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April 17th, 2011
01:00 AM ET

My Take: Rethinking the word 'cult'

Nearly 20 years ago, 76 people lost their lives during an FBI raid near Waco, Texas. CNN's Drew Griffin looks at those events at 8 ET/PT and 11 ET/PT Sunday night in "Waco: Faith, Fear & Fire."

Editor’s note: James T. Richardson, J.D., Ph.D., is Professor of Sociology and Judicial Studies at the University of Nevada, Reno, where he specializes in new religions. He is the coauthor of the forthcoming Saints under Siege (New York University Press).

By James T. Richardson, Special to CNN

I remember being struck by one of the early stories about 1993’s siege of the Branch Davidian compound near Waco, Texas.

Shortly after an initial raid by federal authorities ended in a gun battle that left 10 dead (six Davidians and four ATF agents), a lengthy story appeared in my local paper, the Las Vegas Review Journal, about the history of the Davidian group, which had existed at Mount Carmel, Texas for decades.

The story noted that Branch Davidians were a spinoff sect of the Seventh Day Adventists, a Christian denomination. The term “cult” did not appear in the story at all. And yet the headline of this front-page piece screamed “Cult Standoff in Waco” in inch-high capital letters.

Some headline writer had decided that the Davidians were in fact a cult, no matter what the story said.

The term cult also factored into the federal trials that grew out of the Branch Davidian tragedy.

Some survivors of the fire that ended the siege, which left 76 sect members dead, faced a criminal trial in 1994. Early in the trial, the defense made a motion to disallow the use of the term cult in the proceedings.

The federal judge presiding over the trial quickly rejected the motion.

I was intrigued by use of such a powerful, pejorative term to refer to the Branch Davidians, a decades-old offshoot of a Christian denomination that did not fit the definition of the type of group to which the term cult had traditionally been applied.

The term had, over the previous couple of decades, been used to refer to unpopular new religious groups like the Unification Church (the “Moonies”), Scientology, the Hare Krishna and the Children of God. These groups, although usually quite peaceful in orientation and practice, were all newer, and most were promoting religious beliefs and practices that were definitely outside the mainstream of American religious history.

But the term cult had not been used with older groups that were spinoffs of more traditional religious movements, such as the Davidians.

When used against one of the newer religious groups, which most scholars call new religious movements, the term cult suggested that such groups are not “real religions” at all, but trumped-up facsimiles designed to take advantage of allegedly gullible American youth.

Research showed that these youth were members of the best educated and most affluent generation that America had yet produced. But they had rejected American values and culture, which they viewed as racist, sexist and imperialistic, and were exercising their volition to try out some new, usually non-Western, religions. This rejection upset many parents and political leaders.

These new groups became quite unpopular and, as Americans grappled with why many joined them, a theory developed suggesting that these young people must have been brainwashed by gurus who had developed some powerful psycho-techniques unknown to the rest of us.

This assumption was derived crudely from efforts to explain what took place in the 1940s in Communist China and in the 1950s in Korean War POW situations.

Americans needed some explanation for why Chinese people came to accept Communism as their governing ideology and why a couple dozen American POWs chose to remain in Korea after the war ended.

Brainwashing became the accepted rationale, even if scholars have since asserted that this was more propaganda than real explanation. In the 1960s and onward, this same rationale came to be a useful tool to use against unpopular religious groups including, eventually, the Davidians.

This approach gained considerable traction and helped justify claims that so-called cults were not “real religions” and that therefore First Amendment protections did not apply to them or their adherents.

The term cult became a social weapon against unpopular religious groups, new or old. That’s what happened with the designation assigned in the news media to the Branch Davidians during the 1993 siege and during the 1994 criminal trial of the surviving Davidians.

Such thinking about unpopular religious groups in America was mainstreamed in our society and helped justify the kidnapping of thousands of young people out of some of the more controversial groups. A new pseudo-profession of deprogramming was born, with parents of group members paying "deprogrammers" to kidnap their kids.

Many of these young people were then forced to undergo a form of radical and coercive resocialization. The practice continued until the 1980s and still happens in other countries, including Japan.

The practice of deprogramming led to a wave of so-called cult/brainwashing cases in which former members were awarded significant damages by juries who were infused with popular anti-cult sentiments.

It took years for the courts to finally accept the fact that most of those joining new religious movements were of age, that they were exercising their own volition, and that they had rights, including religious freedom - even if they were participating in unpopular movements.

