What makes one system of beliefs a religion and another a cult? Most major religions of the world started as cults, including Judaism and Christianity. The principle factor in all religions and cults is a belief that a higher power is communicating with us, frequently through another human being.
When I became a Christian in my late twenties, I suddenly discovered a fascination for studying cults – one of which has lately gained recognition as a religion. What makes a cult leader? He or she must have an undeniable charisma – something that draws others to him or her. The ability to truly believe their own words – or at least act like they do – is also necessary. If the cult leader succeeds in drawing enough people to him and never disillusions this crowd of believers, his cult may well flourish long after his death.
My second book, The Prophet’s Wives, grew out of my personal research on cults and cult behaviors. It tells the story of Lazarus Dale, a self-proclaimed prophet, as he travels the trajectory of most cult leaders. His sincere belief that he is being guided by a higher power puts him on a collision course with disaster.