Do These Definitions Sound Familiar What is the difference between a cult and a religion? Most people define the term cult so vaguely that anyone with strong opinions could be classified as a cult follower. The best working definition I have heard is this: A religion is a movement in which people find themselves; a cult is a movement in which people lose themselves. A cult hijacks your identity and makes you into someone you aren't. A true religion should enhance and deepen your identity, to make you a better you. People who find religion go through changes. They learn to explore parts to their personality that they never knew existed, and have to re-evaluate themselves and their lives. All growth is accompanied by some upheaval and instability, so they may go through a short period where they seem a bit weird to their friends and family. They may even missionise a bit, and try to "convert" everyone around them. They mean well; they just want to share their newfound inspiration with those they love. This is normal, and the family should try to be patient. However, if they start to turn into someone else altogether, if they seem unrecognisable, then there could be cause for concern. If they lose their personality, their sense of humour, their interest in others, or their ability to think, then they may have lost themselves. If these symptoms persist, seek a minister, rabbi or priest's advice. They may have fallen prey to a cult - or are using religion as a cult. Cults demand that you jump in unquestioningly. But when you make such sudden changes, you will have to leave your self behind. This is not the basic religion ways. Most honest religions encourages questioning, even honest skepticism. Spiritual development is done gradually and with thought. That way, the changes will be real, as they integrate and harmonise with your personality rather than overwhelm it. Give your friend some time. If he or she is indeed brainwashed, it probably won't last - they will jump out as quickly as they jumped in. Most mainstream religions can't be used as a cult for long. But more likely they will settle to a balanced medium, where their old self will come back again, but with a depth and direction that they never had before. Sometimes, you have to lose yourself to find yourself again.