Church of Wells/YMBBA Ministries

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1/23/2014 9:18 pm  #1

Forum condensed

The forum is exploding with information! I'm reposting a few important posts. If you've got one, add it.


1/23/2014 9:26 pm  #2

Re: Forum condensed

An explanation from Church of Wells' "Doctrine of Judgement" for why they must reject family -

"Conversion and confession are a life change, a death and resurrection, and as men are called to lose their lives (Matt. 10:39) to save them, the family is an inevitable cost therein. The unconverted man is a child of the devil, a practitioner of his lusts, an instrument of his will (Eph. 2:2-3), and therefore, conversion is a birth into another family which is at enmity to the former (John 3:3). Your household formerly could have been friendly, but at your conversion there must be immediate spiritual enmity. Jesus says, at the gain of Him and His family, your carnal family becomes your "foes" (Matt. 10:36). You must be divided from your family for your own salvation, because your family is united in the worldwide divide against God. We are born into a world at war against God, into a family energized by the Devil’s perverse hatred of God. Jesus said you are not a child of your family name but rather of the Devil (John 8:31-51). A war begun by the Devil and allied by man, the sword of gospel power is God’s battle plan to set the captives free. At the scene of war, division is “supposed.” The violent point of a sword pierces through the fighting lines and no one “thinks” it strange, but if these are the spiritual circumstances surrounding a sinner’s conversion to Christ, what shall we “suppose” and “think?” In this way, one may understand the spiritual circumstances surrounding true Christianity and conversion, and so, Christ reproves the astonishment that men have of these truths. He calls it blind hypocrisy, for such a one cannot see the spiritual climate of his own time. This is what Jesus meant in His reproofs in Luke 12:54-56. He is calling men to awaken to spiritual realities, and this is to "discern this time" which they are in (Lk. 12:56)."

• It's armed conflict. At sword point. Loss of life. Family is collateral damage.
• Conversion is changing sides.   
• The "unconverted" are dangerous. The devil.
"Unconverted" = family and friends. Doesn't matter what they believe. Anyone not following the same path. Anyone questioning the direction.
• Family become an immediate enemy; "your foe."
• A convert must be divided from family for their own salvation.

Any questions?

     Thread Starter

1/23/2014 9:30 pm  #3

Re: Forum condensed

The Advanced Bonewits’ Cult Danger Evaluation Frame
(Version 2.6)


Events in the last several decades have clearly indicated just how dangerous some religious and secular groups (usually called “cults” by those opposed to them) can be to their own members as well as to anyone else whom they can influence. “Brainwashing,” beatings, child abuse, rapes, murders, mass suicides, military drilling and gunrunning, meddling in civil governments, international terrorism, and other crimes have been charged against leaders and members of many groups, and in far too many cases those accusations have been correct. None of this has been very surprising to historians of religion or to other scholars of what are usually labled “new” religions (no matter how old they may be in their cultures of origin). Minority groups, especially religious ones, are often accused of crimes by members of the current majority. In many ways, for example, the “Mormons” were the “Moonies” of the 19th century — at least in terms of being an unusual minority belief system that many found “shocking” at the time — and the members of the Unification Church could be just as “respectable” a hundred years from now as the Latter Day Saints are today.

Nonetheless, despite all the historical and philosophical warnings that could be issued, ordinary people faced with friends or loved ones joining an “unusual” group, or perhaps contemplating joining one themselves, need a relatively simple way to evaluate just how dangerous or harmless a given group is liable to be, without either subjecting themselves to its power or judging it solely on theological or ideological grounds (the usual method used by anti-cult groups).

In 1979 I constructed an evaluation tool which I now call the “Advanced Bonewits’ Cult Danger Evaluation Frame” or the “ABCDEF” (because evaluating these groups should be elementary). I realize its shortcomings, but feel that it can be effectively used to separate harmless groups from the merely unusual-to-the-observer ones. 

