How to Spot a Cult or Pressure Group on Campus

Some religious groups attempt to pressure individuals to accept religious beliefs that they do not already practice. If you become concerned about a group you have joined, observe the group’s responses to you and how you feel. If you are sometimes uncomfortable or find a number of the following statements to be true about a group with which you are becoming involved, you should seek advice from a trusted person, outside of this group, and reconsider your involvement.

1. Does the group seem too perfect? Do people agree and accept all orders cheerfully?
2. In the group, do your find yourself without enough private time? Enough nourishment? Enough sleep?
3. Does the group claim to have “all the answers” to your problems? Does the group make claims they cannot fulfill?
4. Does the group make it difficult to place phone calls, receive letters, visit with old friends, or discuss your thoughts with people you trust that are not in the group?
5. Does the group say that your parents and friends cannot understand or help you with religious matters?
6. Is it unacceptable to have doubts about what the group teaches or does? Is doubt seen as a sign of weakness?
7. Does the group view all aspects of your former life as bad? Is the group reluctant to accept you as you are? Do you feel pressure to change?
8. Is it seen as proper to deceive people for the sake of the group?
9. Are you uncomfortable with the group’s attitude towards a certain gender, race or ethnicity?
10. Does the group encourage you to put their meetings before all other commitments, including studying?

Adapted from “Finding the Right Path,” by Rabbi Richard J. Israel, and from Ministries with Young Adults, a publication of the Lutheran Church in America, with additions.