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Religious cults
Introduction
A cult refers to a system of religious worship which has its rites, ceremonies and inspires great devotion. In the recent years, there has been an increase in the formation of cults, also known as New Religious Movements based on different religious concepts. Some of these cults have extreme beliefs based on issues such as the Armageddon, religious cleansing, God’s execution of men through fellow men among many other unbelievable bases. Cults may be based on many other religions such as the Muslim religion. Some of these Muslim religious cults inspire such a great devotion that gradually they become revolutions that no longer persuade their following but rather force the non-believers to join forcefully or face detrimental consequences such death, slavery, rape, torture, destruction of residences and property, just to mention a few.
This study on religious cults is crucial now more than ever considering that the near past has seen a great emergence of New Religious Movements all over the world. In the past, it had been assumed that members of the cult were people who grew up as troubled kids, people who had bad childhoods and were bitter and of poor conduct because they lacked the necessary guidance and discipline when growing up. However, different studies and observation of current practical situations prove this assumption wrong. A good example is the al-Shabaab religious movement in Somalia. In a recent incidence where al-Shabaab militants were gunned down in Garissa, Kenya, one of the militants had been a law student from the University of Nairobi who had dropped out of campus so as to join the al-Shabaab militia in Somalia. These incidences only emphasize more on the need to carry out a study into religious cults so as to familiarize the society on how they come to be, how to establish if your child has joined or is considering joining one and how these cults affect our day to day life and activities in the society.
It is at this moment crucial, now more than ever to conduct an analysis of the various studies that have been conducted about religious cults, so that we may establish the important dimensions of religious cults and also come up with a conclusion on how to go about this issue.
Article 1
K. A. Stephen and Theresa Krebs. When scholars know sin: alternative religions and their academic supporters. 23 May 1998. Web. 5 November 2015. < http://www.apologeticsindex.org/c25.html>
In the past few years, relationships between social scientists and controversial religious communities have been witnessed. A good example is the one between ‘The Family’ a controversial religious community and J. Gordon Melton a religious scholar (Stephen, 1). These relationships are questionable and tend to be brought to light when a scholar endorses the religious group to the public or acts in a manner that suggests support of the alleged group. These endorsements may catch the public’s attention because some of the religious communities getting the support could be advocating and even practicing activities that are unethical and maybe even criminal in the public’s eye. Under this situation, even though the scholar had been acknowledged previously for some great work, the public can’t help but question the moral uprightness of the scholar in question and whether by endorsing the cult, does the scholar support the shameful cult activities too?
For the religious communities, this kind of relationships is beneficial since they recognize the scholar’s role, and efforts exerted towards gaining legitimacy in the society and silencing one’s critics, and thus they crave the affiliation. The social scientist may at times assume their unique power and ability to make things legitimate and give them recognition in the society. Overlooking the above facts may warrant a naive scholar to be caught up in the cult’s struggle for acceptance in the society without intent and also share in the cult’s stigma in their ongoing contests for legitimacy (Stephen, 1). In this fights, the cult may even interfere with important academic publishing such as peer reviewed publications which is serious offense and threatens the base that support the modern systems of scientific research and outlets. A good example of this kind of scenario is when the religious cult, ‘The Family’ which recently interfered with an academic article with the help of scholar(s) who most probably had never read it before.
Article 2
D. Feltmate. The humorous Reproduction of Religious Prejudice: “cults” and Religious Humour in the Simpsons, South Park, and King of the Hill. 12 March 2015. Web. 5 November 2015. < https://www.questia.com/library/journal/1G1-330005543/the-humorous-reproduction-of-religious-prejudice>
A different way to look at religious movements is the humor they bring along. Some of the concepts that these movements follow are nothing short of humorous and one may even wonder how these cults get their followers. A good example of this scenario is seen by observing the anti-Mormon evangelicals who had a confrontation with the FBI from 28th February to 19th April 1993 in Texas (Feltmate, 1). The activities of this religious community inspired some of the episodes of the sitcoms, the Simpsons, South Park, and King of the Hills. In this episodes, religious cults are used as a source of humor on how these cults engage in their activities, the principles they follow and even some of their absurd beliefs. The humor is achieved by analyzing a particular cult stereotype’s and its history in the country. A good example of this is the Movementarian cult, an evil cult that overran Springfield. Their leader would approach prospective members and ask them to give up their home and all their money and in exchange he promised that he would take his believers away in a spaceship to a planet by name Blisstonia (Feltmate, 1).
