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Studying the connection between religion and violence involves a variety of distinct issues and relationship that require invocation of “very different types and levels of theoretical explanation” (Cambridge Encyclopedia Vol. 18, violence and Religion in perspective). Bromley & Melton (2002) said that the relationship between religion and violence incorporates analyses of numerous types of violence, groups and contexts (p.1). Bromley & Melton (2002) stated that “Hostility in religion may involve individual actions, collective actions by or against a group as in the cases of war, revolution, repression and terrorism” (p.1). They thus continue to say that hostility may or may not invoke religious movements. Research shows that hostility towards the new religious movements is attributed to “certain elements of their image such as intolerant, dishonest, unfriendly or creating a threat to society” (Factors influencing hostility towards controversial groups, Social compass Journal).
Wilson & Cresswell (1999) suggested that the reason why some rationalists dislike religion is that it is apparently inseparable from violent conflict (p.103). It is therefore in their view that some aspects of religion have become more controversial and conflict oriented to a point where general levels of religious movements in their understanding and various practices are not of low standards (Wilson & Cresswell, 1999). Therefore unconventional forms of religion have been associated with violence thus large numbers of people find even most conventional religion alien. Wilson & Cresswell (1999) further stated that “in these circumstances, it is new and unusual kinds of religious groups which encounter most hostility” (p.103)
Christiano, Swatos, & Kivisto (2002) stated that although conflict theory presents a valuable alternative to functionalism for modeling actual social relations it was secularization theory that began to sound the death knell for functionalism (p.41).The functionalism theory says that most new religious movements throughout history have resulted from breaches. This according to Christian, Swats, & Kivisto (2002) is where different opinions within an existing religious pattern have led to breached relationships and hostility that have not been accommodated by adjustments within the existing pattern (p.40). They therefore said un- accommodated breaches are likely to cause the starting of new congregations or even mass movements such as cults, sects and denominations.
The article “The Different Theories of Religion” found out Emile Durkheim “believe that religion was seen as central to the reproduction and maintenance of social order in societies” ( “The Different Theories of Religion”). According to his theory Durkheim believed that the major function of religion is to socialize society’s members into value consensus by the fact that “religion sets aside certain values and infuses them with special significance”. These values in turn become the moral codes/beliefs which society agree and bring children up with. The second fact as Durkheim puts it is that “religion encourages collective worship” (“The Different Theories of Religion”). As a result the cult members feel part of the religious movement.
In addition functionalism as stated by Lundskow (2008) is a conservative theory, compatible generally with conservative social and political views (p.182). It is also compatible with other conservative theories such as rational choice, conventional thinking and incompatible with liberal, leftist or generally critical theories. Functionalists regard religion as social mechanisms which results from a formalistic aspect (p.183). According to Lundskow (2008) Functionalism sees religion as “a formal process defined conceptually and as an institution with established laws, procedures and other more or less consistent patterns of belief and administration” ( p.183). Functionalism applies to formal theoretical framework and each respective framework views religion as an institution that serves to integrate members of society into a collective identity (p.183).
Lundskow (2008) thus continued to say that functionalism in essence compares any given religion to the established relations in society and analyzes the extent to which it integrates people into established society or into some other type of society (p.183). At the same time some sociologists regard functionalism as a consensus theory, in the sense that society is based on the values and practices that hold society together and when ever conflict exists the society normally encourages or imposes consensus. In some cases consensus may fail, resulting to conflicts that may intensify and social collapse may result and produce various forms of rebellion which may include mob uprising or civil war (p.183).
The article “The Different Theories of Religion” further argues that functionalists insist that “the role of religion is to preserve the status quo rather than to promote social change” (The Different Theories of Religion). On the other hand functionalists agree that religion is a beneficial conservative force because it maintains consensus, binds people together and promote social order. However, functionalism is also viewed on the negative side as one that tends to neglect the areas in which religion has been dysfunctional for society. Other critics indicate that it is impossible to see how religion can be functioning to socialize the majority of society members into morality, and integration when only a small group of people go to religious gatherings.
Another view according to the article “The Different Theories of Religion” is that “functionalist ignores the possibility of secularization". “The functionalist perspective defines religion as being a conservative force in that it establishes and promotes social solidarity between its members, and establishes value consensus that coincide with societies existing norms and values in which they views it as having a positive influence” (“The Different Theories of Religion”).
