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Cults and legitimate religion: a fine line

Leugen9001
Posts: 495
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1/8/2016 5:18:40 AM
Posted: 11 months ago
Successful manipulators often get their way by tapping into people's weak points, namely emotion, and cult leaders know that trick well. When a cult leader seeks to start a cult, he usually makes his new spiritual ideas reference existing religious teachings that people are emotionally attached to in order to influence people as much as possible. He might claim that previous religious texts have been misinterpreted, and then subsequently offer his "correct", "uncorrupted" version of the sacred writings in question. The adherents of the cult then become a tightly knit group brought together by the cult leader's teachings, which often tell them to stop contacting the outside world. Being brainwashed, they become the cult leader's pawns that can be used by him to achieve his goals, usually wealth. Everyone, regardless of whether or not they're religious, thinks that cults are bad; however, some suggest that many of the world's major religions started as cults, and after their founders died, they became more moderate and less extreme, eventually becoming legitimate religious orientations.

Many legitimate religions' founders say that the world had been misinterpreting existing religious literature, and that they have the true interpretation. Others say that they have uncovered or received new religious revelations. This has lead to allegations that they are cults. For instance, Mormonism, which has been labeled as a cult by its critics, was started by Joseph Smith, who claimed that he was a prophet that received new religious teachings. Smith authored new religious texts, starting his new Christian sect. Going back in history, even religions which modern new religion movements are often based upon--including Christianity and Islam, have been labeled as cults by their critics. Some historians say that Christianity started as a small, regional cult that grew for many reasons, including the martyrdom that occurred under Roman rule. Other historians assert that Islam was created with the intention of appealing to Christians, as it states that the Bible is correct, but corrupted. As expected, these criticisms are controversial, perhaps more so than the same criticisms waged against more recent religious movements, possibly because of the fact that many historians subscribe to those religions.

Perhaps "cult" is a loaded word that had become nothing but a piece of rhetoric people throw against religious systems that they don't like. Labelling something a "cult" makes people look at it in disdain: many mass murders and suicides, including the infamous Jonestown "don't drink the powdered drink beverage" incident and a terrorist attack on Japanese public transit by Aum Shrinkyo, were caused by cults. In some cases, this can allow not-so-bright people to discredit any major religious system without using any proper arguments, simply by labelling it as a dangerous "cult".

Then again, some not-so-pleasant actions have been done by members of a major religion ostensibly for religious purposes in the past. Homophobic hate crimes, abortion clinic bombings, and terrorist attacks all have been done in the name of religion. I believe that those unfortunate events are being exploited as political by people who would like to paint legitimate religions as dangerous cults; for instance, some have lamented that religion, an "outdated, barbaric system that has no place in modern society", is responsible for a plethora of immoral events.

Where should we draw the line between a cult and a legitimate belief system? Are all religions cults, or is "cult" just a snarl word used to discredit legitimate beliefs?
:) nac
Jovian
Posts: 1,719
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1/11/2016 3:56:23 PM
Posted: 11 months ago
At 1/8/2016 5:18:40 AM, Leugen9001 wrote:
Successful manipulators often get their way by tapping into people's weak points, namely emotion, and cult leaders know that trick well. When a cult leader seeks to start a cult, he usually makes his new spiritual ideas reference existing religious teachings that people are emotionally attached to in order to influence people as much as possible. He might claim that previous religious texts have been misinterpreted, and then subsequently offer his "correct", "uncorrupted" version of the sacred writings in question. The adherents of the cult then become a tightly knit group brought together by the cult leader's teachings, which often tell them to stop contacting the outside world. Being brainwashed, they become the cult leader's pawns that can be used by him to achieve his goals, usually wealth. Everyone, regardless of whether or not they're religious, thinks that cults are bad; however, some suggest that many of the world's major religions started as cults, and after their founders died, they became more moderate and less extreme, eventually becoming legitimate religious orientations.

Many legitimate religions' founders say that the world had been misinterpreting existing religious literature, and that they have the true interpretation. Others say that they have uncovered or received new religious revelations. This has lead to allegations that they are cults. For instance, Mormonism, which has been labeled as a cult by its critics, was started by Joseph Smith, who claimed that he was a prophet that received new religious teachings. Smith authored new religious texts, starting his new Christian sect. Going back in history, even religions which modern new religion movements are often based upon--including Christianity and Islam, have been labeled as cults by their critics. Some historians say that Christianity started as a small, regional cult that grew for many reasons, including the martyrdom that occurred under Roman rule. Other historians assert that Islam was created with the intention of appealing to Christians, as it states that the Bible is correct, but corrupted. As expected, these criticisms are controversial, perhaps more so than the same criticisms waged against more recent religious movements, possibly because of the fact that many historians subscribe to those religions.

Perhaps "cult" is a loaded word that had become nothing but a piece of rhetoric people throw against religious systems that they don't like. Labelling something a "cult" makes people look at it in disdain: many mass murders and suicides, including the infamous Jonestown "don't drink the powdered drink beverage" incident and a terrorist attack on Japanese public transit by Aum Shrinkyo, were caused by cults. In some cases, this can allow not-so-bright people to discredit any major religious system without using any proper arguments, simply by labelling it as a dangerous "cult".

Then again, some not-so-pleasant actions have been done by members of a major religion ostensibly for religious purposes in the past. Homophobic hate crimes, abortion clinic bombings, and terrorist attacks all have been done in the name of religion. I believe that those unfortunate events are being exploited as political by people who would like to paint legitimate religions as dangerous cults; for instance, some have lamented that religion, an "outdated, barbaric system that has no place in modern society", is responsible for a plethora of immoral events.

Where should we draw the line between a cult and a legitimate belief system? Are all religions cults, or is "cult" just a snarl word used to discredit legitimate beliefs?

I sadly have to TLDR this right now. But I think the one of the most important differences is about the question of whether the members should engage in the rest of the society or not.

A non-cult has no problems in you hanging out with unbelievers, whereas for example JW only allows you to be around coworkers of whatever while you are working, and also socialize with your family, even though your family members are non-JWs. I might be wrong though about JW.

Some cults even take it further and forces you to leave your family, because it is against the teachings of the cults that you shouldn't have anything to do with unbelievers.