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What traits do cults and organized religions have in common?


What makes one a 'religion' while another is labeled a 'cult'. Is it all perception and acceptance?


Asked by IhartU at 10:26 AM on Jun. 5, 2013 in Religious Debate

Level 27 (31,412 Credits)
This question is closed.
Answers (14)
  • IMHO, the mentality is not much different, only the acceptance of the masses & what is considered out of the norm. Christianity started out as a cult and became a "religion" due to it's amount of followers. Same thing with Scientology.

    Answer by 3libras at 10:44 AM on Jun. 5, 2013

  • I think the term cult isn't understood the same way it used to be - there has been a negative connotation that wasn't there before. So there is a difference between cult as a sect and *cult* as a dangerous exclusionist group that takes over someone's life and alienates them from their family, etc. But I think the distinction isn't between cult or religion in general. Such blanket statements are just as dangerous and ignorant as people claim religion to be. Not everyone experiences religion or faith in the same way. I think there are *characteristics* which matter more than just belief or affiliation. When religion is used to support and encourage in a freeing way it's not the same as religion used to bind or restrict someone. Not all religion/belief requires blind faith or complete conformity. There are many of us - believers - who have the same issues with fundamentalist (etc) ways of faith as the rest of you. (Cont)

    Answer by bandgeek521 at 12:30 PM on Jun. 5, 2013

  • Using the accepted sociological definition, cults are smaller, cults and sects are the precurors to religions, just as they are to any large social group with some other trait in common besides religion.

    Answer by NotPanicking at 10:27 AM on Jun. 5, 2013

  • I also think there is a difference between the superstitious side of religion and academic side. Not all who believe in the possibility of a God fit in that one cookie cutter mold of faith that claims only one way is right or sees Divine interference everywhere. Not all believers eschew science and reason. So the issue, IMO, is the KIND of faith or religion one follows, as opposed to merely believing or being religious at all. Is it a way of faith that encourages exploration, communication, and isn't limiting or binding? Is it a way of faith that prohibits alternative interpretations and understandings? Where is authority placed? What does it teach about mankind and the nature of man? Does it build up barriers and boundaries between mankind, or does it work to tear down barriers in an effort for peace and brotherhood? Is it something that can engage in interfaith communication, or does it have to dominate and stand alone? etc

    Answer by bandgeek521 at 12:35 PM on Jun. 5, 2013

  • In modern usage, "cult" has connotations beyond just a small group of people who believe differently than others in society. "Cult"has come to mean a group that disempowers its members, alienates them from friends and family, and takes advantage of them in some way by the use of blind faith and absolute obedience. There are those who would say religion in general fits that description, but there's a big difference between freely going to a church and participating, adding to the collection plate even, and moving to the jungles of Guyana and drinking the Kool-Ade.

    Answer by Ballad at 2:39 PM on Jun. 5, 2013

  • numbers

    Answer by MamaK88 at 5:46 PM on Jun. 5, 2013

  • Cults have certain characteristics:
    - A charismatic leader who's worshipped unquestionably
    - An "us vs them" mentality- Exclusivism
    - A demand of separation from non-believers- Isolation
    - Demanding the individual give up his possessions to the group
    - Implications of repercussions if the person wants to leave the group

    Answer by momto2boys973 at 12:00 AM on Jun. 6, 2013

  • The extremists have given the word 'cult' a bad rap.

    Answer by anng.atlanta at 11:19 AM on Jun. 6, 2013

  • Nobody intelligent considers Mormonism a cult. That's the same type that thinks Jews killed Jesus.

    Answer by NotPanicking at 1:02 PM on Jun. 6, 2013

  • momto2boys973... The Pope, Islam verses every other faith out there, JW's being isolated from non-JW family, tithing or else, having to send a letter of resignation to the Mormon church to leave without being harassed. Almost every Religion fits one or more of the list items you presented. So, do they have to fit ALL the criteria in order to be called a cult or is one item on the list enough to have that label?

    Comment by IhartU (original poster) at 10:07 AM on Jun. 6, 2013