What Are Signs of Being in a Cult?

by Jack Wellman on May 3, 2012 · Print Print · Email Email

Cults are springing up more and more these days.  What are signs your child, your spouse or someone you know may be in a cult?  What are indications that a group is a cult?  What are the dangers?

What is a Cult?

The definition of a cult varies, depending upon the source.  Some describe a cult as a new religious movement, a group having bizarre or abnormal activities, a set of unusual rites or rituals, and consist of members that may live in a highly unconventional way.  Cults are certainly not always religious.  Some are anti-religious, some are satanic, and others offer communal living and a sharing of resources.  The cult’s location can often be secretive, very isolated, and private with no access for the general public.

Signs of Being in a Cult

Cults are certainly not always religious. Some are anti-religious, some are satanic, and others offer communal living and a sharing of resources.

Separation From Family and Friends

One sure sign of someone being involved in a cult is that there is a clear separation from family and friends.  There are secretive meetings and few things are known about the proceedings.  When a friend, spouse, child or a relative is being distant or quite about the group that they are involved in and when there is a real or perceived tendency of separation from you, something may be wrong.  There is a tendency to be defiant if there are any questions asked.  For example if you ask a question about what they did in the group that night and they get defensive, are vague in answering you, or they say nothing at all, then they might be protecting the group from some questionable practices or activities.

There is also a resistance to questioning the leader.  The leader seems to be right no matter how uncomfortable their actions are.  If the leader of the group is questioned by someone outside of the group, then the member gets angry and  highly defensive.  They have no tolerance for anyone asking too many probing questions about the group’s activities, agendas or about the group leader.  The group’s leader may be beyond reproach in their eyes.

The members of the group may also become increasing isolated from family and friends.  The frequency of attending the group meetings may increase dramatically and the amount of secrecy about the meetings becomes obvious.  There is a lack of trust for anyone outside of the group as well.  The groups may urge the member to distance themselves from or actually leave their families and friends.  The group becomes a “secret society” in a sense and all outside influences are screened or restricted.

Group Rules, Policies or Traditions Override Everything

When there are particular group policies and the group follow the procedures, even to the point of breaking a civil or moral law, they become a law setting group to themselves.  Some members may begin to question civil laws, that civic justice is not being carried out or that certain moral or biblical principles do not seem to be sufficiently enforced in society or do not go far enough.  Their own traditions, rules, or rituals may be thought of as more important than established civil laws and personal accountability.  Any attempt to inquire about the group’s financial records or practices is treated as strictly confidential.

Authoritarian or Totalitarian Leadership

When there is the tendency to have one person be in charge of everything and everyone and that the leader has absolute and total control, this is a strong indication that this may be a cult.  Most social and civic groups lean toward democratic principles and decisions are made by the group as a whole, but when there is only one person in charge and their actions or decisions can not even be questioned, then this group is at the mercy of only one person and the power of being that one person in that totalitarian position tends to corrupt them.  The saying that “power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely” is very true in cultic groups.  This corruption of power tends to reveal duplicity and have ethical double standards.  The leader may be able to do certain things but its members are never allowed to make such decisions or to do the same things.

Growth and Fundraising

A strong indication of a cult is one where the members are heavily invested financially. Their primary goal is to recruit new members and to raise funds through various activities, even if it is in a grey area or illegal.  The group might also begin to offer certain services that are usually available at businesses.  For example, the group or club might begin to offer their own meals, their own haircuts or their own line of clothing and they will tend to discourage the members from spending money outside of the group.

Cultist Beliefs

Cults often have a very apocalyptic outlook on the world.  They have a sense of dread about society and the way society lives and where it is headed.  They can begin to make arrangements for being in isolation in the event that the world collapses and this group would be the only safe harbor at the time.  There is usually a very charismatic leader and there is social encapsulation due to an abnormal paranoia about events in the world.  Cults are often very prejudiced against a particular group of people like certain races, religions, political parties, and any one that is not part of their group.