The purpose of this evaluation tool is to help both amateur and professional observers, including current or would-be members, of various organizations (including religious, occult, psychological or political groups) to determine just how dangerous a given group is liable to be, in comparison with other groups, to the physical and mental health of its members and of other people subject to its influence. It cannot speak to the “spiritual dangers,” if any, that might be involved, for the simple reason that one person’s path to enlightenment or “salvation” is often viewed by another as a path to ignorance or “damnation.”

As a general rule, the higher the numerical total scored by a given group (the further to the right of the scale), the more dangerous it is likely to be. Though it is obvious that many of the scales in the frame are subjective, it is still possible to make practical judgments using it, at least of the “is this group more dangerous than that one?” sort. This is if all numerical assignments are based on accurate and unbiased observation of actual behavior by the groups and their top levels of leadership (as distinct from official pronouncements). This means that you need to pay attention to what the secondary and tertiary leaders are saying and doing, as much (or more so) than the central leadership — after all, “plausible deniability” is not a recent historical invention.

This tool can be used by parents, reporters, law enforcement agents, social scientists and others interested in evaluating the actual dangers presented by a given group or movement. Obviously, different observers will achieve differing degrees of precision, depending upon the sophistication of their numerical assignments on each scale. However, if the same observers use the same methods of scoring and weighting each scale, their comparisons of relative danger or harmlessness between groups will be reasonably valid, at least for their own purposes. People who cannot view competing belief systems as ever having possible spiritual value to anyone, will find the ABCDEF annoyingly useless for promoting their theological agendas.

     Thread Starter

1/23/2014 9:31 pm  #4

Re: Forum condensed

Hythlodaeus wrote:

Maximum highest score = 180

Church of Wells:  142
Factor    Score
1-5          10   (50)
6              5
7              8
8              6
9              8    Modesty, clothing, reproduction (controlling sexuality), choosing marriage partners.
10            0    We don't know
11-13      10    (30)
14            5    Aggressive. Reduced inhibition, disregard of boundaries, defiant/oppositional behavior.
15-17      10   (30)


     Thread Starter

1/23/2014 9:33 pm  #5

Re: Forum condensed

How Could Anyone Join a Cult?!!

Maureen Griffo
Written after the Heaven's Gate suicides at Rancho Santa Fe, California in 1997.

With the Heaven’s Gate tragedy still so fresh in all of our minds certain questions seem to come up: What kind of person joins a cult?  Why do they stay and put up with the abuse? How could anyone be SO devoted that they would kill themselves?  Can’t they see that what they are doing is crazy?  Are THEY crazy?
I feel that I am in a unique position to address these questions as I spent 10 years with a communal cult.  Yet, now being out for 11 years, I also can look at the horrors that happened at Rancho Santa Fe and ask, along with the rest of a stunned nation, “Why did they die like this?” 

For eight and a half of the ten years I was with my former group, each payday I would sign my check over to the group. I would receive a meager allowance in return and would have to beg for the basics of life such as clothing and medical care. Often I lived in substandard housing with rats, filth, and overcrowded conditions in neighborhoods with extremely high crime rates. After working a full day at work, I often would have to spend several hours on the street proselytizing. 
After returning, I would have to sit in meetings that lasted to the wee hours of the morning. These meetings were intense. Public humiliation was common place, and sometimes we would sit in silence for hours on end believing ourselves to be too reprobate even to speak. After getting an insufficient night’s sleep, I would be expected to repeat the same routine of work and group activities all over again. In other words, there was no doubt that I was in a cult.

Yet, if you had passed me in the street during the 10 years that I spent in the group, I can tell you that I wouldn’t have been all that different from others in the crowd. My skin had not turned green, and I did not grow antennas. I had eyes, ears and a nose just like anyone else. I looked both ways before crossing a street. If somehow we got in an idle conversation that didn’t involve my trying to recruit you, you may have been shocked to know that I had likes and dislikes just like any other person. I still liked pizza (even if I didn’t have much access to it) and still hated pork sausage. Blue was still my favorite color, and I still loved sunsets.

