The Cult Test
by Orange


      And Jesus answered and said unto them, Take heed that no man deceive you.
For many shall come in my name, saying, I am Christ, and shall deceive many.
      And many false prophets shall rise, and deceive many.
— Matthew 24:4-5 and 24:11

He replied, "Watch out that you are not deceived. For many will come in my name, claiming, 'I am he,' and, 'The time is near.' Do not follow them."
— Luke 21:8, New International Version

WHAT EXACTLY IS A CULT?
In general, a cult is a small religious group outside the established churches, usually with a charismatic leader who is a strong authority figure. One psychiatrist has described cults as "religions that haven't grown up yet."
Ray Moseley, Chicago Tribune, Dec. 3, 1978

"I don't know what a cult is."
U.S. Attorney General Griffin B. Bell, Los Angeles Times, Dec. 8, 1978


      I have occasionally called A.A. a religious cult, and so have other people. It might be helpful if we ask, "What are the real characteristics of a religious cult? How do I tell if I have just walked into a real religious cult, rather than just some church with a bunch of overly-enthusiastic members?"

Or, for that matter,

  • "Is this non-religious group acting like a cult?"
  • "Are we all yammering slogans out of The Little Red Book of Chairman Mao?"
  • Or, "Is Amway a cult?"

Defining a cult will also help to counter the rationalization:
"Everything is a cult. All religions are cults. So what?"
No, not all religions are cults, far from it.

So let's look at the characteristics of some typical cults.

Here are a few good general information pages to start with:

And then there is this list of cult characteristics, which I have assembled from a wide variety of sources — books and magazine articles on cults, other people's descriptions of cults, and my own personal experiences with cults. It incorporates the ideas of Lifton, Singer, Schein, Hassan, and many others.

This cult description is structured as a test that you can apply to any group that you might be wondering about — religious or non-religious, crazy or not. It is a collection of the common characteristics of many well-known cults, and some not-so-well-known ones:

  • Scientology — the vicious science fiction religion of Lafayette Ronald Hubbard — "Give me your life savings, your house, and your credit cards, and I'll fix your mind. All non-Scientologists are Suppressive Persons and hence, Fair Game. It's okay to commit 'overts' against them and violate their 'dynamics'."
  • The People's Temple — Rev. Jim Jones — "Drink Cyanide Kool-Aid if you love me."
  • Synanon — Charles "Chuck" Dederich — The grand-daddy of all of the abusive "confrontational attack therapy" drug and alcohol rehabilitation programs.
  • The Moonies — Rev. Sun Myung Moon's Unification Church — "I'm the reincarnation of Jesus, so give me all of your money."
  • The Hari Krishnas — ISKCON, the International Society for Krishna Consciousness of A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada — "The Earth is flat; short-change your customers."
  • EST — Werner Erhard's Erhard Seminar Training "human potential movement" — "You're all ass-holes and you can't go to the bathroom."
  • The Family — Charles Manson — "Helter Skelter, Kill An Actress For Me"
  • 3HO — Yogi Bhajan's "Happy, Healthy, Holy" Sikh Dharma organization — "Buy a .44 Magnum and a Mercedes Benz."
  • Heaven's Gate — Marshall Herff Applewhite — "Commit suicide and go to heaven in a flying saucer"
  • The Branch Davidians — Vernon Howell, a.k.a. David Koresh, the Wacko From Waco — "Give me your wives and daughters to impregnate because I'm the Son of God."
  • The Children of God — David Berg — "Flirty Fishing Happy Hookers for Jesus"
  • The Way International — more Horizontal Recruiters for Jesus
  • The Rajneeshees — the followers of Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh — "I'm God, so buy me another Rolls Royce."
  • The Divine Light Mission — "the 14-year-old Perfect Master" Maharaj Ji (who is now getting old) — "I'm God, I really am. Ignore what my mother says about me."
  • Siddha Yoga — Swami Muktananda — "I can use my yogic powers to screw all of the 14-year-old girls for an hour each."
  • Transcendental Meditation — Maharishi Maheesh Yogi — "Let me sell you your own special word. Oh, and also some levitation lessons."
  • Aum Shinrikyo — Shoko Asahara — "The world is going to end, so have some Sarin gas."
  • The Solar Temple — Luc Jouret and Di Mambro — "Commit Suicide for the Summer Solstice Celebration."
  • Jehovah's Witnesses — "The world is going to end in 1975, and only 144,000 believers are going to get into Heaven."
  • The Seed — Art Barker — "Child abuse, torture, and Fascist brainwashing is the best way to get children off of drugs."
  • Straight, Inc. — Melvin and Betty Sembler — "How To Win (Republican) Friends And Influence People (and become an Ambassador) by torturing some more children."
  • The Oxford Groups — Dr. Frank N. D. Buchman — "Confess all of your sexual practices to me. I want to hear every detail. Heil Hitler!"
  • The Mormons' Sons of Dan — "Kill The Gentiles"
  • The Mormons' FLDS, the Fundamentalist Latter Day Saints — Warren Jeffs — "Marry (rape) another 14-year-old girl."
  • Various historical American fundamentalist Christian cults
  • Amway — "You can get rich by getting other people to sell soap for you".
  • And last, but not least, extremist political groups which are cults built around the personality of a leader, like Adolf Hitler's Nazi Party, Mao Tse Tung's Chinese Communist regime, and Joseph Stalin's murderous rule.

I have structured this list of cult characteristics as a test that you can apply to any group that you might be wondering about.

You rate the group in question on a scale of zero to ten for each item, depending on how much the group shows that characteristic. Zero means, "They don't do that at all," while ten means "They really are like that."

Have fun.

The Cult Test, questions   1 to 10.
The Cult Test, questions 11 to 20.
The Cult Test, questions 21 to 30.
The Cult Test, questions 31 to 40.
The Cult Test, questions 41 to 50.
The Cult Test, questions 51 to 60.
The Cult Test, questions 61 to 70.
The Cult Test, questions 71 to 80.
The Cult Test, questions 81 to 90.
The Cult Test, questions 91 to 100.


The Cult Test, answers for A.A. to questions   1 to 10.
The Cult Test, answers for A.A. to questions 11 to 20.
The Cult Test, answers for A.A. to questions 21 to 30.
The Cult Test, answers for A.A. to questions 31 to 40.
The Cult Test, answers for A.A. to questions 41 to 50.
The Cult Test, answers for A.A. to questions 51 to 60.
The Cult Test, answers for A.A. to questions 61 to 70.
The Cult Test, answers for A.A. to questions 71 to 80.
The Cult Test, answers for A.A. to questions 81 to 90.
The Cult Test, answers for A.A. to questions 91 to 100.


Bibliography




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Last updated 12 October 2015.
The most recent version of this file can be found at http://www.orange-papers.org/orange-cult.html


Copyright © 2016, A. Orange