In modern English, the term cult has come to usually refer to a social group defined by its unusual religious, spiritual, political, or philosophical beliefs, or its common interest in a particular personality, object, or goal. It is usually considered to be a pejorative, and is placed upon groups that one finds to have cult-like behaviors. Cults are specifically the group around religious, spiritual, political, or philosophical understandings, and are not the understandings themselves, because of this you can have a cult based around the understandings of Christianity, but Christianity itself would not be a cult. The word called has been used in a couple various ways throughout its modern incarnation. It was first used by a sociologist named Howard P. Becker in order to categorize the church’s typology. Becker’s cults were small religious groups who lacked organization, and were quite private about their personal beliefs, and later the sociologists understandings extended to include cults as deviant religious groups who were outside the predominant religious culture. Sociologists have moved away from using the term cult to refer to certain groups, but the understanding of cults is still quite alive in the minds, and understandings of lay people.
Typical reasons why people join cults:
All individuals are able to be persuaded to join a Cult, if they are given the right reason at the right time. Individuals who go through the process of joining cults do not know that they are in a cult, and here are some of the reasons why they would join one:
- Individuals want to be part of a community, and want to form connections with people.
- Individuals are on a search for their own spirituality.
- Individuals having a desire for meaning in their lives, and wanting a better sense of identity.
- Individuals looking for Assurance in matters of their life, or what they believe.
- Individual with financial instability may join to alleviate their financial situation.
- Individuals want to make the world a better place, or want it to be saved from something.
- Individuals want to bring political change and are upset with society.
Signs of a Cult:
These are some of the basic signs of a cult, usually a cult is going to check most if not all of these.
Minimizing contact of cult members with those outside the group. The group will attempt to isolate its members from existing relationships, and the rest of the outside world. This is done in order to influence members with specific ideas, and to make sure that’s the members become dependent upon the group. This will also help to develop a fear of the outside world, and will also go through the process of creating an echo chamber.
The cult may also physically isolate themselves from the rest of society by moving to a space where only cult members can interact, usually this is a form of commune. The members of The Cult are told to fear some aspect of the world, some form of people, or an event and are encouraged to believe that they are being persecuted. Because of this isolationism information as greatly controlled, and manipulated by the group, so that members do not become aware of things that could challenge the cults mindset. Individuals also usually have a lack of privacy, so that the cult can have more control over what they are doing at all times of the day.
Higher-ups in the group, especially the leader, or the inner council will abuse their power, and individuals below them to gain more power, wealth, sex and whatever else they want. Members will usually not be aware of these abuses, and if they are they will try to keep them hidden, because of fear, or denial. In most cases, Cults are in some way abusive, and the stories of this abuse is usually expressed by former members, and can be greatly prevalent in different forms of media depending upon how long the group has been around, and how many things they have been convicted of.
Cults primarily have a one-track mind, and will highly fixate on the goal they wish to accomplish. The individuals of the group will be completely committed to this goal, and will not be able to question it for fear of repercussion. Goals are usually very extreme, and individuals who are not in line with the policies are shunned, and expelled. Any individual who does not agree with their goal is seen as an enemy, and individuals who are neutral to it, are considered to be ignorant, or also enemies themselves. This allows members in the group to not be questioned about their goal by outside sources by writing off any form of argument as coming from a place of ignorance, or deception.
Cults usually claim to have some sort of special knowledge that the rest of the world is ignorant to. This knowledge can be claimed to come from a multitude of different sources though it is agreed upon by the leader, or inner Council as true information. This information also ties into their goal, and is also the basis for their philosophy. This special knowledge can be used to draw people in by calling people to their goal, making people afraid of something, or buy it being marketed as an answer to life’s biggest questions.
The special knowledge, and the group’s philosophy is drilled into the members heads in order to indoctrinate them into the cult. This indoctrination will be kept in place through fear, and will be important to an individual’s psyche, and it is usually quite deep into their mental processes, so much so that if it was to be challenged, and would try to be removed it would cause them to experience cognitive dissidence. Which causes them to avoid critical thinking, and maintain the cults beliefs even with the arrival of more true, and accurate information.
Submission to group/leader:
There is usually a submission to the group, or leader, and this makes the group or leaders in the eyes of a member to be infallible. The group, or leader is seen as the one place to gain truth from, and because of this the group can justify themselves in any matter that arises no matter how harmful, rash, or illogical. The group may also provide members of the cult with outside information that agrees with their points in order to make it seem like they are allowing themselves to use critical thinking, and other sources, while also trying to justify their goal, or their special knowledge.