How Religious Cults and Terrorist Groups Attract Members

Creative Commons License

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

by Neil Godfrey

frictionThere are interesting parallels between the processes that lead some people to join both religious cults and terrorist groups. If you once joined a cult you will very likely recognize some of the pathway others have walked to become members of a group responsible for violent terror attacks.

If you joined a religious cult you knew that others thought you were a bit weird. Numerous accounts of those who joined terrorist organizations show that those becoming interested in an extremist group were aware their families and wider society would try to talk them out of it so they kept their interest secret from everyone except others, if any, whom they knew shared their views.

Joining either means turning one’s back on society and immersing oneself totally in an alien way of life.

Jerrold Post appears to have been the first to recognize that cult recruiting can provide a useful model of terrorist recruiting. The analogy begins by noting that individuals who join either a cult or a terrorist group are likely to be characterized as “crazy.” Both a cult and a terrorist group require a level of commitment that most people find difficult to comprehend.

McCauley, Clark; Moskalenko, Sophia (2011-02-02). Friction: How Radicalization Happens to Them and Us (Kindle Locations 1709-1711). Oxford University Press. Kindle Edition. — (My bolding and formatting in all quotations)

McCauley and Moskalenko in Friction: How Radicalization Happens to Them and Us take up this comparison.

Here we focus on recruitment to the Unification Church (UC) of the Reverend Sun Myung Moon. The UC is generally regarded as a cult, and, more important, there is an unparalleled research literature for this group. A 1965 report by Lofland and Stark titled “Becoming a World Saver” chronicled the beginnings of the UC in America, and the surprise value of the report was its emphasis on the importance of social networks in religious conversion.

b-combatting_cultLofland and Stark’s article refers to the Church as the Divine Precepts. This was before they became better known as the Unification Church or Moonies. Many readers who have been associated with religious cults will know of ex-Moonie Steven Hassan’s Combatting Cult Mind Control, which has remained a standard for anyone wanting to understand how the processes involved in a convert’s journey to commitment to the cult.

Early conversions to the cult in Eugene, Oregon, from 1961, were easy. Most of these converts were linked by long-standing pre-existing relationships. When the group moved to San Francisco, however growth was slow, sporadic. The social connections of a few converts were absent in the new city. Through trial and error they found that the tactic of “lovebombing” worked best:

eventually “lovebombing”—intense, positive, and personal attention focused on potential converts—was developed as the means of creating instant connections with strangers, especially newcomers to the Bay Area.

The focus on newcomers made recruiting slower than if each new convert brought a local acquaintance network that could be tapped for additional converts. Compared with geometric progression in Eugene, recruiting in the Bay Area was reduced to arithmetic progression. (2011, Kindle Location 1723-1726)

McCauley and Moskalenko point out that Lofland and Stark’s study proved to be a “watershed” in the study of cults. Prior to this time the conventional wisdom had been that members joined because they had personal grievances or difficulties that appeared to find answers in the ideology and teaching of the cult.

It is easy now in hindsight to see why such a view is simplistic and at best incomplete. Many people have personal difficulties in their own lives but only a small handful gravitate towards the resolutions offered by a cult.

(Compare: many people both Muslim and non-Muslim strongly oppose Western policies in the Middle East but as Dan Jones reminds us, a 2014 RAND Corporation report leads one to conclude that at the very most only 0.06 to 0.08% of those Muslims who are politically disaffected are attracted to extremist organizations.)

The established view had pointed to the match between the needs of the individual and the ideology of the group to explain why some people and not others join a cult or sect. This view assumed that a deviant group would attract individuals with a grievance or deprivation for which the group offers some interpretation and remedy.

In retrospect the deprivation explanation was always too broad because most individuals who suffer a particular deprivation do not ever join a deviant group.

Thus, Lofland and Stark did not so much contradict the established view as complement and focus it. Deprivation and grievance establish a pool of potential converts for a particular cult, but social networks determine who among the many in the pool are likely to be among the few actually recruited.

