Religion: Why do people join cults?

We’re currently researching and scripting a couple of films on secularisation and New Religious Movements and a spin-off from this, as you may have noticed, is a range of religion resources either based on stuff we’ve found – NRM Pathways and NRM Characteristics – or stuff other people have already produced.

This post falls into the latter category: a 6-minute animation in the TED-ED series of films, written by American Professor of Sociology Janja Lalich and focused on an overview of religious cults that grew out of her own research in this area.

In this respect you could use the film as a simple introduction to the main features of cults, because it covers some familiar themes:

• A basic definition of a cult

• An overview of cult characteristics

• An outline of why people join cults.

The film also references a couple of the most notorious religious cults in recent times:

• The People’s Temple and Jonestown involving mass “involuntary suicide”.

• Heaven’s Gate involving an apparent voluntary mass suicide (whose website – not all of it’s members “passed over” – is still active if you want to illustrate and investigate the cult further).

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