The mention of the word ‘cult’ has been synonymous with evil and was assumed to only exist in primitive societies. However, this is quickly becoming a fallacy with increasing cult-like groups beginning to emerge in various strata of society worldwide. Tikva Frymer- Kensky, in the article, Moses and the Cults: The Question of Religious Leadership, presents various arguments for this kind of behavior.
According to the author, one striking feature of cults is the presence of a leader who commands so much authority amongst members that he becomes the object of their worship. The idea of worshiping a leader raises the question of who really deserves the worship and exposes the mindset of many who find themselves in cults.
The author observes that majority of people who join cult-like religious groups are at a transitional point in their lives. It is true that the end of a chapter in one’s life is very intimidating as this end signifies the beginning of another chapter that is usually clouded with a lot of uncertainty.
According to the author, if a person is feeling vulnerable, he will readily embrace something he can believe in. The irony here however is that once people are recruited into these cults based on their faith in a God, they tend to form a relationship with their leader where they seem to worship him and not the God they originally claimed to have believed in .The overall tone presented in the paper is that of desperation.
The author seems to feel that cult leaders take advantage of people in vulnerable situations since they are more likely to make a submissive and unquestioning following. The author goes on to makes three kinds of arguments based on an analogy of the release of Israelites from Egypt since they exhibited behaviors of people in modern day cults .
The first argument is based on values; the author seems to feel that people in modern cults are gullible and easily stripped of their values. He gives the analogy of draftsmen; in a new environment, with different people, and a similar uniform, soldiers easily develop military values. Likewise, modern cult members, easily lose the values they have had in their lives so far and adopt a completely new way of life.
The second argument is based on character. Members of cults are portrayed as being dependent. The author argues that the Israelites had adapted to slavery and it had become their way of life. When Moses takes them to the wilderness en route to the promised land that offers freedom, they develop an unhealthy dependence on him and forget that he is merely acting on behalf of God to help them. Instead of working on having a direct relationship with God, they choose the easier way out, and ‘believe’ in Moses.
The final argument is based on reason. The author seems to feel that it is a matter of reason and changing mindsets that would liberate people from a cult-like mentality. The author says that the Israelites who left Egypt had a certain way of thinking that was unchanging no matter how many times their circumstances changed.
According to the article, God decides to have an entirely new generation go into the promised land since the previous generation is unable to develop any other form of reason. The author presents a good picture of why cults flourish. It takes a change in values and way of thinking to break the cult-like mentality of making a human being an object of worship.
Frymer-Kensky, Tikva. Moses and the Cults: The Question of Religious Leadership. Judaism 34.4 (1985): 444. Academic Search Complete. EBSCO. Web. 15 Feb. 2011.