The interaction of deprivation and social networks in predicting cult recruitment is well represented in some remarkable studies carried out by an investigator with the cooperation of UC leaders.

McCauley, Clark; Moskalenko, Sophia (2011-02-02). Friction: How Radicalization Happens to Them and Us (Kindle Locations 1726-1734). Oxford University Press. Kindle Edition.

The studies uncovered details of over 300 cult members to support the thesis of the link between social networks and personal dissatisfaction. Those who eventually joined reported that they had come to feel a deep personal respect for a member of the cult, felt buoyed and cheered by their company, and had no comparable warm relationships with anyone else outside the cult. And after joining the cult they could confidently report that the stresses and anxieties that were bothering them before had been lifted from their shoulders. Potential recruits who did have strong personal ties with others outside the cult did not join.

People vary in the amount of time they express some interest in the cult’s teachings: some walk away sooner than others. But all of those who eventually lost interest reported that they had stronger bonds with people outside the cult than anyone in it or also interested in joining.

In other words, it was weakness of interpersonal attachments outside the church . . . that predicted who would finally join the UC.

And what keeps recruits in the cult? As already indicated, UC members report feeling less stressed than they were before joining. In this sense the UC experience is not a fraud and does fulfill the promise held out to recruits. Friendships inside the UC are evidently key to keeping members as well as the key to recruitment.

McCauley, Clark; Moskalenko, Sophia (2011-02-02). Friction: How Radicalization Happens to Them and Us (Kindle Locations 1753-1755). Oxford University Press. Kindle Edition.

This is consistent with Scott Atran’s study of the role of social networks for predicting who becomes a terrorist or suicide bomber. It is what enables him to say that membership of a group of friends getting together to play soccer far more than mosque attendance enables him to predict who joins a terrorist network: it only takes one close friend in such a group to know and bond with a cult or terrorist group member for his network to follow.

And once in the group, the group becomes one’s whole world.

But here we want to underscore that there are also very concrete and material rewards of membership. Groups that live communally, such as the UC and the Hare Krishnas, provide not just values and connections but everyday necessities such as clothing, food, and shelter.

McCauley, Clark; Moskalenko, Sophia (2011-02-02). Friction: How Radicalization Happens to Them and Us (Kindle Locations 1755-1757). Oxford University Press. Kindle Edition.

Comparing terrorist groups

Even this brief review indicates a number of obvious parallels with what is known about recruitment into terrorist groups.

  • Both pull mostly from the ranks of youth who are often middle class.
  • Both depend for recruits on a pool of seekers or sympathizers much larger than the numbers actually recruited.
  • Both require a socialization period during which recruits are brought to full commitment, with a constant flux of dropouts from the path that leads to full commitment.

Commitment may happen faster for cults than for terrorist groups, but this quantitative difference is easily attributable to the greater barriers to both entrance and exit for terrorist groups. Higher barriers for terrorist groups reflect the fact that terrorists more than cults violate the norms and laws of the larger society.

In terms of group dynamics, both cults and terrorist groups offer a full array of rewards to members: affective, social, cognitive, and material. Chief among these rewards for both groups are powerful interpersonal bonds among group members. Particularly susceptible to the sense of community offered by both cults and terrorist groups are those who have lost or never developed close ties to others. 

McCauley, Clark; Moskalenko, Sophia (2011-02-02). Friction: How Radicalization Happens to Them and Us (Kindle Locations 1758-1767). Oxford University Press. Kindle Edition.



  • anon
    2015-08-22 06:17:58 UTC - 06:17 | Permalink

    Is Nationalism/Patriotism a cult?
    Some soldiers are willing to give their lives for their “Nation”….

    Karen Armstrong has interesting ideas about why we go to war—that it is a quest for meaning, of having a (sacred) purpose…

    • Neil Godfrey
      2015-08-22 07:40:29 UTC - 07:40 | Permalink

      Soldiers may join up for patriotic reasons but they don’t die for their country; they die for their mates. In the characteristics of cults listed below note how this war-time/military motivation contrasts with #53.