The Branch Davidians lost their criminal case and the civil cases they brought. So the legal victories eventually won by some of the controversial NRMs did not directly translate into similar outcomes for the Davidians.

But most so-called cult cases were eventually either settled or overturned on appeal, as courts recognized that “cults” and their members had rights that were associated with other religious groups.

One such case, which involved the Unification Church, made it all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court in 1982. The Unification Church aimed to overturn a Minnesota law requiring any religious group that obtains more than 50% of its funding from non-members to seek government approval before doing fundraising, and to submit annual reports on its fundraising and expenditures.

In a 5-4 decision, the high court ruled in favor of the Unification Church, though a strong dissent questioned whether the UC had standing as a religious group to challenge the law.

So it’s clear that the application of the term cult has become a battleground, and that those opposing the spread of new religious movements have won the war over how to designate them.

But more and more courts have recognized that members of so-called cults have the same rights as other believers. I hope ordinary people are coming around to that point of view, too – and that they begin to rethink the term “cult.”

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of James T. Richardson.

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Cults • History • Opinion

soundoff (960 Responses)
  1. Sue G

    This person making an opinion is either a very leftist liberal or in a cult himself. Every religion is a 'Cult' however not every cult is a "destructive cult". Yes there is such a thing as brainwashing. There are many different techniques used to brainwash and not all of them need to be used. This person sounds as if he's only read Lifton's work on brainwashing. A more pertinate work would be Singer's 'Snapping'. This book is much more geared to the phenomanon of destructive cults. The Davidians are and were a 'DESTRUCTIVE CULT" It doesn't matter how old they are, it doesn't matter if other cults came before or after them. Any organization which requires and demands strict obediance and adhearance to the top guy (or girl), seperates them from their family of origen, and confiscates all of their money and worldly goods, is a destructive cult. I've seen it happen to my friends and family member. Many people think that Scientology is no longer a cult but a true religion – well it isn't. There are still many destructive cults around. Most of them are just smaller or more secretive. Don't be fooled by their size, the WBC is a cult, Davidians are a cult, Scientology is a cult, and there are more springing up daily. You might ask what makes me an athority on the subject? My undergrad thesis was on mind control., I've met and/or talked with wome of the leading authorities on the subject. My sister was a Hare Krishna, and I have friends who are former Moonies, Hare Krishnas and Scientologists. These are the people who know whats going on in these groups – not this book knowledged professor. If you want to change the definition of "Cult" go right ahead but it will still include the Davidians.

    April 17, 2011 at 4:18 pm |
  2. Wendy J. Duncan

    After reading this article, I thought to myself, "Obviously, written by someone who has no idea about cults." Then I discover that the author is a professor of sociology who "specializes" in new religions. I have an undergraduate degree in sociology and masters from a conservative theological seminary. I had worked in the mental health field for over ten years when I became involved in a pseudo Christian religious group or as we say a "TACO" – Totalistic Aberrant Christian Organization. I should have been the last person to join a cult, but of course, cults do not advertise that they are cults. I was a member for seven years before my husband (who had been there twenty years) and I left.
    After leaving, we read all the cult literature and became one of the presenters at the International Cultic Studies Association’s annual conference. Additionally, I wrote a book, I Can’t Hear God Anymore: Life in a Dallas Cult. My husband and I facilitate a support group in the Dallas area for former cult members and my husband, who is a licensed therapist, provides individual counseling.
    There are hundreds of thousands of people who have been negatively affected by cults and no doubt, wish that these cults had not been granted rights. I hope that those “ordinary people” will rethink the term “cult” and understand how destructive cults are.

    April 17, 2011 at 4:15 pm |
  3. Daniel

    If Chrsitianity is NOT a cult as it started out as , then what is this belief of a man cruisified 2000 yrs ago and people believing that he will return.

    April 17, 2011 at 4:13 pm |
  4. NamelessOne

    @airwx While you accuse another of using "absurd" logic you, in the same breath, do exactly that. Slow down, measure your words more carefully, and perhaps try again.

    The argument is not necessarily gods vs. science, not non-theist vs. theist.

    Don't be angry. Learn of Love.

    April 17, 2011 at 4:10 pm |
  5. Jim P>

    A religion is a cult with good press relations and a decent number of wealthy members (poor people usually don't count, that why the early christians quickly dropped the requirement you give everything you own to the church when you join as it was hurting their recruiting numbers badly. If you can get ten percent off a much larger, wealthier group you make a *lot* more money than getting 100% from just poor people. ).

