Religious Cults - A Threat to Society?
On November 18, 1978, in a cleared-out patch of the Guyanese jungle, Reverend Jim Jones ordered the 911 members of his flock to kill themselves by drinking a cyanide potion, and they did. It seems cultists were brainwashed by this megalomaniac Jones, who had named their jungle village after himself and held them as virtual slaves, if not living zombies. Jones himself was found dead. He'd shot himself in the head, or someone else had shot him. Is it plausible that more than nine hundred people took their own lives willingly, simply because he told them to?
This paper will examine aspects of certain religious groups around the world that have shocked us with similar types of behavior. Most of these groups have been categorized into what we refer to as cults. While most of these new religious groups are extremely passive in their methodology, it is my objective to look at those that have gone outside the boundaries of our norms and done such things as mass suicide and acts of terrorism.
I will try to understand how the leaders of these groups are able to persuade members to give up all of their possessions and in some cases their lives. What causes people to remove themselves from their jobs, and families?
A cult is any group of people who surround themselves around a strong authority figure. Cults, like many other groups, attempt to expand their influence for the purposes of power or money. However, to achieve these ends, destructive cults employ a potent mixture of influence and deception over members and new recruits. Using methods such as brainwashing, thought reform, and mind control. A successful conversion into a destructive cult removes a person's former identity and replaces it with a new one. This is where the new member accepts all of the beliefs of his new group and a new identity is created. However once a member of the group, any deviation from the cult leader's teachings is strictly forbidden. Individuality is suppressed, and subject to fear and suspicion of everyone around in the group.
What could cause people to join such groups when it is common knowledge that these groups are known to go against the norms of our society? Many of those who study these groups say that people tend to be more susceptible to manipulation in times of major change and crisis. During the 1960s there was an explosion of these new religious groups such as the Hare Krishna and Transcendental Meditation. A decade later, the human potential movement emerged, teaching self-awareness and consciousness expansion. Groups with self-styled s like Charles Manson, David Koresh, and Marshall Applewhite have flourished, teaching impending doom, using mixtures from Christianity, millennialism and even science fiction.
Most of those who join these groups, do not join them with the intention of becoming a cultist, they are usually seeking a new religious group, or a self-help group, looking for some improvement in...