cultWould you join a cult?

Would you let your children join a cult?

What would you do if someone you loved joined a cult?

These are questions that most of us don’t have to consider in our lives. However there is an organisation in the United Kingdom which is rarely criticised but displays all of the characteristics of a cult.

This organisation aims to gain 10,000 new members each year and focuses on recruiting children (16 and 17 year olds) often beginning the grooming process at 13.

I was a member of this cult for fourteen years. From the age of thirteen, whilst still at school, I wore their uniform and accepted their ethos. When I left school and joined full-time I became a zealot, a true believer.

My time within the cult led me eventually to Baghdad, Iraq where without question, I and my comrades attacked families in their homes and took innocent men away to be tortured. Why did we go along with this?

The following is from a website that specialises in recognising cults, most of it will be familiar to anyone who has served in the army:

Characteristics Associated with Cultic Groups”

Concerted efforts at influence and control lie at the core of cultic groups, programs, and relationships. Many members, former members, and supporters of cults are not fully aware of the extent to which members may have been manipulated, exploited, even abused.

The following list of social-structural, social-psychological, and interpersonal behavioural patterns commonly found in cultic environments may be helpful in assessing a particular group or relationship.

Compare these patterns to the situation you were in (or in which you, a family member, or friend is currently involved). This list may help you determine if there is cause for concern. Bear in mind that this list is not meant to be a cult scale, or a definitive checklist to determine if a specific group is a cult. This is not so much a diagnostic instrument as it is an analytical tool.

  • The group displays excessively zealous and unquestioning commitment to its leader(s) and regards the groups belief system, ideology, and practices as the Truth, as law.
  • Questioning, doubt, and dissent are discouraged or even punished.
  • Mind-altering practices such as stress positions, chanting, speaking in a special language, denunciation sessions, sleep deprivation and debilitating work routines are used in excess and serve to suppress doubts about the group and its leader(s).
  • The leadership dictates, sometimes in great detail, how members should think, act, and feel.
  • Leaders prescribe what types of clothes to wear, where to live, how to behave, whether or not to have children, how to discipline children, and so forth.
  • The group is elitist, claiming a special, exalted status for itself, its leader(s) and members.
  • The group has a polarised us-versus-them mentality, which may cause conflict with the wider society.
  • The leader is not accountable to any authorities.
  • The group teaches or implies that its supposedly exalted ends justify whatever means it deems necessary. This may result in members’ participating in behaviours or activities they would have considered reprehensible or unethical before joining the group.
  • The leadership induces feelings of shame and/or guilt and/or fear in order to influence and/or control members. Often, this is done through peer pressure, group punishment and subtle forms of persuasion.
  • Subservience to the leader or group requires members to cut ties with family and friends, and radically alter the personal goals and activities they had before joining the group.
  • The group is preoccupied with bringing in new members.
  • Members are expected to devote inordinate amounts of time to the group and group-related activities.
  • Members are encouraged or required to live and/or socialize only with other group members.
  • The most loyal members (the true believers) feel there can be no life outside the context of the group. They believe there is no other way to be, and often fear reprisals to themselves or others if they leave (or even consider leaving) the group.

Now ask yourself again, would you join a cult?

Would you let your children join a cult?

What would you do if someone you loved joined a cult?


Ben Griffin, VFP London


  1. Owain Brough says:

    I’m sorry if this offends you but this article is BS!! My dad was in the army and no way did THEY tell him how to bring me and my brother up!!!

    1. Veterans For Peace UK says:

      You seem confused. The article says nothing about how soldiers should bring their own children up.

      Your dad was in the army, show him the article and see what he thinks.

  2. David Marchesi says:

    an insightful contribution to what is, in my view, one of the key topics of the present day; the scandal of our prison and “justice” system is another matter which gets dismissive attention. Repression abroad by “our boys” and at home by the “justice system”-we’re getting very like the Land Of The Free, aren’t we ? The age-old question arises about these desperate tendencies: who benefits ?

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