Social Issues


Social Issues Essay, Research Paper

Page 1

Cults have been characterized as domineering and persuasive. Cults are

willing to prey on

any social class and gender in order to attain another member. The increasing

popularity of

joining cults is reflected on ?economic status, social class, and emotional

state? (Singer p.16,

1995). A conflict perspective suggests that poor economic stability, social

class, and no authority

attest to the fact that more people are joining cults, and that increasing

each might lessen the

chance of joining a cult. Authors Deikman, Levine, and McMahon argue that

cults merely prey

on those who are weak and of poor judgment. As social structures, cults serve

merely to

legitimate class subordination in ways that ensure joiners will worship and

follow the leader

(Singer p.30, 1995). Authors Dawson and Allen argue that cults look for

specific behaviours:

1. poor economic stability

2. social class

3. no authority

4. gender

Trends in Canadian cult joining by economics, class, authority, and gender

support the

view that these behaviours are typical of followers (Hoggart p.65, 1995).

Societal elements continue to let people have low incomes, low class, and no


within a job. There is no regulation of cults and no regulation of how many

people join. Societal

elements continue to ignore people and continue to keep low economies, low

class, and no

authority within our society.

A conflict perspective argues the extent to which characteristics and

behaviours cults look

for when seeking out a new member.

One specific cult is the Catholic Church. Many people would not dare think of

a church

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as a cult, but, the church looks for specific characteristics of a new

member. Once a member

joins, they are there for life. If they decide to leave, they are shunned

from the church?s society

and are not acknowledged as a Catholic any longer.

Economic Stability

Conflict theorists, such as Weber, agree that ?economic interests are

important in shaping

human action?(Kendall p.15, 2000). Most members of a cult do not have a lot

of money. Pre

members usually have recently sold a house or are unemployed. Cult leaders

prey on these people

because of low economics. Members with no funds are vulnerable to the cult

since they are more

likely to stay within the group because they have no other place they can go.

Cults will prey and

persuade other people, like themselves, to join and stay within the cult.

Economic stability, according to Weber, produces inequality and conflict in


(Kendall p.21, 2000). A cult is a mini society, and within this society there

is an exploitation of

the followers. This exploitation of the members economics produces inequality

amongst the

followers and followers and also between the followers and leader. The

discrepancy between

followers and followers occurs when a majority of followers have low

economics while 5 percent

of other followers within the cult have higher economics. The low economic

followers will stay

together while the high economic followers do the same. Because the leader

has enormous

control over the followers, all followers will have to interact with each

other. This causes

conflict. The conflict between followers and followers is a great problem to

the leader. When a

conflict arises, the society the leader has established will eventually

collapse and followers are

most likely to leave when a major conflict arises. To solve this problem, the

leader ensures that

low economic followers are sometimes separated from the high economic

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followers. This will ensure that a huge conflict will not arise so suddenly.

A conflict between followers and leaders arises when the leader picks a

favourite follower.

This favourite member usually has money saved up, which he or she will

eventually hand over to

the leader (Levin p.72, 1984). Most followers will shutout the leaders pet,

leaving him or her to

become closer to the leader. This cycle will continue until the leaders pet

runs out of funds. The

leader will then pick another favourite follower.

When newcomers join a cult, they embrace the doctrines and practices. Soon

the cult?s

demands increase and the new member is asked to devote increasing amounts of

money. This

demand is justified as necessary to fulfill the group?s goals. Willingness

to give over financial

security is interpreted as a new member?s commitment and sincerity. The

sacrifices the new

member makes are compensated by the sense of belonging and purpose. The

leader then gives

temporary praise and acceptance to the member.

Inequalities and conflicts in the cult?s society could lead to a disaster.

Followers against

followers and followers against the leader should lead to a disband of the

society. The leader?s

ability to cease conflict is impressive. He takes money from members and

makes it an offering to

their god to cease the fighting. The other members then believe the conflict

will end. All conflicts

will usually stop at this point because now all members have to donate money.

