Cults. To many people they send a shiver down the spine. They have vague memories of cults approaching armageddon, going out to kill others, or committing mass suicide. Yes, this can happen, but only to a tiny minority.
Another fear is of a cult swallowing up your son or daughter, brainwashing them and turning them into different people who no longer want to have anything to do with you. Yes, this happens, too. But only if the son or daughter is searching.
There is a great deal wrong with a world that requires so many cults. And this is the central problem - not the cults, per se, but the world that breeds them. But there is one major point that we should all remember.
A cult tends to be called a cult only when it is small. As it grows bigger, it suddenly becomes an alternative religion, and as time passes it ends up a major religion in its own right. Let me just mention one such religion that started off as a subversive, apocalyptic cult.
(c) Anthony North, Jan 2007