Friday January 11, 2013
Expert: People fall for cults because they appear to be exciting
By PATRICK LEE
PETALING JAYA: People fall for cults and deviant sects because these appear to be more “emotionally exciting” than mainstream religions, said a sociologist.
Monash University associate professor and sociologist Dr Phua Kai Lit said, however, that most followers were a little different from the man in the street.
“Most are ‘normal people’ like you and I. Unstable personalities are the minority.
“Some normal people are more vulnerable because of circumstances, such as loneliness in a new environment,” he said.
Dr Phua said that some movements might seem more “emotionally exciting” than most mainstream religions.
After seeing a group’s dark side however, many members would eventually leave, he said.
Former Perlis Mufti Datuk Dr Asri Zainal Abidin said some people could be drawn by a leader’s potent charisma.
“People use charisma in politics and religion for many different purposes.
“They can use it for good or to deceive others,” he said.
He also cited impatience with religion as a factor, adding that some might have been motivated to look for “shortcuts to heaven”.
Dr Asri stressed that Muslims here needed to truly understand the Quran and Prophet Muhammad’s hadiths and advised them against becoming blind followers.
“They have to find answers from (religious) scholars and not just follow everyone who is wearing a turban. Not everyone reading some ayat (verses) is a scholar,” he said.
Council of Churches Malaysia (CCM) secretary-general Rev Dr Hermen Shastri felt that the pressures of modern society pushed some to seek for answers elsewhere.
“It’s a thought that life is one big rat race, working hard to join the social ladder, being mean to each other in a competitive world,” he said, adding that some of these groups provided an escape from worldly realities.
Most Malaysians, he said, lived by an Asian set of values and were not likely to join certain movements or even Doomsday cults.