Cult. The word gets thrown around a lot. And not every group of people who believe something strongly constitutes a cult. But what makes one? When does adherence to a set of beliefs or principles cross that line? Here are some indicators below gleaned from a variety of resources.
Most political parties have founding members, political history, ideology and identity and discourages interaction with “non members” or those with a different ways of looking at things. In effect there is an entrenched discouragement to change ideas, while having a trained loyalty system. There is also a degree of reverence for political leaders in the past, only if they were of that particular party, but members who cross the floor are deemed traitors
The group displays excessively zealous and unquestioning commitment to its leader and (whether he is alive or dead) regards his belief system, ideology, and practices as the Truth, as law.
Questioning, doubt, and dissent are discouraged or even punished.
The leadership dictates, sometimes in great detail, how members should think, act, and feel
The group is elitist, claiming a special, exalted status for itself, its leader(s) and members
The group has a polarized us-versus-them mentality, which may cause conflict with the wider society.
The leader is not accountable to anyone
The group teaches or implies that its supposedly exalted ends justify whatever means it deems necessary. This may result in members’ participating in behaviors or activities they would have considered reprehensible or unethical before joining the group (for example, lying to family or friends, or collecting money for bogus charities).
The leadership induces feelings of shame and/or guilt in order to influence and/or control members. Often, this is done through peer pressure and subtle forms of persuasion.
Subservience to the leader or group requires members to cut ties with family and friends, and radically alter the personal goals and activities they had before joining the group.
Members are expected to devote inordinate amounts of time to the group and group-related activities.
Members are encouraged or required to live and/or socialize only with other group members.
The most loyal members (the ï¿½true believersï¿½) feel there can be no life outside the context of the group. They believe there is no other way to be, and often fear reprisals to themselves or others if they leave (or even consider leaving) the group.
A charismatic founder, leader or leadership.
Have a structured central bureaucracy.
Simplified goal or aim structure, such as to save something or introduce something to everyone.
A society history, most new initiates are invariably required to learn and respect the founding figures.
There is a degree of intellectual limitation, so outside ideas or interaction with non members are not encouraged
There is also a system of repercussions, such as shunning, “time out” or isolating or demotion.
There is a system of development, so a person may be groomed or encouraged to go towards certain roles, or assist in various ways.
Decide if there is an element of exploitation either financial or personal. This ultimately is where groups cross the line into a dangerous organization.
Members are encouraged to do certain practices, methods & techniques and only those. There is no exploration, modification or comparison with other similar or different systems.
The screening of new potential members is quite large as they filter looking for suitable like minded, or easily mold-able people.
There is a noticeable degree of repetition, so key figures such as the founder and their stories are often repeated to train people to think the same way.
There is a medium degree of personal image inflation to make certain figures appear greater than they really were and that association with them is a great or noble thing.
Members are all very similar and have minimal contact with the outside world, or the real world.
There is a substantial amount of time, money, thought and encouragement invested in promotion, lobbying and marketing.
Tax free status a major aspiration, or have already attained that.
There is a degree of mentally stressful or intensive practices. These maybe long meditation retreats with little sleep or food, high intensive workouts or other things. They may be branded with an element of mystique and privilege.
That it is impossible for an ordinary member to have the same skills or status as the founder or leadership. Members may or may not ever be aware of this. Leaders and next generation leaders are planned with no involvement or selection from the existing members.
All actions committed by members are justified or will be praised. Martyrdom may be encouraged.
There is a very effective propaganda system as well as intensive (but covert) political lobbying.
There is not always a vast leadership structure, but there can be. The more manipulative cult leadership prefers a wide gap between their status and others so may practice a more flat working hierarchy. This can create “succession” issues, but usually its known who the next in charge will be in advance.
There is a definite separation from society
Manipulation of initiates is obvious to outsiders.
It is very difficult, if not impossible to leave their society. The aim is to make the new person addicted to or so familiar with the cult that the person loses the ability to be independent, or their fears of repercussions are too high.
There is a high degree of mental stagnation, so that there is a focusing on key principles or myths and general day to day knowledge is encouraged to be forgotten
Opposing critical thinking
Isolating members and penalizing them for leaving
Emphasizing special doctrines outside scripture
Seeking inappropriate loyalty to their leaders