The Cult Test
Questions 51 to 60

(To go back and forth between the questions and the answers for Alcoholics Anonymous, click on the numbers of the questions and answers.)

51. Members Get No Respect. They Get Abused.

The cult has no respect for its members, on either the physical, mental, or spiritual planes. The cult demands total loyalty from its members, but the cult has no loyalty to its members. Cult members may be subjected to physical, mental, and/or sexual abuse.

Cults are marked by the callous, cruel, and insensitive treatment of their members. The cult feels no obligation to tell its members the truth. The cult has no respect for the members' minds, opinions, integrity, or feelings. The cult often subjects members to psychological abuse and mental torture. There may be sexual exploitation and abuse. There may be physical abuse, beatings, or other torture.

The group is considered more important than the lives of the individual members. The rank and file members are considered expendable; the guru and his cult are not.

Cults often use members like just so much slave labor. Some cults coldly discard members when they have no further use for them.

  • The Hari Krishnas closed down ashrams which were not profitable enough to suit the leaders, and the residents who had given their lives to the cult were just booted out onto the streets.

  • The Rajneeshees sent old school busses all over the USA, collecting homeless people and vagabonds to use as voters in the next election, in an attempt to take over the county government in eastern Oregon. After the election (and failure to win anything), the now-superfluous poor people were just dumped out onto the highways of Oregon.

  • One correspondent reports: "One of my friends gets to work with families who are thrown out by the Church of $cientology after their life savings are drained and all possible money from loans are wrung out of them."

52. Inconsistency. Contradictory Messages.

Cults say things like: "We offer you unconditional love and acceptance. We are ushering in a new age of enlightenment and world peace. Oh, and by the way, don't fuck with us, or else you can end up dead, physically dead..."

Cults occasionally feature things like:

  • Lying, cheating, and deceiving for Jesus (or for Krishna, or for Jim Jones, or for the newcomers' own good).
  • Prostitution to promote "Christianity" — Happy Hookers for Jesus.
  • Committing violent acts against enemies in the name of Peace and Love.
  • Beating children for Jesus or for Krishna.
  • Instructions to practice "Rigorous honesty" accompanied by instructions to "Fake It Until You Make It" and "Act As If."
  • Bombing abortion clinics and killing doctors who perform abortions in order to "protect human life".
  • Teachings like, "You must learn to revere and love all life, and hold it sacred,", accompanied by teachings like "Only the people who practice our religion are going to Heaven."
  • And: It's All A Bait-And-Switch Con Game.

The actual value system of a cult is often the antithesis of the system that it advertises to the public.

Charles "Chuck" Dederich, the leader of the "new drug and alcohol rehabilitation program" called Synanon:
"Don't mess with us — you can get killed dead, physically dead."
"Yes, I do want an ear in a glass of alcohol, I really do."
"Nonviolence was just a position we took. We change positions all of the time."
(Photo by Charlie Downs)

Rick Ross gave us an amusing example of inconsistency in Scientology when he posted the story of Lisa Marie Presley (the daughter of Elvis) claiming that Scientology had saved her from drugs and alcohol:

Presley touts drug cure

      Typical of many Scientologist celebrities Lisa Marie Presley often uses exposure to promote her religion.
      In recent interviews she has touted the supposed salvation Scientology provided from her drug problems.
      She says her bout with "cocaine, sedatives, pot and drinking" climaxed at 18, but was resolved when she sought help from the controversial church.
      Presley said, "I woke up one day, drove myself to the Church of Scientology and said, 'Somebody help me right now'," reports Teen Hollywood.
      But here is the rub.
      Lisa Marie was raised within Scientology by her mother Priscilla who is an ardent adherent.
      So what went wrong in this Scientology household that produced such addictive behavior and drug lust in the teenager?
      Lisa Marie doesn't discuss this.
Cult News, May 18, 2003

53. Hierarchical, Authoritarian Power Structure, and Social Castes

The cult features an Undemocratic reality, Control-oriented leadership, and Superdemocracy or Pseudo-democracy. The cult has social castes, arranged in a hierarchical structure. The cult has Royalty — The children of the guru are often the princes and princesses of the new kingdom. The inner circle of courtiers is blessed above others, and gets special privileges.

Such cults sometimes have pseudo-democracy, where anyone can express his or her opinion on any subject, and people can vote on anything, but somehow the elections don't really matter and nothing really changes. All real power is concentrated in the hands of the leaders, who consider such elections to be simply "advice", or "an expression of the popular opinion", but not binding.

54. Front groups, masquerading recruiters, hidden promoters, and disguised propagandists.

Cults often use front groups to further their goals. Scientology and the Moonies (Unification Church) are notorious for having dozens or hundreds of front groups that claim to have no connection to the parent church.