      Cults in the sense meant in this post mean something different. Here is Steven Hassan’s comment on the meaning as he uses it in Combatting Cult Mind Control:

      While we usually think of “cults” as being religious (the first definition of “cult” in Webster’s Third New International Dictionary is “religious practice: worship”), actually they are often completely secular. Webster’s also defines “cult” as “a usually small or narrow circle of persons united by devotion or allegiance to some artistic or intellectual program, tendency, or figure (as one of limited popular appeal).” That second definition begins to come close to the meaning of a modern cult but falls a bit short. Modern cults have virtually unlimited popular appeal. For the sake of brevity, I will refer to many groups from now on as simply “cults.” You may assume, though, that I use that term only for groups which fit the criteria for being destructive. p. 37

      Here are the characteristics of these sorts of cults taken from Hassan’s book and listed in chapter 4 of John Morgan’s Flying Free: A Journey from Fundamentalism to Freedom. Morgan’s book was drawing parallels with the Worldwide Church of God (the one I once belonged to):

      1. People don’t join cults. Cults recruit people. (Hassan, p. 40)

      2. Cults generally avoid recruiting people who will burden them, such as those with severe emotional or psychological problems. They want people who will stand up to the gruelling demands of cult life. If someone is recruited who uses drugs, he is told to either stop using them or leave. (H, p. 50)

      3. A person [is] bombarded by emotionally laden material at a rate faster than he can digest. The result is a feeling of being overwhelmed. The mind snaps into neutral and ceases to evaluate the material pouring in. (H, p. 68)

      4. Most cults bombard [new members] with the idea that they are badly flawed – incompetent, mentally ill, or spiritually fallen. (H, p. 69)

      5. Recruits are told, “Your ‘old’ self is what’s keeping you from fully experiencing the new truth. Your old concepts are what drag you down… Surrender. Let go. Have faith. (H, p. 69)

      6. The rule of thumb is “Tell him only what he can accept.”… “You wouldn’t feed a baby thick pieces of steak, would you? You have to feed it something it can digest, like formulas. Well, these people (potential converts) are spiritual babies. Don’t tell them more than they can handle, or they will die.” (H, p. 69)

      7. The first and most important task of the ‘new’ person is to denigrate his previous self. The worst thing is for the person to act like himself— unless it is the new cult self…. An individual’s memory becomes distorted, minimising the good things in the past, and maximising the sins, the failings, the hurts, and the guilt. Special talents, interests, hobbies, friends and family must be abandoned… if they compete with commitment to the cause. (H, p. 71)

      8. An interesting dynamic of cults is that they tend to change a person’s relationship to his past, present, and future…. [The member] tends to look back at his previous life with a distorted memory that colors everything dark. Even very positive memories are skewed toward the bad. (H, p. 83)

      9. The group now forms the member’s ‘true’ family; any other is just his outmoded “physical” family. (H, p. 71)

      10. Relocation of the new member away from familiar surroundings and sources of influence, into a new city where he has never been anything but his new self, fosters a more total dependency on cult authority figures. (H, p. 72)

      11. [The new member] has a new artificial cult identity structure, which includes new beliefs and a new language. The cult leaders’ doctrine becomes the master ‘map’ for reality of the new cult member. (H, p. 73)

      12. In totalistic cults the ideology is internalised as “the truth”. (H, p. 61)

      13. [The cult leadership] indoctrinate members to show only the best sides of the organisation. (H, p. 41)

      14. It is not accidental that many destructive cults tell their members to “become like little children.”… As children, we were helplessly dependent on our parents as the ultimate authority figures. (H, p. 47)

      15. Today, it is also quite common for some cult groups to spend huge sums of money on public relations firms. (H, p. 42)

      16. The practice of deception by destructive cults extends to the use of various “front organizations” to confuse potential recruits and hide the real agenda of the organisation. (p. 100)

