OF RELIGION Field Guide to the

Why "One More Website" evaluating

questionable religious teachers and groups?



There are a wide variety of websites on the Internet which critically evaluate the teachings and activities of certain religious teachers and groups. They are frequently referred to as cult-watch sites.


Click here for an explanation of the term cult.


What is different about this site? To answer that question, we need first to clarify some varieties of cult-watch sites.


Secular Cult-Watch Sites


   To the average secular—perhaps atheist or agnostic—observer, the bickerings among Christian teachers and groups over doctrines, methods and styles of authority may seem silly. Not wishing to get into any debate over these "in-house" differences, their concern about religious cults is limited in most cases to those popularly believed to be actually physically dangerous to themselves or others. A group which is alleged to be involved in child physical or sexual abuse, or to be in danger of mass suicide within the group, or whose teachings—such as perhaps racial hatred—may possibly lead to physical harm to outsiders is viewed with alarm. When such groups are profiled on secular cult-watch sites, the emphasis is usually on sharing documentation of those factors of the group’s activities which give evidence of such potential danger.



Religious Cult-Watch Sites


   Many Internet sites which specialize in profiling and documenting the teachings and activities of various religious groups and teachers are created by those who have a particular religious doctrinal stance they wish to defend. Their definition of cult may be any group which deviates doctrinally from a very narrow doctrinal "orthodoxy" to which they subscribe. And thus the doctrinal teachings of such groups may receive a very thorough profiling on most religious cult-watch sites.



Ex-Member Cult-Watch Sites


   Once an individual or a group of individuals manage to extricate themselves from involvement in a religious group which they are convinced held them in some sort of spiritual bondage, they may feel called to warn others to avoid the group. And they may desire to reach out to those still in the group and attempt to help them also "see the light." In most cases, their primary focus is not so much on the error of the doctrines of the group that they left, but the methods used by the leadership of the group to keep them deceived. Thus the material on most ex-member cult watch sites may emphasize historical documentation on the abuses of power exercised by the founder and/or later leaders of the groups, and incidents of deception used to mislead members.



Christian Apologetics Cult-Watch Sites


   While many religious cult-watch sites, as mentioned above, define a cult as any group which deviates from their own narrow doctrinal perspective, some Christian Apologetics sites take a broader view. While allowing for wide doctrinal variance across denominational lines, they start with the assumption that there is a minimum standard of "historical orthodoxy" which a teacher or group needs to adhere to in order to be accepted as authentically "Christian." Any group which deviates from this standard may be considered a cult. Thus much of the material on such Christian Apologetics cult-watch sites is devoted to comparing the doctrines of questionable teachers and groups to their particular definition of "historical orthodoxy."



"Spiritual Abuse" Cult-Watch sites


   An increasing number of websites, as well as books available in Christian and secular book stores, have brought to the attention of the public the reality that abuse within religious groups is not limited to just physical matters. When a leader or group’s teachings and practices harm the mental, spiritual, and emotional well-being of participants, the result may be termed "spiritual abuse." And it can be just as dangerous and debilitating as physical abuse. Thus much of the content on "spiritual abuse" cult-watch websites may be devoted to documentation of those factors in the teachings and methods of the groups and teachers under consideration which may contribute to the potential for spiritual abuse.




All of the above perspectives have merit. And I have found sites from each variety very helpful. Even if one does not agree with the ultimate subjective evaluation, by the site authors, of the teachers and groups which they profile, most of them do include accurate documentation from which one can glean useful information.


So why one more site covering the same general issue of questionable religious teachers and groups? Because the specific issues which concern me regarding the potential harm of such teachers and groups are different in kind, or in detail, from all of those perspectives above. And I believe my concerns to be perhaps even more fundamental than those expressed on most of the types of sites listed above. They are even more fundamental than whether a group can be classified as a "cult" by any definition, or its leader classified as a "cult leader."


Therefore the primary purpose of this site is


to share documentation regarding those groups and teachers


which I believe to exhibit


one or more of those characteristics listed above.




Unless otherwise noted, all original material on this Field Guide website

is © 2001-2011 by Pam Dewey.


Careful effort has been made to give credit as clearly as possible to any specific material quoted or ideas extensively adapted from any one resource. Corrections and clarifications regarding citations for any source material are welcome, and will be promptly added to any sections which are found to be inadequately documented as to source.



Return to Top of Page and the Navigation Bar