I found this list on biblicaltruthseekers.co.uk  Hope you enjoy.


• Control-orientated, arrogantly assertive, power-posturing leadership.

• Authoritarian and legalistic with dictatorial, dogmatic unproven doctrines that are proclaimed to be ‘the Truth’.

• Claims of being the channel of communication between God and mankind; having unique knowledge that makes them special. If members do not submit to its dictatorial rule, the leaders emphasise that any waver of support to the organization or church is evidence of a wavering of one’s faith in God.

• Manipulation of members by guilt, shame, blame and fear.

• An “Us-vs-Them” view, a perception of being under persecution.

• Demanding, rigid lifestyles and overwhelming service requirements. Member’s lives are controlled by both spoken and unspoken rules which are unscriptural.

• Loss of focus on God, replaced by a complicated process of furthering the church or organization and its rules.

• Followers “in pain,” hiding real feelings that oppose or disagree with the religious system.

• Intolerance of individual thinking, and of criticism of the religious system by its members. Fosters an unhealthy dependency by focusing on themes of submission, loyalty, and obedience to those in authority.

• Severe discipline of members with threats to remove members from the group.

• The religious system puts down other religions beyond simple analysis of the doctrines and practices of the religion.

• Leaving the religious system is painful and difficult.

• Closed communication: information is only valid if it comes from the top of the religious organization down, and from inside the system to the outside of it.

• Labelling: a technique used to discount a person who opposes the beliefs of the religious system.

• What you do is more important than who you are.

• Love and acceptance are earned by doing certain things.

• Scripture-twisting.

• Scare tactics; focus on demons.

• Members are misled into thinking that the only safety is in the religious system.

• A view that education is bad or unnecessary.



• Members of the group must believe that the doctrines of the group are the one and only “Truth.”

• Members must follow the doctrines even if they don’t understand them.

• The doctrines form the basis of all thoughts, feelings, and actions.

• There is an “Us-vs-Them” belief that no outside group is recognized as godly.

• No independent thinking by members is allowed.

• It teaches that there is a huge conspiracy (actually non-existent) working to thwart the group. (However, certain individuals my wish to thwart the group).

• Teaches that spirit beings are constantly critically observing the members.

• Members are made to feel elite, chosen by God to lead mankind out of darkness.

• The group looks down on other religious groups.

• Members are told if they don’t fully perform their duties, they are failing in humility.

• Members are required to render absolute obedience to their superiors.

• When members leave the group, the love that was formerly shown to them turns into anger, hatred, and ridicule.

• The group uses guilt and shame to control its members.

• Fear is a major motivator.

• Members feel an extreme sense of urgency about given tasks.

• Many groups teach that the apocalypse is just around the corner, and have timetables for it’s occurrence with dates near enough to carry an emotional punch.

• Members are kept extremely busy.

• There is never a legitimate reason for leaving the group.

• Members are indoctrinated with the belief that if they ever leave the group, terrible consequences will befall them.

• Members are forbidden to think negative thoughts about the group.

• Members are forbidden to have contact with former members of the group.

• ‘The ‘truth’ is changed to fit the needs of the situation.

• Friendships in the group are shallow; the only real allegiance is to the leader/leadership.

• There is no allowance for interpretation of or deviation from the group’s’ doctrines.

• The leadership systematically creates a sense of powerlessness in its members.

• The group causes members to become extremely dependent on its compliance-oriented expressions of love and support; dread of losing the groups support.

• ‘Love Bombing’: members shower much attention on prospective members.

• Members must project a façade of happiness.

• Members must believe the group is always right, even if it contradicts itself.

• Members spend more and more time with and under the direction of the group.

• Those who do not conform to the group’s requirements will be expelled.

• Disagreement with or doubts about the groups teachings are always the fault of the member, due to lack of faith or lack of understanding.

• The group is superior to and different from all other groups.

• Members must trust the group leaders instead of themselves.

• Members have similar odd mannerisms and modes of speech.


I’m not sure but this list almost seems to have JWs in mind. What does everyone think? While it is quite certain that the organization has cult qualities, is the organization of Jehovah’s Witnesses a cult? I have noticed for quite awhile, even before I started my investigation, that there seems to be a lot of brothers and especially sisters on anti-depression medication. Is this my imagination? If not, is this because of the extraordinary stress that the organization puts on the witnesses? Jesus said ” Come to me, all YOU who are toiling and loaded down, and I will refresh YOU. 29 Take my yoke upon YOU and learn from me, for I am mild-tempered and lowly in heart, and YOU will find refreshment for YOUR souls. 30 For my yoke is kindly and my load is light.”