People who are in cults are just that - PEOPLE -  although sadly, cults suppress much of what makes an individual unique. Heaven’s Gate, I believe, has forced all of us to come to grips with the realization that they were people not too unlike us, and that is indeed something tough to face. Whether one has been in a cult or not, the realization deep in our hearts that perhaps we could have shared a similar fate makes us want to turn away and believe that they had to be made of different stuff than we are. I am here to tell you that they are not.

Why did the people in Heaven’s Gate seem to go willingly to their deaths?  Why did I stay in a clearly abusive situation for 10 years?  The activities I felt trapped to do while within the group give some generous clues to how this can happen. And, when we can come to understand how one person can gain control over another, we can peer into the world of an average cult member.
Indeed, one human being controlling another is nothing new to civilization. We need only look at the Biblical story of Cain and Abel to see the lengths that a person will go to in order to be “on top”— even if that means murder. It is no secret that sleep deprivation hinders clear thinking and decision making abilities. Through instituting a poor diet and strenuous routines, a group can break persons down further, making them even more vulnerable to the group’s ideologies.

While the specific techniques may differ, almost every group has a way of inducing hypnosis. In my former group this was accomplished through the format of our meetings which in reality were the focal point of what had become an intense system of peer scrutiny. Sitting in silence for hours affected me. I remember leaving many a meeting in which we had not spoken for hours with heaviness in my heart and feeling like my head had been put between two cymbals. Having to stand in front of my peers to be critiqued by them would seize me with panic. We would have to present ourselves one by one in front of a group of several hundred of our peers, stating what we did and where we were at in our hearts. The group would vote on us and the final vote became our did not matter how we felt about things in our hearts. Often I was found to be deficient and would have to endure taunts by my peers between meetings. All of that was very intentional, coming from the leader himself and carried out through the ranks. There was no going home to escape all of this. I was home, and there was not a minute of privacy. I often could not think clearly and if I could get through a day feeling I held onto my sanity that was a major accomplishment.

My mind was too under siege to even think of packing my bags and leaving. This was purposeful as cults know that no one would make a rational decision to live like this and thus create an environment in which a person has no time or freedom to think. I have heard life in a cult compared to living in a fire constantly. Most of us can invoke images of people we’ve seen on the news who have lived through a fire. When persons are in the middle of a fire, they simply do not have access to certain parts of their thinking that they normally would have. However, when the fire is over, we see them collapse and say things like “Oh my God, I can’t believe what happened. It was so terrifying.” They are able to reconnect emotionally to their experiences and likely will be able to integrate what happened to them, thereby dealing with the trauma. 

Cults do not allow you to reconnect. I was kept so busy and off balance that the fire was never allowed to be over. Thus, outsiders could look at the way my fellow members and I lived in sheer horror; yet, while living in the midst of it, I simply could not get it. I get it now because I have been out, and as a person after a fire begins thinking again, I now have my critical thinking abilities back. Along with everyone else who hears about what happened to me, I am horrified to have spent 10 years of my life like that.

What could have been done to “reach” me during the 10 years I was in the communal group?  What can we do to reach others who are in groups who may be heading down paths similar to that of Heaven’s Gate or the other groups in recent times who have committed mass suicide? 

The biggest mistake people can make in reaching out to persons in a cult is forgetting that they are people too and that there are some logical reasons behind what on the surface appears to be bizarre behavior. If we remember that outside of the group’s influences we would likely be dealing with a totally different person, he or she becomes less scary and more reachable to us. The dynamics of a cult are not too different from that of a battered wife staying with an abusive husband, or what happened in Nazi Germany or the Cultural Revolution in China. On the outside, they all seem to be beyond comprehension, but as we look at the underlying dynamics, their tactics are not that hard to understand. In our society today, all of us are being bombarded with huge amounts of information and people vying for our every dollar. Learning about techniques of influence and control can only benefit all of us as we are trying to navigate our way through an increasingly complex world. When it comes to understanding someone in a cult or other controlling situation, it can literally be life saving. 

