This class provides students with the opportunity to ask and find out “What is a cult?”, “How do cults draw in followers?” and “Why do people join cults?”  We will also look at what is an “extreme religion,” and what characteristics separate those extreme religions from other religions. We will begin an analysis of Maslov’s hierarchy of needs and a brief survey of cults throughout history. We will then move to the present and analyze cults of the recent past and those currently in existence. This is a class that encourages students to ask many questions and look deeper into the world around them.  Some of the areas/types of cults that we will study include: Doomsday or Apocalyptic Cults, The Heaven’s Gate Cult,  The People’s Temple (Jim Jones), extreme fundamentalists in the traditional Christian, Hebrew and Islamic religions and how extremists have affected the Middle East.  We will incorporate readings, documentaries and class discussion.  

The purpose of this class is to explore, discuss and attempt to understand destructive cults and extreme religions. This class is not intended to "bash" religion. It is to explore and understand those those organizations that utilize destructive and hurtful techniques in order to control people and spread messages of negativity and hate. During the course of this class:

  • Students will spend time analyzing the differences between those organizations labeled as destructive cults and those organizations considered official religions.
  • Students will understand Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs and the relationship between the hierarchy and cults.
  • Students will explore the characteristics often shared by cult leaders and members.
  • Students will examine historical perspectives of cults.
  • Students will understand the differences between brainwashing and mind control.
  • Students will analyze the differences between secular and religious cults.