      17. When I was a cult leader I chastised people and made them feel guilty if they fell asleep… (H, p. 69)

      18. People who ask too many questions are quickly isolated from the main body of other members. (H, p. 70)

      19. Some cults advocate faith healing as the sole treatment for medical problems. The outcome can be suffering and even death. People are told that their illness has a “spiritual” cause…. Some cults tell members that going to a doctor proves their faithlessness… (H, p. 51)

      20. Each day a significant amount of time is devoted to cult rituals and indoctrination activities. Members are also typically assigned to accomplish specific goals and tasks, thus restricting their free time and their behaviour. In destructive cults there is always something to do. (H, p. 60)

      21. The chain of command in cults is usually authoritarian, flowing from the leader through his lieutenants to their sub-leaders down to the rank and file. In such a well-regulated environment, all behaviours can be either rewarded or punished. It serves the leadership to keep their members off balance…..

      Obedience to a leader’s command is the most important lesson to learn…..

      Loyalty and devotion are the most highly respected emotions of all…… (H, pp. 60-61, 64)

      22. [Members] are never to criticise a leader, but criticise themselves instead…..

      People are not allowed to talk to each other about anything critical of the leader, doctrine, or organisation. Members must spy on each other and report improper activities or comments to leaders…. (H, pp. 64-65)

      23. In any group that qualifies as a destructive cult, thinking of oneself or for oneself is wrong. The group comes first. Absolute obedience to superiors is one of the most universal themes in cults. Individuality is bad. Conformity is good. (H, p. 80)

      24. People are told to avoid contact with ex-members or critics. Those who could provide the most information are the ones to be especially shunned. (H, p. 65)

      25. write it in their hearts” Thought control… includes indoctrinating members so thoroughly that they internalise the group doctrine… and use thought-stopping techniques to keep their mind “centred”. (H, p. 61)

      26. Usually the doctrine is absolutist, dividing everything into “black versus white”… All that is good is embodied in the leader and the group. All that is bad is on the outside……

      Even the most complex cult doctrines ultimately reduce reality into two basic poles: black versus white; good versus evil; spiritual world versus physical world; us versus them…. (H, pp. 61, 79)

      27. There is also no room for interpretation or deviation. If the doctrine doesn’t provide an answer directly, then the member must ask a leader. (H, p. 79)

      28. The [cult] doctrine claims to answer all questions to all problems and situations. (H, p. 61)

      29. Many groups exercise complete control over interpersonal relationships. Leaders can and do tell people to avoid certain members or spend time with others. Some even tell members whom they can marry… (H, p. 64)

      30. The more totalistic groups claim that their doctrine is scientifically proven. (H, p. 61)

      31. talking about” A destructive cult typically has its own ‘loaded language’ of words and expressions…..

      Members often learn to speak a distinctive jargon or loaded language of the group. (H, pp. 61-62, 72)

      32. In the Moonies, whenever you have difficulty relating to someone either above or below you in status, it is called a “Cain-Abel problem”… Cain must obey Abel. (H, p. 62)

      33. If information transmitted to a cult member is perceived as an attack on either the leader, the doctrine or the group, a hostile wall goes up. Members are trained to disbelieve any criticism… Paradoxically, criticism of the group confirms that the cult’s view of the world is correct. (H, p. 62)

      34. The “huge conspiracies” working to thwart the group are, of course, proof of [the group’s] tremendous importance. (H, p. 79)

      35. trying to influence your mind” Whenever a cult member begins to experience a “bad” thought, he uses thought-stopping to drown out the “negativity” (H, p. 62)

      36.[Cult members] are conditioned to always blame themselves, so that they respond gratefully whenever a leader points out one of their “shortcomings”. (H, p. 63)

      37. Members are not allowed to feel or express negative emotions, except toward outsiders. (H, p. 64)

      38. In a mind control environment, freedom of choice is the first thing that one loses. (H, p. 73)

      39. Some groups require members to deny or suppress sexual feelings, which become a source of bottled-up frustration…. (H, p. 64)

