Spot Dangerous Religions as easy as ABCDEF

This is an informational message to all those who are of one religious affiliation, including Islam, Judaism, Christianity, Hinduism, Scientism, Atheism or Agnosticism, and wish to convert to a different religious affiliation or consider what the differences might be.


Almost 30 years ago, Isaac Bonewits, the first and last academically credentialed and prominent American ceremonial magician (from Berkeley no less), wrote up something he called the Advanced Bonewits Cult Danger Evaluation Frame (acronym ABCDEF, because this information should be elementary). He wrote it primarily because as a neopagan himself, he realized there were dangerous neopagans out there that he could not recommend that people join, and he wanted to protect people from them but didn’t have enough time to vet every single new neopagan or other religious group.

Events in the last several decades have clearly indicated just how dangerous some religious and secular groups (usually called “cults” by those opposed to them) can be to their own members as well as to anyone else whom they can influence. “Brainwashing,” beatings, child abuse, rapes, murders, mass suicides, military drilling and gunrunning, meddling in civil governments, international terrorism, and other crimes have been charged against leaders and members of many groups, and in far too many cases those accusations have been correct. None of this has been very surprising to historians of religion or to other scholars of what are usually labled “new” religions (no matter how old they may be in their cultures of origin). Minority groups, especially religious ones, are often accused of crimes by members of the current majority. In many ways, for example, the “Mormons” were the “Moonies” of the 19th century — at least in terms of being an unusual minority belief system that many found “shocking” at the time — and the members of the Unification Church could be just as “respectable” a hundred years from now as the Latter Day Saints are today.

Nonetheless, despite all the historical and philosophical warnings that could be issued, ordinary people faced with friends or loved ones joining an “unusual” group, or perhaps contemplating joining one themselves, need a relatively simple way to evaluate just how dangerous or harmless a given group is liable to be, without either subjecting themselves to its power or judging it solely on theological or ideological grounds. [source]

In other words, this is a practical measuring tool for the dangerousness of a religious group. I have edited with strikeouts (like this) to remove any favoritism towards religious groups based on their exotic origin.

The Advanced Bonewits’ Cult Danger Evaluation Frame
(version 2.6)

  Factors:   Rating from low to
high on a Scale
of 0-10
1 Internal Control: Amount of internal political and social power exercised by leader(s) over members; lack of clearly defined organizational rights for members. 1
Score: ___
2 External Control: Amount of external political and social influence desired or obtained; emphasis on directing members’ external political and social behavior. 2
Score: ___
3 Wisdom/Knowledge Claimed by leader(s); amount of infallibility declared or implied about decisions or doctrinal/scriptural interpretations; number and degree of unverified and/or unverifiable credentials claimed. 3
Score: ___
4 Wisdom/Knowledge Credited to leader(s) by members; amount of trust in decisions or doctrinal/scriptural interpretations made by leader(s); amount of hostility by members towards internal or external critics and/or towards verification efforts. 4
Score: ___
5 Dogma: Rigidity of reality concepts taught; amount of doctrinal inflexibility or “fundamentalism,” hostility towards relativism and situationalism. 5
Score: ___
6 Recruiting: Emphasis put on attracting new members; amount of proselytizing; requirement for all members to bring in new ones. 6
Score: ___
7 Front Groups: Number of subsidiary groups using different names from that of main group, especially when connections are hidden. 7
Score: ___
8 Wealth: Amount of money and/or property desired or obtained by group; emphasis on members’ donations; economic lifestyle of leader(s) compared to ordinary members. 8
Score: ___
9 Sexual Manipulation of members by leader(s) of non-tantric groups; amount of control exercised over sexuality of members in terms of sexual orientation, behavior, and/or choice of partners. 9
Score: ___
10 Sexual Favoritism: Advancement or preferential treatment dependent upon sexual activity with the leader(s) of non-tantric groups. 10
Score: ___
11 Censorship: Amount of control over members’ access to outside opinions on group, its doctrines or leader(s). 11
Score: ___
12 Isolation: Amount of effort to keep members from communicating with non-members, including family, friends and lovers. 12
Score: ___
13 Dropout Control: Intensity of efforts directed at preventing or returning dropouts. 13
Score: ___
14 Violence: Amount of approval when used by or for the group, its doctrines or leader(s). 14
Score: ___
15 Paranoia: Amount of fear concerning real or imagined enemies; exaggeration of perceived power of opponents; prevalence of conspiracy theories. 15
Score: ___
16 Grimness: Amount of disapproval concerning jokes about the group, its doctrines or its leader(s). 16
Score: ___
17 Surrender of Will: Amount of emphasis on members not having to be responsible for personal decisions; degree of individual disempowerment created by the group, its doctrines or its leader(s). 17
Score: ___
18 Hypocrisy: amount of approval for actions which the group officially considers immoral or unethical, when done by or for the group, its doctrines or leader(s); willingness to violate the group’s declared principles for political, psychological, social, economic, military, or other gain. 18
Score: ___

Go forth and try it out on your religious organization, then try it out on other ones. I will refrain from filling it out in this post, as it is a useful exercise to try it out for one’s self.

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2 responses to “Spot Dangerous Religions as easy as ABCDEF

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