    Cult is a corruption of "occult" which means "hidden". Christianity certainly started as a cult as its followers hid out to avoid being killed, holding services in the catacombs under some Roman cities and meeting in each others' homes as they generally could not build actual churches initially. Didn't think they needed physical buildings anyway since Jesus had promised he'd be right back and they didn't need to wait long. (But that's another story.)

    News stories use it because it is short and punchy and sounds scary bad and it gets you sued less than saying "another bunch of gullible nut jobs did something monumentally stupid in the name of one "god" or another today and as a result many of them are now dead and the rest are in jail."

    April 17, 2011 at 4:07 pm |
  6. All Religion is a Cult

    Faith....the worst disease to have ever plagued the human mind.

    April 17, 2011 at 4:06 pm |
  7. Doomguy

    A church exists for the benefit of the parisioners. A cult exists for the benefit of the leaders. It is pretty simple really. Scientology is a cult. Branch Dividians were a cult and there are plenty other examples out there too.

    April 17, 2011 at 4:05 pm |
    • Me

      Doomguy states:

      "A cult exists for the benefit of the leaders. "

      That would describe almost every single version of Protestantism on earth today: Those who follow a particular, charismatic Protestant preacher? Check. Those who intently pay into the toll free numbers of televangelists? Check.

      Protestant churches today only exist based upon the charismatic personalities of their preachers. If people don't like the preacher they don't go to the church. It's entirely about the leaders – and how it benefits them. That's why the people who become preachers are very similar to politicians: They must know how to get people to follow them, to do what they want, and to support them financially.

      If a cult exists for the benefit of the leaders as Doomsday states then Protestant Christianity today definitely qualifies as hundreds of thousands of little cults across the United States and the world.

      April 17, 2011 at 4:17 pm |
    • Jim

      Me,

      Just Protestant? More like pretty much any religion with an organized 'priesthood'. I for one, would love to see the vaults, and bank accounts of the vatican cracked open, so we can see just how much they've been squirreling away 'in the service of god'... For all clergy of every stripe like to talk about how they're doing it all 'for our own good' and how they're 'speaking for god' all priests are little more than conmen too lazy to go out and get real jobs, or wanna-be despots seeking to use peoples beliefs about the divine as a stepping stone to power and wealth.

      April 17, 2011 at 5:01 pm |
    • Me

      Jim,

      Actually, the more organized religions tend to be promulgated by culture. Certain religions and religious beliefs are actually not centered around a mortal, charismatic leader, but, rather, are often rooted in cultural values and conditions.

      Roman Catholicism, Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism, etc. can be considered promulgated by culture rather than charismatic individuals. Protestantism is very interesting because it does largely exist as hundreds of thousands of small cults based almost entirely upon individual preachers.

      April 17, 2011 at 10:49 pm |
  8. PJ

    Mormonism and Scientology are both Cults. Cults that punish those who violate rules and trust.

    April 17, 2011 at 3:53 pm |
  9. MargaretG

    Clearly someone has been drinking the Koolaid...

    April 17, 2011 at 3:43 pm |
  10. Jeff

    If a billion mad as a hatter muslims can believe Allah and Mohamad are their god, then what's wrong with a few crazy Texans believing Koresh was theirs. Both groups are insane and both groups worship(ed) a death cult.

    April 17, 2011 at 3:43 pm |
  11. E

    Well, what do you know, an apologist for whackos and genocidal tyrants. And of course, his employer is a university. Yes, this fine fellow gets a taxpayer funded salary to train impresionable young people that america is bad and that we need to just accept and love the thoughtful ways of Communists, jihadists, and the Moonie whackos.

    "Professor" Richardson, you and Ward Churchill need to get together and form your own cult to promote other cults. I'm sure you share his belief that all of us americans are "mini-Eichmanns" that are just mean to the "poorly understood" religions like Salafi Islam.

    Better yet professor, just move to North Korea and enjoy your freedom of speech there. We don't need your "sage" advice here. You are the most dangerous kind of fool there is.

    April 17, 2011 at 3:25 pm |
  12. chuckmartel

    Bad analogies here. For example, one big difference between people brainwashed or coerced into following communism and the Waco whackos; religous fundamentalism. Also some of our communist cold war era opponents were more nationalist and anti imperialist than communist. The surviving Waco whackos are still waiting for karesh. These morons are just too stupid for human status and should have been sterelized at least.

