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Cult FAQ

Disclaimer: The below information contains many generalisations and may not apply to any particular cult.



Why do people leave cults?

Burnout

Some cults work their members so hard that they burn out, sometimes to the point of having nervous breakdowns. When this happens they are no longer any use to the cult, and are simply abandoned.

No money left

Some cults take in new members primarily for the money they can give. When a member has no money left he/she is no further use to the cult and is kicked out.

Disgruntlement

Members sometimes just get fed up with the way things are run, how they are treated, or the "truth" presented by the cult fails to satisfy them any more. Sometimes the cult may be unable to continue meeting the emotional needs of the group, or the price (financial, emotional, or time) asked in order for the member's needs to be met may become too high.

Realisation of truth

Sometimes all it takes is one Bible verse for a cult member to realise he/she has been lied to for years. (This particular effect is due to control of information within the cult and a discouragement of reading the Bible freely.) This does not happen very often, and it often takes years to persuade some members to leave a cult.


 

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Why don't people leave cults?

All the mind control techniques help to keep people in cults, sometimes being used together to form even stronger controls over members. Here's how.

Deception

Cults teach their members that the real world is different to how it actually is, making it appear a place that members would not want to be part of.

Also, the cult member might not realise anything is wrong.

Exclusivism

Cults teach their members that only the cult offers salvation or the truth. Leaving the cult is the same as leaving God, and no relationship with God will ever be possible if they leave.

Fear, Guilt, Intimidation

The leadership knows all the wrongdoing of the members and the threat of having it all revealed - basically emotional blackmail - is used to scare the member into staying.

Information control

If a cult dictates what its members are allowed to read, and what they can listen to on radio and watch on TV, members will not know what the outside world is like. That can make it a very scary prospect stepping out from the cult. The cult may also present its members with a false view of the outside world, perhaps one in which everyone is so sinful that leaving members wouldn't last a week before being killed or worse.

Alternatively, the cult member might be completely unaware that there is anything wrong with what they are taught or that life within the cult is unusual - it might be all they've ever known.

Love bombing, conditional love

After a honeymoon period where a new member (suddenly) has all the love they can cope with - known as love bombing - love is turned on and off to control. Members have their needs for love and acceptance met only when they are complying with the cult's requirements. This is a strong disincentive to do anything wrong, such as think about leaving.

Relationship control and shunning

Cults try to control all the personal relationships of their members. Eventually (normally over a period of a few years) the member will not have any close friends outside of the cult. Often their entire family will also be in the cult. It takes a huge amount of courage to leave friends and family behind, since members who leave are shunned by the cult. Shunning is when present members are forbidden to talk to or associate with former members, even if they are their own family. Over the years a person spends within a cult, their business might become completely dependent on other cult members, possibly because the cult leadership has told them they are not allowed to have other customers. If they were to leave, both they and their business would be shunned - no more customers.

Reporting structure and thought stopping

If members know that they will be punished for saying or doing anything against the cult (especially if they think the punishment is somehow justified - for example if guilt is also used) they will be more and more reluctant to say or do anything that could possibly appear disloyal. They will eventually block out any anti-cult thoughts as they have them. This is known as "thought-stopping." (It's quite bizarre watching this happen, and very sad, too.)

Time control

Some cults deliberately keep their members so busy that they don't have time to consider their involvement. The members are too busy (and possibly too tired) to figure out that the cult is bad. Some extreme cults also control food, which also prevents the member from thinking clearly.

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