“What is a Cult?”
Alan Gomes writes: “A cult of Christianity is a group of people, which claiming to be Christian, embraces a particular doctrine system taught by an individual leader, group of leaders, or organization, which (system) denies (either explicitly or implicitly) one or more of the central doctrines of the Christian Faith as taught in the sixty-six books of the Bible.” Alan Gomes, Unmasking The Cults (Zondervan, 1995)
“A cult is a group or movement exhibiting a great or excessive devotion or dedication to some person, idea, or thing and employing unethically manipulative techniques of persuasion and control (e.g., isolation from former friends and family, debilitation, use of special methods to heighten suggestibility and subservience, powerful group pressures, information management, suspension of individuality or critical judgment, promotion of total dependency on the group and fear of leaving it, etc.) designed to advance the goals of the group’s leaders to the actual or possible detriment of members, their families, or the community.” (West & Langone, 1986)
This article will make the case – from the cult identification materials offered by Fundamentalist Christians themselves – that Fundamentalist Christianity itself is a cult. My comments will be in bold. cult identification information available here was used as the basis for this article.
“A cult is a group or movement exhibiting a great or excessive devotion or dedication to some person, idea, or thing…”
Fundamentalist Christianity stresses excessive devotion to Jesus above all else, marking them as a cult.
“employing unethically manipulative techniques of persuasion and control …”
The Christian Church uses several known brainwashing techniques to gain and then keep converts. Here is an example: Ever been to a church service where the same song is sung over and over and over again? I have, and it is a common practice. What the vast majority of church members do not know is that this is a brainwashing technique. The repetition of the song breaks down mental barriers and puts people in an extremely suggestible state. The music plays a part as well. Deep bass tones played rhythmically and repeatedly will cause people to enter an altered state of consciousness – they go in and out of trance while the song is playing. Watch a Charismatic praise & worship service or pay attention next time you are in a church service. You will notice some folks staring blankly into space. They are in a hypnotic trance. Some preachers also use a speaking technique called “voice roll”, which also has a hypnotic effect. While in a relaxed altered state, most people’s defenses (and critical thinking skills) are down and what they are taught at that time they will not necessarily think through for themselves. So, while the defenses are down, the brainwashing and indoctrination takes place.
“use of special methods to heighten suggestibility and subservience…”
See above. Also see the excellent and informative article available at this link: https://www.cs.cmu.edu/~dst/Secrets/TR/sutphen.htmlThe Battle for Your Mind.
“powerful group pressures…”
Fundamentalist Christians are strongly pressured to avoid “sinful” activities and to conform to the standards of the group.
Information critical of the Bible or the Christian religion rarely reaches Fundamentalist Christians because it has been denounced as being “from Satan“, therefore they avoid it, if they even know that it exists.
“suspension of individuality or critical judgment…”
These are big issues within the Fundamentalist Christian faith. Among Christians, critical thinking about the Bible or the Christian religion is strongly discouraged. Doubt is, after all, “of the devil”. Proper development of the personality and individualization in children and adolescents may be severely impaired due to the replacement of the real personality with a false religious one due to brainwashing and indoctrination.
“fear of leaving it…”
Religious fear is a huge factor for those who are questioning their faith or who have decided to leave it. Fear of Satan and fear of Hell are tools that the Church has used very successfully to keep people in the fold. Those who leave are often plagued for years with religious fears. These fears may appear to be baseless to those outside of the Fundamentalist Christian cult, but to those suffering from them, these religious fears are very real indeed. For those suffering from fear of Satan or fear of Hell, the information available at this link should help overcome those fears: http://alaskanatheist.me/to-end-fear-of-hell/.
Characteristics of a Cult
Fundamentalist Christianity is certainly popular. Millions of people in this nation alone claim to have had a “born again” experience and claim to be Christians. Dick Sutphen, the popular New Age author and hypnotist, has pinpointed what I think is a very valid reason for the continued growth of the Fundamentalist Christian cult. From his article, “https://www.cs.cmu.edu/~dst/Secrets/TR/sutphen.htmlThe Battle for Your Mind“:
Any study of brainwashing has to begin with a study of Christian revivalism in eighteenth century America. Apparently, Jonathan Edwards accidentally discovered the techniques during a religious crusade in 1735 in Northampton, Massachusetts. By inducing guilt and acute apprehension and by increasing the tension, the sinners attending his revival meetings would break down and completely submit. Technically, what Edwards was doing was creating conditions that wipe the brain slate clean so that the mind accepts new programming. He would tell those attending, “You’re a sinner! You’re destined for hell!”
As a result, one person committed suicide and another attempted suicide. The neighbors of the suicidal converts related that they, too, were affected so deeply that, although they had found “eternal salvation,” they were obsessed with a diabolical temptation to end their own lives.
