Thoughts on Cult Leaders
From today’s show:
Just to refresh your memory from last week, a cult is a group of people with a charismatic authority figure, and manipulates its members whilst demanding full commitment.
That kind of gives you a clue to how cults are structured. The one thing that most (if not all) cults have in common is a charismatic leader. Think about it- Jim Jones from the People’s Temple, Marshall Applewhite of Heaven’s Gate, Charles Manson of the Manson Family for example- all charismatic people that got their followers to do crazy things.
There is no cult without a powerful, charismatic leader. A charismatic leader has the uncanny ability to get people to follow them unquestioningly. The phrase “cult of personality” refers to this type of group dynamic. Cult members are devoted to the leader, not to the leader’s ideas. The leader has complete control over theirfollowers- there is no questioning of their decisions, and they is accountable to no one within the group.
It’s possible for a cult to have more than one leader, but that’s atypical. Most destructive cults demand absolute devotion to a single person who is considered to be God or connected to God, the Messiah, a prophet or possessing some other holy status. This is a critical component in maintaining absolute devotion: To the members of a cult, only this single person can lead them to salvation- without the leader, they will spend eternity in Hell.