On other studies Lundskow (2008) stated that Durkheim further observed the cases of religion, differences in beliefs explain the frequency of suicide (p.13). Durkheim according to Lundskow (2008) said altruism occurs or results when the individual loses his or her individual identity completely in favor of the collectivity. In this case the individual must be willing to do anything for the cult or group even if it means death. Durkheim according to Lundskow (2008) also said that “sometimes it may mean killing oneself and killings others” (p.13).
Cults according to “Cambridge Encyclopedia Vol. 18” are defined any “set of beliefs and practices associated with a particular god or group of gods forming a distinctive part of a larger religious body” (Cambridge Encyclopedia Vol. 18, violence and Religion in perspective). The devotion of cult movements is usually a god or gods, spirit or spirits associated with particular places or objects. Members within these type of religious movements are known to have lived in tension as a result of them living in intentional communities, disputes associated with law enforcements or custody disputes. According to Cambridge Encyclopedia Vol. 18 “stigma surrounding the classification of a group as a cult stems from the purported ill effect the group's influence has on its members, and, critics of media sensationalism add, from exaggerated portrayals of weirdness in media stories” It continues to say that these result from perceived threats presented by a cult to its members either real or perceived.
Criticisms and hostility associated with different cults come from different sources. The reliable source includes former members of the cult who have direct experience with what happens within the cults. Segal (2005) found out that there are numerous brainwashing scenarios which have diverse implications in the converts of new religious movements. As a result it is therefore clear that cults suffer from extremely low rates of recruitment and high rates of defection (p.376). From his own research Segal (2005) stated that ninety percent of members who join cults leave voluntarily in a period of two years (p.376). He continues to say that this is caused by coercive persuasion which is very effective within these individuals within that period. Converts to new religious movements are not the weak, vulnerable and suggestive souls first presupposed by the anti-cult movements.
Cults are associated with high rates of tension which results from unique combination of factors. Due to their acts associated with functionalism theories tension rates are either from external or internal factors. Segal (2005) continues to say that some of the external factors for example result from threatening actions undertaken by law enforcement agents (p.377). These threatening actions contribute some roles in staging violence within the cults hence resulting to hostility in the public arena. Cults were also associated with the death of it members some times. This factor is also known to contribute towards the high tension within the cults. On the other hand internal factor such as the social background of the cult members is associated with their acts of violence as perceived by the society.
These internal factors possessed by cult members are strongly attributed to functionalism theories which include the presence of strong apocalyptic beliefs and strong commitment to charismatic leader or charismatic mode of authority Segal (2005 p.378). The third factor is a process of social encapsulation. The fourth factor according to Segal (2005) is the strong sense of perceived persecution (p.378). Segal (2005) therefore stated that the presence of these factors within the cult members and heightens the likelihood that the relations between the cult and the dominant society will become hostile hence causing the possibility of high tension within the movement.
Unlike other religious movements such as sect, denomination, and church, cults are known to engage themselves in actions that prompt combative or self destructive actions within the society. The pattern of the interaction according to Segal (2005) between the parties is very crucial and in most of the tragedies the cult movements portray certain patterns of deviance amplification (p.378). He continues to say that the apocalyptic beliefs in these groups have significant behavioral consequences in terms of providing the groups with a transcendental and urgent mandate for their actions, diminishing their social standards thus facilitating the high tension in their social environment. This also causes extreme effects of low socialization with other society members.
Consequently another cause of high tension associated with cults results from the cults leaders who are believed to be functionalists and strive to maintain high level of exposure to their followers, to avoid the rise of other sources of authority or other dissipations of their personal power within their movements (p.378). Segal (2005) noted that in most cases cult leaders instigate changes in policy designed to undermine rivals. As a result these actions and maneuvers can get out of hand and destabilize the group which results to high tension within the group. The beliefs, patterns of authority, social relations and shared psychological reactions in most cults have contributed to their violent behavior thus resulting to high tension. Segal (2005) also states that due to persecutions associated with the cult movements triggered the fatal denouncements of the movements in the society (p.25).
The church faces less opposition, apostate activism, media sensationalism, and governmental hostility as it is with the case with cults. Bromley & Melton (2002) stated that cults are stigmatized by anti-cult crusaders as classical “destructive cults” and as groups that have been embroiled in extreme violence (p.60). They thus said by implication the cause of this high tension result from endogenous element pertaining to the worldview, organization, or leadership of the cults that render them to more susceptible to a violent response to social conflict and hostility compared to other religious movements such as churches, sects and denominations (p. 60).
