Google Answers Logo
View Question
Q: Attractiveness of cults ( Answered 5 out of 5 stars,   1 Comment )
Subject: Attractiveness of cults
Category: Miscellaneous
Asked by: qpet-ga
List Price: $50.00
Posted: 17 Jan 2003 08:56 PST
Expires: 16 Feb 2003 08:56 PST
Question ID: 144746
What is attracting individuals to join cults?(in the broad sense)How
long do they stay in the cult on average? Is there a typical answer on
why they left?
Subject: Re: Attractiveness of cults
Answered By: bobbie7-ga on 17 Jan 2003 11:38 PST
Rated:5 out of 5 stars
Hello Qpet and thank you for your question.

A cult is a group, generally with a religious foundation, whose
beliefs and practices are unfamiliar to the majority of citizens.
They are also referred to as "new religious movements" or "NRMs"
because the majority of cults are young religious movements still in
their first generations.

What is attracting individuals to join cults?

A recent article dated Jul. 01, 2002 “Why do people join cults?”
published at the Inquirer News Service by Jaime Licauco discusses
the attraction of cults for individuals. 

“All cults more or less share similar features and attraction for
certain individuals. Members are convinced that, by studying the
teachings of their master or founder and performing the rituals, they
can escape the bondage of the material world and link up to a higher
or greater source of power.”

There are many reasons that people join cults. But they can be
summarized under four categories:

-  to get a sense of belonging or a sense of identity. 
-  to acquire discipline, which otherwise he cannot get by himself. 
-  to acquire special knowledge or skill not possessed by the rest of
-  to gain some power.

“Cults therefore satisfy certain needs of an individual which he or
she cannot obtain elsewhere.”

Source: Inquirer News Service

“Members are initially attracted because they feel loved and

In a testimonial an ex cult member listed the positive attractions the
cult had for him:

1) Brotherly/sisterly love and acceptance
2) Learning a great deal of Bible.
3) Calmness, love, gentleness in witnessing.

The attraction of cults is discussed in a FBI bulletin.

“Cults can offer enormous social and psychological rewards. Converts
to NRMs may receive a sense of purpose, a moral compass, a highly
structured guide for their daily behavior, and a strong sense of
social identity and belonging.”

“For individuals who feel unfulfilled by existing outlets in their
lives, spiritually adrift, or merely lonely, joining an NRM may
provide a successful solution, at least temporarily.”

Source: FBI Bulletin

People who have grown dissatisfied with traditional religious belief
and find the excitement of new religiosities both challenging and
promising find a cult attractive.

“Members of these movements tend to refer often to unique, perhaps
ineffable experiences they have had with what they call a "god." They
have become transformed by their experiences, and are certain that
they could not be mistaken about what has happened. The promise of
this is obviously alluring to many people.”


A common speculation is that people attracted to NRMs lead deprived
childhoods which results in deprived lives; thus they are now
desperately seeking some sort of satisfaction which would make them
feel more complete.”

Source: on Atheism

The appeal of cults and sectarian groups:
1. Authority
2. Community
3. Commitment
4. Idealism
5. Experience

Who Joins Cults and Why?

“Contrary to a popular misconception that cult members are "crazy,"
research and clinical evidence strongly suggests that most cult
members are relatively normal. They include the young, the
middle-aged, elderly, the wealthy, the poor, the educated, and the
uneducated from every ethnic and religious background. There is no
easily identifiable type of person who joins cults.”
Source: Cultic Studies Journal

“Those who typically join cults are people who feel disenfranchised by
society and are searching for new meaning in their lives. (..) People
are drawn into cults for a variety of reasons. Probably the most
common is the sense of personal empowerment that such a group confers
on those who feel helpless and alienated in to-day's society.”

According to the Cultic Studies Journal there are a number of factors
that may cause some individuals to be susceptible to cultic influence.

- Dependency (the desire to belong; lack of self-confidence)
- Unassertiveness (inability to say no or express criticism or doubt)
- Gullibility (impaired capacity to question critically what one is
told, observes, thinks, etc.)
- Low tolerance for ambiguity (need for absolute answers, impatience
to obtain answers)
- Cultural disillusionment (alienation, dissatisfaction with status
 naive idealism; 
- Desire for spiritual meaning; 
- Susceptibility to trance-like states (in some cases, perhaps,
because of prior hallucinogenic drug experiences); and
- Ignorance of the ways in which groups can manipulate individuals.

