No, but any cult would say that.
First, let’s clarify how the world “cult” and “sect” can have multiple usages: mainstream religious cult and philosophical sects made of follower of the likes of Plato, are not what this question is addressed at.
The question refers to some form of organization that submits members’ wills and bodies, separate them from their families and friends, oppress them and extracts large amounts of money, and/or have obscure and dangerous aims. The judging criteria are not the ideological beliefs but the actions and behaviors that violate the rights, dignity and freedom of the human person.
And often members of a religious or political organization will call “a cult” any organization that they disagree with.
So in order to answer the question objectively, we have to address some objective criteria laid out by a recognized body. We can take the criteria of the French association of defense of individuals and families: http://www.unadfi.org/caracteristiques-des-sectes-selon (translated and summarized here):
To describe a group of “cult”, we retain the criterion of harmfulness or extremely dangerous group by the combination of three characteristics:
- Mental manipulation
- Mind Control
- Feeding dependency
- Triple destruction
- Destruction of the person
(physically, weaken the body; psychological, weaken critical mind; intellectual, reduce the field and sources of knowledge; relational, reduce social skills and contacts; social, withdraw from society)
- Destruction of the family
(breakup relationships, undermine authority, estrange from children, recruit children)
- Destruction of society
(infiltrate institutions, or desert them, reject legal authority, turn anyone external to an enemy, prevent involvement as a citizen, remove from cultural and social activities)
- Triple scam
(You never get what was promised, it is always postponed and everyone else is blamed for the failure to deliver. Members first of all)
(Members usually become victim of all sorts of abuses, and have lost the will to even see that they are victims)
(The bigger red flag of them all is the money aspect. If you spend more than 1% of your disposable income you have to start to worry; more than 10% there is no doubt about the cultish nature of the organization)
The FAQ’s address the main criteria: unreasonable financial demands, negative impact on trust and relationship with family and friends, social and intellectual submission.
In a nut shell, it is a very strong principle of Freemasonry that members have to strike a balance in their lives between their professional life, their private life, their social obligations and their rest.
Freemasonry should not cost members more time or money than any social club they may belong to, like an acting society for instance.
And if they decide to take on more responsibilities, for instance becoming a treasurer, they are requires to inspect their own conscience to decide if that extra time commitment is compatible with their other obligations; and they are encouraged to discuss with their family how this will impact their free time.
In Freemasonry, the ultimate priority is the Freemason’s happiness and balance. And their family should always be included in making big decisions when joining or when progressing.