This doesn’t seem to describe the yoke that the organization puts on the brothers. The yoke on JWs is much heavier and harder to find relief from.

Rating 4.78 out of 5

16 Comments on Characteristics of Extreme Cults

  1. Jayme says:

    Hi Andrew,

    I ask myself this question almost daily. Its hard to admit it because its all I’ve ever known and there are many good things which I am grateful for which came from my association with the Org. That being said, I will admit that now that my mind is free from the hold that they had on me I am happier than I have ever been and also have a much better relationship with Jehovah.

    When I was still active I used to think about the scripture you quoted about Jesus’ load being light, and I would break down in tears and pray to Jehovah asking “whats wrong with me?” “why do I feel so burdened if your load is light?” This is what finally caused me to have to look into the relation between JWs and mental illness. I too know MANY brothers and sisters on meds and fighting depression. I just couldnt take it anymore, I’m glad I took that leap and informed myself. Of course it has opened up other problems as we know, but it was well worth it. Now I know it wasnt me after all, it was the control techniques that I had been exposed to since I was an infant. Many of these techniques are harmful to a greater or lessor degree depending on the person. When I see the brothers who are still suffering it really jumps out at me now. I feel so bad for them but I know that they will have to find out in their own time.


  2. JJ says:

    After pasting these two lists into your post Andrew you say this:
    “I’m not sure but this list almost seems to have JWs in mind.”

    That’s likely because the source list that was pasted into that persons blog had been “squeezed to fit” JWs, or at least some peoples ideas of JWs. The facts are that several of these points do apply. But many of these do not apply, based on what I have seen and experienced in the years I’ve been a Witness. Ray Franz did not believe that we are a cult, he felt that was the wrong word. We are all entitled to our opinions and I do concede that we have some cult-like qualities and behaviors.

    But is it really quite as extreme as the many points listed above? I just don’t see it. Maybe I’m trying too hard to be positive. Paul said love has eyes to see the good and that’s why I am blind to some of these. But others are sadly true, and we are weighed down with busy work. Can you tell how confused I am, lol? Or am I just truly trying be honest about that long repetitive list? We all decide for ourselves…


  3. andrew says:

    The definition of a cult varies with the person you ask and is a made up set of characteristics anyway. The fact is that most denominations have good points and bad. It is just that the vast majority of JWs see only the good points and have been blinded to the negative or unhealthy ones. Many ex-JWs see only bad points. Let’s face it the organization can be unjust, domineering, and self approving. But it is very far from committing the worst injustices in this world.

    The bible let’s us know “man has dominated man to his injury”. One could argue that the org. is just another example of this. But the org. had also encouraged many others to have an interest in spiritual things that they may not have otherwise had. I like you JJ am somewhat confused on how to view the org. I am just glad the Jesus will do the judging.


  4. Amos says:

    In my 59 years (from birth) within the Org. it became very evident that there was something critically wrong with the leadership. This became more evident following the failed 1975 prediction, & the Orgs. denial that it was a prediction, & putting the blame back on their followers. Also their constant flip-flopping.

    I have been on anti-depresants for about 30 years, but am now almost completely off them. This has only been possible due to my now being able to use my God given right…freedom of thought & belief. I now have (generaly) a calm demeanor that had previously been lacking. I have observed that within the WTS adherents in AU. that about 30% are suffering some kind of anxiety and/or depression. I have personally known many who have suicided as a result of the cultish-mind control tactics that are in force. This has also been told to me by several medical profesionals.

    I have known many elders who have stood themselves down for these same reasons, one later commited suicide, as have several of the R&F who I personally knew. I too almost suicided on several occasions, for the very same reasons as given in the article posted by Andrew.

    After being free for six years now, I can absolutely state that the WTS is very defititely a cult, “in some respects”. Please dont misunderstand me though, as I do believe they teach some truth & are better than some other “religions”.
    I say religions, because I no longer have the view that we need to be IN a religious org. to be part of the “Body of Christ”. Each member of “Christs Body”, are in a direct relationship with Him & His Father, & enjoy the leadings & teachings by the Holy Spirit. WE DON’T NEED ANY ORGANISATION!!! BUT, we do need each other, & in this respect we need some association together, “for the upbuilding of the body of Christ!”

    Andrew said; “But it is very far from committing the worst injustices in this world.”

    I reply, “If the WTS are God’s channel “as they claim”, then there should be “no injustices” being committed by them…because they would have & reflect, God’s cardinal qualities, particularly “Love & Justice!””