The people who had the biggest impact on me were not the ones who screamed at me “You’re in a cult!” (Believe me, I had plenty of those.)  Rather the ones who made me think were those willing to care about me as a person, whether I stayed or left. Despite their initial allure, cults do not offer unconditional love. When I saw people on the outside acting differently toward me than my own supposed all-loving peers, it affected me. I may not have left right away, but I could not shake that there was someone who would be willing to be my friend and care about me with no strings attached. Like anyone else faced with a decision, someone “decides” to join a cult based on the information available to him or her.

Unfortunately, cults are notorious for not letting a potential recruit know about the full package. What I thought I was joining and what I actually joined were vastly different from each other. In other words, if the group had been up front about the kind of life I was going to have to live and what was going to happen to me, I would have never joined. Helping a person make a decision to leave a cult in reality is educating them by filling in the blanks that the group deceptively didn’t. With more information, there is a good chance that a person will make an informed choice to leave. The information such a person needs includes understanding techniques of manipulation and control — particularly how this may be practiced in his/her particular group. 

People in cults are not stupid. After leaving my former group, I was so convinced that I had to be intellectually deficient that I actually took an I.Q. test. Much to my surprise, instead of scoring way below average, I scored in the 97th percentile. As I have learned more about the kinds of people cults recruit, I have found that I am the rule and not the exception. Because the rigors of cult life are arduous, these groups do not want someone who will break down easily. Cults go after the best and the brightest — robbing all of us of people who could be making a huge difference in this world.

Who joins cults? They are anyone you could meet anywhere. I was a teen living in a small town when I had been recruited. I may have been naive and not able to see through the deception as someone older may have been, but most teens are naive and easily impressed by those who are slicker than themselves. I was not a drug addict or a prostitute, but rather I had been a good student in school who worked two jobs.

So, the next time you are approached by someone whom you strongly suspect may be living in a far out commune somewhere, remember you are likely to be dealing with a highly intelligent person who was deceived into joining what may appear to us as a bizarre cult. Instead of looking at such people as freaks or crazies, keep in mind that if they had access to more information and saw that there was a life outside for them, they probably would leave.

     Thread Starter

1/23/2014 9:42 pm  #6

Re: Forum condensed

Interesting thought-provoking responses posted around the internet.

"...they[children] know that God loves them too. God does not hate. Catherine was raised knowing that and one day she will come back." 

"My prayer is that the group sees the truth and saves themselves from the wrath of God. My God is a loving God."

"Everyone questions why would it happen to someone who was brought up in church."

• Why would someone brought up in church be susceptible to coercive influences?

                            ►  We all are.

But it's an interesting thought. Most, if not all, of the Church of Wells recruits WERE brought up in church. They aren't a bunch of people who were influenced because they hadn't been exposed to Christianity and religion. They had been. The majority of them come from very religious backgrounds. Practicing Christian families. Devout church-goers.
So why them? Here's what I think:
Familar with Christian practice and ritual (like women prohibited from wearing pants, hair covering, "prayer closets", group activities like Bible study and prayer meetings, outreach ministries, street preaching). Comfort from scripture and the Bible. Solid beliefs. They already knew what to expect and it wasn't foreign new ideas.

The two married "elders" picked wives from Christian evangelist families. Young ladies raised in households separated from mainstream culture and already coached that direction. Clothing restrictions, attending church revival meetings, home-schooled, trained to be submissive and obedient to husbands, pastors, Elders.

"Deacon" Rick Trudeau and younger brother Tanner came from a church-going family and part of a street-preaching outreach ministry. Rick's wife Anna is an evangelist's daughter. They were already doing this, before they met the Texas Posse. Nice young people with a true sense of calling, from happy loving large families. Not weirdos. Not fringe.

R & R Mercantile's meat man, one of the few middle-aged men, was in and out of Teen Challenge programs his entire life.

Troy Dannenberger shares in worship at a completion ceremony in Teen Challenge's Herb Meppelink Chapel in Cape Girardeau on March 26. The event recognized Teen Challenge participants who were ready to complete the program. Teen Challenge, which began in 1970, will celebrate its 40th anniversary this year. (KRISTIN EBERTS)

"The men participate in 16 hours of Bible classes weekly, an optional GED preparation program, one-on-one counseling sessions and the work-oriented activities such as woodworking, cutting firewood, doing chores for members of the community and picking strawberries for the ministry's annual strawberry sale and festival."


