Marcia Rudin's 14 Common Characteristics of a Cult

1. Members swear total allegiance to an all-powerful leader who they believe to be the Messiah.

2. Rational thought is discouraged or forbidden.

3. The cult's recruitment techniques are often deceptive.

4. The cult weakens the follower psychologically by making him or her depend upon the group to solve his or her problems.

5. The cults manipulate guilt to their advantage.

6. The cult leader makes all the career and life decision of the members.

7. Cults exist only for their own material survival and make false promises to work to improve society.

8. Cult members often work fulltime for the group for little or no pay.

9. Cult members are isolated from the outside world and any reality testing it could provide.

10. Cults are anti-woman, anti-child, and anti-family.

11. Cults are apocalyptic and believe themselves to be the remnant who will survive the soon-approaching end of the world.

12. Many cults follow an "ends justify the means" philosophy.

13. Cults, particularly in regard to their finances, are shrouded in secrecy.

14. There is frequently an aura of or potential for violence around cults.

Commentary by Nori J. Muster

If you think you might be involved in a cult, ask yourself some serious questions about the group.

Do you have to change who you are to fit in, please others?
Do they set up a duality of "us" and "them" and tell you that people outside the group are bad, less important?
Do they treat "outsiders" badly or talk behind their backs?
Do they treat members badly?
Do they give a false impression to the public?
Do they predict that society is on the brink of destruction?

Further symptoms:

Cult leaders are often psychopathic and power hungry. They teach their followers that the outside world is evil; that the cult offers the only salvation. This creates an atmosphere of isolation, leading to hopelessness.

Cult recruiters target people with low self-esteem, presenting the group as a loving surrogate family. Members are taught to do whatever the family asks. They must repress their individuality and work for the good of the group.

New people may receive red carpet treatment, but once they are established members, they may be exploited and abused. They may alter their personalities to please authority figures and fit into the group.

Cult leaders preach that society is on the brink of destruction, reinforced by isolating their members and controlling the flow of information within the cult. They manipulate members with guilt and fear.

Cults try to portray themselves as benign and may hide undesirable aspects of their operation from the public and from members. Thus the stereotype of "blind" followers.