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The information in this handout was compiled from the International Cultic Studies Association, particularly the article "Characteristics Associated with Cult Groups—Revised" by Dr. Janja Lalich and Dr. Michael D. Langone (2006); a Wikipedia entry on Robert Jay Lifton; and "Common Characteristics of How the Cults Operate" (2009) on the Let Us Reason Ministries website.
What Makes It a Cult?
The answer depends on how you define the word and to whom you are talking. For purposes of liberal religious examination, this is our working definition of a cult:
A religion or sect, generally considered to be extremist or false, under the guidance of an authoritarian, charismatic leader for whom members exhibit fixed, even religious, veneration.
Groups that meet this definition tend to have an escalating negative impact on the lives of followers. These groups exhibit many common characteristics:
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Last updated on Wednesday, October 29, 2014.
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