The term "cult" has been interpreted in many ways through the centuries. Customarily, the loose definition of a cult "refers to any form of worship or ritual observance, or even to a group of people pursuing common goals" (Juergensmeyer, P. 6). Established groups such as Christians, Mormons, Quakers, and Catholics were once viewed as cults, but are now recognized as organized religions. Most cults, regardless of size and history, deal with religious beliefs and practices, pursue common ambitions and typically have their own doctrines.
Today, however, an updated definition is used to describe blasphemous, sacrilegious groups that follow a leader who initiates unconventional beliefs and practices. To gain control of their followers, these cult leaders use psychological manipulation that can often lead to years of therapy and healing or even mass suicide. Religious cults link back to a long history and countless variety, as people enter cults under an assortment of circumstances and succumb to the strict instruction shortly after entering.
Most people who join cults are searching for solutions to their pain and problems. They are generally normal people who are looking for spiritual guidance or have suffered a loss or failure (Juergensmeyer, P. 12). People are most susceptible to a cult during their first year away from home, if they are lonely or depressed, or after an unexpected death or illness. Even though many members know that cults are unethical - or even dangerous - it doesn't stop the constant flow of new believers.
When someone is a member of a particular cult, they usually believe that it is not a cult, per se, in which they are affiliated. Cult members almost always regard themselves as belonging to religious organizations or movements. Still, members are usually under the stern instruction of their leaders, following strict rules and often...