Cult development is fascinating phenomenon that occurs all around the world. Their membership growth is a complex interaction facilitated by conformity and manipulation. Cult membership can have a major impact on those who are involved. Leaving a cult can cause much distress for both the ex-member and their family. It is important to understand cult affiliation factors and the development of their membership in order to provide proper therapeutic intervention for those who leave cults.
A cult is defined as a social group or a social movement under one charismatic leader. It maintains a belief system, which includes a transformation of a group member. Members of the group have a high level of commitment to the leader, members, and beliefs (Lalich). An additional definition to consider is from the American Journal of Psychotherapy:
The church of Scientology has been the subject of controversy since its inception. Its methods and beliefs have attracted the attention of scholars from around the world. The church has been under government investigation and has endured a countless amount of lawsuits (Reitman 14). It is also a hot topic by the media with several endorsements by some of the most recognized Hollywood celebrities. However, the main topic of debate regarding the Church of Scientology is its status as a religion. Some members claim that the church has helped them overcome their struggles and that they are happier people, while others condemn it as a dangerous cult (Sweeney). The church of Scientology is a religious group whose purpose is to retain their
In 1950, L. Ron Hubbard wrote a book that would spur the launch of a rather unorthodox religion. This book was called Dianetics: The Modern Science of Mental Health. It contains the basic rules that would later become Scientology. Since the founding of the religion in 1954, Scientology has grown to church numbers of 5000 in as many as 160 countries. They believe that man is inherently good, and man's spiritual enlightenment and salvation is solely dependant on himself. While they do believe in a higher power, man cannot rely on this higher power to save him, or his eternal. Scientologist believe that they are a spiritual being called a “thetan”. The thetan has lived many past lives, and the memories of one’s past lives can become problematic
Cult leaders and members use mind control to inundate their message into the minds of prospective and existing followers.Groups that demonstrate exaggerated devotion or commitment to some person, idea,
For many years, cult leaders always had a psychological hold on their followers' minds. Whether it was to kill other people or to kill themselves, they did it without question. Some cult leaders used fear, violence and guilt as a means of a weapon to control the minds of their followers. Other cult leaders used persuasive and spiritual speeches that made their followers believe they were doing good and fulfilling God's plan. Because cult leaders are powerful through psychological offenses, the people that belong to their cults are brainwashed into doing things they wouldn't normally do in their right state of mind.
Cults can be evil and mind controlling. They can also be extremely dangerous. According to Rick Ross, an expert consultant and intervention specialist, “there are several signs of a potentially unsafe group or leader.” These signs include: “absolute authoritarianism without meaningful accountability; there is no legitimate reason to leave, former followers are always wrong in leaving, negative or even evil; followers can never be good enough; and the group or leader is the exclusive means of knowing the truth or receiving validation, no other process or discovery is really acceptable or credible.” Cult leaders use mind control to control their group. This could be dangerous or life threatening. Leaders are
No one has ever been able to articulate just what makes a cult, and what makes a religion different. Yet most people, when listing mainstream religions, name Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Hinduism, and Buddhism, among others. These religions have existed for thousands of years and have millions of followers; they have thus earned a degree of respect even from outsiders. However, Mormonism—the tradition of the Latter Day Saints movement—is considered strange, and by some, a cult. In the modern age, many consider its very premise a hoax. Mark Twain criticized the Mormon holy scripture, calling it “chloroform in print” (Turner 229), and Jacob Weisberg (editor of the Washington Post) called Joseph Smith, the founder of Mormonism, “an obvious con man” (Ostling xv). Yet
Some of the people were just compliant. They yielded to social pressure in their public behavior, even though their private beliefs had not changed. I believe these people to be the ones who ended up wanting to leave the cult. Some of these people were killed for trying to leave. There were still others who conformed to the social norms for fear of negative social consequences which they called catharsis. Their example of catharsis was, for example, if a teenager was accused of being rude to a senior citizen , the congregation would hear the evidence and vote on the teenagers innocence or guilt. The punishment could be a severe spanking administered by Jones. Adults who transgressed were punished by being placed in a ring and forced to box with bigger, stronger Temple members. Transgressions subject to catharsis ranged from selfishness, sexism, discourtesy to drug and alcohol abuse, and petty crimes for which members could be arrested and convicted by public authorities.
This research will address the self-proclaimed prophet of the Fundamentalist Latter Day Saints, a sect of Mormonism based in Utah, Warren Jeffs and his cult of fear. Warren Jeffs had control over ten thousands of followers for nearly a decade. Warren Jeffs coerced young girls into polygamous marriages with older men. Jeffs is estimated to have over 70 wives. The media was shunned, and he created a hidden community where polygamy was prized above anything else. In 2007, after there was a two year FBI manhunt, Jeffs was convicted as an accomplice to rape. Warren Jeff's rise to power effort led to his fallout. Even after his conviction his followers believed that he was innocent and held onto his beliefs and practices.
Opinions vary as to why people are drawn to cults. “Martin Marty, professor of religious history at the University of Chicago, attributes the growth of cults to the frustrations of seemingly rootless people”(U.S. News and World Report 23). Marty’s classification of a rootless person is a person who is overly frustrated by modern
Jim Jones’s character fits into the first point on the list. He was extremely charismatic, which he used to lure people into his cult. He preached about equality and socialism, which fits into the sixth point on the list because he believed that he was benefiting humanity. Most of the time members of the cult were required to cut ties with their families. Jim Jones did not want them communicating with the outside world. This fits into the tenth point on the list. The People’s Temple lived in a community that was filled with all the members. This characteristic of the cult fits into the twelfth point on the list.
Annette Jeffs, one of Jeffs’ many wives, stated, “You all have the honor of becoming the wife of our new prophet.”(Outlaw Prophet: Warren Jeffs). The belief that Warren Jeffs is a prophet sent by God is the basis of the cult belief system. This belief allows the Warren Jeffs to dominate the people in his compound. Dorothy Emma Jessop, one of the wives of Joe Jessop, stated, “It’s not easy to share the man you love. But I came to realize this is another test that God places before you.” (The Polygamists). Jessop’s statement shows how Warren Jeffs has molded the minds of his followers to believe that every unfortunate event that occurred behind the doors of the compound was in God’s plan for the church and its members. In order to reduce the number of people from the outside world that the member communicate with, the members grow their food and own businesses such as hotels and machine manufacturers. (The Polygamists). This limitation of outside contact allowed Warren Jeffs to control the messages that his followers received, which, again, allowed him to dominate the minds of his followers. Warren Jeffs contains the possible rebellion of his members by excommunicating men who he believes will overthrow him. (Outlaw Prophet: Warren Jeffs) The excommunications wiped out all possible threats to Jeffs making him the only leader