:41

        Helmut, pronounced with a hard -u- , and Lothar could be marauding friends.

      • Sean on September 28, 2011 at 12:56

        Anyone who doesn’t know how to properly pronounce Helmut, Lothar or Ivan deserves to have their head cleaved in with a hand forged ax.

        I like the idea of family names. Something that seems more common here in Europe than in the US (at least among non-immigrants). My son’s middle name is my father’s first name. And while we’ve certainly had our differences, my father and I, I think that he was pleased to have this small acknowledgement after all the grief I managed to cause in my angry youth.

      • Lute Nikoley on September 28, 2011 at 22:31

        And a lot of Germans leave the r at the end silent too.

      • Sean on September 29, 2011 at 03:20

        It’s easy for most native English speakers to forget that the hard r or the hard rolled r is the default for most indo-european languages. It sounds a lot better in my opinion.

  10. Mimi (Gingersnaps) on September 28, 2011 at 01:07

    Lothar IS a seriously awesome name.

    Heh, my father always rolls his eyes and “tsks tsks” when I lump the Bible in with other mythologies. I have nothing against religious people as long as they aren’t bigots but yeah, some of that stuff is so damaging.

    Catholic school girl here, by the way. Best class there I ever took was scripture because the teacher was ultra savvy and taught it from a very straight academic/historical perspective (historical as in what was going on at the time, not as “the Bible is factual history”). No funky woo, just treating it like any other mythological text. She was quite devout herself but wanted everyone to see the difference between the actual text and all the other stuff that popped up afterward. Gave me such good fodder for when I get dragged into religious arguments.

  11. rob on September 28, 2011 at 02:20

    The nature of a cult is to cut off contact with people outside the cult … nobody in Paleo has recommended refusing to associate with grain eaters.

    Now Vegans … that has some of the trappings of a cult, some of them will refuse to sit at the same table with an omnivore.

    • Sean on September 28, 2011 at 04:48

      Rob, you associate with grain eaters? You sicken me!

      • Richard Nikoley on September 28, 2011 at 06:49

        Yea, ban rob. Ban rob. Ban rob.

    • Richard Nikoley on September 28, 2011 at 06:53

      “Born Again” _fundamentalists_ generally consider both Catholics and Mormons to be “cults.”

      Is it quite hilarious.

      • Alex on September 28, 2011 at 08:39

        Jews regard Christianity as a cult. From the Jewish perspective, to worship flesh and blood as G_d is idolatry. The idea that Yahweh will kick your ass for eternity for *not* idolatrously worshiping a pagan, false Messiah, man-god is ludicrous. Jewish counter-missionary commentary makes it plainly clear how Christianity is completely bogus.

  12. rob on September 28, 2011 at 04:42

    I think another aspect of this is how people respond when you make an enormously positive change in your life … Lothar looks really good in the photo, happy and healthy … most people will react positively when you improve your health and appearance but there are always some who will be bitterly resentful of it, it’s inexplicable but it seems to be human nature, so they will looks for ways to cast aspersions on it. So they accuse you of being on a “fad diet” or being part of a cult. Or tell you that eating all that protein is going to put you in an early grave, or that you are wrecking your joints lifting all those weights.

  13. fredt on September 28, 2011 at 06:55

    Gods are just concepts. Anyone can believe a concept system they wish, as we all do. We non-god types concept system simple does not contain a super being and may be slightly more real than some. Oh well, shit happens.

  14. Chris on September 28, 2011 at 10:02

    Slightly off-topic – there are 14lbs in a stone. It’s always puzzled me why Americans never adopted the stone as it is part of the Imperial measurement system (oz, lbs, stones etc)… is it because Americans like bigger numbers? 😉 The metric system makes a lot more sense but we still use both systems interchangably in the UK. But then we still cling to the pound (£) too… that’s a whole other issue….

    • Richard Nikoley on September 28, 2011 at 10:14

      Chris, I’ve always found the hybrid UK system of measurement just as endearing as how they pronounce laboratory.

      • Chris on September 28, 2011 at 10:38

        Ha! A bit like “Edinburgh” eh…

      • Richard Nikoley on September 28, 2011 at 10:54

        C’est ca.

      • Sean on September 29, 2011 at 05:12

        I still am trying to figure out where this river that is owned by Tim is located. I keep hearing about it but can’t find it on the map…

  15. elise a. miller on September 28, 2011 at 10:57

    I feel your rage, and yet I happily call myself a born-again eater, for one reason, because I know others are bitching about my zealotry behind my back and I want them to know that I see it too. Also because I am throbbing daily with the urge to shout from the rooftops, PUT DOWN THAT SOY BUTTER SANDWICH, KNUCKLEHEAD! Which is why I blog. And as much as it’s total and laughable hypocrisy, not to mention a staggering lack of self-awareness on the part of the fundies you write about, I can see where they’re coming from. They’re obviously not toting around the definition of cult, which Paleo does not fit. But sometimes I feel like I joined the Primal Moonies, the way I feel so. far. removed. from everything I used to participate in (tofu) and take for granted (health).

    Paleo is not a cult but if it were, I wouldn’t quit.

    I love your blog—your spirit and utter intolerance for bullshit. It’s a great inspiration!

