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Cult FAQ

Cult FAQ

Disclaimer: The below information contains many generalisations and may not apply to any particular cult.

What is a cult?

The main way that a religious or non religious group is classed a cult is because it has significant detrimental sociological impact on its members through widespread use of mind control techniques to manipulate and control its members.

The second main way a group is classed as a cult is because it presents itself as being Christian or compatible with Christianity, but has severe theological differences to normal Christianity.

In other words, the group stuffs up people's lives (by using mind control) or it's got seriously bad doctrine. Normally a cult has both these problems. (See Types of Cults and Techniques of mind control for more info.) A cult often has one charismatic leader that all the members (and sub-leadership) look up to. This makes mind control much easier for the cult.

Jehovah's Witnesses and Mormons are cults because they get major doctrines wrong and practice serious mind control.

Exclusive Brethrens are a cult because although they have pretty good doctrine they are extremely legalistic and controlling when it comes to what members are allowed to do. For example, ExB-run companies have two lunch rooms (one for ExBs and one for non-ExBs), grandparents sue their own (former ExB) children for custody of their grandchildren, etc.

There are other sorts of cults as well, such as non-religious "business cults" that may have little or no religious beliefs but qualify as cults because they share many features with religious cults, such as being led by a single charismatic leader and relying on mind control for recruitment and/or control of their members. For more information see the Types of Cults section.

A cult generally produces undesirable behaviour modification. However some cults can sometimes create instances of desireable behaviour modification. For example, making a messy person's life more tidy, a completely disorganised person more scheduled, or a licentious person more moral. (There are things that the Christian church can learn from cults.) However, these things are normally not done because of love, but rather to control the member.

The definition of a cult according to "A religion or religious sect generally considered to be extremist or false, with its followers often living in an unconventional manner under the guidance of an authoritarian, charismatic leader."


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What is a cult not?

Ultimately a cult is not a healthy environment to be in. In the short term it may seem like a nice place but cults damage people. In the long term it is better to be out of a cult, and normally the sooner the better. When/if people leave, they are very often burnt out or feel used and worthless. Even worse, cults screw up people's relationships with Jesus Christ.

Usually a cult is not a bunch of people dressed in strange clothes who want to commit suicide together (or who are tricked into doing so). There are some infamous cults like this but most are not. Most cults appear quite ordinary on the surface. Members wear normal clothes and want to live normal lives, and will often be regarded as model citizens.


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What is not a cult?

A small group that simply wants to worship God in their own way is not necessarily a cult. For example, a church that wants to sing a capella (without musical instruments) or has its main worship meeting on Saturday.

A religious or non-religious group with a charismatic leader is not necessarily a cult (although many cults do have a charismatic leader).

A religious sect is not a cult. A sect is generally a subset of a larger religion, set apart from the larger religion. There is nothing necessarily wrong with sects (apart from the separation itself).

The definition of a sect according to "A group of people forming a distinct unit within a larger group by virtue of certain refinements or distinctions of belief or practice. A religious body, especially one that has separated from a larger denomination."

A false religion is not necessarily a cult. Simply because a religious group has totally different beliefs to Christianity does not make them a cult. They may qualify on sociological grounds (mind control). Note that false religions should still be avoided.

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