Last edited by anon (1/23/2014 9:50 pm)

     Thread Starter

1/23/2014 9:46 pm  #7

Re: Forum condensed

The Water Cooler - A moment for interesting Bible quotes and testimony...
[Excerpted and edited for clarity]

"How do you define kindness? What is genuine love these days, and not just a superficial social facade? Psalm 141:5 "Let the righteous smite me; it shall be a kindness: and let him reprove me; it shall be an excellent oil, which shall not break my head." Have you prayed lately for God to send you a righteous man to smite and reprove you...?"

Wow. No, uh, actually, I haven't prayed lately for someone to come and smite me. I get enough collateral smiting every day, as it is.

No, those of us who have been on the planet long enough to pay our dues without the privilege of resources and wealth, don't pray for extra smiting. Not my standard of kindness. I do pray for patience and grace. I pray for balance and gratitude. I pray for relief from self-pity and for acceptance. I work hard at not holding unhealthy grudges. But that's just me...

Responses and justification for rejecting family.

"While he yet talked to the people, behold, his mother and his brethren stood without, desiring to speak with him. Then one said unto him, Behold, thy mother and thy brethren stand without, desiring to speak with thee. But he answered and said unto him that told him, Who is my mother? and who are my brethren? And he stretched forth his hand toward his disciples, and said, Behold my mother and my brethren! For whosoever shall do the will of my Father which is in heaven, the same is my brother, and sister, and mother. Matthew 12:46-50."

"And Jesus answered and said, Verily I say unto you, There is no man that hath left house, or brethren, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands, for my sake, and the gospel's, But he shall receive an hundredfold now in this time, houses, and brethren, and sisters, and mothers, and children, and lands, with persecutions; and in the world to come eternal life. But many that are first shall be last; and the last first. Mark10:29-31"

"Jesus said unto them, If God were your Father, ye would love me: for I proceeded forth and came from God; neither came I of myself, but he sent me. Why do ye not understand my speech? even because ye cannot hear my word. Ye are of your father the devil, and the lusts of your father ye will do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and abode not in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaketh a lie, he speaketh of his own: for he is a liar, and the father of it. And because I tell you the truth, ye believe me not. John 8:42-45"

"2Ti 3:12 Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution. 
if you are not suffering persecution you are not godly"

"Psalm 25:14. The secret of The Lord is with them that fear him; and he will show them his covenant. 
you see i dont condemn anyone the word of God condemns them all i do is proclaim the gospel"

​Oh dear. This isn't the God I know. This is about as hateful and scary as it gets. Wallowing in suffering. This is like Westboro Baptist Church.

Here's the coup de grace:
"A short document about persecution from the most persecuted Church in America"

Yikes! Delighting in the prospect of "persecution." Insisting on it, in fact.

     Thread Starter

1/23/2014 9:48 pm  #8

Re: Forum condensed

Excerpted. Read the full version here:

Eight Distinctives Of An Aberrational Christian or Bible-based Group

When discussing Christian or Bible-based groups that are "aberrant", the intent is not to simply to hang a label on a minority sect based on their departure from a certain doctrinal standard or theology. There are many groups that do have peculiar doctrinal emphases which are in no way "dangerous" or "cultic", however, it is more accurately the gravitation towards high-control, authoritarian leadership structures that actually make a group "aberrant". In describing this tendency towards spiritual totalitarianism, one could accurately depict the methodology in terms of it's visible manifestation...
In our explanation we address the process in the specific way that it expresses itself in a Bible-based group, inasmuch as the beliefs of the group are utilized to create and maintain that strict authoritarian schema. It is the perversion of otherwise benign belief and doctrine which becomes the vehicle for the leader(s) to gain control over the members.

Definition: Aberration - undue emphasis on a fringe doctrine, or a group of persons holding that doctrine that has not separated itself from the Church, frequently resulting in a potentially dangerous leadership structure. This is often an anti-conformist group, sometimes led by a charismatic leader, but as often by some principle of greater strictness, more single minded dedication, or more intense renunciation of the world and its attractions. Often has as its main principle some aspect of orthodox faith that is being neglected. The question concerning the seriousness of the fringe doctrine will be answered by the fact that the group has chosen to stay in the Church (i.e. within the boundaries of the "faith once for all delivered unto the saints").

Introduction: There are eight general distinctives that are frequently found in aberrational Christian groups. Not all aberrational groups will necessarily exhibit everyone of these distinctives, but most do, and some will evidence one or more with greater intensity and scope. It is important to remember in identifying an aberrational Christian group that we are not dealing with a thorough going heresy, but often a mainstream group that is in transition from the fringes of Christianity to a heretical group completely outside Christian orthodoxy. For our purposes the difference between the two is this. A heretical group takes something major in Christianity (who Jesus is, salvation, the Trinity, etc.) and either negates it, or makes it minor. An aberrational group, on the other hand, typically takes something minor in Christianity and makes it major (submission to a pastor, baptism, worldliness, holiness, etc.) usually for the purpose of being able to manipulate or control the members. 

Scripture Twisting
This is the most important distinctive from which all other distinctives flow. Usually there is a deficient concept of Church history or theological categories. Consequently Scripture is taken out of context, carelessly applied, and used to justify wrong conclusions (prooftexting).

Doctrine developed from historical books of the Bible. Here, the historical books of the Old and New Testaments (Exodus, Kings, Samuel, parts of Gospels, Acts, etc.) are used to derive authoritative doctrine for the Church today.
     • Contextual chaos - verses are pasted together to prove a doctrine. 
     • Mystical mush - taking verses intended to be literal or are idiomatic and giving them a "spiritual" interpretation. 

Controlling Leader/Leadership
Frequently, near to total submission is implicitly or explicitly demanded by the leader/leadership. This is because they have "the mind of Christ," special revelation, are "God's anointed," etc.
The leader/leadership has a special pipeline to God with no actual accountability. This gives to them a special authority and weightiness in their pronouncements, even in non-essentials. Scriptures like Hebrews 13:17; Psalm 105:15, etc. are used to manipulate the member and justify the leader's position. These verses are taken out of context and were never intended for leaders who are not accountable. 
     • The leader/leadership often determines the areas of your life that are important for you to submit in. Refusing their counsel is to be rebellious.
     • The problem is that members of these aberrational groups tend to abdicate their decision making power to the group or leader. 

Separation and Isolation Of The Membership
Members are separated from the "world" in a variety of ways in order to protect them from "harmful" influences. 
This is couched in spiritual language and is usually sincerely believed by the leader/leadership as an appropriate and necessary step for them to take: "We want to help you to become the best in Christ that you can possibly be. It has been our experience that you can be harmed by living with..., getting involved in..., reading..., associating with..., etc. This certainly wouldn't please Jesus, and you might even fall away from the truth. It has happened in the past."
This separation is often from family, friends, and even other Christian groups.

The Chosen Few
Spiritual elitism is often rampant in these aberrational groups. All other Christians outside your group are either lukewarm or not true believers at all. Consequently, salvation is not found outside the walls of the group and other Christians are "fair game" for proselytizing (ie. conversion to a group, tradition or belief system).
     • Aberrational Christian groups rarely, if ever, cooperate with other Christian groups not associated with them.

Uniformity Of Lifestyle
This uniformity of lifestyle may be manifested in beliefs, dress, language and living conditions. The desire is to create a true disciple of Jesus Christ. However, the issue is what makes a disciple and how is one identified. 
     • This uniformity can intrude in all the private areas of an individuals life where the Scriptures are silent.

No Dissent
Because the leadership is authoritarian it follows that there can be no questioning of God's anointed or prophet. 

In non-coercive groups and churches differences on lesser points of doctrine and practice are tolerated. It is the unity of the Spirit that is essential. The individuality of the member is always affirmed. However, minor differences of doctrine and practice are not tolerated in aberrational groups.
     • To speak out or to question is to have a rebellious spirit and to possibly fall under God's wrath. 

Traumatic Departure
Leaving an aberrational Christian Group is always extremely traumatic. If a member plans on leaving and the leadership finds out there may be a painful confrontation with the leadership who seek to talk the "rebellious" member out of leaving. Frequently, the person may be told, "If you leave bad things will happen to you. Maybe you will get cancer..., get hit by a car..., lose everything..., go insane..., and even die."
Leaving is also very traumatic because even though the member no longer believes in the group, they have been indoctrinated to believe that salvation does not exist outside their walls. Thus, where can the departing member go?

In Transition
Doctrines and practices tend to mutate further and further from healthy belief and expressions. Aberrational groups are never static but tend to devolve theologically. Many begin fairly orthodox, but over time become heretical in major doctrines. The practices and rituals of aberrational groups also tend to take on divine authority. Practices that were optional or conditional in the beginning become absolute standards whereby commitment and spirituality are measured. 


     Thread Starter

1/24/2014 2:47 am  #9

Re: Forum condensed

Religion - promotes spirituality on an individual basis. Individuals are free to choose the degree of involvement, commitment and investment.

Cult/sect - promotes a spiritual organization over the individual and personal needs. There is no choice of degree of commitment. It's all or nothing.

The difference between a cult and a religion

Within a healthy religious environment, family bonds are upheld and even strengthened, questioning of the leader and basic tenets is accepted, and the leader lives in a similar manner to the followers. One is offered all the information necessary to make an educated decision about joining, and once involved, people can choose the amount of involvement that feels right to them.

A cultic environment tears families apart, does not accept any questioning, and has a leader who claims to have an exalted position and to be above reproach. The cult is designed to solely advance its own goals, to abuse the members’ trust, and to use fear and shame to manipulate the followers. It freely utilizes deceptive techniques while recruiting new members and fundraising, misuses scripture, and declares other belief systems as false. Because it is not under the umbrella of a recognized religion, there is no governing body and the leader is, therefore, free to do as he or she pleases.

Source: Jewish Board of Family and Children's Services


So where is the bright line which marks the divide between cults and religions?

Cults are typically defined by five characteristics. First, cults tend to centralize power in the hands of a single individual or small group that is considered beyond questions. Second, they treat all questions about the group and its beliefs as intolerable challenges to the group's authority and authenticity. Third, they demean all those who do not share their beliefs and sow fear and mistrust amongst their believers about all such people. Fourth, they typically cut off all or most opportunities for members to interact freely with those outside the group. And finally, they take revenge upon those who choose to leave the group, in ways which include, cutting them off from all relationships with those who remain inside, confiscation of material goods and even physical harm.

The fact that pretty much every religion has done all of these things at some point in history of the group means that while the line between cults and religions is clear, it is not fixed or static. In fact, most cults have the capacity to move past the kind of ugly behavior which defines them as a cult. And more importantly, most religions can and do slip into cult-like behavior from time to time. When they remain steadfast in such behavior, however old their tradition, or however popular, they become a cult.

"Thin Line Between Religions and Cults."

"The only difference between a cult and a religion is the amount of real estate they own."  - Frank Zappa


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This is a conversation, an open dialogue, in the tradition of Free Speech. The purpose is to promote independent investigation, public debate and dialogue on cult and mind control issues critical to our social and individual well-being. Statements made reflect the writer's opinion. This forum acts to provide a space for electronic medium of information transfer, with the explicit understanding that each user will independently evaluate it and carefully make up his or her own mind as to its factual accuracy and usefulness. Independent individuals, organizations, authors, researchers, academicians and contributors may be exercising constitutional rights of petition, free speech, participation in government, or freedom of religion in researching, evaluating and freely discussing any matter. These discussions or statements may be constitutionally-protected opinions, speculation, allegations, satire, fiction, or religious beliefs or religious opinions of independent individuals, organizations or authors and as such, may or may not be factual.