Some people consider Jehovah's Witnesses to be a cult because membership in the group demands total commitment, and because its members, or Witnesses, are not allowed to question the teachings of the group's Governing Body. Witnesses are also encouraged to shun those who have left the group.
One common characteristic of a cult is that cult members are drawn to the group through the teachings of a charismatic and powerful leader. Many feel this applies to Jehovah's Witnesses, as the beginnings of the group can be traced back to one man, Charles Taze Russell, who established the first incarnation of Jehovah's Witnesses back in the 1880s. Russell was a minister who attracted many followers by preaching his own doctrine, one that differed in many ways from traditional Christian dogma. Russell served as President and controller of the religious movement until his death in 1916.
After Russell's death, Jehovah's Witnesses continued to be run by a succession of Presidents, chosen from members of the organization's Governing Body, who served as leader and controller of the Witnesses. Starting in October 2000, the group was reorganized and began to be governed not by a single President, but by the chairmen of its Governing Body.
Another reason why some feel Jehovah's Witnesses are a cult is because Witnesses actively try to convert new members to their faith. They are encouraged to spend at least 10 hours a month going door to door, distributing their literature and trying to recruit new Witnesses.