Friday, December 26, 2008

100 question cult test

I've been trying to find a very good list of characteristics of a cult vs. a religion and I was successful. I'd like to pass this on.

This list meets my criteria:
1) Theologically neutral
2) Extensive & Detailed
3) Meets the common usage of the term

The way this list works is you score each item from 0-10.

0-499 group is relatively safe
500-800 cultish tendencies
800-900 cult
901+ dangerous cult

Here is the list. Link to A. Orange's site which shows examples from well known sites are applying to a well known group (Alcholics Anonymous which scores an 850):


John Hobbins said...

Howdy doody, C-D:

So then, are we to do away with groups like AA and Teen Challenge because they are cultish according to your grid?

I also wonder how "political correctness" scores on this basis. True believers and enforcers of this cult exist. What is your take on them?

CD-Host said...

Hello John welcome to the blog. I went to a liberal arts college 88-92, so I was in the absolute epicenter of "political correctness". I didn't see much that would score that high on this list. Well below the 500 level.

And today's political correctness movement is much more reasonable. It just wasn't nearly as oppressive as people like to claim. In general most of the what they did: sensitivity about terms used to describe sub populations of America, strong attack on date rape, a real attempt to end some of the petty bullying that was part of American life all strike me as having resulted in a far more just and fair society.

John Hobbins said...

Very fine, C-D.

I think you underestimate the coercive component in ideologies you think are reasonable, but that is, so far as I can see, an almost universal human weakness.

But you didn't address my first question. It's the harder one.

Los Testigos Cristianos de Jehová said...

Jehovah's witnesses have 980 points.

CD-Host said...

Los Testigos --

980! Where they did lose points when you scored them?


John --

No I don't think so. Groups can have cultish tendencies and still be beneficial. The list is designed for evaluation. Cultish groups need to be approached with caution. For example you may need to make sure to always have outside friends, never try and get into an inner circle, that sort of thing.

You may ask yourself could you get the same benefit from a less cultish group. You may be in a position to reform the organization. Obviously for those above 800 and especially over 900 it is probably best not to join. The main thing though is to understand that everything on that list is bad, and diminishes freedom. That is every cultish tendency needs to be countered. So for example "no graduates" you may need to pick starting and stopping points for involvement. Suspension of disbelief, set aside one day a week for hard critique and make sure to maintain friendships with people who hate the group.

John Hobbins said...


Thanks for your widsom

Eric said...

For what it's worth and in reference to a previous discussion, Xenos as I remember it scored about a 650.

Marc Galanter, whom I mentioned previously, presented the groups he studied - including AA - in a pretty favorable light. He is professionally a psychiatrist that treats addiction. His interest in NRMs was avocational. He has a new book called Spirituality and the Healthy Mind that is supposed to further address groups like AA. If graduate school ever ends I intend to read it.


Bill K said...

Where did you get the scores you cite for different groups?

Most of these items I agree are damaging ideas - however a few of them suffer from an equally damaging perspective:

"I am sufficient in and of myself for life"

Unfortunately for people with this view, we are social beings, that live in society and need help from others. We are dependent on others for survival; and more than that I would argue we have spiritual needs that we can't fill for ourselves either. Simply making this list shows the list maker violates items 9, 14 and 89. The author of the site gives his personal testimony, item 21 on the cult list - about why people should avoid AA. Some items are put in black and white - item 93 - like the author of the site claiming AA is definietly a cult, no questions. Because of these things - the list author is also a hypocrtie - item 81.

I could go on; but I don't think there is a magic list you can use to avoid cults; and while this is one of the better tries I have seen at defining a cult; it still falls short.

CD-Host said...

Hi Bill --

I don't think it is a magic list either. I hadn't been able to find a list that was this good, many of them would cause virtually any religion taken seriously to be cultic. Others had clear theological bias (for example "denies the trinity" as a cult characteristic). So this list met my criteria:

1) Theologically neutral
2) Extensive & Detailed
3) Meets the common usage of the term

Simply making this list shows the list maker violates items 9, 14 and 89.

I don't think Orange runs a rival group. According to his statement he mainly objects to the fact that AA is really a 19th century temperance society pretending to be a non religious sobriety organization. For example believing the best cure for the DTs are spiritual rather than medicinal. That is in his view AA engages in false marketing.

I would tend to be more charitable and say that AA grew up in an American where the dominant addictions treatment was temperance societies. Probably many of the early AA members had been in temperance societies and had high regard for temperance societies. AA was able to meet in churches because it felt to church leaders like a temperance society....