The above illustration portrays a different view of cults. Normally a cult is seen as negative and deeply rooted in evilness with a manipulative leader who comes up with tricky schemes of how to maximize his power while limiting that of his followers. Cult leaders are believed to use brainwashing and psychological manipulation so as to acquire wealth among other things they desire. This view, even though viewed by the media to be newsworthy is not entirely true since there are many other aspects to certain cults other than just the negatives.
Article 3
D. Melissa, Cults of hatred. 21 November 2002. Web. 5 November. 2015. <http://www.apa.org/monitor/nov02/cults.aspx>
A brief history into most of the cults will bring one to the realization that most religious cults start a community of people who are advocating against moral decay in the society among other religious issues. However, some of this cults in their course of their campaign resort to violence to implement their beliefs in the society. These cults are what people later come to refer to as ‘cults of hatred.’ A good example of cults that use violence includes the Al-Qaida, al-Shabaab among other Muslim cults (Melissa, 2). For instance, most Christians may not support gay marriages. Irrespective of this fact, in America, since gay marriages are legal, those Christians that don’t support homosexuality find a way to live with it since they acknowledge that everyone has a right to marry whoever one wants. An illustration is given of Kerry a young man who belonged to a cult that was against homosexuality (Melissa, 1). In an attempt to discourage homosexuality, he was sent with an explosive to a gay church where he was supposed to set the timer and then leave it there to blow up the place. On arriving at the church, he wasn’t able to do it because he came back to his senses but this incidence alone obligates us to question the techniques the cult leader was using so as to convince his followers to do or even premeditate such despicable actions so as to influence their beliefs on other people.
Studies are currently underway so as to deduce the kind of techniques that some of the cult leaders may be using so as to influence their followers. Some of these leaders are accused of mind control, commonly referred to by the media as brainwashing so as to achieve their desired outcomes. These cults use these techniques with impunity and casualties of these tactics are never and may never get treatment. The reason behind this is that there is no legitimate medication for mind control and a psychologist claiming to be treating a brainwashed patient will face charges for malpractice. Cults use behavior changing tactics among them thought-stopping tactics and inducing the ‘us versus them’ mentality. Members are taught how to stop any doubts or critical evaluation about their decisions in the cult. The cult then threatens the members with irrational fears such as developing terminal diseases in the event they decide to leave the cult.
With respect to the information shared above, it is at this moment crucial for a task force to be formed so as to look into the allegations of brainwashing because the sooner it is declared as a mental disease, the better because legitimate medications will be made and the suffering victims will be assisted before their condition gets worse.
Article 4
Amy Adamczyk. Review essay: Religion, Regulation and violence, 24 May 2015. Web. 5 November. 2015. < http://csi.sagepub.com/content/53/5/855.full.pdf>
Another important perspective in the study of religious cults is their transition from religious groups to violence and militia groups. The main question in this scenario is, what causes the transition? Incidences such as the 911 bombings sent a clear message that religious cults could no longer be ignored (Amy, 1). In most cases when a cult begins, the early followers follow the leader because of his charisma and his sense of purpose that is contagious. However, as the cult grows, the leader might start losing or failing to maintain his personal relationship with his followers and also his ability to supervise vital activities of the group. Because of this he may start preying on his follower’s fears so as to keep them from leaving the cult. In the society when the cult leader fails to maintain the legitimacy of his cult, interactions between the cult and the society may become so unpredictable that cases of violence may occur.