Rick Ross of the Rick Ross Institute (www.rickross.com) is an expert consultant on cults and has studied them profusely over the years.   Mr. Ross indicated that according to Margaret Singer, PhD, “Potentially unsafe groups or leaders come off very nice at first. They go for vulnerable people who are looking for answers, lonely, what you’d call ‘normal people.’ They’re very good at what they do and can get people to believe anything. You might think you’d never get taken in, but don’t bet on it.” [1]

The Jim Jones Guyana mass-suicide may seem like an extreme example of a cult but cults are often a law to themselves.  They set their own laws as being above civil laws of the state and even the federal government.  Former members that often relate their experiences are disparaged by the group and are often persecuted after they leave.  It might be hard to get into a cult, but it can be even more difficult to get out of one because the group may believe that they are going to expose them to the public and the press.  A great number of former members of cults are often harassed and often threatened with physical harm to them or their family and in a few cases, even death.  Some of the swearing in ceremonies makes it fearful for any current member to even consider leaving or reporting abuse to anyone outside of the cult.

From 5 to 7 million Americans and from 50 to 100 million people worldwide are involved in cults.  The number of cults in the world is conservatively estimated to be 15 to 50 thousand and in American alone, almost 200,000 new cult members are added every year.  Cults are a growing menace to society and to the members themselves.  If you know of someone in your family, in your circle of friends, your co-workers or even you want to know more about whether a particular group is a dangerous cult or not, please visit this website to help you in identifying the group that is under suspicion. The website has an extensive nationwide database of cults throughout the nation and in the world.  It’s a Cult Hotline and Clinic (http://www.cultclinic.org/resources.html) that can give you more details.  Cults can be dangerous.  A few extreme ones are even involved in terrorism and their forte is anarchy.  If you know of another sign of being in a cult, please add your comment so that others might also be warned.  Being forewarned is being forearmed.  We hope this has been of some help to those who know someone who might be involved in a cult.

Related Articles:

Resources:
New International Version Bible (NIV)
THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide

1.  (www.rickross.com/warningsigns.html)



Share this post:  |  |  |  | Twitter

{ 22 comments… read them below or add one }

Sandra May 3, 2012 at 7:15 am

Good article, but please remove the link to Rick Ross’ website. He is fiercely anti-christian (http://bit.ly/IDmMot).

The Cult Clinic site you also link to itself recommends a much better resource, the professional International Cultic Studies Society (ICSA).

ICSA’s new website provides a list of cult characteristics (http://bit.ly/IoBWeV) and includes many respected resources on cults.

Reply

Michel May 3, 2012 at 6:29 pm

I wonder how many Christians from mainstream denominations will read this and realize that their religion works exactly the same… And I mean EXACTLY… lol

Reply

Jack May 3, 2012 at 6:54 pm

Thank you Michel for your comment. What do you mean that this is how their religion works. Our church has a nursing home ministry, a clothing ministry to the Homeless Drop In Center, we give to the local food pantry, and we work with foster children in placing them with foster parents, and we donate proceeds to the poor. Is this what you mean. And have you been in every church in America and the world to know just “exactly” what these churches and these Christians are doing? You must get around quite well my friend. Could you explain what part it is that we do “exactly?” Perhaps you could be more specific. Thank you.

Reply

Michel May 3, 2012 at 7:47 pm

Well…

bizarre or abnormal activities : all kinds of rituals, most proheminently the worship of a human sacrifice… and wearing the instrument of torture, symbolically drinking the blood and flesh of said sacrifice… etc (to any person who hasn’t grown up in this, it’s just creepy, trust me) now, considering that Christianity has something like 30000 denominations, and that I haven’t studied all of them, I guess I cannot judge Christianity perfectly… but neither did you carefully analyze all 30000 of them before picking your own denomination… :)

“set their own laws as being above civil laws of the state and even the federal government” trying to ban gays from getting married, closing shops on sundays, etc. many countries you cannot buy alcohol at certain times, strictly for religious reasons, trying to make LAWS that ban abortion and even birth control for EVERYONE instead of just telling CHRISTIANS not to have abortions and leave the other people alone… should I keep going?

