What is a Destructive Cult?

The word cult has stigma attached to it.  Anyone who has been in Scientology or a non-traditional religion has had to fight that word and its stigma.  A cult may or may not be religious; it can be benign, helpful, or harmful.  However, a destructive cult is always harmful and dangerous.


Cult: a system of religious beliefs and rituals; also: a religion regarded as unorthodox; plus: its body of adherents.  Cults often claim exclusive knowledge or rites to the hereafter or eternity.  Non destructive cults, in the main, do not abuse human rights, nor work excessively to control followers mentally or physically.

Destructive cult:  a group led by a sociopath who demonstrates cruel and destructive intentions.  The leader is represented as an inerrant unquestioned authority.  His intentions and actions pervade the group’s personae to the detriment and victimization of its followers and others.  It is a totalitarian religion or group which causes harm to its own members or to others.  It uses an involved and elaborate mind control system.  Doctrines stress the group over individual rights.  The theology implants phobias and fears about afterlife and if one leaves the group.  Believers that leave are punished and shunned.  Disobedience is often heavily punished with verbal and physical abuse, imprisonment, and at times death.  In essence the group attempts to exert a complete control over the individual psyche, his or her family, and finances.

Sociopath (definition):  A personality disorder characterized by an abnormal lack of empathy combined with strongly amoral conduct, but masked by an ability to appear outwardly normal.  A person with an antisocial personality; (also referred to as a psychopath….the terms are synonymous).

A Destructive Cult Mirrors the Leader:

The nature of any group is dependent upon the characteristics and behavior of the leader.  The group mirrors and copies the personality of the leader wittingly or unwittingly.  In a destructive cult the leader is a sociopath.  The words sociopath, psychopath and destructive cult leader are used synonymously in this text. 

The names Jim Jones, David Koresh, Marshall Applewhite, Asahara, Sun Myung Moon and most recently, Ilchi Lee (Dahn Yoga cult) and Scientology’s David Miscavige are associated with cruelty, greed, blind allegiance, and abuse.  There are allegations of criminal activities, tax evasion, beatings, and deaths.  In the eyes of an ordinary person a destructive cult leader would not be considered “human.”  What is amazing are the similarities between all the destructive cult leaders.  So much so that destructive cult experts have created the term “Cookie Cutter Messiah” to describe their lethal mixture of charisma and psychopathy.


Common Characteristics:

  1. They present themselves as the Ultimate One; a genius, the leader of mankind, an enlightened vehicle of God, a savior, and sometimes the most humble of humble. 
  2. They are glib, superficially charming, and persuasive.
  3. They attempt to destroy their detractors verbally, harass them, or disarm them emotionally. 
  4. They are manipulative, conning, and cunning, and they use charm to ally victims.
  5. They discharge powerful rage to dominate, nullify, and humiliate. 
  6. They have a grandiose sense of self, entitlement, and they are greedy. 
  7. Paranoia often accompanies the grandiosity, reinforcing a real or imagined us-versus-them scenario.   
  8. They often tend to create an imaginary story about their own powers and abilities and can lie easily and coolly. 
  9. They have a lack of remorse, shame, and guilt justified by the principle that the end justifies the means.
  10. At the core of a destructive cult leader is a deep-seated rage. 

Destructive cult leaders see those around them as objects, targets, or opportunities, not as people.  They do not have friends; sociopaths have victims and accomplices and the latter frequently end up as victims.


How group members respond:

  1. They have to justify and rationalize the cruelty because it is so difficult for them to believe that someone they love, respect, and admire so much could intentionally hurt and abuse them. 
  2. Truth forces the true believer to face the sudden and overwhelming awareness that they are being deceived, used, and victimized. 
  3. To not feel deceived the member invalidates his or her own ethics, morals and perceptions. 
  4. Feels guilt for being critical of the leader or group and replaces it with a false positive image. 
  5. They hide their abuse.
  6. They have a grim vision of the future.
  7. They feel powerless.

Violations include, but are not limited to; wasted lives, ruined families, massive debt, illness and death.  Members and ex-members are often damaged mentally and physically.  After a believer leaves internalized voices often haunt them with shame, blame, regret and a sense of betrayal.  When a believer is expelled self harm is often idealized because they have failed to achieve the group’s ultimate purpose.  The ex-group member needs the right counseling to help them regain freedom of thought and bring them back to life. That is what we offer and why we are here.


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