Another factor that can influence a cult into violence is the interference of the cult by outside forces such as state agencies, other community groups or government agencies. When a conflict occurs between a government agency and a cult, it may lead to a polarization that increases the probability of violence incidences. However, these polarizations can be reduced by intermediary groups such as Human Rights Organization, which may exert control by being on the look and trying to stop unwarranted hostilities by the state that could lead to violence (Amy, 1). In addition to human rights organization, there are also some cult-watching groups such as cult awareness and cult-defender groups that have different approaches towards cults and also follow-up on cult’s activities. These institutions can also act as allies to new religious cults by trying to increase the confidence that issues between the cult and the state may be solved in a peaceful way. However, it should be noted that legitimacy of cult-watcher groups and cult defenders are questionable as compared to human rights organizations
Article 5
L.R. James. Conversion and “brainwashing” in religious movements. 4 June 2004. Web. 5 November. 2015. < http://www.cesnur.org/2003/brain_conv.htm>
Recruitment into cults is another important dimension to the study of religious cults. Even though hypnosis has taken credit as a tool cult leaders use to bring in new members, studies have shown that the type of persons attracted to a certain religious movement harbor certain common traits even before recruitment. The research suggests that recruitment of individuals into a cult isn’t done randomly in the population but rather, prospective members tend to manifest certain traits from their orientation and personal background. These traits correlate with their level of attraction and participation in the cult in question. Some of the data being referred to come from a study of a random sample comprised of hundreds of people done in the early 1970s in the Bay Area (James, 1).
In this study and several others after this one, it was established that most of the people who joined cults had pre-meditated joining a cult even before they had come in contact with one. Because of these personal traits that are responsible for influencing a certain person to relate to a particular cult and even join the cult, it is then possible to create a profile of a member of a particular cult. For illustration purposes, we will profile a “Moonie”.
Moonies are mostly from highly respectable families who have maintained their traditional culture and value a family life, decency, and morality (James, 1). Their family’ had exposures to organized religions in comparison to non-joiners and leavers who had joined for a while but didn’t fit. Because of this early exposure, Moonies were prepared to provide answers to religious problems. Moonies also tend to be above average in their level of education before they rebranded themselves as non-participants of the education system even though without realizing it they may still be part of it. Moonies crave the freedom to engage in innovation, extremism and experimentation. Despite these traits, Moonies are conservative politically and are less likely to become socialist as compared to the rest of the population.
The above profile though brief is evidence that people especially youths who possess traits that could attract them to certain harmful movements can be identified earlier and through an educational campaign, seminars and workshop get enlightened on the demerits of joining cults or even being affiliated to them.
Article 6
Linda Woodhead. Recent research on religion, discrimination, and good relation. 13 May 2011. Web. 5 November. 2015. < http://www.religionandsociety.org.uk/uploads/docs/2011_05/1306247842_LINDA_WOODHEAD_FINAL_REPORT_MAY_2011.pdf>
Finally, the last but very important dimension that we are going to look into is the impact of religious cults in the society. Different cults have different impacts in the society on their activities in the society and even their history. Some of the good examples that can fit these profiles are the violent Muslim cult. These cults in the course of their operations wage wars against nations both foreign nations and their host nation. In their effort to pass messages, they may come up with dangerous plans such as the 911 bombing that ended many innocent lives and injured a lot of people (Linda, 12). Gradually the message these cults are trying to convey can no longer be heard since all the society can see is bloodshed. The society retaliates with hostility towards these groups, hostility that affects both the villains and the innocent. A good example is that even though there exists a Muslim community that is peaceful and law abiding, members of the Muslim community may regularly be under the government’s radar in many countries in the world because of the fear of terrorism. Even though this may seem unfair, most governments can’t take the risk of being in the dark when terror attacks are planned.
Religious cults also lay an economic burden on the nation. Some of the destructive activities cults may engage in may take back the economy of the country a few years back. A good example of this is the city of Mogadishu in Somalia that has suffered violence for the past few decades. This violence stopped economic progress in the country since it discourages investing and the moment, most parts of the city look like a ghost town.
