How to diagnose if you are in a religious cult

You are in a religious cult if one of more of these apply to you:

  1. You look down upon anyone not in your religious group
  2. You consider only members of your religious group as worthy of making friendships or maintaining relations
  3. You have broken off your old relations with family members after joining your religious group
  4. You are distrustful of anyone outside of your religious group
  5. Instead of becoming a better person who is able to relate to all, after joining your group, you have become a worse person who gets angry or resentful of outsiders
  6. You get unreasonably provoked or angry when challenged by those outside of your religious group
  7. You rationalize and justify unethical acts of your group, like cheating others, lying, and entrapping others
  8. You judge others, which you did not do before you joined your religious group
  9. You divulge confidential information about your family or extended family to members of your religious group and ask them for advice on how to deal with them
  10. Your religious group is always right in your opinion, and anyone outside is always wrong
  11. You have stopped growing as a person
  12. You are distrustful of science and really any critical thinking that might challenge your group’s cherished notions
  13. You are afraid of engaging with or considering new ideas outside of your religious group and afraid of learning anything outside your group
  14. You go along with the most outrageous ideas and even justify them in the name of fidelity to your religious group
  15. You have a fear of questioning, lest it may cause offense to your cherished leaders or teachers
  16. After joining the religious group, you have developed a distorted world view, which does not match reality
  17. You have mentally and emotionally dropped out of society
  18. You do not consider that it is important to give your dependents a balanced outlook on the world and a strong education
  19. You want to leave your religious group, but do not have the courage to face living by yourself in the ‘outside’ world

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5 replies »

  1. There are cults, and then there are cultish approaches to life. I would have to say, quite honestly, that I have met a couple of Jiva Institute participants/students to whom at least 5 of the 19 points could be applied. So I would be wary of asserting that “one or more” of the 19 is enough to indicate cult involvement. Maybe better to warn of “cultish” approaches that anyone can bring to any endeavor.

    Which is, of course, does not change the sad fact that in my experience MOST members of one large neo-Gaudiya sect would be found to fit AT LEAST 10 of the 19 points, and it’s not uncommon to find members who would fit 17 or more.

  2. Sadly, I’ve seen such cultish talk and reaction even on sites with which our moderator is familiar. A commenter on one such site made a comment about relationships:

    How is possible to have a good relationship without one of them being involved in bhakti?

    I sent in a comment/reply pointing out that the shastras contain many examples of jñanis and karma-yogis having good relationships, and I suggested that a good relationship has more to do with shared interests and goals than with the specific nature of those interests and goals. Well, that site’s moderator appears to have rejected my comment (it’s now been more than a week and other comments have appeared on the site, so it’s not site-neglect), which I can assure you was civil and was not offensive or challenging, just hoping to broaden that commenter’s perspective. But it just goes to show that even among some bhaktas who aren’t affiliated with the big neo-Gaudiya sects, “Do Bhakti!” is their one-pointed solution to everything from marriage problems to foot fungus, which may be philosophically true in the most abstract and broadest sense, but isn’t very helpful when your spouse is angry or your foot is swelling.

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