Is Christianity a Cult?

Don't just react.  Let us consider this question honestly.

How do YOU view members of a cult? Let's say, the Heaven's Gate cult, whose members all killed themselves in the hopes of riding the UFO in the tail of Comet Hale-Bopp.

1) Probably, you would say that members of a cult have lost the ability to think for themselves.  They abandon rational, critical thinking.  (Most normal people would not accept the idea of salvation in the tail of a comet.)  Now, consider the claims of the bible- walking on water, parting of the Red Sea, sticks to snakes, Jonah and the whale, Noah and the Ark, etc.  Do people accept these things without question or critical thinking?  They most certainly do!

2) You would probably say that they do not have any thoughts that are different from their leadership.  Now, do most Christians hold wildly different viewpoints from their leaders?  No.

3) You would also say that they do not question what their leaders say, and are willing to do ANYTHING they are told to do for salvation, including the killing of others, or themselves.  Most Christians would not question what their minister or priest told them, and they would do anything to secure their salvation, if they were told to do it by their leaders.

4) You would say that they deeply and sincerely believe that they have found the truth, and that they are strongly defensive when they are confronted on areas of their beliefs.  This statement applies exactly to all Christians.

5) Also, you know that people who are in cults always deny that they are in a cult...

The indoctrination practices of Christianity are indistinguishable from any other cult.

How can I qualify this statement?

According to the Grolier Encyclopedia, brainwashing involves two aspects: the confession of past crimes or errors, and re-education to new beliefs.  Victims of brainwashing are "brought to confess" by "isolation from familiar surroundings", and a "routine requiring absolute obedience and humility", and "social pressure" from other victims with whom they are in contact. "The last includes mutual criticism and self-criticism sessions, which play particularly on the generalized guilt feeling that all people have to some extent.  At the same time regular indoctrination sessions are conducted. The acceptance of the new ideas is again fostered by group pressure and the anticipated reward of freedom."

These are the methods of Christianity.

More from Grolier Encyclopedia:  "Improved understanding of psychology and neurophysiology have enabled modern totalitarian regimes to create extremely effective brainwashing programs. Some of their techniques, however, have been used for centuries; the INQUISITION, for example, elicited confessions from alleged heretics by similar methods. In the context of religion, some scholars have noted a parallel between brainwashing for political purposes and the techniques used by some religious groups to generate religious excitement and conversion."

Again, Christianity.  The parallel is observable in religions that use physical means (such as scourging, singing, rhythmic movement, dancing and drumming) to induce a trancelike state in which the individual is open to conversion.  It is also apparent in the mind-control practices of some of the modern religions prevalent in the United States and elsewhere, most notably the People's Temple group of Guyana, whose 900 person membership committed mass suicide in 1978.

What happens to individuals who have been psychologically abused and morally betrayed by
fundamentalist cult-like churches? How can they recover from the damage done? Physically leaving a church is relatively easy, but the emotional and psychological departure can take months or even years. This is why it is hard to understand how any person can stay under a state of religious influence - much the same way that people fail to see how battered women stay with their abusers.

Such dysfunctional and destructive cults of religion (whether Hari Krishna's, Moonies, Branch Davidians, Heaven's Gate or Fundamentalist Christians) often use manipulation, fear, and deception to maintain a hold on members. They also shower their prey with unbelievable amounts of affection and approval for staying in the group and meeting their expectations ("love-bombing"). The religious cults discourage members from receiving information from the outside. Thus it becomes a sin to read any "worldly" publications or "spiritual pornography."  Cults establish their own distinction between right and wrong, good and evil; everything in the group is positive (godly), and doubts, and serious questions are not tolerated.  The authority of the group's leadership is virtually absolute.  All problems are oversimplified and deflected either away from the group or back towards the individual (this is a methodology that is called conflict isolation).

It is no wonder, therefore, that the religiously abused frequently suffer from emotional and psychological problems. It is high time that our society recognizes and deals with religious abuse as a social-psychological disorder in itself.

Generally, a person who breaks involvement with a controlling religious group will encounter the following problems:

* Depression - the product of group-induced self-doubt and self-blame.

* Isolation and loneliness - the shock of crossing the barrier from one social environment to another.

* Impairment of decision-making and other intellectual skills.

* Floating - occasional lapses into the group's imposed mindset, often triggered by certain stimuli (music, symbols, key words or phrases, etc.).

* Difficulty in talking about group involvement - often related to strong feelings of guilt, fear, and bitterness.

* Interpersonal difficulties - communication, expression, making new friends, organized activities, dating, emotional and physical intimacy, etc. Recent escapees are frequently mistrustful and suspicious of other people and groups.


So, how does one recover from the Jesus Cult, or any other cult? How does a person heal the wounds of religious abuse? Hopefully, within a caring and understanding new social setting. This can be a family, a support or therapy group, or an organized community such as a secular club or humanist society. It should also be done with patience and the consideration that recovery will take time and effort.  The following are some ideas for persons who have walked away from religious abuse and who are on the road to reclaiming their lives.

* Work towards trusting yourself and relying on your own abilities.

* Put your experience down in writing. This will help you to evaluate, understand, and cope with your past involvement in the abusive group.

* Get in touch with other people who have gone through similar experiences, either one-on-one or in a support group.

* Find a hobby or pastime to reinforce a positive sense of accomplishment.

 * When floating occurs, firmly remind yourself that the episode was triggered by some stimulus. Remember also that it will pass. Identify the trigger, learn to make a new association, and repeat the new association until it overrides the old one. Talking it over with someone who understands can really help, too.

* Handle decisions, tasks, and relearning of interpersonal skills one step at a time. Don't rush yourself, talk and think things over, and don't be afraid if you make mistakes - we all do!

* Be more willing to help people as you go along. This builds up self-esteems and exercises your problem-solving skills.

* Take a breather from organized religion for about three to nine months, at least. Deal with your questions about religion, ethics, and philosophy in an honest and challenging manner.

Remember, you are no longer a victim but a survivor!

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