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What Criteria Should We Use?

The words “Jonestown”,  “Heaven’s Gate” and “Branch Davidians” are known by many people. The tragic end of these cults strikes fear in some and bewilderment in others. But what about the names of other churches that have been proven to exhibit just as much control? They are not nearly as well known because their practices have not been investigated or published. What makes a religious group or church considered a cult? What tests should we apply to a group to determine if a group is dangerous or cultish?

According to Steve Hassan, a leading cult expert and counselor; the beliefs of the group do not determine cult status. How does the group control individuals? That is the key. In his book, “Releasing The Bonds, Empowering People to Think for Themselves” He outlines four areas of control that can be questioned for any group. He calls it the BITE model.

Behavior– how are individuals controlled through time commitments and having to ask before making decisions?

Information– What are the restraints on non-cult sources of info? Is there spying on other members?

Thoughts– Is there a Good vs. Evil mindset? Us vs. Them? Use of thought-stopping techniques?

Emotional Control– Use of fear to control decisions? Fear of thinking independently? Fear of losing one’s salvation? Ritual and/or public confession of sins?

Using these keys and the others taught by Hassan, one can know quickly if the group they are joining or are a part of practices mind control and is a cult. The control practices are the ones that limit the individual and prohibit critical thinking. If any of these practices are present turn around and walkout.

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