Is My Club A Cult?

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Is My Club A Cult?

Is My Club A Cult? — As a child growing up, I would hear from time to time talk about certain clubs and organizations being secret cults.  There was mention of the Freemasons, the Rotarian Club, the Orange Lodge, and the multitude of other organizational lodges which have existed or still do.

The internet is full of speculation on this topic matter and in almost each and every instance the person seeking confirmation to the cult origins of this group begins with the words, “I’ve been told” or “I’ve heard rumours”, and on it goes.

In the absence of truth, ignorance is often accepted as an easy stand in.

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If we are going to get real in trying to understand what a cult is or is not, then we have to first understand the behaviours that make a cult a cult.


Characteristics Which Help Define a Cult

If an authoritarian structure (chain of command) for a cult exists, then the next thing we look for is the existence of cult characteristics within the leadership or membership.  A cult does not have to have all of the following characteristics to be definable as a cult, but there should be at least two or more present from the list below before any conclusions are drawn.

  1. The questioning of, comments of dissention, or acts of disloyalty towards the charismatic entity acting as the leader are discouraged, or through peer pressure or organized action, punished.  (Club/lodge members or colleagues who go to extreme measures to defend their leader, past or present, should raise red flags immediately.)
  2. Excessive indoctrination of the groups beliefs.  (Being asked to sit in on a heavy number ot training sessions in a short period of time without receiving proper rest in the process.)
  3. Mind altering activities which over the long run diminish a person’s individuality.
  4. The leadership dictates, how members should think, act, and feel (for example, who a member can or cannot date may be dictated by a cult leader, they may be advised to or ordered to change jobs, marry someone not of their choosing, and leaders may dictate what types of clothes may be worn by what genders and to what events such as private schools belonging to the cult group, where members should live, whether or not members can have children, and how members should discipline children, etc.).
  5. An excessive committment to a minister, political leader, society member (e.g. police officer, law enforcement agency, judge, club leader, teacher, counsellor, or some other authoritarian charismatic entity etc.) dead or currently alive, and where a person considers this charismatic entity’s beliefs, or ideologies to be truth.
  6. A need to disctate how members should think, act, and feel (for example, members must get permission to date particular people, or divorcees must re-marry their ex-spouse, forced or heavily implied instrcutions to change jobs, who you can or cannot marry, subject you to excessive forms of punishment over extended periods of time until you do their bidding, leaders prescribe what types of clothes you can or cannot wear, where you can live, whether or not you can have children, or how to discipline your children, and so on.
  7. The suspected cult group walks through their normal day-to-day routine harbouring a polarized “us-versus-them” mentality, which may cause rifts or relartional problems with members of the wider society.
  8. The suspected cult leader is not accountable to, conceals real activities from, or skirts around, his or her normal authorities.
  9. The suspected cult group teaches or implies that its supposedly exalted ends justify whatever means it deems necessary. This may result in members’ performing tasks they would have previously considered reprehensible or unethical.
  10. The leadership induces feelings of shame and/or guilt in order to influence and/or control members. Often, this is done through peer pressure and subtle forms of persuasion.
  11. Submission to a suspected cult leader may require that members cut ties with family and friends, and radically alter the personal goals and lifestyle interests that they had before joining the group.
  12. The suspected cult group has a continual emphasis on evangelizing and bringing in new members to the group.
  13. The group is continually focused openly, or behind the scenes, with raising revenues.
  14. Members are encouraged to devote large amounts of time mid-week, and on weekends to group-related meetings and activities.
  15. In some instances, members are encouraged forsake not the assembling of themselves together, suggesting or requiring the members to live and/or socialize only with other group members.
  16. In advanced cases, the most loyal members often feel there can be no life outside the context of the social network of fellow cult members and meetings .  In time they have difficulty seeing life as being anything else,
    and often fear reprisals (e.g., social rejection, professional and or personal reputational destruction, physical harm, etc.) to themselves or others if they leave (or even consider leaving) the group.
  17. Adherence to or alignment with a particular belief system, statement of faith, or mission statement.
  18. In extreme cases, the use of sexual promiscuity with leaders and fellow cult members.
  19. In some cases the use of ritual mutilations and/or ritual killings of persons or animals.

On the surface, while some clubs or fraternities can have strange practices that leave some people wondering if they are a cult or not, a person must take time to look past the strangeness of rituals and measure the group against a clear definable listing of characterisitics.

Is My Club A Cult?

That depends on what is meant by the use of the term “cult.”

By some definitions, Christianity, Islam, and Judaism are all cults.  By other definitions, repeatedly attending the music concerts of a particular band, repeatedly seeing the same movie with like minded friends are called cults. But in the proper use of the term “cult” which refers to a group that separates itself from society and its members from their non-member friends, demands strict obedience from its members, engages in heavy indoctrination, and sees itself in opposition to established society, some groups might or might not be cults.

Each and every possible cult environment has to be assessed individually to know whether or not the orgnization is a cult, and then determine more deeply if it is a dangerous cult.

There will always be those who believe organizations such as the Freemasons are cults, and their position will most often be based on what was being said about the Freemasons in religious settings wherein those religious settings might be cults themselves.  Discernment, and taking an unbiased measure of the situation is critical in order to determine if a group of people is in fact a cult or not.  For this reason, there is a strong absence of wisdom among those who blindly accuse any organization of being a cult without first taking time to measure it’s activities.


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