Why Do People Join Cults?

November 18, 1978 over 900 people died at the hands of one individual, Jim Jones. All these people died in a mass suicide. Jim Jones convinced his 900+ followers that the government is coming to take and torture them to death and the only way to be free is to drink a concoction he created which was laced with cyanide. His followers believed they could go to a utopian society free from all life’s hardships and they could live happily. Jim Jones was a leader of the most famous cult of all time.

Let’s say you go to work in the morning ready for the day, you get your morning coffee and settle at your desk and then here comes your manager looking angry. She yells at you for not working late last night to finish your presentation for the big boss and you get fired. On your way home your significant other leaves you for someone else and finally a big truck comes speeding by into a puddle that splashes, and you get soaking wet. You would be feeling pretty crappy. These are the type of people cult members and leaders look for to recruit.  

People join cults for one reason, and one reason only; The illusion of comfort. The thought of a cult might not sound comforting with the history of them, but comfort can be found in different scenarios. Cults satisfy our needs for answers even if they don’t seem realistic. People join cults because the leader preaches clarity and preach they know all absolute answers for tough questions about stuff like meaning of life or religion.

Another reason people join cults is the people who are recruiting, prey on those who have low self-esteem. Any race, financial standing, all backgrounds if they have a lower self-esteem they will become prey, but the predators are usually very nice and open. They show the person affection to gain friendship and trust before they finally end with the recruitment. This leads into the recruits being showered in love giving them a reason to stay and join in the faith.

On that track cult leaders stress the “them vs. us mentality” where the leaders isolate their members from people outside the cult. They also make those in the cult feel superior to those outside the group which in turn leads the cult members to isolating themselves from family and friends.

The whole cult scenario are run by pure mind-control which the followers do not recognize. Members typically don’t know they are in a cult. Four ways of this mind control are public humiliation, self-incrimination, brainwashing, and paranoia. Self-incrimination is using statements written or said by a person to shame that same person publicly which is different from public humiliation which is making the person admit their failures and thoughts out loud to an audience who has an open floor to judge. Brainwashing is done by repeating various lies and distortions until the followers find it difficult to separate what is real and what is a fantasy.

No matter the type of cult, it can leave a real dangerous and nasty lasting effect. An ex-cult member years later even indefinitely have psychological effects. These include irritability, mystical states, heightened paranoia, compulsive attention to detail and many more. Be wary of those who show up in your time of need, many cult members are actually people you already know.

“10 Things to Know About the Psychology of Cults.” Online Psychology Degree Guide, www.onlinepsychologydegree.info/what-to-know-about-the-psychology-of-cults/.

Manza, Lou. “How Cults Exploit One of Our Most Basic Psychological Urges.” Business Insider, Business Insider, 14 Apr. 2016, www.businessinsider.com/how-cults-exploit-one-of-our-most-basic-psychological-urges-2016-4.

History.com Editors. “Jonestown.” History.com, A&E Television Networks, 18 Oct. 2010, www.history.com/topics/crime/jonestown.

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