Cults Archive

You'll find articles about this subject in each of the items listed, even if the term does not necessarily occur within the headlines or descriptive text.

The term ‘cult’ can be used in a positive, negative, or neutral sense. It does not necessarily have a pejorative meaning, although the term has taken on negative connotations — precisely due to the behaviour of some groups that have been identified as cults.

The ambiguity of the term ‘cult’ makes it necessary to identify or determine in what sense the word is used.

Note that the term ‘cult’ can be defined either sociologically or theologically. Sociology concerns itself with behavior, while theology concerns itself with doctrine. [More about the differences between sociological and theological definitions of the term ‘cult’]

Also, in some countries the term ‘sect‘ — equally ambiguous in meaning — is used instead of the word ‘cult.’

More information:

Cult FAQ — Frequently Asked Questions About Cults, Sects, and Related Issues
Cult Definition

See also:

Cult experts

Cult experts hope pending Aum Shinrikyo cult trial will raise awareness

When the Supreme Court in mid-December rejected an Aum Shinrikyo convict’s objection to the finalization of his death sentence, it almost closed the curtain on the cult responsible for the deadliest crimes in modern Japanese history, including the 1995 nerve gas attack on the Tokyo subway system.

But, says the Japan Times,

with the last gas attack fugitive, Katsuya Takahashi, in custody, the courts will inevitably revisit the atrocities committed by the cultists, whose spiritual pursuits under guru Shoko Asahara claimed 29 lives and left more than 6,500 people injured.

Aum’s critics say the trio of recently captured fugitives — Takahashi, 54, Makoto Hirata, 46, and Naoko Kikuchi, 40 — will not shed dramatic new light on the cult and its crimes because most of the pieces of the puzzle have already been put together via the trials of the other cultists.

But experts expressed hope that revisiting Aum’s mayhem will raise public awareness of the potential dangers of joining cults.

One of the leading experts in mind control, Dr. Robert J. Lifton addressed the issue of doomsday cults such as Aum Shinrikyo.

“We need to analyze why young people were attracted to that group, and how to prevent others from joining them. Otherwise, even if the Aum trials are over, new groups can emerge and attract young people and the same things can be repeated,” said Yoshifu Arita, a Democratic Party of Japan lawmaker who closely followed the Aum trials as a freelance journalist. […]

In the meantime, authorities may have to postpone the hangings of the condemned cultists because they could be needed as witnesses in the trials of the trio. Legal analysts say the pretrial process for determining the points of argument could take months or even years. […]

Aum splintered and changed its name to Aleph in 2000 but continues to operate under Asahara’s teachings. A report by the Public Safety Intelligence Agency shows there are some 1,500 Aleph followers in Japan and it gained 200 new ones last year.

The rise in numbers shows more people, especially in the younger generation, are not aware of what Aum did in the past and find its brand of spiritualism attractive, Arita of DPJ said. He stressed the need to educate people on the dangers of joining cults, since anyone faces the risk of being subtly brainwashed.

In a separate report the Japan Times writes

Cult FAQ Frequently Asked Questions About Cults, Sects, and Related Issues
Includes definitions of terms (e.g. cult, sect, anticult, countercult, new religious movement, cult apologist, etcetera)
Plus research resources: articles, books, websites, etc.
Listing of recommended cult experts, plus guidelines to help select a counselor/cult expert
CultFAQ is provided by Apologetics Index, publishers of Religion News Blog

Comments & resources by

The final three Aum Shinrikyo fugitives are now in custody, but groups working to rescue brainwashed followers from its main successor group are continuing their fight against the cult.

In a campaign to save the roughly 1,500 disciples who remain loyal to the cult, which changed its name to Aleph in 2000, the groups are calling on the former fugitives and other ex-members to warn the young about the risks it still poses.

“My goal is to make every single Aum follower leave the cult. . . . I’ve got to do something about this problem” while I’m still strong enough, Hiroyuki Nagaoka, the 74-year-old head of a group of relatives of former or current cult members, told The Japan Times on Friday.

