CULTISM “These children that come at you with knives – they are your children. You taught them. I didn’t teach them. I just tried to help them stand up.” - Charles Manson The word “cult” comes from the Latin “cultus.” which means ‘to till or cultivate.’ Of course, in old times, this was meant to cultivate favor with the Gods, through sacrifices, offerings, or by building giant statues to please them. In modern times, a cult is broadly defined as a system of religious beliefs, where usually, the religion is regarded as unorthodox, and its group of followers has a great devotion to the person or idea. There are three main characteristics of a cult: The group is led by a charismatic leader who is authoritarian and demands to be revered as a God-like figure; The group has some form of indoctrination program or thought reform (mind control) process; The members are being exploited - usually financially, sexually, for labor, or some other sort of exploitation. The problem with the word ‘cult’ is that in today’s world, it has become a value judgment instead of a functional term. Every group or religion that has come before, and done something that is considered horrible, is called a cult. Every major religious leader or prophet can be regarded as a charismatic leader. A common statement within religious studies groups is that “cult plus time equals religion.” In modern times, scholars refer to these cults as “New Religious Movements” or NRM. The Roman Empire initially considered Judaism as a cult. Jesus was one of at least a dozen religious ‘messiahs’ during socially turbulent times. Many religions movements rose to help people get through life in those troubled times. Most of them were not trying to exploit their followers but to help them survive. In the Middle East, we had religious movements such as Christianity, Manichaeism, Sunni Islam, Shia Islam,Yazidism, Ebionites, and Valentinian Gnosticism. In Europe, we saw Waldensians, Hussites, Christian Kabbalah, Familists, Hutterian Brethren, Albigensian, and Rosicrucianism as a backlash against institutional religions. In India, as a response to British colonialism, there was Sikhism, Jainism, Arya Samaj, Brahmo Samaj, Mahayana Buddhism, and Ravada Buddhism. In the 1600s, the American colonies had a reputation as a safe place to go for the religious radicals. The area of land in America that became the central place to go was a section between Albany and Buffalo, New York. It was known as the “Burned-over District” and became the birthplace of Seventh Day Adventism, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Millerism, Universal Friends, Oneida Society, Mormonism, Spiritualism, Koreshanity, and the American Shakers. Eventually, these kinds of religious groups spread up into New York City, including Pentecostalism, Christian Science, the international peace movement, and Father Divine, who thought he was God living on Earth. He was one of the first of the leaders to have a cause ofhuman rights. During the 1960s, things were very turbulent in the United States. Violence within the human rights movement was becoming the norm, the Cold War with Russia was building, President Kennedy and other prominent figures were assassinated, the Vietnam War was ongoing, and the general population no longer trusted their government. The counterculture was starting to look for something new. Something built more on peace and love instead of money and war. So, these charismatic prophet-like figures from around the World began to take rise in the nation. They were seemingly the ones with the answers to solve the problems of the day. Not all leaders of religious movements have evil intent. Quite a few of them start out believing what they are saying in their sermons and doing in their lives. But when those leaders take their social justice appeals to attract followers, and then later use those appeals to manipulate people, that is when the movement becomes a cult.
Warren, Alan R.. Doomsday Cults: The Devil's Hostages (Kindle Locations 322-326). RJ Parker Publishing. Kindle Edition.