Contrary to popular opinion, cults don't need to be small groups. They usually are, but they can have millions of members.
Cult members are often very nice people. Sometimes they don't look any different than anyone else.
Cults don't go around advertising they're cults. If they did, no one would join. Instead they bait and lure people with love, acceptance, community, God, truths that appear to be true but are not, conspiracy theories based on misinformation, etc.
Newly interested people are gradually taught about the importance of obedience and loyalty because God requires it. They are taught that because they have found the truth, Satan will tempt them to leave God. What will they do? Will they be loyal to God? i.e. the teachings of the cult? Or will they fail the test of loyalty and obey Satan? Members are warned that even though family members, friends, and outsiders may mean well, their minds are blinded by Satan. Loyalty to the cult is thought to be loyalty to God. And God always comes first ahead of human relationships.
As the teachings of the cult 'takes hold', it becomes harder and harder to leave. Cults are emotional and mental traps that restrict basic human rights such as freedom of choice, freedom of speech, and freedom of religion.
Cult leaders have convinced the people they are instruments of God. Some are regarded as prophets.
Thus even though most cults allow members to freely leave, members don't consider leaving to be an option, unless the pain of staying is greater than the pain of leaving. In other words it takes a seriously traumatic event or unbearable circumstances for a cult member to gather up enough courage to do the unthinkable, - leave the cult.
For cult members, leaving their religion is the same as leaving God. It is apostasy and rejecting God's church. Members who leave can experience guilt, depression, anxiety, emotional instability, the stress of being separated from loved ones inside the cult, and thoughts of suicide.
Someone looking to get out of depression, emotional despair, relationship or financial problems, ... or someone who doesn't have many friends or the wrong kind of friends who are a bad influence, may be compelled to learn about God with a group of people who seem to really care about their welfare. It's encouraging and upbuilding. Conversations are wholesome and clean. There is brotherly love and support that they never had before. The euphoria of experiencing the love that was lacking in their life, now drives them to get involved with this community of believers and become a member.
The journey to becoming a member is the fun part. However the moment they become a member, the trap is shut tight. A noticeable shift in reality settles in immediately after formally joining a cult. Everything is the same but different at the same time. They are now accountable, held to higher standards, and no longer have the freedom they once had.
A cult can be a small group or a huge organization comprised of millions of people.
They have a charismatic leader or group of leaders who work together.
If the leadership is a group of people, they will often prefer to be anonymous, secretive, and not call attention upon themselves personally. In this way information is thought to come from God and individual leaders assume no responsibility for what they teach.
Cult members reject the idea they belong to a cult. They believe their community is the truth and everyone outside their group has been deceived.
Cults don't believe God is capable of communicating directly with people. They believe God needs a representative and visible leadership to spread his message.
Cults believe they are chosen by God to be His exclusive religion. In order to be saved, people must join the cult. Many religions view their evangelizing activities as doing God's will. They are helping God save people.
Cult members believe they have special knowledge that is superior and more truthful.
Even though the leaders can change their teachings and mistakes are possible, cult members are not allowed to question cult teachings.
Cults teach 'present truth' or 'current truth', not absolute truth. Whatever is taught at this point in time must be believed by the entire group. Unity of beliefs and loyalty is more important than anything else. Members are often told that the truth becomes brighter and more truthful with time.
Obedience and submission to God is required. However the leadership speaks as if they are God's messenger. They tell members what God requires based on what God told them. No one is allowed to doubt that current teachings might not be correct. To do so, would be to question God Himself.
Many restrictions are placed upon cult members with regard to attending other churches, dating, marriage, relationships, who they can associate with, who they can't associate with, information they can read, who they can talk to, what they can say, what they cannot say, choice of employment, education, ... etc.
In order to keep the group like minded, cult members are pressured or required to devote a large part of their time studying cult teachings through printed materials, meetings, Bible studies, evangelizing, ... etc.
Cults thrive on manipulation and control. Some cults may resort to physical control over members but in most Christian religions, cult members are limited by what their minds will accept as truthful. See Mind Control
One's relationship to the cult comes first before one's relationship with close family members and friends.
Those who challenge the authority or teachings of the cult are punished.
Leaving a religious cult is difficult. Those who leave may experience the loss of family members and friends, confusion about their beliefs, their relationship with God, guilt, depression, ... thoughts of death or suicide. ...
Continued > Are Jehovah's Witnesses A Cult?