The line between religions and cults can be a blurry one at times. Although some prefer to distinguish between cults and religions, there are some indisputable similarities. For example, both sometimes encourage donations from their followers and promote the sacrifice of food and other luxuries in the name of ritual observances. However, cults significantly differ in their belief systems, rituals and indoctrination. A religion that uses mind control techniques, deception and exploitation to teach its followers has strayed further away from a religion and is much closer to a cult. Here are 9 ways groups become cults:
1 • Mind control
Cults were built upon the foundation of mind control. Cults use mind control and brainwashing techniques in virtually every aspect of their teachings, recruitment and policies. Cults aim to reduce one’s critical thinking skills and gain control of one’s thoughts, emotion and behavior through the use of mind control techniques. Researchers may argue that mind control is nothing new to religion and most religious groups use some form of brainwashing to get their members to alter the way they perceive the world, but there is certainly a fine line between coercive thinking and suggestive interpretations of the truth.
2 • Charismatic leader
A signature characteristic of cults is their charismatic leader. Although many religious leaders are considered charismatic, cult leaders have a different kind of magnetism and power that wins over followers. A cult leader is considered the supreme authority of the group, and he or she typically becomes the object of worship. This figurehead commands the upmost respect and compliance from its members and they have the only and final ruling on matters. Cult leaders lead the pack in using mind control and brainwashing techniques, so they can take full advantage of the members financially, physically and psychologically.
3 • Deception
When it comes to religion people will do anything to seek the truth. Cults know this and use it to their advantage. Unlike most religions, cults will use deceptive and manipulative ploys to get people to join the cult and stay in it. They are notorious for using deceptive recruitment efforts, such as not indentifying themselves and not being transparent about their organization or message. Cults often use confusing terms and languages to control their followers’ minds and strengthen the group’s belief system.
4 • Exclusivity
One way for religious groups to become cults is to claim exclusivity. Cults are notorious for claiming that they have an exclusive line to God and have a special revelation of the truth. Most groups believe they are an elite and secretive group that is expected to recruit and fundraise with hidden objectives and limited disclosure to protect their sacred mission.
5 • Offer explanations and solutions to everything in life
Most religions will admit that there are many things that can’t be easily explained or easily solved. This is a concept that many cults refuse to believe. Cults have a tendency to give ambiguous explanations for the most complex things in life and suggest unethical solutions to the world’s problems. These deceptive teachings are all part of the cult’s totalitarian worldview and brainwashing.