Several years ago a friend, who was still a Jehovah’s Witness at the time, sent me a list of “Ten Signs of a Cult.” His purpose was to prove to me that the Watchtower Society and its followers, Jehovah’s Witnesses, was not a cult, but a legitimate Christian religion.
At the time I just looked at the list he’d emailed me and laughed, because for me it proved just the opposite. I wondered what this fellow had been smoking and wondered if he was reading the same list I was.
I’m not sure where this originated or who its author was, but I think that it can be realistically used to compare The Watchtower Society to other religions that would be commonly considered as “cults.”
- A cult has an absolutely authoritarian leadership that refuses to be held to any meaningful accountability.
- A cult has no tolerance for questions or critical inquiry from within or outside of the organization.
- The leadership of the cult is the only person or group inspired by and chosen by God and the Holy Spirit and is always right, even when facts and documented evidence makes it clear that they are wrong or even lying.
- The leadership of the cult is the only path to God and is the exclusive means of learning and understanding the “truth.” There are no other sources of reliable or acceptable heavenly inspired prophecy, interpretation or knowledge. It is a sin for followers to seek out the truth on their own.
- Among the members there is an unreasonable fear of outsiders, world governments, impending and apocalyptic catastrophes, evil conspiracies inside and outside the organization, and persecution of all types.
- Once you become a member of a cult, you are always a member. There is never a legitimate reason for anyone to ever leave and those that do are always wrong, evil, and negative and are often referred to as apostates or “children of Satan.”
- The membership of the cult uses a special vocabulary to describe themselves and their religion. Phrases like “The Truth,” “The One True Way,” “The Holy Family,” etc. are used to differentiate themselves from other religions.
- Even though there are plenty of books, news stories and television documentaries that expose the abuses or teachings of the cult, members are told that all of those reports are not to be believed or even read because they are generated by “evil apostates and Satan.”
- Followers are taught that they are never good enough and must always do more for the cult by giving more money, spending more time preaching the word, confessing their sins, and praying for forgiveness, often in the presence of cult leaders.
- No financial disclosures are made available to the public or the membership regarding the income or expenses of the organization, such as from a financial audit by an outside accounting firm.
Obviously, the above list is by no means complete, but take a look and then think about sects and religions like those led by Jim Jones, the Alamos, and the LDS polygamists under investigation in Arizona, Utah and Texas. There are many other so-called “main stream” religions that also have some of the above attributes, but Jehovah’s Witnesses (who would never consider themselves a “cult”) clearly demonstrate all of them.