Over the course of the late twentieth century, the development of mass media has enabled average citizens to explore a wide range of lifestyles and issues through the comfort of their homes. While the mass media has provided notable insights into critical political, social and economic issues, it has in some cases manipulated public understanding of situations and events. Nowhere is this more evident than in the context of religious cults. As examined and portrayed in the media, religious cults do nothing more than persuade weak, feeble-minded individuals to give up all of their wealth and worldly possessions. Even though cults do prey on the vulnerable, what is often missed in the popular media's coverage of religious cults is that these organizations utilize a powerful tool to manipulate their followers: religion.With the realization that religion plays such a critical role in the development of cults, there is a clear impetus to examine this issue overall. Using this as a basis for research, this investigation seeks to examine two specific issues in the context of the manipulation used in religious cults. First, this investigation considers the techniques that cults use to manipulate converts. Second, this investigation considers the religious techniques that are used to accomplish manipulation of followers.
[...] Pavlos (1982) in his examination of religious cults notes that the term generally refers to a social movement that is focused on collective behavior. When placed in the context of religion this is translated to relatively small religious group whose beliefs, values, and practices are at variance with those of dominant or traditional forms of religion” (p. 3). This author goes on to note that while the specific religious beliefs of the cult fall outside of what is considered to be “mainstream” religion, this does not mean that there is chaos or disarray in the organization. [...]
[...] According to these authors, cults are able to position themselves in such a way that they are able to provide the individual follower a promise of happiness or salvation for their participation. While this happiness or salvation may not occur until the individual dies, the promise is one that is guaranteed. Bainbridge and Stark argue that for many individuals the uncertainty that accompanies everyday can be so taxing in some cases, that the promise of happiness and/or salvation is one that provides them with the comfort that they need. [...]
[...] Because of Koresh's leadership, those who joined the Branch Davidians were willing to give up all of their worldly possessions and follow a religion that would lead them to eternal happiness and salvation. Further examining this issue, Pavlos (1982) observes that the basic context of the religious cult is to bring about some type of social change. The organization offers, what it believes to be, a utopian view of the world and provides followers with a succinct means to achieve this world. [...]
[...] Specifically, mental and physical abuse is necessary to ensure that followers maintain their position in the organization. However, it is important to note that all of the actions taken toward followers have a religious root. In short, the religious cult bases all of its practices on the religious doctrine that it has created. As such, even though an act may seem somewhat cruel or unusual, there is typically a religious reason for this practice. When developed in this context, religious cults, like the Branch Davidians can justify psychological and physical abuse as practices that occur in the name of God or Jesus Christ. [...]
[...] According to Lacayo and Cole: was Jesus Christ in sinful form, who because he indulged the flesh could judge mankind with insights that the first, more virtuous Messiah had lacked” (p. 34). In short, Koresh argued that he was the incarnate of Jesus Christ and that in order to understand man and his sins, he himself had to be Although it is quite evident that Koresh and other leaders in the Branch Davidians were able to provide followers with the promise of a better life by following the Messiah, the reality is that once Koresh had been able to effectively attract followers to his compound in Waco, Texas he employed a number of brutal psychological tactics to keep the followers in line. [...]
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