After my Team Rocket post, a few people had asked me to elaborate more on cults. To be honest, I am not too well-versed in cults, as they are not my area of study, and even then, I would probably only be able to touch a little bit on Christianity-based cults.
I think the big rules of thumb are: Does it tell you to hate people? CULT Does it tell you you are better than others? CULT
Is it making you go through physically "impossible" things on a whim? CULT
Is someone claiming to be a prophet? PROBABLY CULT --Are people worshiping the person claiming to be a prophet? CULT --Are you forced to have sex with the prophet to bear the next prophet/messiah? CULT Is your belief based on the fear of death? CULT
Are you being told you have to give millions of dollars for Heaven? CULT --Are you buying millions of dollars' worth of things for Heaven? CULT
Jesus tells us to love our neighbours as ourselves, but to hate sin. This means being able to build friendships and love people who you think are "sinful", because ultimately, we're all sinners. (Romans 3:23) As Christians, we're meant to be "set apart", not "better". We're human, we think bad thoughts, and say bad things, we do bad things. The Holy Spirit guides us and helps us avoid sin, but sometimes we fail, too. We're not better than anyone. (Levitivus 19:18, Romans 7:18)
The Bible tells us that miracles can happen and that we can do anything through Him. The Bible teaches us to have faith in all circumstances, not create horrible circumstances to prove our faith. Don't trust anyone who tells you that you have to starve yourself for X number of days and shove yourself in a human-sized oven to prove your loyalty. They just want to keep you delirious to believe them. (Jeremiah 32:27, 1 Corinthians 6:19)
No prophet is meant to be worshiped, they are meant to point people to worship God. That's true of everyone in the Old Testament. Yes, that means even Moses - The Law was made by God, passed to people through Moses, not the other way around. The splitting of the Red Sea was God's power to renounce gravity and properties of water. Not Moses'. So if your prophet is telling you to worship him/her, they're not a real prophet. (2 Chronicles 24:19) Also, as a reminder, Jesus was born of immaculate conception. Why would He require a prophet to fornicate with multiple women to bring about His Second Coming? And even if there required a conception between a man and woman, don't you think God would have appointed the prophet to a specific person? (Isaiah 7:14) **There's also split views from Christians regarding whether or not there are people specifically called to be prophets, post-Christ. Basically, the argument against the existence of modern day prophets is that since we are able to fellowship with God through prayer, we don't need a "middle man" to do the work. Also, isn't it the calling of every Christian to spread the Gospel and point others to God? So basically, we're all supposed to be doing the work of a prophet, which negates the need for a prophet.
Christianity tells us there is no fear in death, because we have life in Christ. If you're being told that you have do perform a lot of rituals or ceremonies or things to get ready for Doomsday, then beware. Christ has already risen, victorious over sin and death. Please don't kill your kids and fake their vacation in Hawaii. (Too soon?) (Matthew 10:28, John 5:24, John 11:25)
A lot of organizations need money, churches included. The Bible encourages us to tithe and give offering. This is a show of your faith, not so you can prove your faith. God knows your heart, and your heart is worth more than you giving your life savings and paycheck, if you're doing it for the wrong reasons. You can't buy your way into Heaven; you were in death's hands, bound by sin. Jesus already paid your ransom, what is there for you to pay? (Matthew 15:5-6)
I guess for the most part, these are the points that I found were the biggest clues in whether or not something is a cult. Ultimately, cults lead you away from the Truth. I truly believe that there are cult founders who have good intentions, and they weren't aware that they were building into something that is fully separate from God. Ultimately, that is why we must keep ourselves equipped with the full Armor of God. By reading the Word, we can become more aware of what truths and promises God has given us, and learn to live in discernment by the Holy Spirit. There are probably a lot more that I've left out or forgot to mention, so if you have a point that you think needs to be touched on, please let me know!