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Cults and Other Concerns About Alternative Religions


Many people encountering a new belief system are concerned about potentially dangerous beliefs or practices. News media, horror tales and other sources make us wary of "cults." This can be particularly disturbing when a child or other loved one expresses interest in a new, unfamiliar religion.

This section is meant to address some common concerns about a variety of alternative religions that are frequently painted in a negative light, as well as offering guidance in evaluating religious groups in general.

  1. Concerns about New Religious Movements
  2. Researching Rumors and Hoaxes
  3. Tips for Identifying Dangerous Cults
  4. Suspicious Religious Practices
  5. Destructive Cults
  1. Do I Have to Worry about These Religions?
  2. Dangers of Halloween
  3. Satanism
  4. New Age
  5. Scientology

Concerns about New Religious Movements

New religious movements are commonly viewed with more suspicion than more established religions. This has to do with both the idea of time testing ideas and the fact that new religious movements frequently operate differently than traditional religions.

Researching Rumors and Hoaxes

There are some very disturbing, bizarre, unlikely and just plain provably wrong stories in circulation. Before jumping on the rumor bandwagon, ask yourself some questions that might indicate a story is more fiction than fact.

Tips for Identifying Dangerous Cults

There are many religions available to us today that may appear strange, even bizarre. Are these simply radically different belief systems, or are they something dangerous, something to avoid and urge others to also avoid? Below are a series of articles to help people better understand the potential dangers of religious groups.

Suspicious Religious Practices

The following practices leave many people suspicious about those who follow them. Learn more about what these practices actually entail as well as the reasons behind them.

Destructive Cults

People fear a lot of smaller and newer religions and commonly call them "cults." This has already been addressed in "Tips for Identifying Dangerous Cults" (above). Most of these religions are not actually dangerous, and some of them are questionable. However, there are a handful of groups who can easily be labeled as a dangerous or destructive cult.

Do I Have to Worry about These Religions?

Using the Tip for Identifying Dangerous Cults, this section addresses a variety of religions. See how they actually measure up to common characteristics of dangerous cults.

Dangers of Halloween

Halloween is a time for playful scares and frights. However, many people have a real fear of Halloween and what might go on that night. Find out what does and does not happen at Halloween, as well as what we know of its origins.


Few things invoke more terror in terms of religion than Satan and Satanists. The fact is "Satan" can mean many things to different Satanists, but rarely does it mean anything close to Christian understandings of the term.

New Age

The New Age movement comprises a wide variety of practices and beliefs. Many of these beliefs and practices have no overt ties to religion: you don't need to have faith in any deity or spirit to believe that crystals can have metaphysical qualities to them, for example. Most New Agers do not practice everything that falls under the New Age category, and many people who practice only a few of them do not consider themselves New Agers at all.


Scientology is one of the largest of the highly-controversial religions. Sources such as South Park have provided high profile mocking of their beliefs. In the news, Scientology has had to deal with repeated revelations from ex-members as well as stories of conflicts with multiple national governments which struggle to decide whether Scientology should be classified as a religion.

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