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Sociology Of Cults

Decent Essays
It is estimated that there are between 2,000 to 5,000 cults in the United States. Many do not gain national attention until something implodes with violence, gets extremely costly or has a sensational side. For the purpose of this exploratory, cult will be defined as, “a system of religious veneration and devotion directed toward a particular figure or object” (Merriam Webster). Cults are deemed as mind-control systems, and have religious practices typically known as sinister. Jim Jones of the Jonestown massacre and the Peoples Temple leader, Charles Manson leader of the Manson Family, and David Koresh of the Branch Davidians are just a few of the notorious cult leaders in history. These individuals have a common characteristic of pathological…show more content…
Margaret T. Singer professor of Psychology at the University of California Berkeley who studied 700 cult members, and mind control techniques states, “the techniques of many cults fall under the general rubric of brainwashing… cult leaders and their trainers exert a systematic social influence that can produce great behavioral changes” (“The Psychology of the Cult Experience”). A cult is a group of people joined together by a common ideological system fostered by a “charismatic” leader. The expectation is that they can transcend the imperfections and finitude of life. It is important to note that not all cults are destructive; many of those who join and remain in cults do so out of a sincere quest for religious connection. Whether a cult is or is not destructive is dependent on the morality of the cult leader. Cults are complex systems of control that are alleged to manipulate their members. There are warning signs that can be identified for those that may have joined a cult, there are detrimental effects for those that become members, and it is important to identify the warning signs, and seek help through…show more content…
Those that leave cults often do so with symptoms one does not normally see, and are typically internal, but can be external. The damage of the cults can occur both during cult involvement, and months or even years after separation from the group. Among the common negative characteristics exhibited by the former cult members studied by Dr. John Clark assistant clinical professor of psychiatry at the Harvard University Medical School, are “depression guilt, fear, paranoia, slow speech, rigidity of facial expression and body posture, indifference to physical appearance, passivity and memory impairment” (“The Psychology of the Cult Experience”). Although researchers say it is possible for those who have left cults to integrate their experience into their lives in healthy ways, many are unable to. A study done of six former cult members over two clinical observations over many years by David J. Ward, professor of psychiatry at the University of Queensland, shows that spiritual abuse caused by manipulation was prevalent during time in the cult. What was experienced during these former member’s time in the cult caused them to become increasingly dependent on the leader, which caused “forced immaturity” and caused the members to increase their obedience to the leader because of learned helplessness (Ward 909). According to the article Aftermath of a Cult the trance like state is caused by
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