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What makes a religious group a cult is a denial of the essential doctrines of the Christian faith

Basically, what makes a religious group a cult is a denial of the essential doctrines of the Christian faith.

I want to ask however, how do you decide which demoniation has the correct doctrines in order to do a side by side comparrison to decide what is a cult and what isn't?

Catholics believe in Transubstantiation, but the Protestants don't, so does that mean one of them are a cult? The Baptists believe 'once saved, always saved' and that is not something the Methodists believe, so are one of them a cult?

How does one decide to brand a Christian sect or demonination a cult, and do those who are accused of being a cult think the other denominations are cults?


Asked by IhartU at 10:47 AM on Nov. 15, 2009 in Religion & Beliefs

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Answers (12)
  • Well that's not really the only thing that dictates what is a cult and what isn't. In point of fact a cult has a limited amount of members and are NOT recognized by the government as a legal religion. What this boils down to however is that at one point all well known religions were in fact cults. They all started as belief systems with a limited membership, were not seen as legit religious paths and had different ideas from the rest... It only changes from cult to "religion" when the movement is large and a great number of people start to join. I know most people won't like this next statement, but all that proves that cults of and in themselves are not as negative as the name tends to imply now a days. While there are dangerous cults, most are simply small or new religious movements and no more dangerous than mainstream beliefs.

    Answer by SabrinaMBowen at 10:54 AM on Nov. 15, 2009

  • not all baptist denoms believe 'once saved, always saved'--FYI

    and, not all alleged cults are xtian in orientation. remember the sauna-deaths in the news recently? no where did i read this particular 'spiritual retreat' had basis in xtianity. yet, most people would dub this group/leader as cultish. wouldn't you agree?

    Answer by thehairnazi at 10:51 AM on Nov. 15, 2009

  • i mean, agree that they were dubbed as 'cultish'. i didn't personally see them this way..i just thought they were weird, and crazy. :)

    Answer by thehairnazi at 10:52 AM on Nov. 15, 2009

  • thehairnazi,

    Not all Baptists believe in the same thing, like you said, which makes me wonder: do those who believe in one thing automatically label the ones who don't 'wrong' or cultish in any way?

    Answer by IhartU at 10:54 AM on Nov. 15, 2009

  • I should clarify I'm speaking of christian cults in this question, not cults in general. I know there are many cults that are of other faiths/beliefs- even alien in origin!


    Answer by IhartU at 10:55 AM on Nov. 15, 2009

  • excellent points, sabrina!


    Answer by IhartU at 10:56 AM on Nov. 15, 2009

  • i don't think the word 'cult' ever comes into play when speaking of the different interpretations of scripture between xtian denoms. sure, some people (not the entire denom/church) will label another as 'wrong' or 'mislead' or 'misread'..but cultish, no. the basic belief among xtian denoms is the same..its the little sideroads that get tricky..which is why there are so many denoms. like any religion, you have differences of opinion or practices..does that cause the pagan religions to label one another as cult? probably not. JMO

    Answer by thehairnazi at 11:04 AM on Nov. 15, 2009

  • I think a lot of people throw the term "cult" around too much. You look at something like the FLDS and Warren Jeffs--THAT is a true blue cult. I'm still reading a book from an escapee, and some of the things he's done are horrific. To think that the FLDS still exists is insane. He has complete and total control of their lives. They can't even eat unless he tells them to. He rips families apart and assigns underage girls to marry old men. It's horrible. THAT is a real cult in my eyes.

    But two different denominations of Christianity wouldn't qualify as a dictionary definition of a cult to me. They still have their freedom to interpret the Bible as they see fit. They don't really have one figurehead forcing them to follow a certain doctrine.

    Answer by caitxrawks at 11:25 AM on Nov. 15, 2009

  • Each denomination defines "cult" differently. When I was in an inter-denominational Christian school (which served, gosh, who knows how many different Christian belief systems), we learned that a cults are defined by groups of people who (1) Follow a leader or prophet who by Biblcal definition is obviously false (2) Change the message of salvation and place a pricetag on it (3) Require strange rituals or wild beliefs for salvation or participation in the faith that are not even remotely Biblically based. (4) Emotional/pychological abuse may be involved. I do know Protestants who believe Catholicism is a cult and I do know Catholics that reciprocate the same sentiment towards Protestants. I have seen multiple denominations point fingers at others claiming others are a cult when it's more of a matter where they should be saying "I disagree, let's discuss this."

    Answer by NovemberLove at 11:35 AM on Nov. 15, 2009

  • Transubstatiation vs. Consubstantiation vs. Real Presence vs. just plain elements are all different ways of viewing the SAME ritual performed. The same for Paedo vs. Credobaptism. "Once saved always saved" is a misconception. Most denominations do not believe that there is any type of "get out of jail free" card. The more appropriate saying would be "IF TRULY saved, then always saved."

    My point is, few demoninations are so hung up on what they don't understand is church politics and that their belief systems aren't really that far apart as people might think. Unless there is very strange, abusive behavior and rituals that, of course, have no Biblical connection--people shouldn't be, and generally don't, accuse others of being a cult. The variously widely accepted Christian denominations all approach the same belief and message of salvation from different philosophies--that's it.

    Answer by NovemberLove at 11:40 AM on Nov. 15, 2009