What is a cult? Years ago I never would have guessed I was part of one. In fact, I remember being very upset when I was told by someone that I was in a cult. Was their assessment fair? From my perspective it couldn’t possibly be true. So I dismissed the idea. After all, what did they know? Well, they were on the outside looking in, and I was on the inside being brainwashed. They probably did know.
Oxford Dictionaries defines a cult as follows.
cult – a system of religious veneration and devotion directed towards a particular figure or object
- a relatively small group of people having religious beliefs or practices regarded by others as strange or as imposing excessive control over members
- a misplaced or excessive admiration for a particular thing
This is a pretty standard definition. Of course, depending on what circles you are in, or religion, ‘cult’ may be defined a bit differently. I’m going to go ahead and use this definition, though, to create a series of questions about the belief system I left.
- Was there great respect and loyalty being directed towards an individual or individuals?
- Was this devotion based on religious beliefs?
- Was it a relatively small group of people which shared this belief?
- Were they regarded as strange by other?
- Did they impose excessive control over their members?
- Did they have misplaced or excessive admiration for a particular thing?
The answer to all of these questions turns out to be a resounding yes. The outside observer was correct.
Now I will ask a couple more questions to find out what kind of cult entrapped me.
Who were the individuals receiving religious respect and devotion? And what was receiving misplaced or excessive admiration?
The answer to both questions – males. More specifically – fathers and husbands. I could use another word … patriarchy.
Patriarchy is a social system in which men are regarded as the rulers and women are excluded from power. Here is a definition of patriarchy borrowed from Wikipedia:
Patriarchy literally means “rule of fathers”, from the Greek πατριάρχης (patriarkhēs), “father” or “chief of a race, patriarch“. Historically, the term patriarchy was used to refer to autocratic rule by the male head of a family. However, in modern times, it more generally refers to social systems in which power is primarily held by adult men.
Well that sounds familiar. Throw in some religious veneration and excessive control and you have a patriarchal cult. I will try to sum that up.
A patriarchal cult is a religious system in which great respect and devotion is directed toward adult men (primarily fathers and husbands). This devotion is based on a religious belief that only men should be in leadership positions. There is an excessive and misplaced admiration of males. Women are thought of as inferior. Members are excessively controlled (i.e. mind control, emotional abuse, spiritual abuse, and often physical abuse). Fear of burning in hell for eternity or being shunned by one’s family and friends keep most from walking away.
Let me just say this is an extremely difficult cult to leave, especially for a woman.