A cult can be defined as: "Any religion too small to field its own army."

Nowadays cults tend to be formed when God speaks to a prophet - although in some circles this is known as schizophrenia. However, if the prophet lived several thousand years ago then the cult has either died or become a religion.

Coercive cults[]

Perhaps a bit more formally, the term is usually used to refer to religions (or other movements) that are coercive in recruiting and retaining members. It is still sometimes used to describe any sort of movement, religious or otherwise, that had an element of social control.

Religious cults are religious groups that use mind control to manipulate members and which harm members through these controls. There is no hard and fast definition of a Religious cult. Rather there is a continuum with some religious groups being more cult-like and others less so. It is widely believed that some religious groups like the Scientologists, the Moonies, Hare Krishna and others are cults. Naturally members disagree. In other cases the situation is less clear. Anti-cult organisations can see the Jehovah's Witnesses as a cult. Many Christian Fundamentalists appear cult-like to outsiders. This is particularly noticeable in the Bible Belt of the United States. Within the Bible Belt relativlely small rural communities are often dominated by religious fundamentalists and residents may know little about alternative viewpoints.

Ways of recognising cults[]

  • Religious cults are over the top in demanding unquestioning obedience to the Cult leader or cult organisation.
  • Religious cults seek to separate members from Non-Members and alternative viewpoints. Recruits may be under pressure to break relationships with former friends and even close family members. Former cult members are shunned.
  • Religious cults demand that members focus their whole social life round the cult avoiding or limiting outside social activity.
  • Religious cults require heavy sacrifices from members. Members are required to give large amounts of money or time to the organisation.

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