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Wright (1995) in his studies found out that non-institutionalized religious movements were more volatile than institutionalized ones such as churches (p.237). He further outlines that there were many factors that contributed to hostility. Exogenous factors which contributed to hostility within a cult include factors related to stigmatization and persecution that the cult members receive at the hands of forces in the social environment in which they operate (p.237). On the other hand an endogenous factor according to Wright (1995) denotes the properties of the movement. These properties include: the cults leadership, beliefs, rituals and organization. These properties are strongly associated with the theory of functionalism.
In addition Wright (1995) stated that “given the high level of tension with society under which some nonconventional groups have been forced to operate, it is not surprising that the violent tendencies of some cult leaders have emerged (p.237)”. He thus states that violence only erupts after a period of conflict and confrontations between the cult members and their leaders. Endogenous factors may however be grouped into other sections such as factors related to the consequences of apocalyptic beliefs, factors related to the nature and characteristic volatility of charismatic leadership and finally factors that are not interrelated but have significance to the cults. Wright (1995) therefore found out that the cults experience a high degree of tension they are also attributed by communal-ideological systems with boundaries and systemic problems that may attempt to resolve issues related to society and their social orders (p.238).
High tension experienced by the cults is also strongly associated with apocalyptic belief systems and millennial visions (Wright 1995). Apocalyptic beliefs appear to characterize almost all violent religious movements thus this gives evidence why cults are associated with violence actions. Wright (1995) also says that groups typically founded by charismatic leaders establish a radical separation between themselves and the established social world which they regard a hopelessly evil (p.243). While investigating their motives of being violent there is the lack of religious dimension that defines their integral acts of violence. However the functionalism theory, explores that some of these cults from their mainstream leads the public to see them purely in secular terms.
There are various examples of cults that existed in different timelines. Examples of such cults include; Heaven’s Gate, Branched Davidian’s, Millerites, and the Manson’s. The review of literature intends to investigate on each of the Heaven’s Gate and Branched Davidian’s cults mentioned above and their relativity to the theory of functionalism.
The Branch Davidian’s are believed to have their origin from the seventh day Adventist. They are typically characterized as followers of David Koresh. Miller (1995) pointed out that the Branch Davidian’s can trace their roots to nineteenth century (p.149). This was when William Millers prophecies of the end of the world failed. Their history is divided into three categories according to the leadership which include the Houteff, Roden and Koresh periods. This corresponds to the leadership during those periods. The leaders were known as the Davidian’s. This group had a property at Mt. Carmel and during the Roden era the property had fallen into considerable disrepair (p.155). Miller (1995) however says that Koresh organized a major clean-up campaign and a construction project that improved the quality of life and expanded living quarters.
Branch Davidian’s according to Miller (1995) “experienced repeated succession conflicts and never achieved a large a fulltime membership base” (p.156). He further says that they never developed a viable economic base. However under the leadership of David Koresh the cult seemed to be moving in a new direction. Miller stated that “he was moving the group toward communal organization, assuming greater charismatic authority and scripting the creation of the kingdom of God” (p.156). To demonstrate his charismatic authority, Koresh led daily Bible studies during which he unlocked spiritual mysteries for his followers. According to Miller he also created a compelling sense that the group was in the midst of revelatory activities which would culminate the end times (1995). This factor attributes to the theory of functionalism.
Within the Branch Davidian’s the leaders rose rapidly. Their charismatic authority normally rested primarily on the ability to produce converts and community and compelling spiritual revelations. As a result the converts looked the Davidian’s as their spiritual leaders. The leader follower relationship was further strengthened as converts moved towards communal organizations Miller (1995). Miller (1995) further notes that a complex series of events, accusations of misbehavior on the part of Koresh and some other residents of the Branch Davidian headquarters began to circulate among the anti-cult activists and others (p.156). There were allegations of child abuse in which later it was established that they were groundless and lacking evidence. The other allegation was possession of firearms. After the governments military to their headquarters the surviving branch Davidian’s for most part continue to adhere to their millennial faith, although they have not at this writing regrouped into a single organization.
