Topics & Questions for Discussion: Part 8 Sample Responses



After watching the 8th part of the God as we understand Him movie, we suggest the following topics of discussion:


How can the term “cult” be defined?


Sample response by a facilitator or group mediator:


On, the term “cult” is defined as “a particular system of religious worship, esp. with reference to its rites and ceremonies, or: “a group or sect bound together by veneration of the same thing, person, ideal, etc.,” or; “a religion or sect considered to be false, unorthodox, or extremist, with members often living outside of conventional society under the direction of a charismatic leader.”
Depending on your definition, a wide variety of groups could be considered cults, including The Boy Scouts of America and perhaps even the 12 Step movement that originated with Alcoholics Anonymous.
It is important to distinguish between broader definitions of “cult” and the famous “destructive cults” like The Manson Family. These destructive cults might be described as fringe religious or political groups that tend to have the following traits: an unusually charismatic, authoritarian leader, isolating the members from the outside world, convincing members to give all their money and worldly possessions to the cult, deviant sexual practices such as incest and polygamy, violence, and unlawful behavior.


The 12 Traditions go a long way toward defining the basic organizational structure of A.A. and other 12 Step fellowships. How have the 12 Traditions helped keep A.A. from becoming a cult (in the negative sense of the word)?


Sample response by a facilitator or group mediator:


The 3rd Tradition of Alcoholics Anonymous states: “The only requirement for A.A. membership is a desire to stop drinking.” Since there are no requirements for membership, the 3rd Tradition rules out any possibility of institutionalized authoritarianism or dictates of any kind. There are no membership fees whatsoever, only voluntary donations.


The 4th Tradition of Narcotics Anonymous (and other Twelve Step fellowships) states: “Each group should be autonomous except in matters affecting other groups or N.A. as a whole.” There are thousands of 12 Step groups worldwide that operate with relative autonomy. The lack of centralized direction from a single authority goes counter to most definitions of a “cult.”


The 12th Tradition states: “Anonymity is the spiritual foundation of all our Traditions, ever reminding us to place principles before personalities.” This tradition of placing principles before personalities and maintaining relative anonymity has helped safeguard against the rise of any charismatic leader within the 12 Step Fellowships.