The term "cult" is not a label most of us want to have applied to us. Sometimes, detractors use it to describe a person who is simply attempting to follow the teachings of the Bible. When confronted, these folks do not seem to be able to define just what a cult might be. Recently, I've encountered a questionnaire, compiled by John D. Goldenhammer, PhD, author of "Under the Influence: The Destructive Effects of Group Dynamics". Dr. Goldenhammer has listed common denominators for cultic behavior, and I thought it might be insightful to share them.
*Does your group discourage doubts, criticism or ideas that differ from their belief system?
*Do you tend to rationalize whatever the group does even when it goes against your sense of right and wrong?
*Do you often feel exhausted from lengthy group activities, meetings, and projects?
*Does your group have its own unique words, cliches, slogans, chants, prayers and doctrinal phrases that reinforce the group viewpoint?
*Are doubts viewed as a lack of faith, dedication, commitment or disloyalty?
*Have your thoughts" become "the enemy?
*Do you often find yourself doing more and more things in the group or because of group peer pressure that you would not have done on your own?
*Does your group publically humiliate or criticize members?
*Does your group have a system of punishments and rewards for behavior?
Group paranoia: Does your group obsessively think other groups or people with different beliefs are out to get them?
*Does the prospect of leaving your group seem scary, difficult?
*Do you feel the need to leave in secret?
*Have you been told something bad might happen if you leave?
*Does your group/belief system think they have/are the only or highest truth, or have the solution to the world's problems?
*Are your leader's ideas or belief system considered beyond reproach or sacred?
*Do you follow a particular individual or belief system that requires unquestioning obedience and loyalty?
*Do members of your group feel specially chosen, superior, exclusive, elite?
*Do you feel the need to save or convert others to your belief system or ideology?
*Is your group secretive to outsiders about its inner workings, teachings, activities or beliefs?
*Does your group equate purity and goodness to being in your group, and impurity or evil to those outside your group?
*Do you place your group's mission or agenda above your own goals and ideals?
*Do group interests come before your own interests?
*Do you find yourself thinking in a we-they, us-versus-them mind set?
*Does your group/system have a clear outside enemy?
*Do you see less and less of your family and friends who do not belong to your group or who do not subscribe to your group's belief system?
*Does your group use frequent public testimonials, confessions, or sharings that reinforce the group's mission or agenda?
*Is communication within, into and out of your group controlled or censored in any manner?
*Does your group criticize, shun, abandon, or demean individuals who leave the group?
*Do members seek approval or get permission from group leader(s) for personal life choices?
*Do you feel pressured to attend meetings, events, lectures, seminars? Do you feel guilty if you don't attend?
*Do you feel pressured to give a portion of your income to the group, or spend money on courses, books, or special projects?
*Are the group's financial needs more important than your own economic well-being?
*Does your group discriminate against anyone regarding race, gender, belief, or sexual orientation?
*Does your group have a totalitarian structure: a strict, top-down centralized control?