It's hard to understand how Pastor Russell can be equated to a "cult leader" when, for example, over one billion Catholics are threatened that their very salvation relies on recognizing the Pope as Christ's earthly representative, or suffer eternity in hell.
If we identify a "cult" as a religious body with a man as it's head, then every religion is guilty of being a "cult". This includes everyone from the Papacy with the Pope, Lutherans with Martin Luther, Methodists with John Wesley, Anglicans with the Archbishop of Canterbury, and even modern Evangelicals with Pat Robertson, Jerry Fallwell, Jack Van Impe and others. Every religion has a human man as its leader or guide.
The problem isn't that a man is the guide, because this has always been God's way of instructing his people. "Understandest thou what thou readest? And he said, How can I, except some man should guide me?" (Acts 8:30,31) "How shall they hear without a preacher?" (Rom. 10:14) The problem actually begins when ones eternal salvation is equated with recognition of the leader. While it is true that this attitude is expressed by "Jehovah's Witnesses", this attitude was never expressed by Pastor Russell, whom they incorrectly claim as their founder. He never asked people to worship him. He never claimed one's eternal salvation was based on listening to him. In fact, Pastor Russell taught from the Bible that God desires to save all men, and will give this opportunity in the Millennial Kingdom through Israel, not Pastor Russell! It is interesting that Papacy has made pompous claims for themselves for centuries, but in our modern day, they mostly go unchallenged. The Pope is revered as a great and wonderful "spiritual" leader. But for many radical right-wing Christians Pastor Russell represents the height of evil. Such hypocrisy!
The character of Pastor Russell stands for itself. The unbiased, and honest-hearted, can easily find the facts. Rather than reading only one side of the issue, and immediately condemning someone, it is wiser, more loving and Christ-like to examine both sides, as well as the spirit in which the information is presented, and see which is more reasonable, and more in line with our Lord's instructions.
Pastor Russell was the staunchest enemy of the Creeds and Traditions. Organized Religious Institutions and Governments prefer the "status quo". It keeps the people quiet and under control. But if you upset the balance, then you are a "trouble-maker", even if what you say and do is the truth. Pastor Russell only revealed the facts, doing it effectively and on a worldwide scale. That made him their enemy, and it has become increasingly apparent that they believe their enemies must be destroyed at all costs, following the spirit of Caiaphas, who said: "It is better that one man die, than a whole nation perish". (John 11:50) But a true Christian remembers the words and spirit of the Apostle John that: "Whoever hates his brother is guilty of murder, and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him." (I John 3:15)