A destructive cult is a cult or other religious movement which has caused harm to its members or other people, or which will likely do so. There is a discussion of what harm really means in this context. For most researchers, it includes physical harm, so organisations who injure or kill their members qualify.
Some researchers also include mental abuse in this notion of harm, for example: "A destructive cult is a pyramid-shaped authoritarian regime with a person or group of people that have dictatorial control. It uses deception in recruiting new members (e.g. people are NOT told up front what the group is, what the group actually believes and what will be expected of them if they become members". Psychologist Michael Langone defines a destructive cult as "a highly manipulative group which exploits and sometimes physically and/or psychologically damages members and recruits". Lifton's "Eight criteria for thought reform" are criteria to identify a destructive cult.
The use of the term "destructive cult" has also been criticised. According to some researchers, the term has been used to describe groups which are not necessarily harmful to themselves or others. The term may be used too widely, and equated with the deaths of members of Peoples Temple at Jonestown. Some complain that the term has been used to discredit groups. Lorne L. Dawson writes that though the Unification Church "has not been shown to be violent or volatile," it has been described as a destructive cult by "anticult crusaders".
The German Federal Constitutional Court ruled in 2002, that the German government defamed the Osho movement by referring to it, among other things, as a "destructive cult". The court decided that "destructive cult" and other expressions employed by the government to describe the group had no factual basis to justify their use.
References[change | change source]
- Robinson, B.A. (2007). "Doomsday, destructive religious cults". Ontario consultants on religious tolerance. http://www.religioustolerance.org/destruct.htm. Retrieved 2007-11-18.
- Hassan, Steven. "2. What is the difference between a destructive cult and a benign cult?". Freedom of mind. Freedom of Mind Resource Center, Inc.. http://www.freedomofmind.com/resourcecenter/faq/#2. Retrieved 2007-11-18.
- Turner, Francis J.; Arnold Shanon Bloch, Ron Shor (1995). Differential diagnosis & treatment in social work. 4th ed, Free Press. pp. 1146: Chapter 105: From consultation to therapy in group work with parents of cultists. .
- Warren, Michael David; Randall Waters (2005). Into the rabbit hole. Dog Ear Publishing. pp. 59: Eight marks of a mind-control cult. .
- Saliba, John A.; J. Gordon Melton, foreword (2003). Understanding New Religious Movements. Rowman Altamira. p. 144. .
- Zablocki, Benjamin David; Thomas Robbins (2001). Misunderstanding cults: searching for objectivity in a controversial field. University of Toronto Press. p. 474. .
- Dawson, Lorne L. (1998). Cults in context: readings in the study of new religious movements. Transaction Publishers. p. 349: "Sects and Violence". .
- Hubert Seiwert: Freedom and control in the unified Germany: governmental approaches to alternative religions Since 1989. In: Sociology of Religion (2003) 64 (3): 367–375, S. 370. Online edition
- BVerfG, 1 BvR 670/91 dd 26 June 2002, Rn. 57, 60, 62, 91–94, related press release (German)