I want to ask other community organizers, especially of communities with more people, more land, or in more rural areas… How often do you talk about your community and have someone say something like “is this a cult?”? This trend peaked for me when I was in Oregon, within driving distance of some places that had actually had religious cult problems in the previous years and decades, but it still comes up in MA, HI, CA, GA, and elsewhere. I’d like to know how prevalent and widespread this phenomenon is.
During interviews, people sometimes express their worries that we are a cult. I have the impression that many people think that, but are scared to express it.
I think it is a valuable question to ask and I understand the concern. The risk is real.
So what we have done is this: We have done the research into what a cult is and answered that question for ourselves and made that answer available to everyone here: Is Rubha Phoil a cult? : Rubha Phoil - our Sacred, Ancient Rock.
It was a valuable exercise to do. It inspired us to put some extra counter measures into our policies to prevent us from becoming a cult in the future. Such as the requirement for everyone to have or seek meaningful anchoring relationships outside of the community.
I just tell them no because its actually those not part of our community -that are living in society… they are the one’s drinking the Kool-Aid! If ya think about it… gmo foods, pharmaceuticals, chemical etc.
Usually when something is a cult, it has certain tells, such as:
Members are isolated from outside influences and people, visits with family and outside friends are limited or not allowed at all.
Information is also limited, members aren’t permitted to access media and other things from the “outside”.
If someone wants to leave they are told that horrible things will happen to them if they do or they are even threatened that if they leave they’ll be hurt or cut off from family/friends still inside.
And lastly, though this doesn’t always denote a cult, cults tend to have one or two main leaders who can come up with new ideas that others will follow, usually charisma is involved. And sometimes lots of sex is involved.
Obviously not all of these tells mean there’s a cult, but they’re important to watch carefully.
That’s what I’d tell someone if they were worried that a community is a cult, they can investigate that by finding out about these things.