8. Striving for Perfection
According to Dr. Stanley H. Cath of Tufts University School of Medicine, many people who join cults were raised in a family that attempted to teach them Christianity, Judaism, or another formal religion, and yet they rejected it. These people are not necessarily Atheists, but they refused to follow their family’s traditional beliefs because they felt there must be something betterout there.
Striving for perfectionism comes into play in many cults. The vast majority of cults teach their followers that they are superior to non-cult members. This elitism gives people an “us vs. them” sort of mindset, which eventually leads to members becoming socially isolated from people living in the outside world. In treating ex-cult members, Dr. Cath noted that the vast majority of people who she had treated ended up joining a cult after having a long history of blaming other people in their lives for their problems. They usually do not take responsibility for their own faults, and they continue to move forward with their own goals of achieving perfection at all costs.
7. Finding Purpose in Life
Almost everyone goes through an existential crisis at some point in their lifetime. Finding one’s identity and purpose in life can sometimes be a struggle, and a cult often gives people a cause that they can fight for. Whether it is attaining eternal life in a spiritual realm, or working day and night to change a political issue, a cult can give a purpose in life to people who did not have their own strong goals.
Dr. Adrian Furnham wrote about the many reasons why people join cults for Psychology Today. He explains that year after year, the world becomes more a complex place to live. In times of confusion and uncertainty when people feel lost, extreme groups offer absolute answers to questions that people have. Many people find comfort in seeing the world in terms of good and evil, right and wrong. Cult leaders offer simple solutions in a way that makes sense, and they know how to motivate people to devote their life to the leader’s cause. Adolf Hitler was very good at this. He motivated Germans who felt as though they had little left to live for after World War I, and it was enough to convince them to join the Nazi Party.