Here is a list of critical questions you should ask yourself when evaluating if a Group or Church is Destructive or not.
- What is the general attitude regarding the leader or leaders? Are members passive, blindly faithful, intimidated, star struck by the leadership? Or do members treat leadership like any other member? Are pictures of the leader(s) posted throughout the buildings they occupy?
- What is the lifestyle of the leader or leaders? Do they live moderately compared to other working members of the group, or is their lifestyle more extrevagent more glamorous? Are they easily accessable, do they have an entourage around them, body guards?
- Is there a checks and balance system for the leadership? Is there a Board of Directors? Is there a justice system to keep leaders in check? Does the justice system report it’s findings to the general membership base or is this kept secretive?
- What are their recruitment tactics? Is the group open and upfront about who they are when recruiting or are they more manipulative and deceiving when they recruit new members?
- Are their quotas for getting new recruits or member outings to solicit group literature? Do members go in groups to pass out literature, is there pressure to get new recruits or activate old members who are no longer participating?
- Is there consequences for leaving the group? Is it easy to leave or are there steps needed to take to leave that are time consuming? Is there pressure to stay, are you made to feel guilty or as though there’s something wrong with you for wanting to leave?
- Is there exclusive terms or jargon to learn? Do they use abbreviated terms, a different jargon all together to explain everyday normal words?
- Is there pressure to do classes, listen to lectures, read literature, do one on one sessions? This would be considered the indoctrination process. How often are you expected to participate, daily, weekly?
- Do the books, lectures, classes, sessions etc cost money? If so, how much? Does it cost more as you reach higher levels? Are they reasonably priced, or extremely out of reach in price (going into debt, 2nd mortgages etc)?
- Are you discouraged or forbidden from talking to ex-members? If so, why? Are ex-members considered sinners, apostates or trouble makers?
- Do clergy members or core members who devote themselves to the group on a more full time basis have access to outside information? TV, radio, newspapers, cell phones, internet. What is the groups general attitude regarding these outside sources of information?
- Is there a reporting system within the group? Do members report on others for breaking rules or not keeping schedules or not meeting quotes or not attending meetings etc?
- Does the group encourage members to see family and friends who are not part of the group? Or are they encouraged to stay away from them if they don’t agree with the groups dogma or activities? Is personal time encouraged?
- Does the group encourage individuality? Pursuing personal interests outside of any group activities? Higher education, music/art interests, work etc. Or does the group feel members should devote most of their time to the group? Is the groups goals and activities more important than the individual’s goals and interests?
- Is there pressure to reveal personal transgressions or sins? Either in a group setting, one on one session, written etc?
- How does the group view other philosophies or religions? Is their way the “only” way?
- Does the group make promises? Are they kept? Are they realistic or do they seem far fetched or unreal?
- Does the group practice chanting, Chinese schooling, meditation or any form of repatitve process? If so, how often and for what purpose? Relaxation? Confirmation of dogma? Removing any doubts?
- Does the group practice shunning/disconnection?Why would any group ask or require you to no longer talk to family or friends, what would that solve? Isn’t it ok if others have a different viewpoint then yours?
Never be afraid to question other people. Always be wary of anyone who tries to prevent you from questioning. Protect your freedom and autonomy.
Learn to recognize common cult-recruitment tactics and situations, beware of:
- People who are excessively or inappropriately friendly; there are few genuine instant friendships.
- People who are very persistent in trying to get you to join, and won’t take no for answer.
- People with invitations to free meals, lectures, and workshops
- People who demand secrecy from you.
- People who make you feel like there’s something wrong with you if you’re not interested in joining.
- People with simplistic answers or solutions to complex world problems.
- People who demand secrecy from you
- People who try to play on your guilt; you don’t always have to reciprocate a kindness, especially when it may have been a way to manipulate you
- People who are vague or evasive. If they are hiding something, it’s usually because they don’t want you to know the real answer.
- People who claim to be just like you, so you feel you have a lot in common.
- People who confidently promise that they can help you solve your problems, especially when they know little about you
- People, who make grand claims about how their group can save mankind, help you achieve enlightenment or show the road to happiness.
- People who always seem happy
- People who claim they or their group is really special, even the most special
- People who promise quick solutions to difficult problems
- People who put down reason and critical thinking, and tell you not to ask questions about the group – just open your mind to it.
(Ref: adapted from CultClinic.org)