    • Richard Nikoley on September 28, 2011 at 11:33


      It’s a long process to get to feeling as part of the world, rather that being separated from, and above it.

      In this regard, fundamental born-againism is mastrful, but I don’t think by purpose, per se. They really believe, literally, in those fantasies; it gives them fantastical comfort and they live in total fear, by design. Replaced are the fears of living on your own on the tundra, in the jungle, in the dessert or any number of Paleo environments. No, 2000 years ago God, willy nilly, decided to break himself into three parts and took a celestial rocket ship to Earth, via vagina, but not breaking hymen, in order to live, be tortured, and die.

      It would be ludicrous if you were to propose it today and people who stake their lives and “afterlives” on it would laugh it out of existence,

      Chalk it up to a sense of history, mythology, or both.

      But it _is_ totally laughable, and on that point I never waver.

      • elise a. miller on September 28, 2011 at 15:23

        I am looking forward to that part of the process where I don’t feel so “other” or “above it.” so thanks for even more inspiration.

        and yes it’s insane, what you describe. esp. when it’s your own family. oy fricking vey. I feel that pain.

        peace out.

  16. chris pale-o on September 28, 2011 at 10:58

    1 stone = 14 lbs.

  17. Bob Ewing on September 28, 2011 at 12:51

    Great story about your dad! What an inspiration. Cool enough, my uncle has lost 60 pounds on this diet, dropping below 300 pounds for the first time in forever. He wrote about it over at The Primal Challenge:

  18. keithallenlaw on September 28, 2011 at 18:46

    Lute kicks ass. Awesome read. Thanks!

  19. Rhonda on September 29, 2011 at 16:07

    This interview about “Foreign Policy, Religion and the Bible, Life after Death” is in line with your post, Richard. (The interviewee is the better part, not the interviewer.) Here is the YouTube link:

    • Richard Nikoley on September 29, 2011 at 17:25

      Well Rhonda’ it is rare indeed for me to spend 30 minutes listening to a video. Yea, the interviewer is a lying moron, as Stephan so graciously and gentlemanly made clear.

      I’m aware of Stephan, have read sme writing and even blogged about him smetimes back. I got criticism because of how he apparently encourages kids to cut ties with parents but having watched this now, I have a deeper understanding of why that night be a particular passion of his, and I agree with it.

      Parents generally imbibe their kids with their own fears. There is a sense in which one can make a good case that parents are dangerous to the well being of their own kids. But I also think that just needs to take it’s evolutionary course.

  20. Gina, Positively Radical on September 29, 2011 at 16:14

    There are still a hodge-podge of “Blue laws” in many states. In some states, car dealerships still can’t be open on Sundays. Why the heck not?

    But I like this one best:

    Pennsylvania: Hunting is prohibited on Sundays, with the exception of foxes, crows and coyotes.

    Richard, I like how your dad is still telling what to do, snerk…

  21. R Dunn on September 29, 2011 at 03:22

    “We speak of many things. The harvest, The hunt, The responsibility of being chieftain.” – Lothar of the Hill People.

  22. Dan Linehan on September 29, 2011 at 15:11

    Re: Baptists..

    This is a comment I read on Fark a few months back. It struck me as so spot on I saved it for future reference.

    “May it be noted that I came to Texas with the highest expectations. Rugged individualism! Guns! Open country! Almost free of government! Bootstraps!

    Well, what I found was a god-forsaken wasteland, infested with blue-nosed, un-educated, bible-thumping, priggish, uptight, preachy fucking baptists who always have their nose in their neighbors’ business, who are utterly consumed with FEAR of every damn thing there is.

    I’ve never met such scaredy bunch of yokels anywhere. Pray harder, or somebody might have gay sex, or a beer!”

    • Richard Nikoley on September 29, 2011 at 15:19

      Dan, I’ll never forget years ago when I had a flight out of DFW on a Sunday morning and owing to that God awful tram thingy they have that’s slower then walking, I missed my flight. As luck would have it there was another flight leaving from the same gate to my destination in two hours. They signed me up.

      There was a TGIF right in front of the gate so I went in to sit at the bar and have a beer, but it was before noon on Sunday, so they couldn’t sell me one unless I bought food with it.

      That forever sealed my opinion of Texas. I dunno, maybe Arky and Alabammy have more fucking moron busybodies.

  23. Lute Nikoley on September 29, 2011 at 15:33

    Thanks for all the compliments of my name Lothar. My thinking has always been about my parents; “what were you thinking?” Lothar? that’s why my nickname is Lute.

  24. Lute Nikoley on September 29, 2011 at 15:34

    Richard, I think is’t time to change your shirt.

  25. Lute Nikoley on September 29, 2011 at 15:35

    And take a shower (without soap)

  26. Josh on October 1, 2011 at 13:28

    I know this is a bit off topic, but it looks like comments are closed on your Martin Berkhan articles. I was wondering if anyone knows what he charges for his personal training? I know he has a huge backlog and I didn’t want to waste his time with inquiries if it is way out of my price range! Thanks!

  27. Mary in FL on November 13, 2011 at 09:40

    Wow, churchians casting judgment, what a surprise. Your dad looks great!

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