When is a cult a religion and when is a religion a cult?

By Dark Politricks

Watching The Big Questions this morning (2 articles this show has now spawmed) there was only one question which was “What’s the difference between a Cult and Organised Religion”

On one side were the standard old age religionis, Christians, Catholics, Rabbis and Muslims and on the other side we had members of existing “new” religions such as Raelians, Moonies – or as they are called now members of the “Unification Church”, an ex member of the Branch Davidians which if you remember was the target of the ATF and FBI ended up in a state sanctioned massacre of 82 religious people.

The audience was also filled with ex members of cults, physchologists who have studied the “brainwashing” techinques used by such called groups and other affected by these groups in one way of another.

In my mind it is quite simple but lets look at a definition of a Cult

  • a particular system of religious worship, especially with reference to its rites and ceremonies.
  • an instance of great veneration of a person, ideal, or thing, especially as manifested by a body of admirers: the physical fitness cult.
  • the object of such devotion.
  • a group or sect bound together by veneration of the same thing, person, ideal, etc.
  • Sociology . a group having a sacred ideology and a set of rites centering around their sacred symbols.

Lets look at the definition of a Religion

  • a set of beliefs concerning the cause, nature, and purpose of the universe, especially when considered as the creation of a superhuman agency or agencies, usually involving devotional and ritual observances, and often containing a moral code governing the conduct of human affairs.
  • a specific fundamental set of beliefs and practices generally agreed upon by a number of persons or sects: the Christian religion; the Buddhist religion.
  • the body of persons adhering to a particular set of beliefs and practices: a world council of religions.
  • the life or state of a monk, nun, etc. to enter religion.
  • the practice of religious beliefs – ritual observance of faith.

In mine and many in the audiences (apart from those belonging to organised religions) not much differece.

Jesus was supposedly a characteristic person who had followers – apparantly a key sign of a cult. The same could be said about Mohammed, Buddha, Hari Krishna and many other “old religions”.

The disagreement seems to be as one person said one of size. The Catholic Chuch is a huge and rich organisation whereas some of the orgainisations called cults such as the Raelians who believe we were created (just as scientisits on this planet are now starting to do with DNA) by human beings from another planet in the universe.

A case of aliens geo-engineering the earth and it’s inhabitants. When compared to some of the stories that the “official” religions believe in such as virgin births, coming back to life after dying and performing miracles not too bizare a belief.

What got my interest though was that one of the audience members said to an ex member of the Branch Davidians asked whether the leader David Koresh sexually abused children at the branch. The member denied this but others of the “scientific” community said that one of the signs of a cult as compared to a religion was the sexual abuse that was endemic within cults which had such charesmatic leaders that the followers did whatever he said due to brain washing techniques as well as the cult of personality. This seemed to be a big difference between living your life by a set of defined values (as Christians, Jews and Muslims supposedly do) whilst cult members didn’t.

There wasn’t any mention of the numerous cases of sexual abuses, pedophilia, cover ups and criminal cases over the years that have been engrained in “old religons” since their conception.

We have just experience a major Catholic cover up over its treatment of pedophile priests which led all the way up to the ex Nazi Youth Pope. Court case after case in Ireland has shown the Catholic Church to be one of the biggest organised pedophole rings in the world – and one of the most well funded and protected.

The same sort of sexual abuse has been endemic in Christian history for a long time. Why a man of breeding age would willingly chose abstinence and the company of little boys over a normal life seems obvious to me but in these times where psychology would give more than one answer it seems like an old excuse to hide ones sexual pedidocs from the community at large.

Islam has always had its critics from those who called the original “cult leader” Mohammed certain terms for the age of some of his wives. However in some states of America where the age in some states it’s 18 you might call the Spannish strange for having an age of consent of only 13 and other European countries from 13, 14 up to 18. Even in some places in Africa and Asia is not uncommon for child weddings where an old man takes a 12 year old as a wife.

From Wikipedia:

Traditionally, across the world, the age of consent for a sexual union was a matter for the family to decide, or a tribal custom. In most cases, this coincided with signs of puberty, menstruation for a woman and pubic hair for a man.

In Ancient Rome, it was very common for girls to marry and have children shortly after the onset of puberty.
The first recorded age-of-consent law dates back 800 years: In 1275, in England, as part of the rape law, a statute, Westminster 1, made it a misdemeanor to “ravish” a “maiden within age,” whether with or without her consent. The phrase “within age” was interpreted by jurist Sir Edward Coke as meaning the age of marriage, which at the time was 12 years of age.

In the 12th century Gratian, the influential founder of Canon law in medieval Europe, accepted age of puberty for marriage to be between 12 and 14 but acknowledged consent to be meaningful if the children were older than 7. There were authorities that said that consent could take place earlier. Marriage would then be valid as long as neither of the two parties annulled the marital agreement before reaching puberty, or if they had already consummated the marriage. It should be noted that Judges honored marriages based on mutual consent at ages younger than 7, in spite of what Gratian had said; there are recorded marriages of 2 and 3 year olds.

And then there is the Jewish Talmud, the book of laws made by Rabbis that is full of teachings that allow Rabbis to have sex with girls of extremley young ages or not consider rape illegal if the man was a rabbi. These Talmudic laws have been known for a long time but are not unique for an age in which rape wasn’t even considered a crime.

Even in England raping your wife wasn’t considered a crime until back in 1990.

So sexual behaviour cannot be considered a sign of cultish behaviour. However when a science fiction writer claims that “the best way to make a million dollars is to start a religion” and then goes on to do exactly that.

Charging people thousands of dollars for learning it’s many steps up to the big reveal, the “ultimate secret” one that wouldn’t be out of place in any science fiction book:

Scientologists believe that 75 million years ago an evil galactic ruler, named Xenu, solved overpopulation by bringing trillions of people to Earth in DC-8 space planes, stacking them around volcanoes and nuking them. Then the souls of these dead space aliens were captured and boxed up and taken to cinemas where they were shown films of what life should be like, false ideas containing God, the devil and Christ and told to get ill.

After that they supposedly clustered together and now inhabit our bodies. Scientologists believe that if they rid themselves of these body Thetans then they will be healthier and will gain special powers like mind-over-matter.

People who try to leave are harassed, treated as traitors and have even had to face legal cases over their revelations of the “big secret” that people like Tom Cruise and John Travolata pay up to $500,000 for this top secret information. No wonder the Church of Scientology wants to keeps it’s big secret secret!

So there seems to be clear cases of made up religions that can be called cults, in which the aim of the organisation is to extract money from the member instead of a pay if you want to bag of donations passed around a Church on a Sunday morning. However it seems that if one were to go back to the start of each off shoot of the Abrahamic faith with today’s knowledge and science each new religion could easily fail into the class of a cult.

In my mind it is up to you what you want to believe but mocking anothers belief using claims that could easily fit your own brand of spiritual belief is stretching rationality at least a little.

When the definition of what is a religion and a cult are so indistinguishable from each other then maybe members of either grouping should stop to consider their beliefs before slagging off their opponents.

I’m right because my religious book says so therefore you must all be wrong is not a logical argument that stands up too long at all.

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One Response to “When is a cult a religion and when is a religion a cult?”

  1. Nikah Şekeri ve Davetiye Says:

    Nikah Şekeri ve Davetiye…

    […]When is a cult a religion and when is a religion a cult? « Dark Politics[…]…

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