Social Class

Conflict theorist Karl Marx said the bourgeoisie will exploit the proletariat

(Kendall p.21,

2000). The followers can be interpreted as the proletariat while the leader

is the bourgeoisie.

Leaders of cults are of a higher social class within the society of the cult

than the

members. This allows for exploitation and oppression.

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The majority of adolescents and adults who join a cult come from middle-class

backgrounds. New comers to a cult are regularly middle-class. Cult leaders

take the middle class

joiners and turn them into lower class members of the cult?s society by

taking their possessions.

The lowering of class is exploitation of the new joiners. Cult leaders will

prey on middle class

people because of easy exploitation and of the possessions accumulated by the

member. These

possessions will be given to the leader.

New members come from stable, middle-class families. This might lead to the


that new members are mentally stable and loved, but the opposite is quite

true. Members who

come from stable, middle-class families are usually looking for some place

where they fit in. They

are rebelling and crave attention, which the leader gives them temporarily.

Less than 30 percent of cult joiners are of low or high class citizens

(Singer p.80, 1995).

Lower class joiners are frequently dissatisfied or distressed about the

social lives led. Low class

members of a cult are sent out to recruit other members who are of higher

social standings than

themselves. The leader exploits the low-class members by making them do

unbearable sacrifices.

Couples are split up, members are asked to choose different sexual partners,

and mothers are

asked to give up their babies. When the low class agrees to do these

requests, most other

members of the group, often middle-class members, will comply.

High-class members of a group frequently join because they are restless with

the lives led

and are looking for a more spiritual life. These members are asked to donate

thousands of dollars

to the leader so the leader can pray to their god for divine happiness and


Within a cult, all members are of equal class. Not one member can be higher

in class than

other members within the society. The leader is the only one who has a high


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A conflict theorist believes that a social arrangement benefits some groups

at the expense

of others (Kendall, p.23, 2000). A person within a cult with no authority is

forced to conform to

the doctrines and practices that the cult leader has created. Force is not

usually needed when a

person with no authority enters a group because of their lack of self esteem

and confidence.

Before people join cults, they generally have jobs which allow them no

authority. In these

jobs, someone is telling the person what to do. This pre-member has no one to

order around and

feels powerless. These types of people are the ones recruitment members look

for. These

members will conform easily to the leaders requests. Once a member who fits

this description

joins, the leader will automatically take advantage of the person. The leader

will subject this

member to humiliating tasks such as cleaning dirty bathrooms and looking

after the sick. Taking

care of the sick is considered dirty because they are not clean. Within some

cults cleanliness is

next to godliness.

A conflict theorist would ague that the leader will attempt to preserve

status quo and may

use coercion to do so (Kendall p.21. 2000). The leader takes those with no

authority in their lives

and makes them feel protected and cared for. Members who have no authority in

their lives join a

cult because there is no anxiety. There is no need for this member to feel

powerless, only like an

equal to those members who do the same work as he or she. Members become

subordinates who

conform to the leader?s likes and dislikes. Members then look upon the

leader as a supporter and

comforter. The leader knows what kind of power he or she possesses and knows

where his

subordinates stand.

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Members with no authority in their lives join because they feel useless in

their society.

They want to look for a place where they feel equal. Once a member,

conformity takes place

almost immediately. Loyalty is a top priority, secrecy and competition for

the leaders approval

becomes a conflict and obedience is a prime virtue.

A disregard for all human values is found as one of the characteristics of


members. They do not have any self-esteem and do not take into account anyone

else?s feelings.

Weber has distinguished between three different types of authority:


charismatic, and rational-legal (Dawson p.139, 1998). Leaders of cults tend

to rule by traditional

authority. Their right to exercise authority over others is granted because

it has always been that


Members who conform to the leaders demands are characterized as no-authority


This type of person will do anything the leader or any of the group members

will ask him or she to

do. This type of member is dominated easily. Many group members will not shun

this member

because he or she is a valuable person to them. This member will do any type

of work to feel like

he or she belongs.


