The gang over at SOS Dallas.org has provided a helpful and interesting list to think about when evaluating a religious group (or even a church) that you - or a loved one - consider joining.
The following characteristics of cults and sects are based upon the cult classification systems of the world’s leading cult experts like, Singer, Langone, Lifton, and Hassan.
- Obsession about group or the leader, putting it above most other considerations.
- Member’s individual identity becomes increasingly fused with the group, the leader and/or God followed by the group. Cloning of the group members or leader’s personal behaviors.
- Emotional overreaction when the group or leader is criticized. Seen as evil persecution.
- Belief that the group is "THE WAY" and they have a mission
- Increasing dependency upon the group or leader for problem solving, explanations, definitions and analysis, and corresponding decline in real, independent thought.
- Excessive hyperactivity and work for the group or leader, at the expense of private or family interests. Drifting away from family and old friends
- Preparedness to blindly follow the group or leader and defend actions or statements without seeking independent verification.
- Demonization of former members or members of alternative groups.
- Desire to be praised for doing the right thing and fear of public rebuke
- Unhealthy wish to be seen with or aligned publicly with the leader(s) of the group
The site points out that:
An organization doesn’t have to have all of these characteristics to be a cult, and variations on the characteristics are many, it just has to have a good number of them to be a cult or moving in the direction of becoming one.