Summary
To summarize this study on religious cults, it can at this moment be said that a cult is a religious movement that shares common beliefs and has its rites and ceremonies that inspire great devotion from its followers. These religious movements commonly known as cults cannot be generalized as either good or bad since their core values vary widely from one cult to another, but specific movements may be pointed out as either harmful or not harmful to the society. As cults grow and gradually change, some may resort to violent activities which at the end makes them be referred to as terror groups. At this point, these cults are no longer exercising their freedom of worship and exercising of faith or their freedom of expression but rather hindering out human beings from enjoying their most basic rights such as the right to life and thus they are criminals. On the other hand, some cults may have extreme beliefs that they exercise but if these cults don’t break the law or interfere with other peoples’ rights, the society may have to learn to condone them or co-exist with them since they are well within the boundaries of their rights.
Even though the government warrants the freedom of worship to all citizens, I see it as a matter of critical importance that all religious movement should be monitored, and unsuitable religious movements eliminated early before they develop and become a big problem for the society at large. I suggest that the government should consider the following policies in the light of this issue.
Policy 1
The government should legislate a law that dictates registration of all religious movements and their core values during their formations. The government should then through its agent’s follow-up on the religious activities of this movements. If a movement is found to be engaging in criminal activities, the leaders should be arrested and prosecuted and if necessary bring the movement to an end while it still has few followers before it grows and evolve in its criminal tendencies and finally becoming a militia group.
Policy 2
Schools, on the other hand, should also integrate knowledge about cults and other crucial issues that youths encounter after completing their education in their education curriculum. It’s really sad when a well-learned youth is caught-up in the predatory traps of the cult leader only because he was ignorant about the subject.
Policy 3
The government should come up with an organization that through public seminars, public campaigns, and workshops should educate the public about personal integrity and self-appreciation through developing self-esteem. This because it is a clearly evidenced fact that a good job or formal education doesn’t cure the feeling of emptiness in people and a lack of purpose that increases the probability that someone will join a cult.
Policy 4
The government in collaboration with international humanitarian organizations should conduct studies so as bring to light the allegation of brainwashing by cult leaders. In the course of these studies, they should also establish whether the manipulation of cult leaders cause their followers any mental disorders and if authorize experts to come up with remedies for this disorders.
Policy 5
International humanitarian organizations such as the United Nations should pool resources from different countries and come up with a task force that will be responsible for fighting religious cults that have resorted to violence and are terrorizing nations around the world such as al-Shabaab, al-Qaida, Isis among others.
Work cited
Amy Adamczyk. Review essay: Religion, Regulation and violence, 24 May 2015. Web. 5 November. 2015. < http://csi.sagepub.com/content/53/5/855.full.pdf>
D. Feltmate. The humorous Reproduction of Religious Prejudice: “cults” and Religious Humour in the Simpsons, South Park, and King of the Hill. 12 March 2015. Web. 5 November. 2015. < https://www.questia.com/library/journal/1G1-330005543/the-humorous-reproduction-of-religious-prejudice>
D. Melissa, Cults of hatred. 21 November 2002. Web. 5 November. 2015. http://www.apa.org/monitor/nov02/cults.aspxK. A. Stephen and Theresa Krebs. When scholars know sin: alternative religions and their academic supporters. 23 May 1998. Web. 5 November. 2015.< http://www.apologeticsindex.org/c25.html>
Linda Woodhead. Recent research on religion, discrimination, and good relation. 13 May 2011. Web. 5 November. 2015. < http://www.religionandsociety.org.uk/uploads/docs/2011_05/1306247842_LINDA_WOODHEAD_FINAL_REPORT_MAY_2011.pdf>
L.R. James. Conversion and “brainwashing” in religious movements. 4 June 2004. Web. 5 November. 2015. < http://www.cesnur.org/2003/brain_conv.htm>