Steve Hassan reported that when he was recruited for the Moonies' Unification Church, he didn't even know that he was joining the Church. He thought he was joining a secular organization that was doing social activism work for the improvement of society. He said that he was in the Church for three months before he learned that he was actually in the Unification Church.

Scientology even has a drug and alcohol rehabilitation program that uses Scientology mind-control techniques to get people, it says, off of drugs and alcohol. The rehab program front is called Narconon, which is similar enough to Al-Anon, and Narcotics Anonymous to confuse a lot of people. In some cites, like Bowden, Georgia, and Clearwater, Florida, Narconon has represented itself as a successful drug and alcohol rehab program, and tried to get the city courts to sentence all drunk drivers, public drunks, and drug offenders to the Narconon program, as well as soliciting the local governments for funding and grants for "rehabilitating" addicts. Of course the Narconon leaders do not bother to tell the city council or the judges that the "rehabilitation" program actually consists of Scientology mind control training.

Time Magazine reported on some of Scientology's front organizations:

HealthMed, a chain of clinics run by Scientologists, promotes a grueling and excessive system of saunas, exercise and vitamins designed by Hubbard to purify the body. Experts denounce the regime as quackery and potentially harmful, yet HealthMed solicits unions and public agencies for contracts. The chain is plugged heavily in a new book, Diet for a Poisoned Planet, by journalist David Steinman, who concludes that scores of common foods (among them: peanuts, bluefish, peaches and cottage cheese) are dangerous.
      Former Surgeon General C. Everett Koop labeled the book "trash," and the Food and Drug Administration issued a paper in October that claims Steinman distorts his facts. "HealthMed is a gateway to Scientology, and Steinman's book is a sorting mechanism," says physician William Jarvis, who is head of the National Council Against Health Fraud. Steinman, who describes Hubbard favorably as a "researcher," denies any ties to the church and contends, "HealthMed has no affiliation that I know of with Scientology."
Time Magazine special report on Scientology, The Thriving Cult of Greed and Power, Time Magazine May 6, 1991, page 50.

Hubbard's purification treatments are the mainstay of Narconon, a Scientology-run chain of 33 alcohol and drug rehabilitation centers — some in prisons under the name "Criminon" — in 12 countries. Narconon, a classic vehicle for drawing addicts into the cult, now plans to open what it calls the world's largest treatment center, a 1,400-bed facility on an Indian reservation near Newkirk, Okla. (pop. 2,400. At a 1989 ceremony in Newkirk, the Association for Better Living and Education presented Narconon a check for $200,000 and a study praising its work. The association turned out to be part of Scientology itself. Today the town is battling to keep out the cult, which has fought back through such tactics as sending private detectives to snoop on the mayor and the local newspaper publisher.
Time Magazine special report on Scientology, The Thriving Cult of Greed and Power, Time Magazine May 6, 1991, page 50.

One front, the Way to Happiness Foundation, has distributed to children in thousands of the nation's public schools more than 3.5 million copies of a booklet Hubbard wrote on morality. The church calls the scheme "the largest dissemination project in Scientology history." Applied Scholastics is the name of still another front, which is attempting to install a Hubbard tutorial program in public schools, primarily those populated by minorities. The group also plans a 1,000 acre campus, where it will train educators to teach various Hubbard methods. The disingenuously named Citizens Commission on Human Rights is a Scientology group at war with psychiatry, its primary competitor. The commission typically issues reports aimed at discrediting particular psychiatrists and the field in general. The CCHR is also behind an all-out war against Eli Lilly, the maker of Prozac, the nation's top-selling antidepression drug. Despite scant evidence, the group's members — who call themselves "psychbusters" — claim that Prozac drives people to murder or suicide. Through mass mailings, appearances on talk shows and heavy lobbying, CCHR has hurt drug sales and helped spark dozens of lawsuits against Lilly.
Time Magazine special report on Scientology, The Thriving Cult of Greed and Power, Time Magazine May 6, 1991, page 50.

And, true to form, the "Church of Scientology" sued Time-Warner for publishing the magazine article. The judge dismissed the case, saying, among other things, that "no reasonable jury could find that these statements were published with malice." Meaning: Time Magazine just reported the truth, and that isn't publishing "with malice".1

55. Belief equals truth

The cult members like to think that truth is identical to belief — specifically, identical to their beliefs. They like to imagine that things are true because they believe them to be true.

When you tell such believers some true facts that they don't like, they often answer, "But what we believe is..." or "But what our church says is...", as if that somehow changed things.

