If you're not allowed to leave without punishment, then its a cult.
Be Fair = Witnesses are NOT a cult!! What about Christians or democracy?
I agree with most of the replies here. JW's most certainly are a cult! Cults have a pyramid structure where there are those at the top who dictate to those below... how to think act etc... which the Governing body do. There is no honerable way of leaving. If you do leave something bad will hapen to you..i.e the birds will peck out your eyes and those of your children at the big A! They control; behaviour, information,thoughts and emotions BITE which is Steve Hassen's ( a leading cult specialist) criteria for a cult/ high control groups.
If you want to leave religions that are not high control cults there is no question as to your sincerity. You are free to leave because your relationship is with god. with the JW's your relationship is not with god but with the organization!
democracy is not a Bush Cult. These United States are a Republic and it was started way before anyone named dubya was born. But I know your meaning. I have to beg to differ with your poin, because the term cult that is bandied about in this forum is the brand of cult that is destructive. And the jw religion is exactly that. Destructive. It has some good points, but the bad ones outweigh the good ones tenfold.
Sorry, just my opinion.
Technically, a cult is any group that has a set of beliefs. That is the broadest definition of the word. And, yes it can be the whole of civilization.
However, there are other levels of cults. The most common definition of a cult is a group with beliefs that are outside the realm of mainstream, and that limit independent research. Christianity began as a damaging cult (the Catholic church did start the First Dark Ages, after all, and I hate them for that). However, they did modify it to tolerate other belief systems (namely, when they had to compete with the Protestants).
While the Protestants had something to do with loosening the First Dark Ages (and I do give them the credit for that, because they forced the Catholic church to compete with them and they were more open), they also promote the same basic mysticism. Which is, that people will get punished by a "loving" God for doing certain things that are not harmful to self or society. They still impose a measure of guilt for certain pleasures. However, they are still common and not as damaging to society, and they have a measure of tolerance to outside influence and alternative beliefs.
Now, for the damaging cults. Groups that have little to no tolerance of dissident opinions (even where they are right) and that have beliefs that hinder people's lives and waste huge blocks of their time do substantial damage to people. Add the death threat (Armageddon, anyone?) and the harsh consequences for leaving, and you have a cult that can ruin lives. At that, they ruin lives above and beyond the effects of the political rulership and the common religions.
The ideal is to have a society where people are independent of leaders. In doing this, one would use the free market and a few basic principles to create value, advance science, and greatly improve society at large. There would be infinite tolerance for people to examine and cross-reference the beliefs, and change them if they prove faulty. And, when the truth in something is found, it immediately becomes available so society can benefit from it. Guilt is reserved for people who initiate the use of force, threat of force, coercion, and/or fraud against another person or their property. Morals are simpler, and anyone can readily see that anything that is good for society or the individual is moral, and anything that is bad for self or society is immoral. Any rules above and beyond that are unnecessary and detrimental for the function of society.
Short of that ideal, we are going to have different degrees of cults. And the Watchtower Society is a damaging degree of cult.
Watch out 007 your not drinking this forum's Kool-Aid! I don't consider them a dangerous cult, so therefore I don't think they are exceptional. Thus I will not call them a cult anymore then I would call Baptist a cult. Yes I know what your thinking, and have heard it before so spare me.
Unless you think the equivalent of Jonestown dying every month due to their zany blood policies is dangerous, of course. Especially lil' kids w/ no choice.....
So it's as clear as daylight that the JWs are a cult and denying that is like denying the blindingly obvious. Tight control plus swift and ruthless punishment in store for anyone disturbing the leadership, their ideology and their powerful hold over the hypnotised JW masses. A fascist system under the guise of religion.
YES! They are definately a CULT.
See this page http://www.ex-cult.org/General/identifying-a-cult
Here is a snippet from that page:
OTHER IDENTIFICATION MARKS
(a) The group will have an ELITIST view of itself in relation to
others, and a UNIQUE CAUSE. e.i. THEY ARE THE ONLY ONES RIGHT -
everyone else is wrong. THEY ARE THE ONLY ONES DOING GOD'S WILL -
everyone else is in apostasy.
(b) They will promote their cause actively, and in doing so, abuse
God-given personal rights and freedoms. This abuse can be
THEOLOGICAL, SPIRITUAL, SOCIAL & PSYCHOLOGICAL.
HOW THEY DO THIS
1. Their leader/s may claim a special, exclusive ministry, revelation or
position of authority given by God.
2. They believe they are the only true church and take a critical stance
regarding the Christian church while at the same time praising and
exalting their own group, leader/s and work.
3. They use intimidation or psychological manipulation to keep members
loyal to their ranks. This could be in the form of threats of dire
calamity sent by God if they leave; certain death at Armageddon;
being shunned by their family and friends etc. This is a vital
part of the mind control process.
