First off – don’t panic!
The fact that you’ve decided to do some research on cults in general (or the group you’re involved in specifically) is a good sign.
It is also a sign that you think something may be wrong with the group or leader that you’re involved with.
While there are entire groups (or specific leaders) that are known to be cults, it is also possible that the group you’re with is a positive influence in general, but there are some rogue leaders, or cult-like practices.
For example, Cultwatch has concerns about “enforced giving” to groups. This is often called “tithing” in Christian churches. (See www.tithingdebate.com for more informaiton and to help make up your own mind.) However, just because a church teaches and practices this “enforced giving” it doesn’t mean they’re a cult.
What is a cult?
As a Christian-based organisation, at Cultwatch we have two main definitions of what a cult is.
First, a group that uses manipulative psychological “mind control” techniques to recruit and control their members. These techniques might be “love bombing”, instant friends or emotional blackmail. At extremes it might include keeping people away from their friends and family and isolating them both physically and emotionally.
The second definition we use (when saying a group is a cult) is any group which claims to be a Christian group yet teaches something that is not primarily a Christian belief. For example, a group that teaches that Jesus was an alien from another planet but claims to be Christian.
Note that other mainstream religions (such as Buddhism) are not cults under either of these definitions but may contain cults within them.