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Cults
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Lexilogio
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PostPosted: Fri Apr 18, 2014 5:13 pm    Post subject: Cults  Reply with quote

I had some Jehovah's Witnesses come to the door this morning. Needless to say, I stated that I was not interested.

However, it sparked a conversation with the children about what was a cult, and what was not.

The agreed characteristics of a cult were:
1. Charismatic leader who is perceived as divine, or semi divine
2. Harmful to members (psychologically or physically)

Not wholly agreed, but mentioned was:
- not agreeing to the wording of the Nicene Creed

We ended up questionning whether Quakers were deemed a cult - as we felt that Quakers were a good organisation, and the term cult should only apply to "not good" organisations.

(I would add, in my view, Jehovah's Witnesses are a cult, because the rules on blood result in harm to members).
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Shaker
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PostPosted: Fri Apr 18, 2014 5:15 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote



Cults tend to be small in terms of numbers - but how big does a cult have to get before it ceases to be one?

I should say that one of the stronger defining hallmarks of a cult is that it actively (though surreptitiously) exercises blackmail-like control over the intellect and emotions of its members, keeping them within the fold and as far as possible away from external influences such as family.

Cult has built into it a negative moral judgement in the same way that "murder" (but not "killing") does, so to call anything a cult is implicitly to state that it is a bad and undesirable thing - making "a nice cult" an oxymoron.
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Last edited by Shaker on Fri Apr 18, 2014 5:45 pm; edited 2 times in total
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Lexilogio
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PostPosted: Fri Apr 18, 2014 5:18 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Shaker wrote:


Cults tend to be small in terms of numbers - but how big does a cult have to get before it ceases to be one?

I should say that one of the stronger defining hallmarks of a cult is that it actively (though surreptitiously) exercises blackmail-like control over the intellect and emotions of its members, keeping them within the fold and as far as possible away from external influences such as family.


Agree - and I would say that holds regardless of how big it gets.
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The Boyg
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PostPosted: Fri Apr 18, 2014 5:26 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I think that one of the most important defining characteristics of a cult is restrictions on outside contact, whether that be personal contact with nonmembers or sources of information that haven't been approved by the cult leadership.
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Shaker
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PostPosted: Fri Apr 18, 2014 5:27 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I wish I'd said that.

Oh, I did  
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The Boyg
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PostPosted: Fri Apr 18, 2014 5:29 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I can't make the same point now?
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Shaker
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PostPosted: Fri Apr 18, 2014 5:30 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Sure you can - there's no house rule against pointless repetition of something someone else has just said a few minutes earlier.
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PostPosted: Fri Apr 18, 2014 5:32 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Phew! I thought for a minute that you were trying to claim a monopoly on certain opinions.
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Shaker
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PostPosted: Fri Apr 18, 2014 5:35 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Not at all.

Cults also thrive on lack of transparency - their recruitment, practices, financial affairs and so forth are kept hidden from open scrutiny by one and all. They act as though they have something to hide, generally of course because they do.

Quote:
The agreed characteristics of a cult were:
1. Charismatic leader who is perceived as divine, or semi divine


That's tricky. That may be a necessary but not a sufficient condition (at least to a Christian), because of course Christianity would fall within that remit.

So far we seem to have agreed - more or less - upon:

1. Secretiveness - deliberate retention of information about the organisation's affairs;

2. Insularity and exclusivity - active discouragement of external influence, be it from family and friends, non-organisation viewpoints, etc. Contact with anything outside of the organisation and the alternative viewpoints it represents ("the world") is seen as threatening and is more or less strongly discouraged and, in extreme cases, actively prevented.

I would add:

3 (or perhaps 2a, following on from the previous point): A psychologically damaging domination of the member's thoughts, feelings and actions. In some extreme communal circumstances the member is told what to read, when to eat, when to sleep, when to wash and even when to go to the toilet. (Jim Jones/David Koresh-type situations, etc.). Add:

4 (or 3): Inappropriate and unequal, power-imbalanced sexual exploitation of members by a perceived charismatic leader, up to and including rape, gang rape and child abuse

to the list.

- Strong discouragement or outright prohibition of sceptical scrutiny and active questioning of the group, its methods, its beliefs and its leader.
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Lexilogio
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PostPosted: Fri Apr 18, 2014 8:55 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Yes - I'd agree with those. Insularity does seem to be a key aspect - not mingling with people from other communities, actively discouraging contact / material from outside.


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