    April 17, 2011 at 3:19 pm |
  13. cary lacayo

    Cult defined is a religion or sect considered to be false, unorthodox, or extremist, with members often living outside of conventional society under the direction of a charismatic leader. Also could be a particular system of religious worship, especially with reference to its rites and ceremonies. So, we who believe in God, are subject to both of these understandings. We obviously would use common sense which the davidians never used whatsoever which lead to there demise. On the other hand the definition that describes the other side covers all religions if you really look at it from the stand point of a non believer of God...

    The davidians and others such as mormons who follow a certain person that has taken the position of leadership over people establishing his way of thinking and rule over those who will follow him. Joeseph Smith did the same thing as the davidians, who are followed a so called truth to their death. We need to study, research, look into these beliefs and really get to the bottom of what they believe or what truth is behind them...

    I guess you could say I follow someone too, but he isn't a man as these. He is the invisible God made visible through His one and only Son Jesus Christ. Him alone is who I follow, not a man or women that say they have a truth to tell me which has become the way it is for some I mentioned...He has evidence to back him up and the truth He offers is the real deal. It's not religion which He despised, but a relationship with God the Father of Abraham through Jesus Christ.

    I have studied Him to see if He is real and the overwhelming evidence makes it so clear verses these false people that manipulate others for their own gains. We need to use the brain in our skull to see the truth that is there for us. These people follow fantasy/heresy, follow things that appear to be of God, but are so wrong...It's sad that people don't just stop and look into it for themselves. They would rather listen to someone's lies and be lead off a cliff to die...

    Look into this truth in how God gave us the gift of eternal life through His Son Jesus who paid the penalty for our sins on the cross. We all have sinned and there is a punishment, but Jesus paid the price for us so we could live. We owe Him everything and yet He just wants you to accept His gift. Trust Him today, accept His gift to you...Oh and by the way He isn't here, He rose from the dead conquering death, so we have nothing to fear in death, it has no sting, it's just graduation to everlasting life...

    Whatever it is that your doing to pass that up must be really good, but I know from experience that it won't last, it never does...

    April 17, 2011 at 3:17 pm |
    • Me

      cary lacayo states:

      "Cult defined is a religion or sect considered to be false, unorthodox, or extremist, with members often living outside of conventional society under the direction of a charismatic leader. "

      But, WHO considers a religion or sect "false, unorthodox, or extremist"? The answer is that virtually anyone who worships differently than you believes your religion is false, unorthodox, or extreme. Thus, the Christians were considered a dangerous "cult" in ancient Rome. The Protestants were a dangerous "cult" during the age of enlightenment. Within Islam you have the Sunnis considering the Shias a dangerous "cult". Within the Sunnies you have the Wahhabis that many consider a dangerous "cult". Yet, all of these religious beliefs are only cults to those who disagree with them.

      The term "living on the outside of conventional society" to describe a cult would immediately label the ancient prophet Abraham a cultist and ancient Judaism as a pretty extreme cult eschewing much of conventional society of the day. Similarly Jesus Christ, with his open criticism of his conventional Judaic society and laws would later be described as a cultist. And, for his open criticism and dangerous cult he was tortured and killed.

      The term "cult" as a negative connotation of a group is so subjective as to only be an indicator of the beliefs of the person using it as an epitaph – namely that the person who calls another group a 'cult' can generally be identified as having religious beliefs different to the group being called a 'cult'. And, that is it. There really isn't any more definitive description behind the term. Which renders the term "cult" largely a political term used to paint those with whom one disagrees in a negative light.

      April 17, 2011 at 4:06 pm |
    • Jim

      ....and just what is your so-called 'truth'? The bible is but the beliefs of what started out as a 'cult', written down by HUMAN BEINGS, distilled over the course of 2000 yrs, with many of it's adaptations being made to ease the absorbtion of the latest area converted, or (in more recent times) reflect changes in what western society deems right & just. Look at bibles from just a couple centuries ago, and you'll see them telling you that women were tainted by what 'Eve' had done, and that blacks were colored the way they are as a mark of their evil... If 'truth' is so mutable, so changable by the winds of political expediency and popularity; you can keep it.

      April 17, 2011 at 4:33 pm |
  14. Rick Mycroft

    "But the term cult had not been used with older groups that were spinoffs of more traditional religious movements, such as the Davidians."

