Texas Polygamists: Sect or Cult?

Sociologist explores such groups and what keeps people there
By Matt Cantor,  Newser User
Posted Apr 10, 2008 2:12 PM CDT
A member of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, in rear seat of cart, is relocated to another building on the Fort Concho complex in San Angelo, Texas, April 9, 2008.    (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)
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(Newser) – While much of the media is calling the polygamous group raided in Texas a “sect,” some experts say it’s better defined as a cult, LiveScience reports. One scientist points out that the word “cult” is often avoided in academia for its negative connotations. But “if you've got a group that's abusing hundreds and hundreds of women and children,” says a sociologist, “let's call it what it is.”

By not using the word, “we let them hide behind the veil of religion,” the sociologist notes. She defines a cult as a religious movement in which the object of worship is a “human leader,” rather than a higher being. But what keeps people in abusive societies? A warped worldview, she says, coupled with fear of punishment: “You take on new reality.”