Oct 13, 2019

Spiritual manipulation in pseudo-Christian cults: A panel discussion with former members

Wendy Duncan; Doug Duncan; Molly Koshatka
International Cultic Studies Association (ICSA)
December 8, 2014

Religious cults depend on fear and intimidation to maintain their hold over group members.  In order to manipulate followers, the cult leader is revered and group members believe that God has specifically chosen him and given him absolute authority.  The cult leader’s claim that God has imparted a unique and special revelation justifies his existence as the leader and his right to exercise control.  Members of pseudo-Christian cults are taught to accept the cult leader’s authority as divinely mandated.  Any doubt or questions are quickly extinguished by the leader or the group culture that dismisses external influences that contradict the groups stated mission or vision.  Through spiritual manipulation, the leader is able to obtain control over the devotees.  The tactics of manipulation include the use of guilt, peer pressure, intimidation, ridicule, and fear.  Over time, the cult member is deluged with fears of thinking independently, making wrong decisions, losing salvation, losing his relationship with God, experiencing extreme calamity if he leaves the group, and numerous other horrors.

A panel discussion of three former members of pseudo-Christian cults will focus on the spiritually manipulative techniques employed by their former cults.  The panel will focus on four primary areas:

  • Manipulative techniques used by leader(s)
  • The role of fear in pseudo-Christian cults
  • Obstacles in transitioning out of a spiritually manipulative group/religion
  • Reconnecting with faith after cult affiliation


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