Difference between religion's and cults
Posted by: lazy ()
Date: October 10, 2012 08:06PM

Could someone point me to or explain the correct distinction between cults and religion from a sociology perspective.

Also, would be wrong if I said that brainwashing is coercive and mind control is non-coercive? Being that brainwashing denotes physical violence and mind control doesn't.

Re: Difference between religion's and cults
Posted by: rrmoderator ()
Date: October 10, 2012 08:25PM


See [www.culteducation.com]

"Brainwashing" does not require physical violence. "Thought reform" is a more correct term or "coercive persuasion".

See [www.culteducation.com]

Also see [www.culteducation.com]

This following chart prepared by a psychologist also makes some distinctions between different forms of persuasion.

See [www.culteducation.com]

Re: Difference between religion's and cults
Posted by: lazy ()
Date: October 11, 2012 06:50PM

From what I understood, I read a peer review article about techniques used in china where the word brainwash was coined and described during other wars like the Korean captors, I was under the impression that mind control is willingly to except while brainwashing is coercive.

I was a JW for 26 and I just do not understand how coercive persuasion was implied, yes there was coercion but only when I realized that I was in a cult, when I was mentally in I did things not because of the repercussions, in fact I never thought much about repercussions when I was in.

Brainwash on the other (from what I understood) you do not do things willingly, you are forced and if you do what is considered incorrect you are punished physically or in a another manner.

I understand that many here are not Hassan fans, now I am not much of fan myself although Combating helped me a lot, but he did write in his second book Releasing the difference between mind control and brainwashing.

Should it be considered coercion when one is willingly to accept the cult's dogma?

Re: Difference between religion's and cults
Posted by: rrmoderator ()
Date: October 11, 2012 07:57PM


"Brainwashing" is a popular culture term for "thought reform" as described in detail by psychiatrist Robert Jay Lifton.

"Mind control" is another popular culture description of the same process.

Steve Hassan's books have many problems.

See [forum.culteducation.com]

Hassan is wrong in making the distinctions you mention between "mind control" and "brainwashing". Robert Jay Lifton did not make such distinctions and explained that thought reform did not require physical coercion.

See [www.culteducation.com]

Read the link regarding "coercive persuasion" in the paper by Richard Ofshe.

See [www.culteducation.com]

Ofshe states, "The key factors that distinguish coercive persuasion from other training and socialization schemes are:

The reliance on intense interpersonal and psychological attack to destabilize an individual's sense of self to promote compliance

The use of an organized peer group

Applying interpersonal pressure to promote conformity

The manipulation of the totality of the person's social environment to stabilize behavior once modified"

"Should it be considered coercion when one is willingly to accept the cult's dogma?"

In my opinion Jehovah's Witnesses do not simply "willingly" accept JW "dogma". They do so as a result of undue influence achieved through a coercive persuasion or thought reform process.

Ofshe goes on to outline Lifton, likewise demonstrating that there is no physical coercion necessary in the process.

"Robert Lifton labeled the extraordinarily high degree of social control characteristic of organizations that operate reform programs as their totalistic quality (Lifton 1961). This concept refers to the mobilization of the entirety of the person's social, and often physical, environment in support of the manipulative effort. Lifton identified eight themes or properties of reform environments that contribute to their totalistic quality:

Control of communication

Emotional and behavioral manipulation

Demands for absolute conformity to behavior prescriptions derived from the ideology

Obsessive demands for confession

Agreement that the ideology is faultless

Manipulation of language in which cliches substitute for analytic thought

Reinterpretation of human experience and emotion in terms of doctrine

Classification of those not sharing the ideology as inferior and not worthy of respect

(Lifton 1961, pp. 419-437, 1987)."

This is the guiding material regarding brainwashing, not Hassan.

Edited 2 time(s). Last edit at 10/12/2012 09:43PM by rrmoderator.

Re: Difference between religion's and cults
Posted by: rrmoderator ()
Date: May 10, 2013 09:01PM

Disclaimer regarding Steve Hassan

The Ross Institute of New Jersey/May 2013

See [www.culteducation.com]

The inclusion of news articles within the Ross Institute of New Jersey (RI) archives, which mention and/or quote Steven Hassan, in no way suggests that RI recommends Mr. Hassan or recognizes him in any way.

News articles that mention Steve Hassan have been archived for historical purposes only due to the information they contain about controversial groups, movements and/or leaders.

RI does not recommend Steven Hassan.

RI has received serious complaints about Steve Hassan concerning his fees. Mr. Hassan does not publicly disclose his fee schedule, but according to complaints Steve Hassan has charged fees varying from $250.00 per hour or $2,500.00 per day to $500.00 per hour or $5,000.00 per day. This does not include Mr. Hassan's expenses, which according to complaints can be quite substantial.

Steven Hassan has charged families tens of thousands of dollars and provided questionable results. One recent complaint cited total fees of almost $50,000.00. But this very expensive intervention effort ended in failure.

Dr. Cathleen Mann, who holds a doctorate in psychology and has been a licensed counselor in the state of Colorado since 1994 points out, "Nowhere does Hassan provide a base rate and/or any type or accepted statistical method defining his results..."

Steve Hassan has at times suggested to potential clients that they purchase a preliminary report based upon what he calls his "BITE" model. These "BITE reports" can potentially cost thousands of dollars.

See [corp.sec.state.ma.us]

Steve Hassan runs a for-profit corporation called "Freedom of Mind." Mr. Hassan is listed as the corporate agent for that business as well as its president and treasurer.

RI does not recommend "Freedom of Mind" as a resource.

RI also does not list or recommend Steve Hassan's books.

To better understand why Mr. Hassan's books are not recommended by RI read this detailed review of his most recently self-published book titled "Freedom of Mind."

