"The Dangers of Cults"

Essay by rolltide73College, UndergraduateA+, November 2006

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Cults are an ever-present danger in America. They use psychological coercion to recruit, indoctrinate, and retain members. They displace a person's former identity. They then replace it with a new one. The outcomes of cult behavior are usually detrimental to society. The following is an investigation into some characteristics of cult members and leaders.

Two-thirds of the members of these groups are ordinary people. The remaining third are people with depressive symptoms, usually related to personal loss. The reasons for normal people allowing themselves to be induced into joining these fringe groups are multi-faceted. Mind control is the predominant characteristic of coercion, which has many different aspects. Peer-group pressure, hypnosis, creating a sense of family and belonging-love bombing, rejection of old values, privacy removal, uncompromising rules, guilt, fear, and replacement of relationships are all included in these tactics.

Leaders of cults have a set of traits all their own. Megalomania, which is the belief of entitlement to rule, is predominant, as is charisma to entice followers, an authoritarian personality to imbalance power in their favor, a one-sided scale of values to favor the one in power, the tendency to view others as inferior, and paranoia.

Not all of these attributes are negative. However, it is the psychopathology of the leader, not his charisma, that causes the systematic abuse and exploitation typically found in cults.

The two most notable tragedies involving these groups' members are the Branch Davidians and the People's Temple. The Branch Davidians were led by David Koresh. Due to his alleged statutory rape and polygamy advocacy, on February 28, 1993 the ATF raided the compound, Mount Carmel. The fifty-one-day siege ended when the FBI, who was in control at that point, proceeded with a final assault to remove the Branch Davidians by force. The chaos that ensued...