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The term cult has been interpreted in many ways through the centuries Customarily the loose definition of a cult refers to any form of worship or ritual observance or even to a group of people pursuing common goals Juergensmeyer P 6 Established groups such as Christians Mormons Quakers and Catholics were once viewed as cults but are now recognized as organized religions Most cults regardless of size and history deal with religious beliefs and practices pursue common ambitions and typically have their own doctrines Today however an updated definition is used to describe blasphemous sacrilegious groups that follow a leader who initiates unconventional beliefs and practices To gain control of their followers these cult leaders use psychological manipulation that can often lead to years of therapy and healing or even mass suicide Religious cults link back to a long history and countless variety as people enter cults under an assortment of circumstances and succumb to the strict instruction shortly after entering Most people who join cults are searching for solutions to their pain and problems They are generally normal people who are looking for spiritual guidance or have suffered a loss or failure Juergensmeyer P 12 People are most susceptible to a cult during their first year away from home if they are lonely or depressed or after an unexpected death or illness Even though many members know that cults are unethical - or even dangerous - it doesnt stop the constant flow of new believers When someone is a member of a particular cult they usually believe that it is not a cult per se in which they are affiliated Cult members almost always regard themselves as belonging to religious organizations or movements Still members are usually under the stern instruction of their leaders following strict rules and often irrational directives Some cults believe that in order to be truly dedicated people must give up everything that they value Most members sell almost all
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