by Richard Haas
For someone to understand if they or someone they love could be in a cult, we must first have an understanding of what a cult is. The modern definition of a cult is as follows. Any group which employs mind control and deceptive recruiting techniques. In other words, cults trick people into joining and coerce them into staying. This is the definition that most people would agree with. Except for the cults themselves of course!
While this definition is broad and may cover many different types of cults we are going to be looking at one particular type of cult, the religious cult.
So what are the primary warning signs that you are in a cult? There are 10 major warning signs to watch out for that identify a cult. Now let’s notate here that if you are in a church or religious group and it adheres to one or two of these signs, it does not mean that you are automatically in a cult.
Here are most common 10 signs of a cult:
- The leader or pastor(s) are Absolute authoritarianism without meaningful accountability.
- Pastor(s) or leaders have no tolerance for questions or critical inquiry.
- There is no meaningful financial disclosure regarding budget, expenses such as an independently audited financial statement. How much church leaders make, where your offerings go. No, oversight board. The leader(s) or pastor(s) make all financial decisions.
- The leader(s) or pastor(s) preach and promote unreasonable fears about the outside world, such as impending catastrophe, evil conspiracies, and persecutions. They often teach that they hold the only escape from the outside world and pending disasters.
- It is taught by leadership that there is no legitimate reason to leave. If someone leaves the group or church, they are always wrong in leaving, negative or even evil. Only true believers or the chosen stay. \
- There are recorded data, blogs, books, news articles, or television programs that document the abuses or false teachings of the church, group or its leaders.
- Followers feel they can never be “good enough.” They must always prove themselves to the group or leader(s) by doing works.
- The leader(s) or pastor(s) is always right. It’s their way or the highway.
- Leader(s) or pastor(s) is the exclusive means of knowing “truth” or receiving validation, no other process of discovery is really acceptable or credible. In many cult/churches, this is given through absolute adherence to the church “vision” or “Vision Statement.”
- Former members often relate the same stories of abuse and reflect a similar pattern of grievances.