I have had to point out why the United States Marine Corps
is not a cult so many times that I carry a
lectures and court appearances. It cites 19 ways in which the practices of the Marine
Corps differ from those found in most modern cults....
Cults clearly differ from such purely authoritarian groups
as the military, some types of sects and communes, and centuries-old Roman Catholic and
Greek and Russian Orthodox Orders. These groups, though rigid and controlling, lack a
double agenda and are not manipulative or leader-centered. The differences become apparent
when we examine the intensity and pervasiveness with which mind-manipulating techniques
and deceptions are or are not applied.
Jesuit seminaries may isolate the seminarian from the rest
of the world for periods of time, but the candidate is not deliberately deceived about the
obligations and burdens of the priesthood. In fact, he is warned in advance about what is
expected, and what he can and cannot do....
Mainstream religious organizations do not concentrate their
search on the lonely and the vulnerable.... Nor do mainstream religions focus recruitment
on wealthy believers who are seen as pots of gold for the church, as is the case with
those cults who target rich individuals....
Military training and legitimate executive training
programs may use the dictates of authority as well as peer pressure to encourage the
adoption of new patterns of thought and behavior. They do not seek, however, to accelerate
the process by prolonged or intense psychological depletion or by stirring up feelings of
dread, guilt, and sinfulness....
And what is wrong with cults is not just that cults are
secret societies. In our culture, there are openly recognized, social secret societies,
such as the Masons, in which new members know up front that they will gradually learn the
shared rituals of the group.... In [cults], there is deliberate deception about what the
group is and what some of the rituals might be, and primarily, there is deception about
what the ultimate goal will be for a member, what will ultimately be demanded and
expected, and what the damages resulting from some of the practices might be. A secret
handshake is not equivalent to mind control.
--adapted from Cults in Our Midst: The Hidden Menace in Our
Everyday Lives, Margaret Singer and Janja Lalich,
Jossey-Bass, 1995. Reprinted with authors' permission.