Source: Cultic Studies Journal

How long do they stay in the cult on average?
According to a survey taken on former cultists by Patricia Goski: 

“The average length of stay in the group was 9 years.” 

Source: Cultic Studies Journal

The Institute for the Study of American Religion states that the
majority of cult members typically leave within 2 years although a
small percentage may stay even a lifetime.

 “The great majority of people who join groups which deviate strongly
from societal norms or have a high disapproval level in society leave
after only a short period of time, typically within two years.


A small percentage of those who join a cult will remain in it for many
years, even a lifetime.”

Source: Institute for the Study of American Religion

“The reality is that most people join these groups and stay as long as
membership remains a positive experience. In time, many find the group
experience to be less positive. They may leave after days, weeks,
months or years.”

Is Leaving a Cult Easy?

“People who consider leaving a cult are usually pressured to stay.
Some ex-members say they spent months, even years, trying to garner
the strength to walk out. Some felt so intimidated they departed

Source: Cultic Studies Journal

“Most cults can recruit and control a person in a matter of three or
four days. However, leaving the group is not as easy. Some never do
leave. For those that do it is often thanks to a lot of hard work on
the part of their family and/or friends over a prolonged period of

Why do people leave cults?

The Cultic Studies Journal in the article “Cults & Mind Control”
summarizes the foremost reasons that people leave cults:

“People leave for a variety of reasons. After becoming aware of
hypocrisy and/or corruption within the cult, converts who have
maintained an element of independence and some connection with their
old values may simply walk out. Others may leave because they are
weary of a routine of proselytizing and fund-raising. Sometimes even
the most dedicated members may feel so inadequate in the face of the
cult’s demands that they walk away because they feel like abject
failures. Others may renounce the cult after reconnecting to old
values, goals, interests, or relationships, resulting from visits with
parents, talks with ex-members, or exit counseling.”

Source: Cultic Studies Journal

Members typically:
- walkaway ("walkaways"), 
- are thrown out ("castaways"), 
- lose their leader to death or their group to dissolution, 
- or are counseled out in roughly that numerical order.”

Here are the reasons:


“Walkaways may leave gradually because of love for family or friends
or what is called "cognitive dissonance" -- a growing realization that
the ideals of the group are at odds with their actions. They may float
into new groups or eventually return to their original group.”


“Castaways are tossed out by their leaders or groups for real or
imagined offenses -- or to keep other members in line. This group may
experience the most traumatic reentrance into mainstream society. They
usually have not rejected the beliefs or leader of their group and
have the added guilt and shame of having been rejected.”

Leaders Death:

“If the group disbanded against their wishes or their leader died,
they leave and may experience a depth of despair similar to a


“Those who are counseled out, through therapy, exit counseling,
in-residence programs, or the like, usually experience the smoothest
and quickest recovery.”

Source: FAQ About Recovering From Cults

Research by the AFF indicates that:

- Over 2,000,000 Americans are members of cultic or other
psychologically abusive groups

- Tens of thousands of people leave such groups every year 

- A majority of these persons experience some level of psychological
distress after leaving their groups.

- The distress is often directly related to their abusive experiences
in the group.

Source: Cultic Studies journal

Additional Information that may interest you:

Three short articles

What Is A Cult?

Life in a Cult

On Using the Term "Cult" – Definitions

Search Criteria:

attraction to cults
average time in cults
Why Do People Leave Cults?
"average length of stay" cult
cult members leave after * years
cult trends and statistics

I hope this response has provided you with the information you were

Best Regards,
qpet-ga rated this answer:5 out of 5 stars and gave an additional tip of: $10.00
Another winning answer!!
Thank you,
P.S. I'll be out traveling for 10 days, then back with more.
Google ansers has been a great help to me!!

Subject: Re: Attractiveness of cults
From: bobbie7-ga on 17 Jan 2003 17:15 PST
Thanks again for the rating and tip.
Have a great trip!

Important Disclaimer: Answers and comments provided on Google Answers are general information, and are not intended to substitute for informed professional medical, psychiatric, psychological, tax, legal, investment, accounting, or other professional advice. Google does not endorse, and expressly disclaims liability for any product, manufacturer, distributor, service or service provider mentioned or any opinion expressed in answers or comments. Please read carefully the Google Answers Terms of Service.

If you feel that you have found inappropriate content, please let us know by emailing us at with the question ID listed above. Thank you.
Search Google Answers for
Google Answers  

Google Home - Answers FAQ - Terms of Service - Privacy Policy