COGCOA Moontree

Group Danger Evaluator

This test is a tool that will give you an indication of how dangerous any political, social, religious or commercial group may be to its members and to those around it.

Reprinted with permission.
Copyright © 1995-1998 Gary Renshaw. All rights reserved.
This document may be freely reproduced for non-commercial purposes as long as no part of the content is changed and this copyright notice remains attached.

This test is a tool that will give you an indication of how dangerous any political, social, religious or commercial group may be to its members and to those around it. The test is subjective and cannot be regarded as an absolute index of "rightness" or "wrongness". However, if you are careful to use the same criteria for grading all groups the comparisons should be relatively reliable. The questions are gathered from principles of humanistic psychology as well as illustrating some of the most common tactics used by groups generally thought to be bad for their members and those around them. Some of the categories overlap to illuminate various aspects of possible trouble, and some of them are rather specific for the same reason. There are five categories of questions.

It is suggested that you evaluate several "control" groups such as your local government, school board, some local mainstream churches and clubs such as the Boy Scouts. These results will give you a basis for comparing other groups and familiarise you with the test.

This test has 39 questions and is fairly complex. Each question is answered on a scale from 0 (low degree) to 10 (high degree). A high score tends to indicate a dangerous group, a low score indicates a relatively harmless or beneficial one.

The original idea that sparked the author to write this evaluator came from P.E.I Bonewits' Advanced Bonewits Cult Danger Evaluation Frame (ABCDEF) as it appeared in his book Real Magic. The ABCDEF has 16 questions and gives quick answers but is not as detailed. The two tests complement each other.

Category 1: Material Wealth

  1. WEALTH: Amount of personal wealth accumulated by the leaders of the group. Do the leaders allow or require lavish presents to be given to them by followers? Are members expected to pay large sums to be taught the "secrets" of the group?

  2. DONATIONS: Does the group require members to contribute their own money or property to the group? Does the group only recruit members above a certain level of income?

  3. MERCHANDISING: Does the group require members to buy special items (books, jewellery, tools, incense, candles, clothes or whatever) which only a certain designated commercial outlet can provide?

  4. HOARDING: Degree to which the fund raising of the group is not matched by the visible expenses. If money comes in and nothing obvious goes out, give the group a high score.

Category 2: Control

  1. AUTHORITY: Degree to which the leaders control the group and are not just organisers. Do the members have a say in the doctrines or running of the group? Degree of internal political power that the leaders have over the members.

  2. PUNISHMENT: Degree to which an offending member can be punished by the group. In general, things like murder or floggings should get high scores while things like temporary loss of voting privileges should get a low score.

  3. SEXUAL MANIPULATION: Amount of control the leaders have over the members' sex lives. Sexual control can range from doctrines stating what acts are permitted all the way to compulsory, verified sexual behaviour.

  4. OBEDIENCE: Amount of obedience required of the members. Degree of questioning allowed of the leader's decisions.

  5. DEPENDENCE: Degree to which members rely on the group for the basic necessities of life (food, clothing, shelter).

  6. EXTERNAL POWER: Degree of external political power sought by the group or leaders. Degree to which affiliations with famous people or organisations are used.

Category 3: Information

  1. GOSSIP: Degree to which the leaders condone members spreading rumours about outsiders or other members. Degree to which the group discourages members from investigating the truth of the gossip.

  2. PARANOIA: Degree of perceived power held by opponents. Number of perceived enemies of the group.

  3. LACK OF HUMOUR: Degree to which jokes about the group, its doctrines or leaders are forbidden. Does the group ever poke fun at itself?

  4. CENSORSHIP: Degree of censorship practised by the group. Do the members have access to differing points of view or is asking questions forbidden?

  5. SECRECY: Degree of secrecy about group beliefs or activities requiring participation without understanding, such as chanting in a foreign language for which no adequate translation has been provided or performing seemingly meaningless actions without adequate explanation.

  6. ISOLATION: Degree to which members are isolated from previous or non-group contacts. Is the member discouraged from contacting people outside of the group? Degree to which non-members who were previously known to the member are rejected by the group.

  7. INTOLERANCE: Degree to which other doctrinal systems are not tolerated by the group. Does the group perceive "Them" to be wrong just because they do not follow "Our" beliefs?

  8. DOGMA: Degree to which the group's doctrines are inflexible. Can the doctrines be modified to fit changing circumstances (low score) or are strict rules rigidly enforced because they are traditional (high score).

  9. BUY BEFORE YOU TRY: Must you become a member in order to find out much about what the group believes or does?

Category 4: Membership

  1. RECRUITING: Amount of effort put into recruiting new members. Does the group actively go out and seek new members (high score) or do they wait for interested parties to find them (low score).

  2. DROP OUT CONTROL: Amount of effort put into bringing drop outs back into the group.

  3. QUICK FIX: Degree to which the group claims a "quick fix" for personal problems.

  4. UNIVERSALITY: Degree to which members believe that the group is right for everyone.

  5. PITCHES: Degree of salesmanship used in recruiting. Are prospective members urged to join immediately or can they think about it at their leisure?

  6. LACK OF ASSESSMENT: Degree to which anyone off the street is allowed to join without a responsible assessment of that person's suitability for the group and the group's suitability for that person.

  7. HAZING: Severity of initiation procedures upon joining. Does the group require prospective members to perform actions which are illegal, immoral (to the individual) or involve mental or physical harm (including actions which are embarrassing or humiliating)?

  8. INFERIORITY: Degree to which new members are told that they are in some way inferior until they have achieved full membership in the group.

Category 5: Activities and Attitudes

  1. VIOLENCE: Degree to which the use of violence to achieve the organisation's goals is condoned by the leaders. Degree of violence used during normal group activities.

  2. SEXUAL INEQUALITY: Degree to which one sex or the other dominates the group. Degree to which the group is prejudiced against one sex.

  3. LEADER INFALLIBILITY: Degree of infallibility claimed by the leaders. "I have the absolute truth."

  4. GROUP INFALLIBILITY: Degree of infallibility claimed by the group. "Our way is the only right way."

  5. WAYS AND MEANS: Degree to which "the ends justify the means". Are there any means which are forbidden by group ethics or does anything go as long as the ends are in accord with the group's goals.

  6. NON-RESPONSIBILITY: Degree of personal responsibility vested in members. Are members allowed to decide and act on issues for themselves (low score) or does the group tell the members what to do (high score)? Degree of control the group has over the member's life or life style.

  7. NON-ACCOUNTABILITY: The less the members can hold a leader accountable for his actions the higher the score.

  8. SUPERIORITY: Degree to which the group members feel that they are superior to non-members.

  9. PAIN: Degree of discomfort imposed by the group. This could include bad food, insults, lack of privacy, sanitation or sleep, bullying or other physical, mental or emotional privations.

  10. PIGEONHOLING: Degree to which the individual is asked to conform to certain rates of development or pre-ordained categories. Lack of respect for the differences between individuals.

  11. PARROTING: Degree to which members repeat the same phrases in praise of the group. Lack of thoughtfulness in answering questions about the group.

  12. ALIASES: How many groups with different names are actually controlled by the parent organisation? Note that the idea of one organisation with many aliases is different from an association of independent groups with a common goal (for example, inter-denominational charity groups). Contact Us Last Modified: 2005-12-22
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