Cults frequently have an equal amount of male-female relations, but cults are


known to include more female members than male. This is because the female

members are more

compliant toward their male sexual partner and their primary role within the

cults society is to

nurture the sexual partner and the offspring materially, emotionally, and

spiritually. The female

gender is looked upon as a sexual outlet (Levine p.74, 1984) rather than a


Female members usually have approximately 10 male sexual partners. Each

Page 7

female is expected to give birth to, at minimum, 10 children. Female members

join because they

feel like they have to make a difference. Children are a highly valued

resource within the cult.

Male children are especially valued because are perceived as the future of

the cult. The leader, in

certain cults, will choose a male child and turn him into the leader?s

prot?g?e. If the child turns

out to be the ?divine child? the leader will hand over his or her duties

to the child.

The male role within the cult is to be actively and emotionally involved in

the family life.

This would relieve the male of being a breadwinner and protector. The leader

takes on this

responsibility. The male is known to possess close to 35 to 40 female sexual

partners. Free-love

is a common saying taken literally. The prime reason the male has many female

partners is to

procreate. The more children a male can accumulate the better his chances are

of impressing the

leader, which is unlikely. The leader only wants to find the ?divine child?.

When the leader has

this child, creating a baby is not impressive to the leader any longer.

The gender of the leader is predominately male. This is because males are

looked upon as

having a greater sense of power than women. The gander of the leader is

usually kept secret from

many members until the leader gives a speech or is actually seen by members.

If seen by a

member, the gender is still kept in secrecy. If this member revealed the

gender of the leader,

severe punishment would be administered or the member would be thrown out of

his society.

Gender roles within a cult society are very important to keep order and


Procreation is also another important factor. The extra members added to a

society, the better the

chance of the cults survival. The offspring will understand and believe the

doctrines and practices

that they have been taught and will marry within the society.

Catholic Church as a Cult

Page 8

The Catholic Church is seen as a holy place where people go to pray to their

God. Church

may be seen as a cult. A cult looks for specific types of people. The types

of people that attend

church are many different social classes, but the ones that the church

regards highly are the high

class of society. This class will donate thousands of dollars toward the

church?s practices and

beliefs. Many of the high class members are willing to sell their property

and houses for the

church?s survival.

The church also has an unpleasant side. Once a member commits a sin, they

must tell a

priest, or leader of the church, and repeat many prayers in order for the

sinner to be saved. If a

member decides to attain a divorce, the church will not let that person

receive the host and this

person is not looked upon as a true Catholic, but a sinner against God.

A priest, or leader of the church, is usually male, while female priests are


unheard of, much like cult leaders are predominately male.

Alter boys are priests? prodigies. They will follow within the priests

footsteps to someday

become as holy as he.

To think of church as a cult is usually unheard of. The characteristics a

church possesses

are partially like that of some cults characteristics: members are often

female, high class people

are looked upon with great esteem because of their money, authority within

the church is like that

of a cult leader, traditional, the divine right of the priest is to have

authority over their church.

Church is like that of a cult. The characteristics are the same as a cult and

behaviours of

church members is the same. Members of a church will often preach their

beliefs to others in

hopes of recruiting new members. Members of a church will consistently try to

convince people

Page 9

that their god is the true god and their god will save you from eternal

damnation, if you are

baptized, acquire the first communion, get married in the ?house of god?,

and repent your sons on

your deathbed.

Since the church does contain many characteristics of a cult, a church can be

defined as a

cult. Many people believe that the church is entirely different from a cult,

but many traits are the

same. If people realized that the church was a cult, there might be a drastic

amount of members

leaving their doctrines and practices.

Economic interest is very important to cult leaders. A persons financial

stability will

determine how far the cult will reach. If members with high economic security

join, the leader

will take their money and will gain more followers and the members will reach

a better

understanding of the leaders divination and will lead ?happier? lives.

Social class is important within a society. High class members are more

willing to donate

money because they want to reach a spiritual life. Middle class members sell

their possessions to

give money to the leader. They think if this is not done, the leader will

throw them out of the cult.

Low class members are often asked to perform unbearable tasks and are often

the recruiting team

for the leader. All people are degraded to low-class members of the society.

