One of the closest to Rand was Nathaniel Branden, a young philosophy student who joined the Collective in the early days before Atlas Shrugged was published. In his autobiographical memoirs entitled Judgment Day (1989), Branden recalled: "There were implicit premises in our world to which everyone in our circle subscribed, and which we transmitted to our students at NBI." Incredibly, and here is where the philosophical movement became a cult, they came to believe that (pp. 255-256):
-Ayn Rand is the greatest human being who has ever lived.
-Atlas Shrugged is the greatest human achievement in the history of the world.
-Ayn Rand, by virtue of her philosophical genius, is the supreme arbiter in any issue pertaining to what is rational, moral, or appropriate to man's life on earth.
-Once one is acquainted with Ayn Rand and/or her work, the measure of one's virtue is intrinsically tied to the position one takes regarding her and/or it.
-No one can be a good Objectivist who does not admire what Ayn Rand admires and condemn what Ayn Rand condemns.
-No one can be a fully consistent individualist who disagrees with Ayn Rand on any fundamental issue.
-Since Ayn Rand has designated Nathaniel Branden as her "intellectual heir," and has repeatedly proclaimed him to be an ideal exponent of her philosophy, he is to be accorded only marginally less reverence than Ayn Rand herself.
-But it is best not to say most of these things explicitly (excepting, perhaps, the first two items). One must always maintain that one arrives at one's beliefs solely by reason.
But if you leave the "religious" component out of the definition, thus broadening the word's usage, it becomes clear that Objectivism was (and is) a cult, as are many other, non-religious groups. In this context, then, a cult may be characterized by:
Veneration of the Leader: Excessive glorification to the point of virtual sainthood or divinity.
Inerrancy of the Leader: Belief that he or she cannot be wrong.
Omniscience of the Leader: Acceptance of beliefs and pronouncements on virtually all subjects, from the philosophical to the trivial.
Persuasive Techniques: Methods used to recruit new followers and reinforce current beliefs.
Hidden Agendas: Potential recruits and the public are not given a full disclosure of the true nature of the group's beliefs and plans.
Deceit: Recruits and followers are not told everything about the leader and the group's inner circle, particularly flaws or potentially embarrassing events or circumstances.
Financial and/or Sexual Exploitation: Recruits and followers are persuaded to invest in the group, and the leader may develop sexual relations with one or more of the followers.
Absolute Truth: Belief that the leader and/or group has a method of discovering final knowledge on any number of subjects.
Absolute Morality: Belief that the leader and/or the group have developed a system of right and wrong thought and action applicable to members and nonmembers alike. Those who strictly follow the moral code may become and remain members, those who do not are dismissed or punished.
(more criticism of Ayn Rand)