Here is my personal definition of a cult: Anytime you let someone or group of someones decide what you should believe, how you should live, and who you should associate with or a group who takes the place of your own inner knowing and guidance, you might be in a cult.
You probably won’t find this definition in any dictionary. Using this definition, I have found over time that many groups and/or organizations fill this criteria. It has served me well over the years. I also have come to believe that the cult members are the ones who make it a cult. If you don’t give someone, or something, control over your thoughts, beliefs, and actions then you aren’t participating in a cult.
Cults usually have charismatic leaders with strong personalities and opinions, but they need followers to make it a cult. The followers have cult-thinking. They believe so deeply in the infallibility of the leader that they give up their own will, independence, and free-thinking.
The burden is on each of us to keep ourselves independent and free-thinking.