Robbins & Palmer (1997) further noted that “Branch Davidian’s accumulated guns and also sold them commercially” (p.273). In expanding his arsenal Koresh was influenced not only by commerce and grim apocalyptic vision but also by the unfortunate coincidence of SWAT maneuvers by local law enforcement. Branch Davidian’s anticipated that they would struggle to survive the early years of tribulation, be eventually slain by demonic forces during the tribulation and return with the heavenly host to vanquish Satanist minions at Armageddon beliefs which are associated with functionalist practices. Robbins & Palmer (1997) further stated that this expectation like the survivalist post tribulationists vision which sees embattled saints somehow surviving the tribulation to fight at Armgeddon (273). These entailed a greater anticipation of conflict and persecution compared to the expectations of the pre-tribulationists who believe they will depart the planet right before the bad times commence. It was established that the Davidian’s anticipated a struggle to death with the Babylonians, but they expected the final conflict to unfold probably in 1995.
Christian critics of the Davidian’s cults indicate that Koresh was intimately familiar with apocalyptic biblical passages involving references to a wrathful, devouring, purifying, cleansing or consuming fire. As part of the world order the Davidian’s were identified with Babylon and were merely acting out their prophesied roles. There was also a possibility that during the confrontations the federal agents were acting and thinking in a dualistic mode such that extreme inflexibility and Machiavellian subtlety was attributed to the stressed cult leader.
The Branch Davidian’s were seen as deviants in the society firstly because of their confrontation with the federal authorities. They also sealed their fate in an apocalypse of human rather than divine origin Miller (1995). Also Miller (1995) noted that throughout their history the adherents maintained separation from the larger society and lived an intensely devotional lifestyle. It was also noted that during each period there also was a pattern of strong, centralized leadership which are aspects that are associated functionalism. As a result of different accusations such as child abuse and possession of firearms this also demonstrates that Branch Davidian’s were deviant hence they were treated by the society negatively. The 1993 conflagration at Ranch Apocalypse received saturation of media coverage. The shootout that occurred between AFT and the Branch Davidian’s agents mandated millennial scenario. He further established that federal agents launched attacks on the Davidian’s complex in which eighty members of Branch Davidian’s perished in the ensuing conflagration. Some of the surviving members of the group were tried for murder of four federal agents who were shot in the original raid.
The heavens gate was a cult which was led by Marshall Applewhite. They raised income through the profitable cottage industry, designing internet web pages for a variety of clients. Innis (2004) found out that Heavens Gate spawned from a defunct 1970s cult called Human Individual Metamorphosis also known as the over-comers (p.97). Innis continued to note that Heaven’s Gate preached a blend of biblical teachings, dire warnings about satanic angels and belief that the Hale-Bopp comet would afford classmates a onetime shot at immortality.
The cult leader Marshall Applewhite was convinced that evil space aliens called Luciferians had programmed mankind to lead meaningless lives. Innis (2004) further found out that “Applewhite compared himself to Jesus Christ and iterated that Luciferians, who were actually spirits of the dead were programming human beings so that the bodies of most humans would become useless when needed in the afterlife” (p,98). He therefore said that the cultists believed they had been sent down to earth to inhabit human bodies and that they would achieve a higher from and rendezvous with a UFO which was hidden in the tail of Hale-Bopp, only if they shed their containers. The space ship within the comet would take them to a utopian that is the next kingdom (p.98).
The message given by the majority of the websites portrayed that once a person dies he or she should leave his human body to graduate from earth into the Kingdom of Heaven. Followers of Heaven’s Gate cult also believed they would find salvation by ending their lives and hitching a ride on the Hale-Bopp comets tail as it passed by earth. It was learned that the comet a mixture of ice, frozen gases, and dust passed within 120 million of our planet without picking up cosmic hitchhikers. Some of the statements they indicated in the internet writings according to Innis (2004) include; the Luciferians wanted you to be perfect servant to society in order to have the acceptable establishment to humanity and to false religious concepts. They also said “part of stay blinded formula used by Luciferians was be married, a good parent, a reasonable churchgoer, buy a house, pay your mortgage, pay your insurance, have a good line of credit, be socially committed, and graciously accept death with the hope that through His shed blood one will go to heaven after his or her death” (p.97).