    Your brother in the Lord,


    • Amos says:

      I should add that my definition of a cult is; any group or organization who use mind controlling tactics to hold their followers under control. This can take several different strategies, as pointed out above, but particularly fear, fear of eternal damnation if any disobey, leave the cult, or don’t accept the self proclaimed, “divine authority” of the leadership.

      I should also state that I believe the only “channel” that is of “Divine origin”, is the “Holy Spirit”.


    • andrew says:

      I also was acquainted with an elder who committed suicide in the last year.

      Although I didn’t take medication, before I stepped down I had begun to suffer panic attacks from time to time. The pressure to perform is just simply unhealthy.


  5. LonelySheep says:

    This is an interesting subject that I was musing about last year, around July time. This is MY OWN list that I came up with:

    * Exclusive leadership
    * Dont like teachings questioned
    * Leaders offer no sign of DIVINE approval – have to take their word that they are approved
    * Leaders are regarded to be beyond criticism – they become more important than the message
    * Everybody must believe EXACTLY the same thing
    * Renegade indivuals are shunned, expelled etc
    * Members believe only association with them means salvation (as opposed to association with God)
    * Leadership speak ex-cathedra


  6. LonelySheep says:

    I thought this was also interesting. Its taken from Bro Ebed site. He likens the control of the WT to Big Brother in George Orwell novel 1984.

    Here is an excerpt from his blog:
    Other things that were done in George Orwells book was that Big Brother would say one thing was factual until it no longer suited them and then they would completely contradict themselves but everyone would believe that what they were now teaching was the absolute inerrant truth until, of course, they said it wasn’t. To do this, the masses would have to employ “blackwhite” and “bellyfeel.”

    Blackwhite, as described by George Orwell himself is “a loyal willingness to say that black is white when Party discipline demands this…also the ability to believe that black is white, and more, to know that black is white, and to forget that one has ever believed the contrary. This demands a continuous alteration of the past.” Bellyfeel is a blind, enthusiastic acceptance of an idea. Together, these two terms describe what the Watchtower demands of us when it has “new light.”

    It is sad that so many people give in to what George Orwell called blackwhite. One prime example of blackwhite is presented in Raymond Franz’s book, Crisis of Conscious. He related an experience that he had heard of.

    “Perhaps epitomizing the spirit that the Society’s pronouncements, including this letter, produced is an incident occurring at a Circuit Assembly meeting for elders of a section of Alabama. The District Overseer, Bart Thompson, held up a Society publication that had a green cover. He then said to the assembly of elders, ‘If the Society told me that this book is black instead of green, I would say, “Y’know I could have sworn that it was green, but if the Society says it’s black, then it’s black!” ‘ “-Chapter 12, pg. 345, para. 1

    This District Overseer would willingly use blackwhite, willingly convincing himself that black is white (or in this case green is black) because the Watchtower, Big Brother, said so.

    End quote..


    • andrew says:

      Sadly you are right Lonelysheep. If someone lets the elders know how they feel about certain teachings or practices, the elder body will usually appeal to the authority of the “FDS” instead of trying to use the bible to overcome the persons objections.

      Most elders really don’t care to reason on bible texts, they are only interested in what the “slave” says. If the “slave” would say all should participate in the Memorial and all witnesses now have the heavenly hope, amazingly most if not all would immediately accept the new light. That shows it is not the bible that is the source of authority it is the interpretation of the bible by the FDS. Therefore if the FDS pronounced white as black, it would be considered “new light”.


    • JJ says:

      I read that book in high school and have thought of it many times in connection with our struggle. Also similar is the term “thought crime” and how even just thinking something against the state is against the law.


  7. serein says:

