Cults and Terrorism: Can We Establish Parallels Between Noxious Belief Systems?
July 5, 2017
By Sarah Mills
Whether they are known as high-demand/control groups, new religious movements, or cults, their frequent association with scandals in which both physical and psychological abuse, violence, and even fatalities feature notoriously, begs the question: At what point does a religion cease to be a relatively anodyne cultural system and cross over into territory the state should not, must not, protect through religious freedom?
Established religions often cite deviation from the norm as a defining characteristic of cults to undermine their legitimacy. This norm, however, is a product of time. Christianity itself was once considered ‘deviant.’ So how can we determine what a cult is and why should we care? Through a consideration of the definition of the word ‘cult’ and the psychological effects of indoctrination; an examination of a sect that might better be defined as a cult and thus useful for illustrative purposes, namely Jehovah’s Witnesses; and the relationship between cult mentality and terrorism, I will argue that the study of cults holds significant potential in unlocking the bases for violent acts of devotion that seem to merit more than socio-political explanations . . .