Cult Leaders: Changing Attitudes by Conditioning The Members of a Cult

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Cults can be dangerous as manipulative strategies are used to control large groups of people into behaviour they may not usually be comfortable with. A cult is a counterculture that is an extremist group usually lead by religion and a charismatic leader (Winner 2011:417). Counterculture is the rejection of popular norms and values and replaces them with extreme views on violence, family and loyalty (Winner 2011:417). Cult leaders often preach about religious history as they take it very seriously. Usually, these religious views guide the bizarre behaviour and conformity within the cult. Anthropologists see cults as a way for people to find self-identity and belonging within a group which they are not receiving from outside of the group. People join cults as a way of feeling a sense of belonging within a community (Winner 2011:417). This need for belonging is eventually why members find themselves so involved that they cannot get out. This is especially true in the case of the cult created by Jim Jones. He established a cultic Church called the People’s Temple, most famously known for being the largest group suicide consisting of 909 people, including 276 children (Nelson 2006). Between five to seven million young adults between the ages of 18 and 25 are involved in cult groups (“Cult statistics” 2010). Nearly 180 000 people are recruited into cults each year (“Cult Statistics” 2010). The sense of identity, purpose, and belonging are appealing aspects to why people join cults as the use of power and manipulation coerces them to stay. Cults consist mostly of middleclass Caucasian male youths, who are usually Christian or Jewish (Nelson 2006). Most are insecure people trying to find a sense of identity and security through the d... ... middle of paper ... person’s belief but is carried out to achieve rewards or to avoid punishment (Winner 2011:287). Conformity is behaviour that blends with the behaviour of the majority of the group needed to function effectively in a large group (Winner 2011:290). Conditioning the members of a cult is an effective way to change attitudes of the members to ones that are approved by the cult’s social standards and ideas. Works Cited Aronson, Elliot. (1988). The Social Animal. New York: W.H. Freeman and Company:19-27. Cult statistics. (2010). Retrieved from Winner, Jan. (2011). Social Science. Canada: McGraw-Hill Ryerson Limited:262-418. Kendall, Diana, Jane Murray, and Rick Linden. Sociology in our time. (2000). Scarborough, ON: Nelson:438-439. Nelson, Stanley. (2006). The Life and Death of the Peoples Temple. PBS Film Production.

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