to be honest, i was baffled too. for a long time i was behind in cult tracks, but in the end 8-4-2 was ok, exactly the same as you scored in cults.
and yes, in a certain way this was a test for me. i wanted to achieve my personal goals of building 3 cities and linking all my buildings on the board.
but it came for a (too high) price: totally out of sync with situational bonuses.
and i had to go for certain unprofitable favor discs just to achieve my goals.
very interesting results.