The Heaven’s Gate cult was deviant to the society because of their weird beliefs. Innis (2004) stated that it was one of the most notorious cults. It drew world wide attention when 39 of its member committed mass suicide at a Rancho Santa Fe mansion in 1997. It was noted that six weeks later a 40th member of the cult joined his fellow members in death (Innis, 2004). Authorities which were called to the scene several days later found out that many of the plastic bags outside in a trash can hence it was believed that the mass suicide was planned precisely with several members waiting fro the others to die first before removing the bags and replacing them with purple cloths (Innis, 2004). It was also found out that they left behind video and several internet messages “explaining matter-of-factly that they had left their human bodies to graduate to the Kingdom of Heaven” They also left behind hundreds of pages of written material explaining their suicide but it was noted that many experts did not understand the cults reasoning. Some of the controversial statements left behind by the followers included “By choosing to leave in the manner of my classmates, I have eliminated my anxieties in that I have secured for now my continued relationship with the next level” (Innis, 2004).
Robbins & Palmer (1997) in support of how the theory of functionalism the tape played on “Nightline by influential Davidian Wayne Martin calling 911 and pleading for a cease fire might have indicated the Davidian inclination of finding their way out” (p.281). From the functionalism theory it is possible to ask ourselves that if Koresh was determined on a holocaust why not just keep shooting until every one had been killed. Robbins & Palmer (1997) stated that “it is therefore important to envision the Davidian leader as vacillating and subject to cross pressures, including pressure exerted by his catastrophic apocalyptic commitment” (p.282).
Hall, Schuyler & Trinh (2000) stated that those who wanted to join the heavens gate cult were expected to give up everything from their past such as family, possessions and even their identities (p.155). This therefore indicates that these were the practices and values of the cult associated with functionalism. Apparently spaceships or not people were captivated with the idea that heaven was a physical place that people could reach. The most successful meeting Bo and Peep ever held in September 1975, was one that brought them unwanted public attention (Hall, Schuyler & Trinh 2000). People largely cautioned why they were there, who they had come for, and when they were going to leave. It was however mentioned that it was not a religious organization recruiting memberships. The information provided already promoted many individuals to devote them to the transitional process. People entertained the idea that there was a real, physical level beyond the earth’s confines.
The message that was presented by the Two major cult followers of Heavens Gate according to Hall, Schuyler & Trinh (2000) was about how the Demonstration was to be followed by UFO transportation to heaven for their follower. Their presentation was enough to convince the meeting hence within days some twenty people recruited from the Waldport meeting travelled to Colorado for a gathering of around 400 people who were interested in boarding a flying which would take them to the next physical level beyond human.
Hall, Schuyler & Trinh (2000) noted that a number of the youths whom in with the movement already lived at fringes of society. Older people, who had been solidly planted in family and community life, had already dabbed in mystic or UFO subcultures (p.158). They however mentioned that most followers seemed to have been intelligent and relatively effective human beings. The participants of meetings undertook the project of undergoing metanoia a more or less complete change in their cognitive understandings of the world, moving beyond their personal pasts and becoming new people with new names, beliefs and activities.
The theology of Heavens Gate cult as stated by Hall, Schuyler & Trinh (2000) mentioned that human bodies were vehicles that can be inhibited by three major kinds of entities (p.160). Their teachings were that the conventional being of human level of existence was trying to pursue the normal things that people wanted out of life. They also taught that human bodies were sometimes inhabited by a second type of being (Hall, Schuyler & Trinh, 2000). Eventually Bo and Peep did not profess to know exactly how and when the journey to the physical location of the higher evolutionary level would occur but they took it as their mission to prepare their class for the event. Other teachings denoted the presence of space alien races that tried to dominate other by using religion and increased sexual behavior to keep humans drugged and ignorant or in darkness.
Functionalism in the Heavens Gate cult is evident because leaders referred to their cult members to a class while the group members referred to each other as classmates. It was established that all the members of Heavens Gate filmed a farewell statement and the most interesting aspects of is the member’s joy as their end approached. They happily looked forward to the exit and hoped that people would celebrate rather than mourn their ascendance which they said they had prepared for many years.
However in practice, Hall, Schuyler & Trinh (2000) noted other teaching indicated that Third Older members from the evolutionary level Above Human beings about how they can come to Earth with an away team. These provided information to human beings about how they can reach the higher evolutionary level (p.160). They therefore noted that the task of moving on to the next level required the individual to shed the trappings of human existence, eventually including the vehicle (human body).
Because functionalist belief that deviance creates social solidarity as with the case of Branch Davidian’s as a result of their punishment they felt superior although it did not lead to the progress of the social group. Branch Davidian’s experienced the existence of dysfunction as a result of the society’s view of their actions which is also attributed to the functionalism theory. It was noted that as a result of self defense deviance by Branch Davidian’s acted as a safety measure. Branch Davidian’s conformed to social solidarity as they had similar beliefs imposed by their leader which implies that functionalism theory played a major role in the cult existence. It is also important to draw the close relationship between the cult’s members who had the same values, practices and beliefs to functionalism theory. The confrontations between the Branch Davidian’s and the federal agents implied that there was a social disorder that resulted to deviance.