They like to imagine that their believing that something is true will make it so —

  • As if their believing that the world is flat could really make it so.
  • As if their imagining that God is a certain way will force God to be that way.
  • As if their believing in faith healing will really make it work.
    (The converse is, of course, that if you don't believe in their faith healing, you will make it fail — so you are an evil, harmful, person for not believing and not "keeping the faith".)

Some people want to know the truth, and some people just want to go on a big ego trip and believe in fairy tales. Cult members choose to believe in fairy tales and fantasies —

  • They like to imagine that they have magical powers — that their chants, incantations, beliefs, and prayers will really have some physical effect on the world.

  • They like to imagine that they are so powerful that their merely believing something will change the world.

  • They also like to imagine that their beliefs are very important —
    • That it will ruin God's whole day if they don't believe what God wants them to believe. (And they are sure that they know what God wants them to believe.)
    • Or that the world won't get saved if they don't keep the faith.

    That's just a bit grandiose and egotistical. —Which, in turn, reveals why they like to imagine that their beliefs control reality. Their magical fantasy world is just a big fat vain ego trip where they can feel important and powerful.

56. Use of double-binds

The group uses traps where you are damned if you do, and damned if you don't.

The classic old example of a double bind was witch trials. Women who were suspected of being witches were dunked in a river:

  • If she sank and drowned, that meant that she was innocent.
  • If she floated and lived, it was because the Devil was holding her up, and she must now be executed by burning at the stake or hanging.

Likewise, if she confessed under torture to being a witch, then that proved that she was one.
If she didn't confess, then that proved that she was a deceitful lying witch who wouldn't tell the truth.

Damned if you do, and damned if you don't.

Willa Appel recorded the following story of a double bind:

A form of the double bind frequently exists in the relationship cult members have with their leader. Robert Perez, for example, in discussing a typical experience in his cult, unwittingly described the classic double bind. Patterson Brown, the leader of Christ Brotherhood, had mowed the lawn one day. He had been unable, however, to cut a narrow strip of grass that sloped precipitiously and was riddled with pot holes. To help out, Robert took a scythe and cut down the tall grass. At that point the Guru became furious, screaming, "You know you should leave it alone! You know that if I didn't cut that, I didn't cut that for a reason. If you only knew what it was like to be a child, you'd know that it's fun to play in the weeds." Needless to say, Robert was taken aback. Criticized for helping, he knew that he would also have been criticized for not helping. "It was the kind of thing that in another frame of mind with him, a week down the line, he'd say, 'How come nobody's done that? Do I have to do everything around here?'"
Cults in America; Programmed for Paradise, Willa Appel, page 103.

Such double binds induce a feeling of powerlessness in their victims, which helps a cult to maintain control over its members. Willa Appel continued:

Christ Brotherhood members never knew what to expect. Each morning they half anticipated to be told to get out and never come back. The unpredictability of their leader, as Robert expressed it, "made you completely paranoid about what you were doing and what you weren't doing. You'd do one thing and then he'd just flip-flop the other way. You never knew if he was going to turn around and yell at you or praise you." Unfortunately, the erratic nature of Christ Brotherhood's leader could not be easily dismissed by his followers because they depended upon him and his opinions to validate their own lives. "What Patterson said was how you felt about yourself."
Cults in America; Programmed for Paradise, Willa Appel, page 103.

57. The leader is not held accountable for his actions.

The leader answers to no one. He doesn't stand for (real) re-election. There is no functional Council of Elders or Board of Directors or Board of Trustees that can discipline him or replace him if he fails to perform his duties properly. Nobody even has the authority to define just what his duties are, for that matter.

This rule can apply to the leadership in general, in organizations where several people jointly share power.

58. Everybody else needs the guru to boss him around, but nobody bosses the guru around.

This needs no explanation.

59. The guru criticizes everybody else, but nobody criticizes the guru.

Criticizing the leader would conflict with Cult Rule Number OneThe Guru Is Always Right.

60. Dispensed truth and social definition of reality

The cult and its leaders are the source of all Truth, Wisdom, and Knowledge. The leader proclaims the new doctrine, the new revelation. The cult defines reality and declares what the truth really is and what good and bad are.

Any outsiders who espouse a different 'truth' are attacked as evil or stupid, or just ignored.

"Oh Lord, Grant that we may always be right,
For you know that we will never change our minds."

Continue to questions 61 to 70...


1) Judge Leisure's Opinion and Order (issued July 16, 1996), United States District Court Southern District of New York, 92 Civ. 3024 (PKL), CHURCH OF SCIENTOLOGY INTERNATIONAL, Plaintiff, vs. TIME WARNER, INC., TIME INC., MAGAZINE COMPANY, and RICHARD BEHAR, Defendants.

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Last updated 27 October 2015.
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