What is a Cult?

A cult is an ideological organization which blends a powerful social structure with a self-appointed charismatic leader. This leader exploits unsuspecting vulnerable members using extreme levels of manipulation. Cults infuse dependency upon the member. Cult dependency includes a ‘seemingly’ voluntary surrender of individuality, identity, personality, critical thinking skills and total commitment. This isolating commitment often promises spiritual and eternal salvation in Bible-based groups. Members are taught that their spiritual and eternal salvation are at risk, ending with devastating social shunning, should they ever depart the group (C Mitchell, 2019).

1. It is an all-encompassing movement to which members devote a majority of time and energy.

2. It is a group headed and created by a self-appointed leader who proclaims to be in contact with a supernatural being or has supernatural powers.

3. It is a group organized around members’ devotion to the leader and to the organization itself.

4. The leader of the group tells members (either explicitly or implicitly) to cut off relationships with the outside world including those with friends and family.

5. The outside world is seen as inferior – cult teaches members they are part of an elite group (us vs. them mentality).

6. The group, its leaders, and its members causes many of its members harm (can be physical, social, spiritual or emotional).

7. It is an organization where members spend time together on a daily, or almost daily, basis.

(Singer, 2003)

International Cultic Studies Association

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