Nagaoka said he believes Katsuya Takahashi, the last Aum fugitive who was arrested Friday, is still partly under the influence of Aum guru Shoko Asahara, currently on death row, and will require counseling to start viewing the world through his own eyes. […]

Experts say that due to Asahara’s demise many people now dismiss the possibility of falling under the influence of a cult, and warn the younger generation is especially at risk as it did not directly experience the shock waves generated by the Tokyo sarin gas attack 17 years ago.

They say anyone can fall prey to cults such as Aleph and that its members are actively looking for new recruits on university campuses. […]

According to a 2011 report by the Public Safety Intelligence Agency, Aleph conducted an aggressive recruitment drive last year, covertly seeking new members at universities by infiltrating cultural societies or using social networking services.

More than 200 new members joined the cult last year — roughly double the number in 2010 — and 62 percent were younger than 35, the report said.

See Also

About Aum Shinrikyo

Aum Shinrikyo may be gone in name but guru still has following
How cult apologists, including J. Gordon Melton and James R. Lewis, defended Aum Shrinrikyo
Aum Shinrikyo may be gone in name but guru still has following
Research resources on AUM shinrikyo

About Cults

Who Joins Cults, And Why?
Today’s Cults: You Might Not Recognize Them
When Spirituality Goes Awry: Students in Cults
Cult FAQ: Frequently Asked Questions About Cults

About Cult Experts

Need a cult expert? Here’s how to avoid the bad apples

UK: Cults watchdog faces danger of being shut down

Since he escaped from a brainwashing cult 34 years ago, Ian Haworth has survived character assassination, lawsuits, bankruptcy and death threats.

But, says The Guardian,

now the founder of the Cult Information Centre, which educates the public about the threats posed by pseudo-religious groups, finds himself under attack from an unexpected quarter. The Charity Commission is seeking to withdraw the centre’s charitable status, a move that would in effect end its activities.

“If that happened, donations from trusts – which are our lifeline – would evaporate. We wouldn’t be able to afford our office and we would no longer be able to operate,” said Haworth, who established the centre as a response to his experiences in a Toronto-based cult and to the Jonestown massacre of 1978 that saw 918 people die in a mass suicide in Guyana, South America.

Set up as an educational charity, the centre – whose three trustees are anonymous owing to fear of reprisals – had an income of just over £40,000 last year. “Most people don’t understand cults, so money is hard to come by,” Haworth said. “We don’t make any money. That’s why there are not many people trying to get into this field. Now, if we don’t know whether we are going to retain our charitable status, it makes life doubly hard.”

The problems started when a complaint was made to the commission about the centre’s educational remit. Concerns were raised that the centre was failing to observe neutrality. A suggestion, made by the commission, for the centre to become a mental health charity was accepted, only for a further complaint to be made that has left its future in the balance.

Haworth believes several cults have taken exception to the centre’s website, which once carried links to other websites warning of the dangers of certain groups and which attracted visitors from around the world.

The site still carries those links to a variety of cult information websites that operate from secular, Christian, or non-Christian perspectives.

Last January a web-based Guardian article on the Cult Information Centre‘s difficulties with the Charity Commission initially said:

The commission has not revealed who is behind complaints, but an official let slip at a meeting attended by Haworth and some CIC trustees that it was the Church of Scientology.

The article was later edited, replacing that sentence with this one: “The commission has not revealed who is behind complaints.”

The paper explained that the Charity Commission had asked it “to make clear that it is the commission’s policy not to reveal the source of any complaint and that the complaint came from an individual who did not claim to be making the complaint on behalf of any one else or any other organisation.”

Says the Guardian

Haworth expressed concern that the UK was lagging behind other European countries in raising awareness. France has introduced a law to protect its citizens from cults and has a government-funded unit monitoring them. German children are educated about cults from an early age, while Spain has several organisations that track their development.

A spokeswoman for the commission said its policy was not to discuss the identity of complainants and that it was in talks with the centre about its future. “The charity informed us in June 2011 that it would appoint an independent adviser to the trustees to review the charity’s activities and suggested a framework for future activities to ensure these are exclusively educational and charitable,” the spokeswoman said. “We await the results of this review.”

See also, “The $1,500 Lesson” — a sidebar to the Guardian article.

Cult FAQ
Cult Experts