2) It forms an elitist totalitarian society.
3) Its founder/leader is self-appointed, dogmatic, messianic, not accountable and has charisma.
4) It believes 'the end justifies the means' in order to solicit funds and recruit people. 5) Its wealth does not benefit its members or society. Some cults are religious groups considered unorthodox or spurious. They are a form of radical mystical individualism, an entirely inward spiritual religious form, indifferent to moral discipline, public worship, and social concerns.
Cults, as opposed to sects, lack authoritative grounds for discerning heresy from orthodoxy because of their epistemological individualism. This precludes stable doctrine, organization and membership. Cults lack creedal and sacramental authority of the church and the ethical rigour of the sect. The antinomian and subject cult creates no community because it possesses neither the sense of solidarity nor the faith in authority which this requires, nor the no less necessary fanaticism and desire for uniformity.
In the broadest meaning, cults are composed of individuals who demonstrate "great devotion to a person, idea, object or movement." A more developed definition of cults incorporates the term "cultic relationships" to describe the interactions within a cult. A cultic relationship refers to "one in which a person intentionally induces others to become totally or nearly totally dependent on him or her for almost all major life decisions, and inculcates in these followers a belief that he or she has some special talent, gift, or knowledge."< Common cult distinctions include: (1) cult leaders are self-appointed, persuasive persons who claim to have a special mission in life or have special knowledge; (2) a cult's ideas and dogma claim to be innovative and exclusive; and (3) cult leaders focus their members' love, devotion and allegiance on themselves. These characteristics culminate in a group structure that is frequently highly authoritarian in structure.
The potential for violence on behalf of members of cults is determined almost exclusively by the whims of the cult leader. Cult members generally act to serve and please the cult leader rather than accomplish an ideological objective. Cult leaders are often viewed as messianic in the eyes of their followers. The cult leader's prophecies, preachings, orders, and objectives are subject to indiscriminate change. While analysis of publicly stated goals and objectives of cults may provide hints about their behavior and intentions, it is just as likely to be uninformed or, at worst, misleading.
There are certain characteristics that make some cults more prone to violence, these include control of a group by charismatic psychopaths or those with narcissistic character disorders. Cults with violent tendencies often recruit people who are either familiar with weapons or who have military backgrounds to serve as enforcers.
Sequestered groups lose access to the outside world and information, preventing critical evaluation of the ideas being espoused by the leader. Cults in which members are heavily dependent on the leader for all decision making almost always physically and psychologically isolate their members from the outside world and outsiders in general. Isolation causes a reduction of critical thinking on the part of group members who become indoctrinated in the belief system proposed by the group leadership.
Apocalyptic cults see their mission in two general ways: They either want to accelerate the end of time or take action to ensure that they survive the millennium. For Aum in Japan Shinrikyo wanted to take action to hasten the end of the world, while the militia compounds in the US in general are built to survive the endtime safely.
The cults of greatest concern to public authorities are those that: (1) believe they play a special, elite role in the endtime; (2) believe violent offensive action is needed to fulfill their endtime prophecy; (3) take steps to attain their beliefs. Those factors may culminate in plans to initiate conflict with outsiders or law enforcement agencies.
The violent tendencies of dangerous cults can be classified into two general categories - defensive violence and offensive violence. Defensive violence is utilized by cults to defend a compound or enclave: The 1993 clash in Waco, Texas at the Branch Davidian complex is an illustration of such defensive violence. History has shown that groups that seek to withdraw from the dominant culture seldom act on their beliefs that the endtime has come unless provoked.