The leader is the

only high class member.

Authority is only possessed by the leader. All other members have no

authority over

anyone else. If a new member with no authority joins, other members might

take advantage of

him or her. This member will conform easily to the leaders demands.

Gender plays an important role. The leader is usually male while females are

used for

sexual objects who nurture their sexual partners and children. Males are

often the dominating

Page 10

ones within a family. The males feel they must procreate in order for the

leader to find the ?divine


The Catholic Church has many characteristics of a cult. When people start to

believe that

church is like a cult, many members will presumably leave their practices.

The church does not

necessarily prey on others against their will, but members from the church

will frequently preach

their beliefs to others.

Conflict theorists agree that poor economics, social class, no authority

within one?s life,

and gender play a role in people?s behaviours about joining cults. Cults

impair ordinary

judgement and create a regressive pull on members of cults.

Beyond heightening awareness, there are specific ways to reduce cult

behaviour in society.

An effective way would be to promote anti-authoritarian education.

Authoritarian leaders

stimulate the leader/follower experience. By giving up the authoritarian

education, society allows

for a leader/leader experience. If this is not promoted, possibly many more

adolescents will join a

cult. People should see the fantasy of a cult as a lie. Cults are deceptive

and persuasive. Reality

of peoples lives may be hard to deal with, but a cult in no escape. With

decades of research to be

read, the full realization of cults and why people join cults are hopefully


Page 11

End Notes

Singer, Margaret (1995). Cults in our Midst: The Hidden Menace in our

Everyday Lives. P.16

Deikman, Arthur (1990). The Wrong Way Home: Uncovering the Patterns of Cult

Behaviour in

American Society. P.26

Levine, Saul (1984). Radical Departures: Desperate Detours to Growing Up. P.


McMahon, T.A (1985). The Seduction of Christianity: Spiritual Discernment in

the Last Days


Singer, Margaret (1995). Cults in our Midst: The Hidden Menace in our

Everyday Lives. P.30

Dawson, Lorne (1998). Comprehending Cults: The Sociology of New Religious

Movements P.42

Allen, Steve (1982). Beloved Son: A Story of the Jesus Cults. P. 55

Hoggart, Simon (1995). Bizarre Beliefs. P.65

Kendall, Diana (2000). Sociology in our Times. (Second Edition). P.15

Kendall, Diana (2000). Sociology in our Times. (Second Edition). P.21

Levine, Saul (1984). Radical Departures: Desperate Detours to Growing Up. P.


Kendall, Diana (2000). Sociology in our Times. (Second Edition). P.21

Singer, Margaret (1995). Cults in our Midst: The Hidden Menace in our

Everyday Lives. P.80

Kendall, Diana (2000). Sociology in our Times. (Second Edition). P.23

Kendall, Diana (2000). Sociology in our Times. (Second Edition). P.21

Dawson, Lorne (1998). Comprehending Cults: The Sociology of New Religious



Levine, Saul (1984). Radical Departures: Desperate Detours to Growing Up. P.


Page 12


Allen, Steve (1982). Beloved Son: A Story of the Jesus Cults. New York: Bobbs-Merrill

Company Inc.

Dawson, Lorne (1998). Comprehending Cults: The Sociology of New Religious


Toronto: Oxford University Press

Deikman, Arthur (1990). The Wrong Way Home: Uncovering the Patterns of Cult

Behaviour in

American Society. Boston: Beacon Press

Hoggart, Simon (1995). Bizarre Beliefs. London: Butler & Tanner Ltd.

Kendall, Diana (2000). Sociology in our Times. (Second Edition). United

States: RR Donnelly

& Sons Company

Levine, Saul (1984). Radical Departures: Desperate Detours to Growing Up.

Florida: Harcourt

Brace Jovanovich Publishers

McMahon, T.A (1985). The Seduction of Christianity: Spiritual Discernment in

the Last Days.

Oregon: Harvest House Publishers

Singer, Margaret (1995). Cults in our Midst: The Hidden Menace in our

Everyday Lives. San

Francisco: Jossey-Bass Publishers

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