“A great number of former members of cults are often harassed and often threatened with physical harm to them or their family and in a few cases, even death” Basically, you an indoctrinated in believing that if you quit, you will burn forever after you die. That’s actually scary for whoever really believes it to be true. It is an actual threat, it has nothing to do with love, and it is immoral from a non-religious point of view. Authority and fear is all I can find in there, no love, no compassion… Just threats. And you’re suppose to feel lucky that you have this so-called choice to not go there. Created sick, commanded to be well, it’s sadomasochysm, basically.

“They go for vulnerable people who are looking for answers” That’s true for all religions… and who are the people who happen to be the MOST vulnerable? Children. I you hammer it into their brain, of course it will be difficult to turn back later on. And why would parents do this? Because of what I said in the previous paragraph, of course.

If you feel like having a conversation, I am open to it. By the way, there this recent scientific study (repeated 3 times with identical results) that demonstrates how religious people who do good are not motivated by compassion, while… ATHEISTS are… hahaha … who would have guessed… Let me know if you cannot find the article, I’ll provide the link.

Reply

Jack May 3, 2012 at 8:21 pm

Thank you Michel. That was more specific as I had asked for. I have friends who are atheists and I have no animosity toward them and treat them with respect and dignity. I only wish to do that you with Michel. I appreciate your honesty and transparency in responding to this article. The reason I wrote it was in response to the dangerous cults that are not Christian based.

In any event, you know that as a father and grandfather I also taught my children to be loving and kind to everyone, despite their beliefs, atheists, Buddhists, Muslim, and whomever. We are not to judge others and speak not to anyone in a condescending way. To fail to teach them these biblical principles and morals is irresponsible on my part and they are actually motivated to do good in compassion for those who are disenfranchised. I can see that we must not have participated in that scientific study. They failed to contact us but human morality is not beaker science discovered. It is not taught as much as it is taught. Regardless, thank you for you comment Michel.

Reply

rbn May 5, 2012 at 3:09 pm

Good day sir .Do you ever think than some poeple try to push you of your path while spreading the Word of God ? I read the the comments and feel that poeple are purposely proffesionally rude as to make you look like you do not have your facts right and want poeple to believe that the Word is not true and yet every time you answer them with grace , love and proffesionalism . I respect this a lot as you do not fight but and use the Bible to back you up .I wish to be like that and try to always .thank you for all this valuable information on this site and the good explanation of the Word so we can understand it better .I say this because I understand what you write always even though english is not my mother tongue .Thank. You

Reply

Jack May 5, 2012 at 3:31 pm

Thank you very kindly RBN for your comment and question. I say your English is very good and easy for me to understand.

As for people trying to push me off the path of spreading the Word of God, yes this does frequently happen but I know that if a person doesn’t understand the Bible or they hate the message of the Bible, they lack the Holy Spirit which is the only way we can understand the Word of God and I think to myself, “There go I but by the grace of God.” In other words, at one time, I too was hostile or angry at God and the Bible but I did not understand it all and so we often get angry at things that we do know understand. I usually pray for those who are angry at me or the article because Jesus said that we must pray for those and even for our enemies. I hope they are not my enemies and they are really not angry at me but at the message and Jesus’ redeeming work of the cross at Calvary. Thank you my friend for such an insightful comment. Truly my greatest passion is to share the gospel so that those who don’t know Christ may know Him and be saved for eternal life for someone once shared it with me. Please do come back again soon my friend. You, and in fact even those not loving God or the Bible, are always welcome.

Reply

Daniel May 8, 2012 at 11:07 pm

Praise be to God and may God bless you always Sir…, I like the article specially to your Christlike answers in every rude comments of others( sorry for my english, i’m a filipino) but I just want some and broad explanation about “Growth and Fund raising” because I think not all fundraising is bad, like for example. The church need a fund to send missionaries specially to unentered places or the unreached tribe,i think fund raising is a big help, to help the ministry works.