Once a preacher, cult leader, manipulator or authority figure creates the brain phrase to wipe the brain-slate clean, his subjects are open to new programming. New input, in the form of suggestions, can be substituted for their previous ideas. Because Edwards didn’t turn his message positive until the end of the revival, many accepted the negative suggestions and acted, or desired to act, upon them.
Charles J. Finney was another Christian revivalist who used the same techniques four years later in mass religious conversions in New York. The techniques are still being used today by Christian revivalists, Cults, human-potential training, some business rallies and the U.S. armed services.
Let me point out here that I don’t think most revivalist preachers realize or know they are using brainwashing techniques. Edwards simply stumbled upon a technique that worked, and others copied it and have continued to copy it for over two hundred years. And the more sophisticated our knowledge and technology become, the more effective the conversion. I feel strongly that this is one of the major reasons for the increasing rise in Christian fundamentalism, especially the televised variety, while most of the orthodox religions are declining.
Fundamentalist Christians are regularly manipulated through fear, guilt, and shame tactics. Fear tactics include inducing fear of God, fear of Satan, and fear of Hell. Guilt and shame tactics are used on those who have committed some alleged “sin” and all Christians (and possible converts) are made to feel guilty and ashamed for having allegedly offended God.
“Controlling and authoritative: This message is from God; I am a prophet… You must follow these rules…”
This one is definitely a characteristic of Fundamentalist Christianity. Their message is supposedly from God, Jesus is the prophet of God/the Messiah, and there are rules that must be followed to be saved or to be in fellowship with other Christians and the church as a whole.
Fundamentalist Christianity is definitely fear-inducing – fear of God, fear of Jesus, fear of Satan, fear of Hell, fear of demons, fear of sinning…and so on. Fear, fear, fear, fear, and more fear is the name of the game! It is used unfortunately quite successfully to keep the flock in line.
Some Fundamentalist Christian denominations, such as the Church of Christ, are more legalistic than others.
Fundamentalist Christianity is very much a condemning religion. Entire groups of people are regularly condemned, as is everything that is seen as “sin”.
Christians are definitely expected to conform to the culture of their church and to behave “as Christians” – i.e. avoid “sinful” activities.
This is absolutely true of Fundamentalist Christianity. Fundamentalist Christians believe that theirs is the only right way to live – the only way to Heaven and the only way to God.
Fundamentalist Christians definitely are expected to contribute financially in the form of tithes (supposedly mandatory for the blessings of God), building funds, love offerings, etc. It is not uncommon for Christians to be manipulated through fear, guilt, and shame into giving much more than the base 10% tithe.
“isolation from outside”
This can be an issue in some churches, but I don’t believe it to be common except in the sense that Christians are often denied the knowledge of the existence of materials critical of their faith.
“Lack of privacy”
This can be an issue with new converts. They often are not allowed time or privacy to think their decision to become a Christian through rationally after the emotional high of conversion has worn off.
This is definitely an issue in Fundamentalist Christian churches. Visitors are often love-bombed in the hopes that they will keep coming back and eventually be converted, and new converts are often love-bombed in an effort to keep them coming to church and to discourage them from thinking critically about their conversion experience.
“Critical thinking discouraged; can’t question.”
This is definitely true of Fundamentalist Christianity. Fundamentalist Christians are strongly discouraged from thinking critically about their faith, the Bible, or the Christian religion. Doubt, they are told, is “of the devil”, while the need to “just have faith” is stressed.
Fundamentalist Christians are definitely indoctrinated, and brainwashed as well.
“Corporate identification with goals of group”
This is true of Fundamentalist Christianity, whether dealing with a building fund for example, or a corporate desire to get to heaven.
“Demands Total Committment and unquestioning submission”
This is true in the sense that total commitment and submission to God/Jesus is strongly stressed.
“Value rejection: encouraged to denounce values and beliefs of former life.”
This is definitely true of Fundamentalist Christianity. New converts are frequently encouraged to denounce old spiritual beliefs and values, and to get rid of anything they may own that is “not of God”.
“Threats about leaving and consequences”
This is absolutely true of Fundamentalist Christianity. Those leaving the Fundamentalist Christian cult are frequently threatened with the anger of God and the supposed “reality” of Hell.
Symptoms of cult Followers
- Emotional vulnerability
- Identity confusion
- Loss of free will
- Intellectual sterility
- Diminished capacity of judgment
- Suicidal tendencies
All of these characteristics typify someone who has been involved with and then left the Fundamentalist Christian cult. I know they describe my struggles with leaving the cult and they hold true for others as well.
- Religious Trauma Syndrome: It’s Time To Recognize It (Part 1 of 3) (new.exchristian.net)
- New Study Confirms Religious Fundamentalists More Likely To Be Authoritarian (hooglyboogly.wordpress.com)