      40. In many totalistic cults, people have minimal access to non-cult newspapers, magazines, TV, and radio. This is partly because they are kept so busy they don’t have free time. When they do read, it is primarily cult-generated propaganda…. (H, p. 65)

      41. Information is usually compartmentalised to keep members from knowing the big picture. In larger groups, people are told only as much as they “need to know” in order to perform their jobs. A member in one city will therefore not necessarily know about an important legal decision, media expose, or internal dispute that is creating turmoil in the group somewhere else. Cult members naturally feel they know more about what’s going on in their group than outsiders do, but in counselling ex-members I find that they often know the least. (H, p. 65)

      42. Many [cults] change the person’s clothing style, haircut…. (H, p. 65)

      43. A member of a mind control cult is at war with himself. Therefore, when dealing with a cult member, it is extremely important to always keep in mind that he has two identities. (H, p. 73)

      44. Cult doctrine always requires that a person distrust his own self. (H, p. 79)

      45. The doctrine becomes the ‘master program’ for all thoughts, feelings, and actions. Since it is the TRUTH, perfect and absolute, any flaw in it is viewed as only a reflection of the believer’s own imperfection. He is taught that he must follow the prescribed formula even if he doesn’t really understand it. At the same time he is told that he should try to work harder and have more faith so he will come to understand the truth more clearly. (H, p. 79)

      46. Some groups cultivate a psychic paranoia, telling members that spirit beings are constantly observing them, even taking possession of them whenever they feel or think in non-cult ways. (H, p. 79)

      47. Members are made to feel part of an elite corps of mankind. This feeling of being special, of participating in the most important acts in human history with a vanguard of committed believers, is strong emotional glue to keep people sacrificing and working hard. As a community, they feel they have been chosen (by God…) to lead mankind out of darkness into a new age of enlightenment. (H, p. 80)

      48. Members are told that if they do not fully perform their duties, they are failing all of mankind. (H, p. 80)

      49. The rank-and-file member is humble before superiors and potential recruits but arrogant to outsiders. (H, p. 80)

      50. They consider themselves better, more knowledgeable, and more powerful than anyone else in the world. As a result, cult members often feel more responsible than they have ever felt in their lives. They walk around feeling as though the world sits on their shoulders. (H, p. 80)

      51. A cultist’s entire sense of reality becomes externally referenced: he learns to ignore his inner self and trust the external authority figure. He learns to look to others for direction and meaning… In this state of extreme dependency, members need someone to tell them what to think, feel and do. (H, p. 81)

      52. Midlevel leaders themselves are urged to model their superiors, the cult leader himself being the ultimate model at the top. (H, p. 81)

      53. Relationships are usually superficial within these groups because sharing deep personal feelings, especially negative ones, is highly discouraged. This feature of cult life prevails even though a member may feel he is closer to his comrades than he has ever been to anyone before…. Because the only real allegiance is to the leader, a closer look shows that such [friendship] ties are actually shallow. (H, p. 82)

      54. The cult member comes to live within a narrow corridor of fear, guilt, and shame. Problems are always the fault of the member, and are due to his weak faith, his lack of understanding… He perpetually feels guilty for not meeting standards. He comes to believe that ‘evil’ is out to get him. (H, p. 82)

      55. Life in a cult is a roller-coaster ride. A member swings between the extreme happiness of experiencing the “truth” with an insider elite, and the crushing weight of guilt, fear and shame… He perpetually feels guilty for not meeting standards. (H, p. 82)

      56. A cult member’s sense of the present is manipulated, too. He feels a great sense of urgency about the tasks in hand… Many groups teach that the apocalypse is just around the corner. Some say they are preventing the apocalypse; others merely believe that they will survive it. (H, p. 83)

      57. To a cult member, the future is a time when you will be rewarded because the great change has finally come— or it is the time when you will be punished. (H, p. 83)