    What never? Is Richardson saying that no one ever used the "C" word when describing the events of Jonestown? Never described Jim Jones as a cult leader even though his group was a spinoff Christian group?

    The group of cultic scholars that like to use the term New Religious Movement rather than the "C" word usually ignore that their term doesn't apply to spinoff groups either.

    I'm afraid that this just seems like spin from Professor Richardson on behalf of groups for which he has testified and from which he has accepted gratuities in the past.
    http://www.apologeticsindex.org/h14.html

    April 17, 2011 at 3:06 pm |
  15. Brian

    That word "cult" means what you want it to mean depending on your agenda. All religions started as cults. A psychologist would say they are still cults. Some cults, such as Christianity greatly expanded because they pandered to the weakness of human nature. Christianity is now so successful financially, politically and socially that it is called a "religion." If Christ came back today he would probably vomit at the sight of the religion that uses his name.

    April 17, 2011 at 3:02 pm |
  16. sharon

    this was very wrong david k. only believed what he was doing an that was to spread the word of god the gov. and reno took all things wrong just like timothy macveigh they only stood for wat they believed in really sick of the gov. pooking they nose in matters where they not belong for the record i did write timothy m. an told him that he will be very missed i pray that this world straightens up an quick.

    April 17, 2011 at 2:56 pm |
    • Jim

      1st off; unlike in any real religion or system of belief, David K preached that HE WAS GOD, that it was ok for many women and little girls to be his wives, asd that his followers should stockpile weapons (what he was planning to do with all that firepower I have no idea, but I shudder to think about it... Can you say Koresh akbar?!?) As to David (may he burn for all eternity) McV; he was a mass murderer, plain & simple. Why in blazes should ANY society have to respect his 'beliefs' when they include blowing up anyone he didn't agree with?!?

      April 17, 2011 at 4:16 pm |
    • Me

      Jim,

      David Koresh did exactly what Jesus Christ did: Preached to his followers that he was the Son of God, the Savior of Mankind.

      David Koresh and his followers did break the law – and so did Jesus Christ on several recorded occasions when he was confronted by the religious police (the Pharisees and Saducees) for breaking Judaic law.

      David Koresh did not do something entirely without precedent. The thing he did differently from Christ that I believe was horrible was that he got many of his followers killed, whereas Christ only got himself killed.

      April 17, 2011 at 4:24 pm |
    • Sue G

      Miss Sharon I will pray for you as you seem to need it worse than Professor Richardson. The Davidians followed a man who required them to believe only what he said and what he said often changed on an hourly basis. They had no will of their own and he exploited that and HE killed those people not the ATF or the FBI. HE is the one who did the killing. Mr McV wasn't a cult member but he could have been. His cult was a political one and he would have been the leader not a follower. I hope you get some help for your delusions soon or you will be the next psychotic we read about having tossed her grand children off a bridge.

      April 17, 2011 at 4:38 pm |
  17. Jen

    While I'll agree with the author that people have the right to believe any strange so-called truth they want, I'm amazed he's using the Branch Davidians as his example. David Koresh took girls as young as 14 as his "wives," had children with them and bragged about it on videos he sent to the "outside." Such behavior is illegal in Texas (and most other places) and certainly justified an investigation. When your "faith" is breaking the law and abusing children, it's gone too far.

    April 17, 2011 at 2:53 pm |
  18. Gary

    Pretty much all religions are cults. Even Buddhism–to which I can relate the most–has some cultish aspects (some flavors more than others).

    April 17, 2011 at 2:32 pm |
    • Stephanie

      True and this is why it is so hard for main stream religions to point the finger at cults. If you look closely at the belief system of a cult or a religion, there really isn't any difference. Even their mode of operation is similar. Main stream religions may claim they don't brainwash their members, but when in your entire life, you have been exposed to one and only one religion, it is hard to see how this could not affect your freedom of belief. When your belief system is not based on a standard of evidence, you know you are in trouble. Neither cults nor religions have their belief system based on a standard of evidence. So, are they different? Draw your own conclusions.

      April 17, 2011 at 3:45 pm |
  19. detsea

    everyone is in a cult unless you're an agnostic or atheist.

    April 17, 2011 at 2:32 pm |
    • airwx

      Atheism has become a cult...with its' own pope, three bibles and at least 2 scripture commentaries....so that leaves agnostics.

