Cults are religious groups or organizations that espouse teachings that stray from what established religions view as the norm. There are several characteristics and signs of a cult, but one thing that all cults have in common is a leader. While cults often present new teachings or revelations that adherents must follow, it is true that these teachings come from the leader or guru. In cults, the leader is infallible, speaks for God, presents new information, ideas or teachings that cannot be questioned, but must be accepted by all members.
The first sign of a cult is that the leader is always right.
From Jim Jones and Charles Manson, to David Berg and David Koresh, one of the most notable signs of a cult is the inability for members to question the leader’s doctrines. Not only does the leader demand complete loyalty to his or her teachings, but also to the church or religious organization. Cult leaders believe their teachings are above reproach and those inside the group who question beliefs are viewed as the enemy.
Cult leaders are viewed as infallible, and often their followers continue to venerate the leader following his or her death. It is not uncommon for cults to state they received prophecies, visions or other communication from a cult leader following his or her death.
Cult leaders offer followers their hidden knowledge and secret wisdom in exchange for complete surrender. Many cult leaders use mind-control techniques in order to sway their followers that they have obtained special knowledge or insight into God that they are incapable of discovering on their own. Followers are made to feel that if they discredit, question or disagree with the cult leader’s teachings, they will be found displeasing and unworthy of the group, the leader and ultimately God.
Doubting or questioning a cult leader is off limits and is often a sign members are working against the group and its leader.
Those who choose to question or doubt a cult leader are often viewed as evil or being possessed by satan himself. Many cults physically abuse and punish those who question or doubt the leader. These mind control techniques are used to demand complete submission from the group.
One thing that must be noted is that cult members often attribute qualities and attributes to a cult leader that are not only fanatical, but often differ from the accomplishments of the leader. Most cult leaders have no significant accomplishments or anything that would cause them to stand out as distinguished individual or leader, however, the cult will exalt the accomplishments of a cult leader to the status of God or as someone next to God. Many cult leaders are believed to be in direct communication with God, therefore their words are viewed as divine.
While the belief that all humans are fallible is readily prevalent in societies worldwide, cult leaders are often viewed as being above reproach, holy and without sin. Most cult members view their leaders as people who have reached a state of perfection.
Because humans are not infallible, the standard cult members hold their leaders to can cause problems. It isn’t uncommon for cult leaders to be involved in depraved activities. Group sex, pedophilia, murder, drug use, money laundering and alcohol abuse are just a few of the activities that can hurt a cult leader’s standing should they be found out. As many cult members are expected to live up to unrealistic standards, cult leaders devise schemes to cover up their illicit behavior.
One of the most prevalent techniques used by cult leaders is that they claim to be God’s mouthpiece or oracle. This way, they can continue to manipulate and control their followers with their higher wisdom and insight, while remaining fallible. Some cult leaders blame their failures on attacks from the devil, witchcraft or even blaming those in the group for evil practices that led to the failure.
If you are unclear whether you are in a cult, or if the leader of your religious group is getting more praise and worship then deserved, consider what the reaction would be if you pointed out a failing of the leader. Are you at liberty to discuss mistakes the leader has made with other members? Can you point out something the leader has said or done to other members and have your conversation result in a sharing of ideas?
There is no person on the face of the planet who is above reproach, questioning or critique. God did not give this power to any person or political leader.
If the people cannot exercise their freedom to question the actions of their leaders, then they are in an unhealthy situation run by a dictator, tyrant or possibly a cult leader.
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