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Forty-four Characteristics of a Cult:




1. The group's way is the only way to Heaven, salvation or enlightenment.


2. The group is elitist, claiming it is the only one that has the truth, often claiming a special revelation. Members are the chosen people and are spiritually superior to other members of society.


3. The group refuses to consider that it might be wrong.


4. No outside religion, especially any traditional church, is accepted as being valid.


5. Such groups often have a polarized us-versus-them mentality, which may cause conflict with society.


6. The group believes its exalted status or ends justify the means the group uses to achieve the ends. This is even though such means might be considered unethical or illegal by members of society, or members prior to their indoctrination.


7. Such groups are often anti-woman, anti-child, and anti- family. These parties are often placed under duress in the group rather than being nurtured and protected.


8. Scripture is often taken out of context or used very sparingly to support the group's views. Narrow and unusual interpretations of the Bible are common. Whole Bible teaching is avoided.


9. Members who fail to remain faithful and leave the group have failed God, will suffer for their decision, and will lose any and all hope of eternal salvation.


10. It is understood that former members must be avoided and treated with suspicion, ridicule, and/or patronizing sympathy.


11. Deny the deity of Christ






12. The group focuses upon a leadership that members appear to display a zealous, unquestioning commitment towards.


13. Often the members' allegiance is based upon the belief the leadership is, or represents, the Messiah, an avatar, a prophet, or possesses a special anointing from God.


14. The group's leadership is not accountable to any authorities (as contrasted with ministers, pastors, priests or rabbis in mainstream religions or leaders of non-religious groups)


15. Significant, and sometimes total, decision making authority rests with the leadership.


16. The leadership of the group will impose pressure or may openly dictate, sometimes in great detail, how members should think, act and feel. (e.g. lifestyle choices, dating, marriage, employment, education, clothing, living arrangements, child rearing, etc.)


17. The leadership may avoid or brush off questions they don't have scriptural answers for.


18. The leadership will often answer questions differently depending upon who is the speaker and who is the listener.


19. Obedience to the leadership is understood to be required and expected from members.


20. The leadership is often emulated by members. This may include such items as similar mannerisms, clothing styles, modes of speech, hair styles, and attitudes.


21. Indiscretions and improper conduct by the leadership are often ignored or covered up.






22. The group's recruitment techniques are often deceptive.


23. New members are often lavished with love and attention thereby creating an attachment between the group and the new member. Later, further love and attention depends upon the member's good performance (ie. love is conditional, not unconditional).


24. The group's leadership induces, accentuates, and manipulates feelings of fear and guilt within its membership as a method of control.


25. Members often experience feelings alternating between happiness at being chosen to know the "truth" and the crushing weight of guilt, fear, shame, poor self confidence, and poor self-esteem for "not measuring up" to the group's expectations.


26. Mental problems, especially depression, are more common than in society in general.


27. Independent thought, rational examination of the group, asking questions, expressing doubt, or expressing dissent are discouraged or even punished.


28. Members are not to discuss any negative feelings or opinions they may have concerning the group.


29. There is little or no room for interpretation or deviation from the group's beliefs.


30. The group's doctrines are often vague, have inconsistencies, and illogical thought patterns but are to be accepted without question, though not necessarily understood.


31. The group's unwritten rules and traditions take precedence over Bible scripture.


32. Members are expected to distrust themselves and their own intuition but instead place their trust completely in the group's beliefs.


33. A perceived flaw in the group is really only a flaw in the member.


34. Members are encouraged or required to live with and socialize only with other members of the group.


35. Members are expected to reduce or eliminate contact with family, friends, and other non-group individuals, activities or goals.


36. Members' isolation or avoidance of the outside world reduces or eliminates the reality testing that such interaction could provide.


37. The group weakens the members by making them dependant upon the group for their social support structure.

38. Members learn to understand that individuality is bad and conformity is good.


39. Members are expected to devote significant amounts of time to the group.


40. The leadership maintains some form of is surveillance over the members. Informers or gossips are used by the leadership as a method of surveillance and control.


41. The group often makes use of jargon or common words with special definitions in order to confuse any outsider's examinations of the group.


42. Secrecy of the group's activities is maintained with a wall of silence.


43. Members are often kept in the dark concerning aspects of the group.


44. The financial activities of the group are often shrouded in secrecy.




The above list of cult characteristics is a compilation from several sources:

Checklist of Cult Characteristics, Dr. Michael Langone, Executive Director of the American Family Foundation, Inc.


Marcia Rudin, list of cult characteristics, as quoted in the Encyclopedic Handbook of Cults, p. 6.

Unknown author, What is a Cult?

David Stone, The Church Without a Name, Analysis of a Cult,

pp. 246-255.

Veterans of Truth, What Religious Cults Have In Common: (website:


Christian Fellowship Ministries INC (aka The Potters House; The Door; Victory Chapel; and many other names ) all under the headship of Wayman Mitchell residing in Prescott, AZ is guilty of #'s




And #'s 1 and 11 might be apply as well


The people who wrote these 44 characteristics did not have CFM in mind, yet after reading it, the conclusion is clear. After reading this YOU DECIDE: church or cult ?

Steve Schoner