    when i was still a jw i felt it was so right i stil feel that they all to feel its totaly right but only becouse from the top down thye are told how to think and what to read all the time everyday,i was made to feel that if i thought something was wrong it was becouse i was wrong and needed guidence to see it right, i felt that if i left i was going to die and not get another chnace at life like if it happend wile i was alive now id just die cos i left the truth,il be honest i still get lots of night mares that iv done the wrong thing by leaving but its cos of the scare mongoring that ur given about god forgeting u and that ur an apostate if u leave or look on web sites,i dont think that anyone who leaves will ever find true peace of mind ever cos of being so scared they may be doing somthing terrible and should they go back was it the truth are they lacking in somthing, thats how i feel and felt,i also thoe feel closer to god since leaving but il be honest with u i still say to my husband somtimes i hope i was right and im not being led astray by the devil,its so sad,also here in uk i know of many on antidipresanst and my husband also new of lots the same way,theres to many burdans and also no free speach or mind, only felt good enough if was out on min all the time and doing what ever else , its true u got to admit it unles ur in a exeptional group that its all about what u do and not who u are, well i mean who u are inside, as it does matter who u are like if ur an elder or co or sumat,i always felt lowest of the low and had no true freinds i was lonly,some one said go back to kingdom hall on a site u know a jw who goes on sites to bug u who stop going, i said even if i wanted to i wouldnt go back to the one i went to cos everyone just isnt a true person in my eyes they seemed false, also if it wasnt like that everywere how come we were always geting new familys and all coming to ours from diff congs even thoe they hadnt moved house and lived far away, telling u its cos of false freindships and feeling sad and burdens and all other wise why not stay wer u are if all are gods people and then u ok no i duno why but it all seemed fake to me not fake as in theindufigual cos i think everyone is trying to do what they think they should be doing but i think people arnt exepting and find fault easly and avoid people,i duno about were u lot live but my hall was full of people who thought they were sumat u know got plenty of money and all, even the ones who never had anything tryed there hardest to look like they did and act that way to get aceppted in to a freind lke group,people used to say do u want any help just let us know and then when i did theyd sy ow sos cant real sos doin sumat or what ever,its a cult even if it only has a few of them trasits if it was gods org it would have none of em,but then who am i to say, id go back tomos if they acepted me for me and not what they wanted me to be.im good honest uprite christian but just have a few querms with some things they recon is truth,dont mean im a apostate does it, i aslo loved em all and i felt like the lowest of the low cos i had no freinds only a helo at meetings thats it, i never even give any one any reason to dislike being around me im a good person , the prob was in our hall nearly every one was related,in sume way like close nit familys in like the whole hall several fams all related, or had big fams in other close by halls so they thought they were better than me cos i had no one,i even had a sis say that to me once,how terroble to think that ur better than sumone just cos ur dads an elder or sumat its sooooo wrong.but like i say id go back tomos if i was aload and i could be me and not a drone,i wouldn go my local one thoe but i still think its a cult as is most others,its the people who god seeks out not the organisation so it dont realy matter.


    • andrew says:

      Serein, I wouldn’t worry about being labeled apostate. It is simply a label that the Watchtower org. uses to vilify those who don’t agree with them. I know it is hard when those you considered brothers and friends qualify your motives as being selfish, presumptuous, self-serving, prideful, rebellious etc. But Jesus said “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness, because the kingdom of heaven is theirs. 11 “Blessed are you when they insult you and persecute you and falsely say every kind of evil against you because of Me. 12 Be glad and rejoice, because your reward is great in heaven. For that is how they persecuted the prophets who were before you.” (Matt. 5:10-12)


  8. serein says:

    i still feel persecuted now,at the mo im at a all time low, becouse i dont think when i write stuff and im a bit to blunt i think iv hurt some ones feelings on the bs site it was over a isue with demons,anyways i said what i thought and said how its real bad keep away in so many words from anything like that and some one took it as if i was telling them wjhat to do and wheni went back and looked at it it deid seem that way but i was hubbly sorry but in the same mind thoe that i was also right, when we coem on these forems i think somtimes cos we arnt fase to face people dont realy know u,i feel lost totaly and i am so upset by what this person has said to me, i feel theres no true christians and i feel alonei dont think i should go on thise sites and jws wer rite to say keep off them all i feel very sad.i dont mean to hurt anyone.


    • andrew says:

      Hi Serein
      One of the limitations of the written word is what you describe. Sometimes we can come off sounding angry, dogmatic, arrogant etc. when we really aren’t.
      A sincere apology usually can go a long way to patch things up when there are misunderstandings. There are bound to be misunderstandings, disagreements, and hurt feelings since we are all imperfect. Furthermore since the Internet is more anonymous some feel they can be more aggressive or dogmatic than they normally would be, which of course is wrong.

      There are many true Christians out there, but we can’t expect perfection either.

      Your brother


    • jacqueline says:

      Hi Serein, I read your post on this site all the time. I am not face to face but you sound so sincere and caring. We missed you on our site and I told everybody you are on jwstruggle and they were glad you had someone to talk to. We enjoyed you immensely.
      I follow you on this site and some of the others. It keeps me up to date because this site is not mean. Some sites are just for their friends only, got on one like that. Take care my sister.
      Love jacqueline


  9. Derrick Cox says:


    The people here all sound very sincere. I am currently writing a book on extremism that I hope will be of use to those who are confused about such matters as you discuss here. You can find the book in its current form at Google. Just put in “extremism dwcox” and it will take you to Extremism vs. Centrism in America. You can download three documents…the preface, table of contents, and the book. I hope this helps.


Leave a Reply

Website Apps