See [www.cultnews.com]

Steve Hassan's cult intervention methodology has historically raised concerns since its inception. The book "Recovery from Cults" (W.W. Norton & Co. pp. 174-175) edited by Dr. Michael Langone states the following:

"Calling his approach 'strategic intervention [sic] therapy,' Hassan (1988) stresses that, although he too tries to communicate a body of information to cultists and to help them think independently, he also does formal counseling. As with many humanistic counseling approaches, Hassan’s runs the risk of imposing clarity, however subtly, on the framework’s foundational ambiguity and thereby manipulating the client."

RI has also learned that Mr. Hassan has had dual-relationships with his counseling clients. That is, clients seeing Mr. Hassan for counseling may also do professional cult intervention work with him.

Professionals in the field of cultic studies have also expressed concerns regarding Steven Hassan's use of hypnosis and Neuro-linguistic programming (NLP).

Based upon complaints and the concerns expressed about Mr. Hassan RI does not recommend Steve Hassan for counseling, intervention work or any other form of professional consultation.

Re: Difference between religion's and cults
Posted by: psyborgue ()
Date: June 30, 2013 04:38AM

Two differences: Time, and popularity. Just kidding. Mostly.

One difference: cults disguise their agendas, having different levels of dogma, the core of which is only available to the most senior members. Religions put it all out in the open, meaning joining a religion is an informed decision. It's not deceptive.
Another: Cults do not have to be religious in nature. There are political cults, non professional psychotherapy cults and UFO cults, among others. A cult is more about a sociological system of control than a specific belief or type of belief. If the organization originates in certain way, is structured in a certain way, and practices thought reform, it can be considered to be a a cult.

There are many more concrete differences, but i'll leave it at that. I highly recommend Margaret T. Singer's book, "Cults in our Midst" if the topic peaks your interest.

Re: Difference between religion's and cults
Posted by: corboy ()
Date: July 01, 2013 09:51PM

My short list of things to watch out for.

*People want you to stay up past your bedtime. Sleep disruption can mess up your judgement. Its similar to what happens when you're drunk.

*Requests for factual information are treated as 'negativity'

* Shaming, condescending tones of voice.

* Free classes, but announced on high quality posters and cardstock and in fancy rented space. Where does the money come from and is financial info available up front. It costs money to print posters and rent space. At some point, you pay for it. How?

* You are not given full information about the group, so you cannot make informed decisions whether to stay or remain. Beware of any group where information is withheld from recruits or 'newbie' members. Thats to treat you as a child.

*Unreciprocated loyalty

* An emphasis on ecstatic experiences, and claims that experiences are proof. Sad fact is that experiences dont prove anything. And profound and ecstatic ones, can be triggered if someone learns the techniques for manipulating your body chemistry.

The Angler Fish is analogous to those cults that mimic sources of help, but exist to drain your resources.



The Deep Sea Anglerfish
(Melanocetus johnsoni)

The deep sea anglerfish is one of the most bizarre-looking fish in the sea. Known scientifically as Melanocetus johnsoni, it is also one of the best-known creatures of the deep. It is one of about 200 species of anglerfish found throughout the world's oceans. The angler gets its name from the elongated dorsal spine that supports a light-producing organ known as a photophore. Through a chemical process known as bioluminescence, this photophore can produce a blue-green light similar to that of a firefly on land. The fish uses this appendage like a fishing lure, waving it back and forth to attract its prey.

One person told me how he had frightening experiences, consulted his family doctor and the doctor dismissed him as healthy, dont worry, after doing a physical neurology work up.

The person typed his scary experiences into Google and got descriptions of something called Kundalini.

This in turn led the person to a group claiming expertise assisting persons with Kundalini.

The group turned out to be cruel and expensive.

So here was someone seeking light (assistance) and swimming in the sea of the Internet, moved toward what looked like a glowing beacon of assistance.

Re: Difference between religion's and cults
Posted by: corboy ()
Date: July 01, 2013 09:52PM

This article from Cracked.com is full of great stuff.


Re: Difference between religion's and cults
Posted by: corboy ()
Date: July 01, 2013 10:01PM

Anything powerful enough to be 'transformative' is potentially powerful enough to produce undesirable side effects, too. Even aspirin isnt 100% harmless

If its a set up that runs retreats, demand a copy of the forms you have to sign. Dodgy groups have forms where you sign away your right to sue or mediate for damages if you incur harm.


Finally, here is a way to tell if a relationship or group is healthy and can welcome and even utilize disagreement'/dissent.

A cult or bad relationship (or bad boss) cannot cope with disagreement.

Test it for yourself by doing this.

Ask questions requesting factual information and be persistent.

Ask questions about long term financial commitment expected of you and be persistent.

If they say, "But have you experienced this?" Tell them experiences are not proof and snorting cocaine will get people high.

If they say its ancient wisdom from India, remind them that in India there are still lots of young women being killed in dowry deaths, and that lots of female children are killed to save money on a dowry, and that all this is part of its ancient culture.

If in response to this, they shame you for negative thinking or try to get you out of the room, thats a signal you're in a set up that cannot cope with dissent.

treat you like you have lice, surround you and hustle you out of the room

Re: Difference between religion's and cults
Posted by: magnocrat ()
Date: August 30, 2016 05:23PM

The difference is shown when you are presented with some evidence but are told by the group or person presenting it that they already have the answer and you have no need to assess the evidence it's already been done for you.
Now a church may well have a list of acceptable beliefs but you are left to decide if you believe them.
The great problem arises when the beliefs are interpreted in different ways in the same group.Two great issues at the moment in the church are homosexuality and the place of women.

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