      58. Many groups have timetables for the apocalypse, which tends to be two to five years away— far enough not to be discredited any time soon, near enough to carry emotional punch. These predictions have a way of fading into the background as the big date approaches. (H, p. 83)

      59. In some cults, members are systematically made to be phobic about ever leaving the group. (H, p. 45)

      60. People are made to have a panic reaction at the thought of leaving… It is nearly impossible for an indoctrinated cult member to feel he can have any security outside the group. (H, pp. 64-65)

      61. The true [cult] structure is that of a pyramid with the cult leader as omnipotent head (apex). Below him (or her) is a core of lieutenants who are totally subservient. Below them are subleaders. The operating structure allows for no checks and balances. The leader has absolute power. Lord Acton said it well when he wrote, “Power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely.” (H, p. 98)

      62. Many destructive Bible cults have leaders who… appear to hold God and the Bible above them in authority; yet their interpretation of the Bible and God’s will is used to manipulate and control people. (H, p. 99)

      • Bee
        2015-08-22 13:03:07 UTC - 13:03 | Permalink

        Not all things said in the social sciences are compatible. For example: wouldn’t Hassan #53, people following only the leader, conflict some with the finding by others, that cult members join for personal friendship networks?

  • David Ashton
    2015-08-22 09:52:11 UTC - 09:52 | Permalink

    The social psychology of the comparable enlistment of young people into cults and terrorist groups is an important avenue of research, despite those who think it more important to analyze “our own fears” of terrorism than the motives of the terrorists. “Religious belief” is clearly a reprehensible factor in the case of “idealist adventurers” who think that the Deity has instructed them to kill people, including themselves, in some cases, with an immediate reward in Paradise for following the “way of Allah” against his infidel enemies.

  • Neil Godfrey
    2015-08-22 12:54:11 UTC - 12:54 | Permalink

    Persons who believe God has spoken to them are the sorts of people cults reject out of hand. They recruit those who can be moulded to unconditionally obey the leadership. Interpretations of holy texts are directed by the leadership to keep them united in the one cause. The success of the Indonesian government’s counter-terrorism program has been attributed to its ability to crack these social networks and target those most likely to be recruited — supporting the thesis that social networks are the primary predictor of who is most likely to become a terrorist. It’s not always easy though, since social networks with their ties of marriage, friendships, relatives, can sometimes exist right beneath their noses for years before being discovered as potential risk centres.

    • David Ashton
      2015-08-22 14:34:17 UTC - 14:34 | Permalink

      The cult gurus sometimes claim to hear the divine call.

      The terrorists claim to follow the divine message in e.g. the Qur’an.

      Re Indonesia, I took an interest years ago as a critical student of communist affairs in the Sukarno-Aidit alliance, and later in the appalling slaughter of “Communists” by “Muslims”. (The CIA didn’t do it themselves.)

  • 2015-08-22 16:39:12 UTC - 16:39 | Permalink

    Neil has provided a most comprehensive list cult characteristics, learned, as he has had the courage to talk about, the hard way. From what little experience I have had with religious cults (and to me, the line between a religious cult and a fervent fundamentalist church or other religious community can be a somewhat thin one), I am a bit queasy about conceptualizing terrorist groups along the same lines.

    So often in history, oppressed people have resorted to underground organizations and repeated acts of sporadic violence against their oppressors or symbols of their oppression. To cite an example familiar to readers of this web site, just think of those dagger-wielding dudes who hung around the Jerusalem Temple, looking for a chance to stick a Temple official and then slip into the crowd. Indeed, Jewish history has an ample share of such groups and organizations, from the Exodus to the creation of modern Israel and now to its current occupation of Palestinian territory.

    And obviously, there also have been a host of such groups and organizations that have targeted Judaism and/or Israel for similar acts of violence. One might even draw some loose comparisons here to the Holocaust, although the context and magnitude of that atrocity go far beyond the customary concepts of terrorism and cults.

