- People are put in physical or emotionally distressing situations;
- Their problems are reduced to one simple explanation, which is repeatedly emphasized;
- They receive what seems to be unconditional love, acceptance, and attention from a charismatic leader or group;
- They get a new identity based on the group;
- They are subject to entrapment (isolation from friends, relatives and the mainstream culture) and their access to information is severely controlled.
The way these match up in my experience with respect to Christianity. Not so much are people intentionally put in tough situations, more they are made to see their entire life as a tough situation. There's always something trying to pull them off the path. I've seen it take many forms, certain types of foods, music, most everything one could think of. The point being, there's always something "wrong" which needs fixing, that makes one's entire life stressful.
Everyone's problems in Christianity are reduced to the explanations "It's just another trick of the Devil to get you." or "You just need to repent and ask God for help.". There's not really anywhere more to go with this. It fits the bill perfectly.
My mother is very religious and she sees the church in exactly this way. She goes to several groups and deals with most of her problems through the church. She often expresses how people love unconditionally and are accepting.
The new identity here is more in a figurative sense, no really, keep reading... When one is at church they are looked at as at least caring. They're given respect for just being there. I know several people who are intolerable as people, but they are defended by and because of the church.
This takes an interesting form, no one in the church is regularly prohibited from gaining any information they want to. They're told to disregard things which contradict the Bible though. One can present a strong case for an atheist view on a topic and it will be rejected at first glance because it does not coincide with the Bible. Most of the religious people I know around at least attempt to limit their children's music choices and despise the better part of the area's selection of secular stations literally claiming that they're of the devil. So the information members of the Christian church can receive is very mentally guarded. As has been said so many times, the best way to keep a person trapped is to make them believe they're free.
One of the main ways the church recruits is brainwashing people, all too literally. From the time children are born they're bombarded with the one-sided argument that acceptance of Christ is mandatory for a good life. I underwent that same process. My first hints of skepticism appeared when I was about 14. I began to realize that I'd only paid attention to the narrative of one side of the argument. Eventually, through research and my own musing I came to my current atheistic opinion. People in the church will wax poetic about how they may lose friends for being Christians, but I'll attest that the reverse works as well. Atheists are among the most hated groups on the planet.
If you're too lazy or disinterested to read those articles, they state that atheists are disliked over any minority and that atheists are similar or equal to rapists in the public opinion, respectively. Does that seem at all like a cult mentality? Now, I'm not going to be so ignorant as to assume that in either poll, only religious, and more to the point, Christian people were interviewed, but the traits are similar among most Abrahamic religions. I was going to title this post in more of an Abrahamic religion setting, but I realized that for the most part, I can make a stronger case against that group's individual members one at a time then charging haphazardly at the whole lot.
I'll write another post more directly tuned to why atheism is so hated.
Thanks for reading!