How To Recognize A Cult

The objective of this article is not to offer a theoretical definition of a modern-day cult, rather, it's a practical guide to recognizing cult-like behavior and how to get out of a destructive community.

There are many religious and spiritual organizations out there that have bad intentions, so I hope this down-to-earth post will help you form an idea of how cults or borderline cults operate.

Please remember that these are my personal reflections.

True spirituality is pure goodness and doesn't expect anything from you. There is a sharp contrast between that and cults, which is not easily recognized by someone who is new to spiritual practice.

That brings us to the first pointer, namely, that common sense applies to everything in life including religious and spiritual matters. If something doesn't feel right, it's not for you. Never listen to people who try to convince you of the opposite, instead, step back and think it over.

Cult-Like Behavior

- Cult leaders and teachers are known for being authoritarian. In other words, they try to control you, tell you how to think and lead your life. Manipulation is widespread in cults.

- At first, they may be friendly in order to draw you into the community. Then, the step-by-step manipulation process sets in.

- Don't fall for charismatic personalities or anyone who tries really hard to convince you of his beliefs. That also includes peer pressure, which is part of a cult's arsenal of manipulative tools.

- Don't allow anyone to pressurize, dominate or break you down in any way.

- They often claim their teaching is the only true one, and you may learn that everyone who doesn't follow it ends up in hell, which is meant to frighten you.

- They may tell you not to spend time with non-members.

- You may be asked for large sums of money and even be encouraged to sell your house or to borrow from your family. You are expected to sacrifice everything you have for the cause.

- Cults don't tolerate healthy questioning and criticism. Keep in mind though, that many mainstream religious and spiritual organizations are the same in this regard.

- You may be asked to work for free. That could include recruiting new members, which in turn increases the cash flow.

- Cults are closed organizations, like a members-only club. They isolate themselves from the rest of society like islands in the ocean.

- Cults seek out broken down individuals since they are easy targets. That includes addicts, confused, depressed and unemployed people. In my opinion, this is particularly ugly.

- When they first approach you, they may not be willing to disclose what movement they represent, because of their stained reputation. That alone is an alarm bell.

Leaving A Cult

- Stay away from cult-like organizations, which is likely to cause long-term mental and emotional pain.

- Trust your gut feeling and leave any religious or spiritual movement that doesn't feel right.

- Admit to yourself that it's a destructive community, no matter how disappointing the truth may be.

- It's much easier to get out at an early stage, so act quickly.

- When you leave the cult, they may pester you for months by sending members to your doorstep that will try every trick in their manual, to pull you back onto the sinking ship. Arrange temporary accommodation, if possible.

- Ask family and friends for support when breaking free from the cult.

- Seek counseling, such as talk therapy, to process your feelings and thoughts. It's a wonderful relief.

Again, true spirituality promotes personal freedom and doesn't ask anything from you. It emphasizes awareness and encourages you to do what is good and right, as opposed to taking advantage of vulnerable souls.

Best of luck!

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