Differences From Other Groups

From page 97-99:
From time to time I will…hear someone compare cults to an organization like Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) or to some other group with a charismatic leader…AA does not recruit deceptively, AA dose not hide what membership eventually will entail, and members can leave at any point. AA focuses on helping people grow, while cults use their members to promote the growth of the cult and increase the cult leader’s power and wealth.

The most frequent question I am asked in casual conversations, in classrooms, and in courtroom testimony is, ‘Well, aren’t the Jesuits and the United States Marine Corps cults? Don’t they do the same thing?’ No, these groups are not cults, and they do not brainwash people. They are established albeit authoritarian groups with clear-cut training programs and work missions. They differ in a multitude of ways from cults.

In particular, neither of these groups deceptively recruits. Marine recruiters do not pretend to be florists or recruiters for children’s clubs. Nor do Jesuits go afield claiming they are ‘just an international living group teaching breathing exercises to clear the mind of stress.’ In addition, neither group deceives members about the reality of membership, the bottom-line commitment, and the acts that will be expected.

I have had to point out why the United States Marine Corps is not a cult so many times that I carry a list to lectures and court appearances (Exhibit 4.1). It cites nineteen ways in which the practices of the Marine Corps differ from those found in most modern cults. Clearly, the Marine Corps is a military training program authorized by our society. It is based upon a known chain of command in a hierarchical, authoritarian system. But it is not a cult, it is not a brainwashing outfit, and it is controlled by the laws of our land.

Cults clearly differ from such purely authoritarian groups as the military, some types of sects and communes, and centuries-old Roman Catholic and Greek and Russian Orthodox orders. These groups, though rigid and controlling, lack a double agenda and are not manipulative or leader-centered. The differences become apparent when we examine the intensity and pervasiveness with which mind-manipulating techniques and deceptions are or are not applied.

Jesuit seminaries may isolate the seminarian from the rest of the world for periods of time, but the candidate is not deliberately deceived about the obligations and burdens of the priesthood. In fact, he is warned in advance about what is expected, and what he can and cannot do. He is also given every opportunity to withdraw. Some religious groups even impose a waiting or cooling-off period.

Mainstream religious organizations do not concentrate their search on the lonely and vulnerable; in fact, many orders use psychiatric screening to eliminate those whose motivations to join are expressions of emotional instability. Nor do mainstream religions focus recruitment on wealthy believers who are seen as pots of gold for the church, as is the case with those cults who target rich individuals.

Military training and legitimate executive training programs may use the dictates of authority as well as peer pressure to encourage the adoption of new patterns of thought and behavior. They do not seek, however, to accelerate the process by prolonged or intense physiological depletion or by stirring up feelings of dread, guilt, and sinfulness. While strenuous, military training is aimed at strengthening performance, whereas cults try to weaken the person. Few if any social institutions claiming First Amendment protection use conditioning techniques as intense, deceptive, or pervasive as those used by many contemporary cults.

And what is wrong with cults is not just that cults are secret societies. In our culture, there are openly recognized, social secret societies, such as the Masons, in which new members know up font that they will gradually learn the shared rituals of the group even though they do not know everything about the group right away. This is different from cultic groups and others that use thought-reform techniques. In these latter groups, there is deliberate deception about what the group is and what some of the rituals might be, and primarily, there is deception about what the ultimate goal will be for a member, what will ultimately be demanded and expected, and what the damages resulting from some of the practices might be. A secret handshake is not equivalent to mind control.

Cults In Our Midst fragments

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