Cults and Their Leaders

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Cults and Their Leaders

For many years, cult leaders always had a psychological hold on their followers' minds. Whether it was to kill other people or to kill themselves, they did it without question. Some cult leaders used fear, violence and guilt as a means of a weapon to control the minds of their followers. Other cult leaders used persuasive and spiritual speeches that made their followers believe they were doing good and fulfilling God's plan. Because cult leaders are powerful through psychological offenses, the people that belong to their cults are brainwashed into doing things they wouldn't normally do in their right state of mind.

For years, there have been problems surrounding the definition of the term 'cult'. The literal and traditional meanings of the word cult, which are more fully explored at the entry Cult (religion), come from the Latin cultus, meaning "care" or "adoration," as "a system of religious belief or ritual; or: the body of adherents to same." In French or Spanish, culte or culto simply means "worship" or "religious attendance"; therefore an association cultuelle is an association whose goal is to organize religious worship and practices. The word for "cult" in the popular English meaning is secte (French) or secta (Spanish). In formal English use, and in non-English European terms, the cognates of the English word "cult" are neutral, and refer mainly to divisions within a single faith, a case where English speakers might use the word "sect". Hence Roman Catholicism, Eastern Orthodoxy and Protestantism are cults within Christianity. However, in common usage, "cult" has a very negative connotation, and is generally applied to a group in order to criticize it. Understandably, most groups, if not all, that are called "cults" deny this term. Some groups called "cults" by some critics may consider themselves not to be "cults", but may consider some other groups to be "cults". Although anti-cult activists and scholars did not agree on precise criteria that new religions should meet to be considered "cults," two of the definitions formulated by anti-cult activists are: Cults are groups that often exploit members psychologically and/or financially, typically by making members comply with leadership's demands through certain types of psychological manipulation, popularly called mind control, and through the inculcation of d...

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...psychological offenses, the people that belong to their cults are brainwashed into doing things they wouldn't normally do in their right state of mind. Cult leaders used various ways of molding a follower's mind and brainwashing them to do things for them. Some cult leaders used punishments as a way of breaking the follower's that were resistant to their demands. Others used and perfected the art of persuasion. Either way, the mind of their followers or 'family' are in total control of the leader.

Works Cited

Bugliosi, Vincent, with Curt Gentry. Helter Skelter: The True Story of The Manson Murders. New York and London: Norton, 1994.

Merriam-Webster Online. 2005. Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary. 4 May 2005

Mills, Jeannie. Six Years With God: Life Inside Rev. Jim Jones's Peoples Temple. New York: A&W Publishers, 1979.

Terry, Maury. The Ultimate Evil: The Truth About Cult Murders: Son Of Sam & Beyond. New York: Barnes and Noble Publishing Company, 1987.

Wilson, Brian R. Apostates and New religious Movements. New York and London: Routledge, 1999.

Zimbardo, Philip. The Psychology of Attitude Change and Social Influence. Columbus: McGraw-Hill, 1991.
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