      April 17, 2011 at 2:41 pm |
    • joe

      What are you talking about? I have no leaders or scripture. The absence of belief is just that. As far removed from being a cult as possible. And considering a huge amount of people take their parents religion, without thought... ya I'd say every religion is a cult. Just because most people are in that cult, doesn't mean it's better or worse than any other cult. Instead of aliens, or believing in new prophets, Christianity believes in talking snakes, a 6,000 year old earth, parting seas and a boat that carried two of every animal on earth.

      April 17, 2011 at 3:15 pm |
    • johnnyb52

      Does anyone here know what the term "cult" even means?

      April 17, 2011 at 3:16 pm |
    • airwx

      @Joe.... I love it when a non-christian tells me what I believe.....now you know what it feels like. Yes, there are three atheist bibles and there are in fact 2 well read commentaries. I ti-tled someone Pope to bring you to the realization that you do follow a leader, whether you admit it or not.

      April 17, 2011 at 3:37 pm |
    • Stephanie

      @AirWx: You have a funny definition of religion. Atheism is defined by most people who self identify as Atheists as a lack of belief in a God or Gods. That includes Agnosticism. For most non believers, Agnosticism and Atheism can be used inter-changeably. These movements have their heroes but by no means are these heroes Pope. This is propaganda that believers joyfully regurgitate to make them feel better. You cannot say that a movement that is in essence non religious is in fact religious. That is simply ridiculous.

      April 17, 2011 at 3:38 pm |
    • airwx

      @Stephanie.. I'm sorry if you misunderstood my sarcasm. My point is that many atheists attempt to define christians in terms of prejoritive and incorrect terms. My intent is to show the door swings both ways, hopefully to bring prople back to the point of dialogue instead of diatribe. I have many agnostic friends who dispise being lumped in with atheists; they haven't made a commitment to either proposition.

      April 17, 2011 at 3:47 pm |
    • Koseki

      Christian -> implies belief in the Bible (literal or non-literal interpretations). Atheist -> implies....lack of belief. Sure some atheists might lean on some books, but not all of us do. Unlike Christians, we cannot be pigeonholed into belief in any particular book regardless of how much you wish to do so.

      April 17, 2011 at 3:48 pm |
    • Stephanie

      @airwx: And who is my Pope? Btw, I have been a Christian for the greater part of my life and only freed myself recently. It amuses me when you think that non believers can't understand you. You are simply trying to protect your belief system by attempting to show that non-believers are actually believers in disguise. This is quite pathetic I must say.

      April 17, 2011 at 3:48 pm |
    • Stephanie

      @airwx: Believers think that Atheism is a belief that the very concept of God can't possibly exist. This is called hard atheism. Most Atheists worth their salt know that you can't prove a negative. By Atheism, they simply mean they have not come across a concept of God or Gods they find compelling enough, hence they don't believe in any one of them. This is called soft Atheism. I frankly don't know any hard Atheist but known numerous soft Atheists. Another way to look at it is that yourself, you are also an Atheist when comes to believing in Islam, Buddha, Thor, the tooth fairy, etc. We, non-believers, added one name to that list, that's it.

      April 17, 2011 at 3:56 pm |
  20. robertpriddy

    This professor 's views are evidently motivated partly by the idea that everyone has the right to believe what they wish. That is a fact, if they know what they wish and know that belief is involved (other than knowledge). The real issue is avoided, namely that believers in this or that all too often want to exercise a supposed right to indoctrinate others to the same belief. This is not a recognised right as such, though there are very few restraints on indoctrination. Indoctrination is clearly much more dangerous in general than open-minded education, presenting the various sides of every belief, issue, ideology etc. Indoctrination becomes cultist when a number of other criteria are fulfilled. The term 'cult' requires definition, and not just a simple one. The word refers to many and different kinds of group, organization, fans and supporters of all manner of idols or famous figures... obviously very often religious ones.There are many excellent studies both conceptual and empirical – both psychological, sociological, anthropological and criminological etc. which analyse the various degrees of cultism in many kinds of social groups, especially the 'religious'. It is these that ought to form the basis of any professor's opinions, if he is worth his salt and not just a liberal opinionist.

    April 17, 2011 at 2:29 pm |
    • Joe

      I agree, indoctrination is a very dengerous weapon in all ways of social life, and should be always consdered, in parallel to freedom of religion and freedom of speech. In this ever more complex world, lie is one of the most powerful weapons, and is always critical part of any indoctrination.

      April 17, 2011 at 4:12 pm |
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