4. Members will be expected to give substantial financial support to
the group. This could be compulsory tithing (which is checked);
signing over all their property on entering the group; coercive
methods of instilling guilt on those who have not contributed;
selling magazines, flowers or other goods for the group as part of
At the same time bible-based cults may ridicule churches that take
up free-will offerings by passing collection plates and/or sell
literature and tapes. They usually brag that they don't do this. This
gives outsiders the intimation that they are not interested in money.
5. There will be great emphasis on loyalty to the group and its
teachings. The lives of members will be totally absorbed into the
group's activities. They will have little or no time to think for
themselves because of physical and emotional exhaustion. This is
also a vital part of the mind control process.
6. There will be total control over almost all aspects of the private
lives of members. This control can be direct through communal
living, or constant and repetitious teaching on "how to be a true
Christian" or "being obedient to leadership". Members will look to
their leaders for guidance in everything they do.
7. Bible-based cults may proclaim they have no clergy/laity
distinction and no paid ministry class - that they are all equal.
8. Any dissent or questioning of the group's teachings is discouraged.
Criticism in any form is seen as rebellion. There will be an
emphasis on authority, unquestioning obedience and submission.
This is vigilantly maintained.
9. Members are required to demonstrate their loyalty to the group in
some way. This could be in the form of "dobbing" on fellow members
(including family) under the guise of looking out for their
They may be required to deliberately lie (heavenly deception) or
give up their lives by refusing some form of medical treatment.
10. Attempts to leave or reveal embarrassing facts about the group may
be met with threats. Some may have taken oaths of loyalty that
involve their lives or have signed a "covenant" and feel threatened by
Refugees of the group are usually faced with confrontations by
other members with coercion to get them to return to the
SOME ABUSES OF RIGHTS AND FREEDOMS:-
1. ABUSE OF INDIVIDUALITY
They adopt a "groupness" mentality. They are not permitted to
think for themselves apart from the group and only accept what
they are told.
2. ABUSE OF INTIMACY
Relationships with friends, relatives, spouses, children,
parents etc are broken or seriously hampered.
3. ABUSE OF FINANCES
Pressure to give all you can to the group. In non-communal
groups, members usually live at the lower socio-economic strata,
not because of a lower income level, but because they are always
giving money to the group for some reason.
4. "US VERSUS THEM" MENTALITY
Isolation from the community in general. Anyone and
everything outside the group is seen as "of the devil" or
"unenlightened" etc. Their enemies now include former friends;
the Christian church; governments; education systems; the media
- the world in general. Those who are involved with these in any
way see such involvement as a "means to an end".
5. ABUSE OF TIME AND ENERGY
The group controls and uses almost all the members time and
energy in group activities. They are usually in a constant
state of mental and physical exhaustion.
6. ABUSE OF FREE WILL
They must unquestioning submit to the groups teachings and
directions and their own free will is broken. Their "will"
actually becomes the groups "will" without their realizing it.
This is done either by coercive methods including low protein diets
and lack of sleep, or over a period of time through
intimidation. Both methods make heavy use of "guilt".
Not all other religious groups fit these criteria. I have personally attended churches and other groups who do not require attendance, who do allow people to think for themselves, where there is no negative result of leaving....where donations are accepted but the average donation is £1 per service attended (based on individual choice on how much to donate).
I've been at these churches when someone walks in who hasn't attended in 6 months and people actually go over to them and say "hi its so nice to see you".
Let us redefine cult as petaining to ones who would own your soul and dictate its life in this reality and/or any other hypothetical ones and never cooperate in freeing you!
I could further modify it but that thought is an excellent start.
As Witness 007 pointed out and as shown on this thread, the word cult can be defined so broadly and has so many definitions that it is easy to call Jehovah's Witnesses a cult. Even though the word cult has so many definitions, many of those definitions are created on the fly by websites with the purpose of labeling certain organizations as a cult. Those definitions are created because the word cult is very sensational and because of it's association with groups led by David Koresh and Jim Jones. 'It's obvious the JW are bad if we can put them in the same category as groups like those led by Koresh or Jim Jones.' So yes, one can find plenty of cult definitions that fit Jehovah's Witnesses. And I can find a few that don't fit Jehovah's Witnesses (Go to dictionary.com and type in cult). I personally feel no need to label them as a cult. They are a religion full of mythological beliefs like almost every other religion on the earth. There is no need to sensationalize it.
We are not sensationalising JWs - what crock!
JWs sensationalise JWs by claiming gods unique backing and zero choice for followers to move on positively!
We are bringing reality to what they are:
JWs ARE A CULT!