To support the theory of functionalism within the Branch Davidian’s it was noted that the converts at Mt. Carmel dedicated their time to spreading the word, while the majority of followers who lived outside supported the cult works with tithes (Lundskow, 2008). Another major reason supporting the theory of functionalism was that the Branch Davidian’s made many efforts to make Mt. Carmel a self sufficient place. This was ensured by practicing some social practices such as sharing necessities and growing their own foods. According to Lundskow (2008) functionalism was also evident because Mt. Carmel the head quarters of the Branch Davidian’s had its own currency, schools, and that Davidian children pledged allegiance to the Davidian flag and to the theocracy for which it stood alongside the American flag (p.285).
Further more, Lundskow (2008) indicated that Koresh teachings were definitely apocalyptic and evidence indicated that the Davidian’s were responsible for the fire exchange with the authorities. Functionalism theory was also evident in the Davidian’s who lived in Mt. Carmel compound because of their typically austere and ascetic lives like many devoutly religious people in many faiths (p.288). The branch Davidian’s established Koresh as a divine figure and as such a common person could only submit utterly.
However it has been established that in the majority of cults people think and act only to please their leaders and they do not question their leaders of their deeds or behaviors. Lundskow (2008) further establishes that regardless of their belief system their lifestyle ensures that the cults distinguish themselves through a particular social-psychological relationship between the leaders and the followers. Lundskow (2008) found out that one popular myth about cults is that they trick, kidnap or brainwash their members (p.299). The members seek out groups to which they can belong and the groups they choose to join offer them unequivocal acceptance.
Over the time it has also been established that people who join cults or those who become core members willingly surrender their sense of self because in exchange they receive total acceptance. Studies show that they also gain a clear sense of purpose and meaning. On the other hand Lundskow (2008) stated that it is possible to argue that cults do not really brainwash people, in the sense of coercive changes to their identity because the members make such changes willingly (p.299). The degradation rituals are the small prices to pay for total acceptance and in most cases of cults the certainty of salvation.
It is true that both Heavens Gate and Branch Davidian’s cults mobilized a stifled passion, a longing to break free and find ones true self. They also bring out what the members of the cult longed to express. Thus Lundskow (2008) research found out that the majority of cults core membership consists of seekers, people who are in transition between major moments in their lives. He thus says that the kind of moments and events in their lives also define who they are (their identity) and how they see the world. For example in the case of heavens gate members were somewhat older, but had recently been laid off from work or gone through a divorce (p.299). In this case we can argue that they were looking for new directions and ways of living. In the case of the Heavens Gate the members were also intelligent and critical of mainstream society although they were already marginalized and seeking something other than conventional mainstream of life.
In the case of the Branch Davidian’s, Koresh changed the group from an ARM to a cult in which most of the members had been in the group for more than ten years. Lundskow (2008) continues to suggest that both Applewhite and Koresh all developed means to negate conventional morality and they were seeking to separate people from their past lives and past identity (p.302). These are the fundamentals of functionalists. On the other hand the desire by people to separate or break away from an unsatisfying life’s demonstrated how functionalism played its role causing the cult members to overpower other conflicting values. By joining these cults it shows that the members were willing to suffer any humiliation in order to achieve harmony. From this point of view it is possible to establish that cults do not resolve emotional conflicts within an individual.
Lundskow (2008) also states that in the case of the Branch Davidian’s and Heavens Gate there could be no hangers on (p.303). Therefore a person was either in or out, with no in between ground to think it over. The Branch Davidian’s lived in self contained community in Waco, Texas outside town and Heavens Gate members lived in their own house but spent much of their time on road. Both groups rarely interacted with other people outside the cults and they also required that new members immediately relinquish money, property and all ties to past friends and family.
To conclude, the element of initial separation limited the size of the group demonstrated that they were typical functionalist who filtered out those people who were not committed. Therefore, sociologically the process of joining these two kinds of cults the Branch Davidian’s and Heavens Gate barred those who were not willing to negate their sense of self. The theory of functionalism is indicated by the way each cult had clearly defined social practices and values which the followers were supposed to adhere but they did not conform to the normal societal practices and values.
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