Reply

Jack May 9, 2012 at 3:59 pm

Thank you so much Daniel for your kind words and for your comment and visiting us. I do agree that we need to have more fundraising for missionary work and it is a big help for the ministry. I myself am an unpaid pastor so I work to support myself but that’s okay, I don’t do it for money anyway so you make an excellent point. Please come back again soon to visit us Daniel and God bless you sir.

Reply

Sam Jones October 16, 2012 at 7:17 pm

Hey Jack I have to ask you would you consider the Westboro Baptist Church a cult? Here are some videos http://m.youtube.com/#/watch?v=veNQwzW8ays&desktop_uri=%2Fwatch%3Fv%3DveNQwzW8ays and another http://m.youtube.com/#/watch?v=FKciWaiU3u8&desktop_uri=%2Fwatch%3Fv%3DFKciWaiU3u8. I want to hear your opinions on the videos, I hope you can copy and paste. Do you think God hates Lady Gaga?

Reply

Jack Wellman October 16, 2012 at 8:04 pm

Thank you Sam for your question. I will check out the videos but this “church” picketed our church last year and the signs that they displayed were full of hate. I don’t believe God hates Lady Gaga, no, but God desires that none should perish. You will never meet a person that God does not love nor will you ever see a person that God doesn’t want to save Sam.

And yes, I believe they are a cult but they are not really a church in the sense of the New Testament.

Reply

Sam Jones October 20, 2012 at 6:28 pm

I don’t want to sound rude but I also want to know your opinions on the video, I just want to hear what a pastor would think about the videos. The Westboro Baptist Church picketed our church too.

Reply

Jack Wellman October 20, 2012 at 7:49 pm

Thanks Sam. You don’t strike me as being rude my friend. I think it is a waste of time, in my own opinion, to watch videos such as these for they confirm to me that I think they are peddling hate and have nothing in common with the gospel of Jesus Christ. I think this group will one day be on the wrong side of the separation of the sheep and the goats. They fit the definition of a cult in that they have authoritarian or totalitarian leadership and they conflict with what the Bible teaches.

Reply

victor ochonma February 25, 2013 at 5:52 am

your article on cults was very expository. In my country nigeria it has become fashionable to join cults and be proud and arrogant. It is satanic and from the pit of hell. the high rate of government-inflicted poverty has attracted many weak folks to them. i strongly urge those involved in any form of cultism to renounce them and accept the forgiveness of Jesus and be made new. nothing to fear or worry about being hunted or hurt by cultists.

Reply

Jack Wellman February 25, 2013 at 12:45 pm

Thank you Mr. Ochonma. You are so right my friend. I believe cults are on the rise and they are trying to fill a need that only God Himself can fill. I also know that they are satanic as you say. I am glad we have men of God who know the truth in Nigeria. Your country is blessed to have a man of faith such as you that can see these so clearly and mark them which are contrary to the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Reply

anthony July 16, 2014 at 2:26 am

Hi Have you Heard of a cult call Raelians i want your opinion on theme who are they and are they a dangerous cult

Reply

Jack Wellman July 16, 2014 at 8:53 am

I have not heard of the Raelians….at least yet. I will have to check them out. You can certainly share what you know Anthony. Thank you sir for helping to find out more about the dangers of cults and the dangers of specific cults.

Reply

anthony August 1, 2014 at 1:02 am

hi Jack Wellman i got a question are mormon christian because I’ve talk to a mormon today and i told does she believe all the stuff like god as a man from another planet or jesus is brother of satan she said no. how do we know for sure that they aren’t christian because she said that all the stuff that we heard about the mormon faith is not true

