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You might be thinking, I would never fall for stuff like that because I am an agnostic scientist (or something like that). Cults seem illogical and unscientific but cult leaders are usually well versed in the science of psychology and use it like dark masters. I like to think of them as the "madd scientists" of psychology. They know how the mind works and can make even the most logical among us believe in nonsense and warship at the feet of some psycho guru.
Cults are usually born out of a desire to be part of something larger than oneself. Those individuals that possess a low self esteem are especially at risk.
Cults may use same of the same techniques as gangs, abusive partners, and other exploitative groups - things like physical stress, sleep deprivation, overt and implied physical threats, isolation from previous relationships ("you're nothing without us/ no one else cares about you") and a phenomenon called traumatic bonding, where people irrationally feel the abuse or humiliation can't have been all for nothing, and must mean that the group or the relationship is worth suffering for and belonging to.