How Can You Tell If It Is A Dangerous Cult?
Characteristics of Cult Groups
If your loved one has been influenced to join a group, how can you tell if it is a dangerous cult or not? The following ten characteristics will give you a clue as to how deep the level of commitment is required and how likely coercive indoctrination is used.
Bear in mind that this list is not meant to be a “cult scale,” or a definitive checklist to determine if a specific group is a cult; this is not so much a diagnostic instrument as it is an analytical tool.
1: 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.
2. Questioning, doubt, and dissent are discouraged or even punished.
3. The leadership dictates, sometimes in great detail, how members should think, act, and feel (for example, members must get permission to date, change jobs, marry—or leaders prescribe what types of clothes to wear, where to live, whether or not to have children, how to discipline children.
4. The group is elitist, claiming a special, exalted status for itself, its leader(s) and members (for example, the leader is considered the Messiah, a special being, an avatar—or the group and/or the leader is on a special mission to save humanity).
5. The group has a polarized us-versus-them mentality, which may cause conflict with the wider society.
6. The leader is not accountable to any authorities (unlike, for example, teachers, military commanders or ministers, priests, monks, and rabbis of mainstream religious denominations).
7.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.
8. Members are expected to devote inordinate amounts of time to the group and group-related activities.
9. Members are encouraged or required to live and/or socialize only with other group members.
10. The most loyal members (the “true believers”) 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.
(excerpts from Characteristics Associated with Cult Groups – Revised Janja Lalich, Ph.D. & Michael D. Langone, Ph.D.)