    I can understand how similar processes of recruitment, similar vulnerabilities of potential recruits, and similar internal control mechanisms provide some room for useful comparison of cults with terrorist organizations, but I also sense a possibility of danger in taking this too far. Already in the U.S., extremely promiscuous criteria are used to “identify” or “profile” people as potential or suspected terrorists, and such a facile categorization can lead to everything from hassles to horrors, from ruined days to ruined lives.

    I forgot the name of the movie I saw many years ago, but the gist of it was that certain psychics could determine in advance whether someone was about to commit a crime. Based upon that ESP determination, people were rounded up or otherwise eliminated BEFORE they had the chance to do social harm. Maybe I’m reading way too much into the subject matter of this article and the studies it references, but I think we are living in times where some degree of paranoia has become a matter of common sense.

    • Bee
      2015-08-22 17:47:14 UTC - 17:47 | Permalink

      Good comment. But on the positive side though, profiling can be personally useful, therapeutic, and preventative in a positive way.

      Just last week a friend said he’d been identified, profiled, as being at risk for a certain kind of misbehavior. So? He went to a therapist – and went to work trying to prevent it. Sucessfully by the way.

  • Neil Godfrey
    2015-08-22 19:21:05 UTC - 19:21 | Permalink

    Just to point out that there is no personal profiling involved in the above (except that members recruited are generally without psychological “problems” and thus potentially unreliable). It’s about networks, not profiles.

    Fwiw, too, the comparison of the post goes no further than the recruiting techniques. The list of cult characteristics I set out are not intended to be compared with terrorist groups. I was responding to a specific question about cults themselves.

  • David Ashton
    2015-08-22 19:33:19 UTC - 19:33 | Permalink

    OK, but are there similarities? If so, worth an inquiry. Time permitting, it is worth digging out recent research.

  • anon
    2015-08-23 04:24:43 UTC - 04:24 | Permalink

    I agree with newtonfinn
    Inquiry should be taken to all avenues so that we can better understand ourselves…but some paths of inquiry will also lead to dead ends…which we will have to accept….It is interesting to compare cults and terrorism—but the only group of terrorists that might fit is the KKK white terrorist group of the U.S…..?….

    There are 2 conditions that lead to immoral violence—thugs with guns and such elements backed with power (often state power) or a power vacuum (lack of power). ISIS did arise from a power vacuum but it also has powerful backers—the Saudi and the ex-Baathists. Burma’s terrorist monks of the 969 movement have the state behind them—that is, they are allowed by the police (and therefore the sate) to commit violence against minorities. The Hindutva-RSS Hindu terrorists had the state government behind their massacres….

    Nationalism plays a big part in their world-view—“its their land and it belongs to them alone”

    There is another type of terrorism—State terrorism–immoral violence committed against other civilians or against their own civilian populations. China for example uses many means to keep power/control over those in its territories, As does Saudi Arabia and many other countries—those who protest against injustice and oppression are killed, jailed, tortured….Then there is the U.S. and its drone program where pilots go to some base—kill civilians in some faraway location then go back to their families to have dinner!!!…and ofcourse Israel…where its not enough to terrorize the non-Israeli adults—they go off and pick up children to terrorize and torture…..

    What is the common denominator?—these people view the “other” as enemies/not like them. Genocides/democides, wars, massacres, terrorism…all such violence has this element in common—the division of “us” who have the right to live and the “other” who doesn’t…

    If non-state terrorism/violence occurs because of power/lack of—then removing the power backing (hopefully through persuasion and diplomacy) or by strengthening the power structures such as government and law should alleviate some of the problem…the rest is up to the society to heal the wounds they have by changing their world view from division (“us” vs “them”) to that of “we are one”–Unity……

    State terrorism is a more difficult problem……

  • anon
    2015-08-23 05:05:48 UTC - 05:05 | Permalink

    @ Neil
    The list was informative…thankyou

  • Pingback: Vridar » The Founder of Islamist Extremism and Terrorism

  • Leave a Reply

    Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *