You know those lists of cult behavior...

My google-fu is weak or something–looking up stuff about cults doesn’t go well.

So you know how there are various lists floating around about the characteristics of a cult, and people argue over whether this or that organization is one, and point out that most religions start off with the same traits, etc. That’s not what I’m looking for. I do not want a list of cults or the characteristics of one.

A person of my acquaintance has spent the last year or so behaving in distressing ways. She joined a new organization and has cut off her old friends–that’s the least bad part. In many ways, she exhibits the traditional hallmarks of having joined a cult (though the org. she has joined is not one usually labeled as such). However, I can’t find a good short list of those behavioral traits.

I’m looking for something that goes:

A person who has joined a cult may do some of these things: cutting off old friends and family ties…

Like that. Anyone got a decent source for me? This isn’t for an intervention or anything like that, a rough outline is fine.

Thanks. I’ll look at those, though why is the 2nd one entirely about JWs?

Oh, this one is sounding familiar, from the 3rd site:

Bizarro doublepost from the past.

Google Steve Hassan. He’s a former Moonie who has written several books on cults and has a website with characteristics of cults listed. You may want to read his book, “Combatting Mind Control.” Excellent resource on cults.

I recommend PM’ing Twickster. She has a PhD in sociology, and specializes in cults.

You may find somewhat less hyperbolic information about it if you use the phrase “new religious movements”- it’s the new PC handle for “cults” because “cult” has so much negative baggage that it can’t really be used in a balanced way.

A cult is basically any religion you don’t approve of.

Definitely check into “new religions” as the non-pejorative term for them.

I’ve been out of the biz too long to have specific titles for you (dang, Strange Gods is out of print?), but check for David Bromely and Anson Shupe as authors.

It seemed to be well-enough written that it may be useful. It’s not just about Jehovah’s Witnesses, but also seems to be pro-regular Christianity, which may or may not be relevant to your situation. You’d probably be best to edit out some of the key words to make it more generic, but otherwise it seemed decent.

Thanks. I’m not sending the info on to anyone, really. Last night I was astounded–again–at what she has been doing. My husband and I were talking about how it’s as if she’s joined a cult, so that’s where it came from. I was curious to see which of her behaviors line up with the usual idea of what happens when a person joins a cult or new religious movement or whatever.

She has not joined an NRM, but a popular mainstream church. But she has cut off old friends, single-handedly destroyed her marriage, and (worst of all) done her best to ruin her children’s lives with neglect, manipulation, and control. Just before Christmas, she threw her oldest son, a mid-teen, out of the house. Not because he is on drugs, or a violent criminal, or is going to be a dad-- because he doesn’t want to join her new church. What I heard last night about what she has done to her own son (in the last couple of weeks) makes me think she is actually unhinged. I hope I never meet the pastor of her church, because it would be very difficult for me not to punch him in the nose.

Until about 18 months ago, she was utterly average. This has been heartbreaking to watch. Our daughters are friends, but they’re no longer allowed to play with my girls.

That’s not how I use the word “cult,” and I would dispute the usage if I realized somebody else was using it that way.

There are plenty of religions (new and old) I have no use for that I don’t consider or call cults.

I’m not looking for a non-pejorative alternative to “cult” because the purpose of the word is pejorative–as well as being a useful specific description of a set of manipulative behaviors.

But the key question, I would think, is–is the church encouraging her to behave this way? (That would be a cult.) Or is this her own personal neurosis?

The fact that one person displays these behaviors doesn’t make their church a cult.

And BTW, not all cults are religions, per se (see Amway thread, in particular the article I linked there).

Good point.

@spark: My first inclination about a cult is whether it is exclusive. Do they teach that, even if you go to the very similar church down the road, that you are 100% evil and going to hell (or the equivalent)? Do they encourage you that everyone else in the world besides those in their little group are evil?

Also, to distinguish religions: yeah, some churches believe that other religions are wrong, but just disagreeing with the pastor on something insignificant is not enough to condemn you.

However, every time I’ve seen a pastor start to teach that you can’t go to any other church, and teaches that only he knows the truth, the pastor has turned out to be a megalomaniac. And, to the denomination’s credit, they eventually get kicked out, and, if they encourage illegal acts, get the police on them.

You’ll note that I have not said that her new church is a cult, only that we have been saying that it is as if she has joined one. I don’t think of her church as a cult, though her particular congregation seems to have some problems. The reason I’m so angry at the pastor is that he has encouraged a lot of this and been complicit in some serious stuff, as have others. I think they think of themselves as having rescued a lost soul from hell, but no one seems to be worrying about the horrible fallout, which to me does not signal a new life in Christ no matter how much pretty talk there is. However, my own opinion is that she’s adding a good dollop of her own neurosis.

I’m not looking to publish an expose of the congregation, just thinking about stuff.