Reply

Jack Wellman August 1, 2014 at 12:42 pm

Thank you Anthony for caring enough to witness to these Mormon’s. First of, they believe that Jesus was not always God and the same thing for the Father. They believe that the Creator God was created but here is a crucial verse in John 17:3 “And this is eternal life, that they know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.” Unless they know, and I mean really know God the father and Jesus Christ Who you (the Father) has sent, they do not have this eternal life for Jesus said that “This IS eternal life…that they KNOW the only true God and Jesus Christ too. To know someone like I know my friend, means that I knew where he was born, how old he is, what are his attributes, what does he like and not like…and so on. That is I really KNOW Him but unless you have the right God the Father and Jesus Christ, then you don’t have eternal life. If God the Father was created, as Jesus was said to be, then who created God the Father? Another God? Then who created THAT God?…you have an infinite number of Gods then but there had to be at least ONE God that began it all, right? If so, then we are worshiping the wrong God and thus, we are in idolatry.

For the Christians, Jesus is believed to have been born to the Virgin Mary, whereas Mormons believe that Jesus had a natural birth and was born of a Heavenly Father who had sex with Mary but there is no biblical support for any of this!

In terms of Sin, the Mormons believe that all men are accountable for their own sins and all mankind will be resurrected and saved at the last day but Jesus said many are called but few are chosen and if all will be saved anyway then why did Jesus have to die on the cross? It is meaningless if all are going to be saved anyway but this goes against Rev 20:11-15 and Daniel 12:1-3 etc.

Mormonism puts a heavy burden of works on its followers. Although there are some passages that talk about grace and free salvation (2 Nephi 31:19; 1 Nephi 2:4; Mosiah 26:40), the overwhelming emphasis in the Mormon scriptures is on earning salvation through obedience to commandments and refraining from sin. For example, Alma 5:27 says, “Have ye walked, keeping yourselves blameless before God? Could ye say, if ye were called to die at this time, within yourselves, that ye have been sufficiently humble?”
This seems in sharp contrast to the grace-filled message of the Bible (Eph. 2:8–10; Titus 3:5; John 6:29) where works stem naturally from a recognition that we have been saved.

There are many more differences between Christianity and Mormonism (some more central than others). Consider a few beliefs of the LDS church:

Humans have the potential to achieve godhood if they follow Mormon teachings. In his King Follett speech, Joseph Smith Jr. said, “Here then is eternal life — to know the only wise and true God; andyou have got to learn how to be gods yourselves, and to be kings and priests to God the same as all gods have done before you.”

There is no original sin. The Articles of Faith 2 says, “We believe that men will be punished for their own sins, and not for Adam’s transgression.” This is in contrast to Romans 5, which says death came to all through one man’s sin. This raises the troubling question for Mormons of why Jesus even had to die.

God the Father has a physical body. D&C 130:22 says, “The Father has a body of flesh and bones as tangible as man’s. ”Thus, man is made in the image of the body of God (Moses 6:9). This is in contrast with John 4:24, which says, “God is spirit.”

Reply

anthony August 1, 2014 at 2:50 pm

Thank you for the Reply i just wanting to know are they christian because i told her does she believe in one God or many gods she said she believe in the Father, the Son and The Holy Spirit but she believe they are completely separate like three gods but i told her there One God who has Three Person hood in one

Reply

anthony August 1, 2014 at 4:45 pm

the reason i want to know are they christian because i told her what i heard about mormon that they aren’t christian and she said that she they are christian

Reply

Jack Wellman August 1, 2014 at 10:32 pm

To be a Christian, you must have the right Jesus and they don’t. I can stand in my garage and call myself a car but that doesn’t mean I am one. They are not Christian and in fact, read what happens to MANY who believe that they are when Jesus returns in Matt 7:21-23 “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. 22 On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ 23 And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’ He says “MANY” not “a few” or “some” but many…and these include the cults like Mormons, Jehovah Witnesses and many who are playing church in the church today. You are exactly right that God is one in Three Person hood. Spot on Anthony. These people cannot be saved unless the Holy Spirit shows them who Jesus is….but I am glad you care enough to speak to them about the right Jesus…keep trying and praying.

Reply

Leave a Comment

Powered by sweet Captcha





Previous post:

Next post: