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ice1000
03-18-2002, 02:35 AM
What's the difference between a cult and a religion? Is it just the number of followers?

halfliquid
03-18-2002, 04:54 AM
Originally posted by ice1000
What's the difference between a cult and a religion? Is it just the number of followers? A cult is usually a smaller group of people that are devoted to a person, place, or material thing, and is usually unconventional in nature and faddish; the word "cult" usually has a negative connotation. While a religion usually revolves around the worship of God or a Supreme Being, has established institutions and doctrines, and is usually practiced on a worldwide scale.

MarkusGoneAwry
03-18-2002, 05:15 AM
I believe a cult can be religious or non religious.

A religious cult would be a group of people who have faith in a religion that is not generally accepted by the majority. More or less, it is a word used in America to denote religions that are seen as false or extremist.

The latin root for cult is cultus which I understand to mean worship.

mark

Weeks
03-18-2002, 05:37 AM
I always thought that a cult worshipped a living deity and a religion waits till they're dead.
Sooner or later that living deity dies and then who knows what the hell you've got?

Sofa King
03-18-2002, 12:41 PM
I think that legally the term varies from nation to nation. France passed an anti-cult law (http://bernie.cncfamily.com/acm/anti-cult_law/france/mainstream.htm) which predictably included several Protestant offshoots that Americans generally tolerate, such as the Jehovah's Witnesses, but perhaps paradoxically did not include others which many of us would include on their list. More important, the term "cult" is not accurately defined in the legislation.

I think that's what we're going to discover in general--that there is no solid definition of what a cult actually is. That sure doesn't keep people from trying. Just looking around for a few minutes shows that the secret item number "0" on any checklist is this:

0. A cult is absolutely, definitely not whatever the author of the checklist chooses to believe.

In other words, just like rednecks, cults are always someone else, no matter how closely the organization doing the defining fits the bill.

That caveat now offered, I happened to like this checklist (http://www.csj.org/infoserv_cult101/checklis.htm), which focuses on living personalities, insular behavior, mind control, and elitism.

DocCathode
03-18-2002, 01:17 PM
IIRC, from my old sociolofy class 'A cult is a group people under the leadership of a person or persons believed to have special knowledge, abilities or insight' But, the book acknowleged that a cult may go on to become a sect split from a larger religion or a religion in its own right.

While Jonestown and the Manson Family were obviously cults, the above criteria also apply to Jesus and his Apostles, Moses and the Isrealites, Buddha and his students, or Mohammed and his followers.


Many Dopers, myself included, consider Scientology a cult. This is despite their global status or the fact that their prophet, L Ron Hubbard (L Ron? LRon? Did he use the initial to be identified with Tolkien's Elrond Half-Elven? Seriously, was he trying gain some of Elrond's mythic, more-than-human status by association?), is very dead. The Cult Awareness Network has ceased calling Scientology a cult. They made that decision shortly after being bought by the Church of Scientology.


In short, the difference between a cult and a religion is like the difference between porn and erotica-it's hard to describe, but you know it when you see it, and it varies from person to person.