Love Bomb Burns: A Fascinating Oxford University Press Book on the Social Psychology of Cults and Charismatic Religious Movements


The book, Cults: Faith, Healing and Coercion (Oxford 1999), by Marc Galanter, is hard to put down.

It’s not just an excellent introduction to the dynamics of religious cults, but of social psychology in general.

The author uses systems theory as a method for thinking about cults—reflecting, for example, on how feedback, monitoring, and group border control can assist us in understanding insular religious movements.

One interesting aspect of cults that the author discusses, and that I had not ever read elsewhere, is their ability to induce in members the ‘Stockholm Effect.’

This is a term borrowed from a hostage bank robbery in Stockholm some years back, in which hostages began to identify with the person holding them hostage. The author argues that something like this is going on in charismatic religious movements, where initiates are both threatened with abuse and derive their emotional comfort from the same source. People are made to feel abandoned or damned if they stray from the group’s norms, but are given family comfort and safety if they adhere closely to the group’s beliefs and goals. Like a roach motel, you check in, but have difficulty checking out.

I feel that this book’s insights into the social psychology of cults is also valuable in understanding propagandistic movements and charismatic manipulation generally. For those interested in the academic study of cults, charismatic movements, or social psychology in general, I recommend it strongly.

You can find the book at here:

About Santi Tafarella

I teach writing and literature at Antelope Valley College in California.
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2 Responses to Love Bomb Burns: A Fascinating Oxford University Press Book on the Social Psychology of Cults and Charismatic Religious Movements

  1. cornishevangelist says:

    This prophecy came to me this morning from the Lord, 20th July 2008. The Lord said, “I have released a host of angels, from the four corners of the earth where the four winds blow, bringing my angelic host of angels to exalt and to glorify Jesus Christ on earth. For they were created especially to glorify and exalt my only begotten Son Jesus Christ.” Thus says the Lord

  2. santitafarella says:


    How curious is that! I opened a fortune cookie this morning that said, “Avoid all bullshitters today who pretend to speak in the name of the Almighty.”

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