Alleee and Franc's
INSOLITOLOGY

Click here to go back to the main page

Welcome to the CULT TEST

What makes a "cult" ? In a sense, any organisation can be called a cult, or not called a cult. This is very convenient for fear-mongers. It is also convenient for cultists.

Cultism is, in fact, a gradient. Any organisation which shares a common goal will exhibit a slight degree of cultism. This is perfectly normal. The problems come in when an organisation is heavily cultist : in that case, we call it a cult.

Such a measure is relative, of course. We therefore need some kind of objective measure in order to locate where an organisation is on this gradient. I'd like to propose a scoring system based on "Thought Reform And The Psychology Of Totalism", by Robert Lifton, which lists the five main characteristics of cultism, and other points proposed by John Hoagland.

If an organisation has 5 points or more, then it may be a cult, or may be susceptible to become a cult. If you accumulate more than 10 points, then it is definitively in a cult. Mainstream religions are mostly located between 5 and 10 points, and "normal" organisations below 5 points. Complete this test to check if you'll soon be asked to drink the Kool-Aid or not.


1. The organisation controls its people by group pressure or geographical isolation.

The system is open : there is no pressure to adhere, to stay in the group, or isolation from the rest of society. (0)
There is some pressure in doing as the group says, but no physical coercion. (1)
There is a lot of peer pressure to stay in the group and do as the group says. There may be some light physical coercion. (3)
There is tremendous and constant pressure from other members to act and think like the group does. Deviating from the norm is seen as an abnormality which must be dealt with swiftly. The group is physically isolated. (5)


2. The organisation gets people to confess their sins or evils, in order for them to be cleansed. These confessions can be used against them later. Some group leaders also confess in public in order to look more human and to put the organisation more to their level.

No aspect of confession is involved. There is nothing to be "purified" or "cleansed" of, there is no higher state to be attained.(0)
Some leaders will share their experiences and past troubles with the group in order to enforce the idea that "anyone can do it". No superior state of being or purification is proposed. (1)
Confessions from members can be used against them in order to get them back in the fold, or keep them there. Leaders will share their experiences also. A superior state of being or purification is proposed (such as "being saved" or "being rich"). (3)
There is high confessional pressure, either to confess your sins regularily, or a constant bombardment of testimonies and confessions from leaders. An exhalted state of being is proposed (such as holiness, super-beingness or blatant godhood). (5)


3. The organisation's methods are perfect. Any fault lies with the person, not with the methods. Furthermore, testimonies and present successes demonstrate that the system works. One must have faith and go on.

There is open-mindedness and methods or doctrines are revised when necessary - no undue blame is placed on the person. No testimonies or success-bombing is used. (0)
The system works : there are testimonies. People are confident in the success of the system because of them, despite lack of proof. (1)
The system works : a large part of getting new members in relies on testimonies and demonstrations. Successful people are paraded and failures can be due to people not following the "system" or being too "critical". Hope and faith makes one more successful, therefore motivation is important. (3)
The doctrine is presented as infallible, and any fault or bad happenings are strictly due to the people involved. Outrageous testimonies, constant reminder of other people's success. Members are pushed to continue so that problems will be soon resolved. (5)


4. The organisation redefines words (especially emotionally-charged words) to suit its outlook in the world, and more importantly, the outlook it wants its members to have. The creation of new words or expressions also isolates the member from the outside world.

No words are created or redefined. (0)
Some emotionally-charged words may be redefined to emphasize the outlook of the group. Some new words are created to aid comprehension of new or unusual concepts. (1)
The group redefines and creates many words in order to isolate the members from "the others" (non-members) and to reorient his values as being those of the group. (3)
A full-blown vocabulary replaces normal language and mentally entraps the member. It is difficult for the member to understand non-members after assimilating this vocabulary. (5)


5. The organisation asks its members to experience first before criticizing. These experiences shape a person's outlook and eventually the person acts like everyone else. His emotional well-being is dependant on being with the group.

Experience is not required to understand the group's doctrine or mechanisms. Emotional well-being is not dependant on being with the group (friendships may form, however). (0)
"You can't really know unless you experience it". People without experience are told that their criticism is irrelevant. (1)
Experience is part of what gives one status in the group. People who have experience fall into a pattern of thought or action. People without experience are told that their criticism is irrelevant. Members derive emotional benefits from being part of the group, which they would not get otherwise. (3)
Knowledge is nothing - experience is everything. The more you accomplish in the group's standards, the more important you are. People without experience must be guided by any means possible higher up the hierarchy or must be tricked to stay as long as possible. The entire emotional well-being of the members is dependant on being in the group. (5)


Salvation : Group proposes a superior state of beingness or salvation.
Lovebombing : Group promotes displaying excess consideration or even affection towards a new recruit in order to give him a sense of belonging and keep him in the organisation.
Cognitive dissonance : Contradictions are used in conditioning members to accept the group's doctrine or mechanisms. The act of accepting and rationalizing these contradictions is an important element of brainwashing.
Charismatic leadership : Emphasis is placed on the leader or leaders. These leaders can issue commands or edicts obeyed without question. Worshipping and loyalty are paramount.
Deception in recruiting : When one is involved in the group, lies and deceptions in the recruiting material are soon apparent.
Exploitation : People work for virtually nothing, usually to the profit of the leaders.
Separation from friends and family : People are invited to stop talking to friends or family who do not encourage their participation in the group.
Non-critical thinking : Doubting questions about the mechanisms or doctrine of the group are deflected or rejected. Usually, one must experience or be a leader in order to "understand".
Discrediting outside information : Any criticism from the outside is wrong. Only people on the inside really know what the doctrine or mechanisms are all about.
Loss of independant judgment : The person must rely on other people, usually people above him in the hierarchy, before making any kind of decision, even personal decisions.
Fear of leaving : Group promotes the idea that leaving the group is a very bad decision, which may make the member's future life hellish (in religious doctrines, literally hellish).
Sleep deprivation : Group forces its members to work unusually long hours. Sleep deprivation can also be used to help brainwashing.

Cultism points =

As mentioned above, if you accumulate more than 10 points, then it is definitively in a cult. Mainstream religions are mostly located between 5 and 10 points, and "normal" organisations below 5 points.



This test is not a completely precise measure, but precise enough to act as a warning sign.