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What You Need to Know About Cults

Updated on June 8, 2015


They are called "truth twisters." They prey on people's emotions, promising unconditional love, and spiritual fulfillment. But their beliefs and practices, misrepresent what the Bible says about God.


Influence and control are core principles of cult groups. As a result, many members, and former members, frequently, aren't fully aware of the extent to which they may have been manipulated, exploited, even abused. The following list are characteristic of behavioral patterns commonly found in cults:

  • Excessive, unquestioning commitment to its leader, whether alive or dead.

  • ‪ Questioning, and dissent are discouraged or even punished.

  • ‪Mind-altering practices, such as meditation, chanting, denunciation sessions, and excessive debilitating work routines.

  • ‪ Leadership usually dictates, to some degree, how members should think and act. Some require permission to date, change jobs, marry, or even what clothes to wear.

  • The group is elitist, claiming exalted status for itself, leaders, and members.

  • Questioning, and dissent are discouraged or even punished.

  • The leader isn't accountable to any worldly authorities like other ministers, priests, etc. of mainstream religious denominations.

  • The cult requires members to cut ties with family and friends.

  • Preoccupied with making money.

  • Members are encouraged or required to socialize only with other group members.

  • Members often fear reprisals if they leave.

Every cult varies from one or more fundamental doctrines of the Christian faith:

  • Virgin birth. Jesus Christ was conceived by the Holy Spirit and born of a virgin. By contrast, Mormons, state God, the Father had sexual relations with Mary.

  • Resurrection. Jesus Christ was raised from the dead in, physical form and was seen on earth by many. However, Herbert Armstrong's worldwide Church of God, taught Christ was revived spiritually and no longer human following the resurrection.

Eschatology. After Jesus visibly returned to earth during the end times, a final judgment is a certainty, sending the unrighteous to eternal punishment and the righteous to eternal life. Jehovah's Witnesses teach only 144,000 Jehovah's Witnesses will inhabit heaven.

  • Atonement. Only the shed blood of Jesus Christ can pay the penalty for personal sin. On the other hand, "Moonies" teach Jesus failed in His mission because He was crucified.

  • Incarnation. Jesus Christ, who is God, took on human form and was fully God and fully man. However, Way International teaches Jesus was the Logos, the expression of God, but not God Himself.

  • Scripture. The Bible is wholly inspired by God, without error in the original writings and Revelation, and is the only authority for religious living. Mormons describe 24 holy books, with the book of Mormon as the most correct.

Characteristics of Cult Leaders and Followers

Leaders believe they alone have the one true message from God, and:

  • Present themselves as infallible, authorities.

  • Persuade through strong, charismatic personalities.

  • Prohibit individual freedom, expecting unquestioned, obedience.

  • Promote themselves as divine, or as God's sole agent on earth.

  • Possesses the truth from God, while perverting biblical truth.

" Such men are false apostles, deceitful workmen, masquerading as apostles of Christ. And no wonder, for Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light. It's not surprising, then, if his servants masquerade as servants of righteousness" (2 Corinthians 11:13-15).

Followers believe their leader alone has the one true message from God and:

  • Follow blindly.

  • Forfeit individual freedom.

  • Make friends to form a new "family."

  • Fear punishment for not conforming to legalistic rules and regulations.

  • Feel misunderstood and persecuted by the outside world.

According to 2 Timothy 4:3,

"The time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear."

People who join cults don't knowingly submit their lives to these horrors. They are typically intelligent, sincere seekers of truth caught in the snare of subversive spiritual forces.

The following characteristics describe the average cult member:

  • Between ages 18-28 and have low self-esteem.

  • Mostly males, alienated from family.

  • Middle to upper class, experiencing a crisis.

  • Underachievers disillusioned with life.

  • Idealistic, naïve and too trusting.

  • Looking for meaning and purpose of life, have a religious background, but aren't spiritually grounded.

How Can You Help?

Merely loving those who are lost won't get them through the gates of heaven, and neither will a dissertation on doctrine. Frequently a person is drawn into a cult, assuming it will meet their emotional needs.

As long as one is in a cult, make every effort to reestablish relationships and remain in contact. Don't criticize or make fun of cult leaders or members, this only causes defensiveness.

Instead be polite when references are made about cults and their leaders. Don't get into arguments, it will only distract from the subject at hand. You should listen more than talk, and don't interrupt, regardless of your disapproval. It's also advisable to research the group, providing documented proof about their history and activities.

God, very clearly sets the boundaries on the subject of cults. However, many have unknowingly waded into dangerous territory, because they have never been taught about spiritual warfare.

The fault lies with churches failing to educate their parishioners on the occult and New Age movement. As a result, some have become involved with mediums, fortunetellers, psychics, hypnotism, cults, and other false religious beliefs.

Many churches are fearful to talk about these topics. They are afraid teaching on the subject will place too much emphasis on Satan, and distract from glorifying God. Therefore, some have fallen into dangerous areas. Also, some pastors assume their congregation already knows about spiritual warfare. But the Bible says, God's people will perish, and go into captivity for lack of knowledge.

Unfortunately, some have fallen into cults where brainwashing and mind control are practiced. Our goal as Christians should be to help them regain a sense of God-given worth and individuality, they lost during their cult involvement. It should be noted, a lot of pent up rage might well be ready to be let loose.

To diffuse this situation, help them focus not only on wrong doctrines and deeds of the cult, but also on the inner unmet needs of other individuals in the cult.

Help the person see polarized thinking was the breeding ground and basic reason for their cult involvement. The initial teachings of a cult must contain some grains of truth, or no one would be drawn into it.

When cult members finally leave a cult that seemingly had all the answers, they can be in a virtual vacuum, feeling they have no purpose in life. The goal is to assist them in establishing a purpose for their future.


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    • JY3502 profile image

      John Young 2 years ago from Florence, South Carolina

      If you read a little closer many who join cults are intelligent, successful people. Just they are missing something in their life. Thanks for your input.

    • Rachelle Williams profile image

      Rachelle Williams 2 years ago from Tempe, AZ

      Cults are dangerous and they normally attract weak - minded people or people who are looking to fill some sort of hole in their lives. Thanks for sharing.