GDPR Cookie Consent by Free Privacy Policy
You can dismiss the support request pop up for 4 weeks (28 days) if you want to be reminded again. Or you can dismiss until our next donations drive (typically at the beginning of October). Before you dismiss, please consider making a donation. Thanks!
One Time
$5/month (US)
$10/month (US)
Support II via AmazonSmile Internet Infidels Needs Your Support!
dismiss for   28 days   1 year   info
2020 Internet Infidels Fundraising Drive / $32,460.00 of $40,000.00
Failing to heed science and reason has real-world consequences. We need critical thinking now more than ever. Help us maintain a drop of sanity by donating to keep the Secular Web online today!

Definition of a 'Cult'



What makes some religions "cults" and others "mainstream"?

This is taken from Margot Adler's book Drawing Down the Moon: Witches, Druids, Goddess-Worshippers, and Other Pagans in America, a guide to contemporary neopaganism. She quotes P.E.I. Bonewitz on what to look for and avoid in any organization that promises wisdom by participating in its activities.

Score each item on a scale of 1 to 10 (or whatever is your favorite scale):

  1. Internal control: the amount of internal political power exercised by leader(s) over members.
  2. Wisdom claimed by leader(s): the amount of infallibility declared about decisions.
  3. Wisdom credited to leader(s) by members; the amount of trust in decisions made by leader(s).
  4. Dogma: the rigidity of reality concepts taught; the amount of doctrinal inflexibility.
  5. Recruiting: the emphasis put on attracting new members; the amount of proselytizing.
  6. Front groups: the number of subsidiary groups using names different from that of the main group.
  7. Wealth: the amount of money and/or property desired or obtained; the degree of emphasis on members' donations.
  8. Political power: the amount of external political influence desired or obtained.
  9. Sexual manipulation of members by leader(s); the amount of control of sex lives of members.
  10. Censorship: the amount of control over members' access to outside opinions on group: its doctrines: or its leader(s).
  11. Dropout control: the intensity of efforts directed at preventing or returning dropouts.
  12. Endorsement of violence when used by or for the group or its leader(s).
  13. Paranoia: the amount of fear concerning real or imagined enemies: the perceived power of opponents.
  14. Grimness: the amount of disapproval concerning jokes about the group, its doctrines, or its leader(s).

This list of warning signs preceded a list of neopagan groups, mostly American ones. Margot Adler stated that she hoped that there would be no groups on her list that scored too high on this scale.

Privacy and Cookie Policy