The Indoctrination Phase

The indoctrination phase of cult involvement picks up where the recruitment phase leaves off. During recruitment, the group sets out to win your heart. During the indoctrination phase, they seek to win your mind. As a review, let's look again at the visual of Festingers cognitive dissonance theory.The indoctrination phase of cult involvement picks up where the recruitment phase leaves off. During recruitment, the group sets out to win your heart. During the indoctrination phase, they seek to win your mind. As a review, let's look again at the visual of Festingers cognitive dissonance theory.
 
Pre-Cult Self
Recruitment/Indoctrination
After Conversion
 
 
Feelings
Feelings
Feelings
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Thoughts & Beliefs
Thoughts & Beliefs
Thoughts & Beliefs
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\
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Behavior
Behavior
Behavior
Column 1 above is the "pre-cult" self with behavior, thoughts, beliefs, and emotions pretty much in alignment. Column 2 represents the recruitment phase. Here behavior is modified due to group involvement with meetings, studies, seminars, etc. happening regularly. During the recruitment phase, the group aims to bond the individual to the group emotionally through friendship and intense shared experience
Once the bond of trust is formed between the prospective member and the group the indoctrination phase begins. It is during this phase where the individual begins to learn what it is that the group thinks and believes. In a Bible based group, this phase is where the most intense study of the Bible takes place.
 
 
Cognitive Dissonance
 
What if you die?
  Eternity??
How can you be sure??
Are you truly committed??
How about your family?
Heaven or hell?
 
Feelings
 
 
|
 
 
Thoughts & Beliefs
 
 
\
 
 
Behavior
At the height of the indoctrination phase, the recruit's behavior, thoughts, and beliefs are all being challenged at the same time. This can be a pretty overwhelming experience as the recruit is called upon to question his or her entire worldview.
The goal of the indoctrination phase in a Bible based group is to convince the new recruit of the "rightness" of the group and of the "wrongness" of all other groups. If the group is successful during this phase they will convince the prospective member that the group is "approved" by God in a unique way. Some cults/sects go as far as to say that all other groups are enemies and/or condemned by God; some suffice it to say that other groups are simply misguided, unspiritual, or otherwise unworthy.
Studying the Bible with an extremist group can be very intense. They are all very "fundamentalist" in one way or another. By "fundamentalist" I mean that they teach that the Bible "says what it means and means what it says" and that it is literally true in all respects. The catch is that without membership in the group, you can never come to a proper understanding of the Bible. You must understand it the way they do or your understanding is worthless.
To achieve this end, some cults use extra-biblical material to guide their recruits toward the "correct" understanding of scripture. Some publish their own books and study guides. Most have a specific "approved" version of the Bible that all of their members use though the approved version can and does differ from group to group. The bottom line is, these groups believe that they and they alone have the keys to the correct interpretation of the Bible. Without them you can never understand Gods will for your life. Pastors, ministers, and teachers from other churches or religions will only lead you astray.
Question: since there are many hundreds of these groups in the United States alone, each following the one "correct" interpretation of the Bible, why on earth don't they just merge and join forces?
Answer: because these groups can rarely agree on ANYTHING with respect to the Bible.
I know this may seem strange but it is true. When you get true believers, fundamentalists from different cult-like groups together, it's hard to find many points of agreement among them. Now this is not true with all religious people. Many churches and religious leaders focus on points of agreement among believers. This is definitely not so with religious cults.
Know this. When you are studying the Bible with a religious cult, you are being indoctrinated in the areas of scripture where they differ from the mainstream. Cult indoctrination focuses on controversial areas of the Bible where there is much disagreement from denomination to denomination. This fact is one of the main reasons it is hard to get fundamentalists from differing sects to agree. Often, the things they are most sure of are the areas of difference; the things that set their particular group apart and make it uniquely approved by God.
Ex-members of many of these groups tell a similar story. Each group has their own selection of key scriptures. This can be anywhere from a few dozen to a few hundred verses that the group uses to form its' Biblical model and worldview. Group members usually know most of these key scriptures by heart and they rely heavily on them both to strengthen their own beliefs and to refute opposing points of view.
Over the next several months, I will talk about some of these key areas of difference. One at a time, we will look at several key concepts in the Bible that cults tend to use both to indoctrinate new recruits and to separate themselves from the rest of society.