The Challenge of Defining Cult

ICSA Today, Volume 6, Number 3, 2015, pages 2-3

The Challenge of Defining Cult

Herbert L. Rosedale

Michael D. Langone

Russell Bradshaw

Steve K. D. Eichel

People who contact ICSA often ask, “Is X a cult?” In its first form as the American Family Foundation, and now as the International Cultic Studies Association, ICSA has tried to provide helpful perspectives on this vexed and challenging issue.

Although ICSA’s website and member e-library have information on about 1,000 groups, questioners have been frustrated when they cannot find a list of “cults” on the website; however, we maintain that it is more important to understand why certain interpersonal dynamics may be harmful than to label a group a cult or a person a cultic leader. As the writers who follow demonstrate, the word cult, while useful, may also be “thought terminating” because it may conjure up stereotypes that interfere with productive inquiry and accurate perception.

We are proud to publish here a representative selection of papers, starting with an essay coauthored by our longtime former president, attorney Herbert Rosedale, more than fifteen years ago, and concluding with an essay by our current president, Steve Eichel, completed this year. The Definitional Preface by Professor Russell Bradshaw (2014) is part of a collection of basic papers on cultic issues developed by ICSA’s New York Education Outreach Committee. —Editors

Articles in This Collection

On Using the Term Cult (Herbert L. Rosedale and Michael D. Langone)

The Definitional Ambiguity of Cult and ICSA's Mission (Michael D. Langone)

What is a Cult? (Russell H Bradshaw)

Characteristics Associated with Cultic Groups (Michael D. Langone)

For Families Who Suspect That a Loved One May be Involved with a High-Demand Group (Cult) (Steve K. D. Eichel)