Religion as a Cult
What is the difference between a cult and a religion? Some of the earliest forms of religion, dating back to the beginnings of humanity’ and conceptual thinking, first appeared as cults. The word “cult,” however, often holds stigma today that religions do not. While many may argue that cults and religion are entirely different, I believe perspective is key. Cults, especially Christianity, bear an extreme resemblance to religions and in many cases either become a well-known religion or cease to exist.
In the November 201 3 issue of Harpers magazine, Nathaniel Rich explains he work of David Sullivan, an expert called in to cases where families have lost their loved ones to ludicrous cults around the United States. Rich describes accounts Of Sullivan successful retrievals Of individuals from cults, and even a time where Sullivan completely eliminates a cult called the Mother Divine Love Foundation (Rich 42). Although few may argue whether these individuals needed saving or not from the gruesome details Rich divulges in his article, the entire concept of a cult sparked curiosity in my mind.As a firm Atheist, I started recognizing similarities in these bizarre groups and there monotheistic religions, Christianity in particular. Heinous acts of violence, although not common today, were common in the beginnings of Christianity, before the birth of Christ and therefore the obvious distinction as “Christians”. Sacrifices such as goats and other animals was popular practice. As the Bible reads, a man nearly sacrificed his son for his God.
This was certainly not the only similarity I noticed.Rich writes, “The spiritual groups, he [Sullivan] soon realized, shared a simple tactic: they demanded that their followers suspend critical thought” (36). As a “hardcore atheist” himself, Sullivan should have made the connection to modern religion with this thought. Depending on what you believe to be “critical thought,” religions could most certainly suspend what some may consider logical thinking. The fact that God created Adam and Eve and had two sons, one of which killed the other but we are all descendents of this family, aside, logical thinking is not apparent throughout the Bible.Christians are implored to believe the ridiculous stories that even children would question were it not for their parents’ , in some cases, unwavering belief as well. Christians themselves loud most likely find other areas of study such as science and paleontology absolutely absurd on the basis of their ability to breakdown key beliefs in religion, and they are not the only ones.
Countless other religions that, in my opinion, could be deemed as cults often separate themselves from what they believe to be barbaric practices.My entire basis of distant observation lies in the idea that perhaps it depends solely on how a person views the world and the definitions they place on religious practices and their bearings whether or not there is a distinction whatsoever between religions and cults. Eileen Barker writes, in her article “The Scientific Study of Religion? You Must Be Joking! “, that “… Cults are, almost by definition, bound to practice deception and are probably dangerous. Deception can be quite a funny word, however, when taking into consideration that all individuals, no matter what religion or cult they may belong to, often deceive hundreds of individuals in some way while promoting their ideas.
Tiny differences and beliefs in many religions often lead to separate sects where they are categorized as simply not true. For instance, Baptists believe you cannot “fall from the grace of God” (King Interview). Once baptized, your sins can always be ‘Heaved away” if you only ask God. “Jesus is your lawyer in the court of Life.He died for you, he died for your sins, he cannot undo this anymore than you can. Because of him, if you are saved by the glory of God, you will always be saved” (King Interview). Other sects of Christianity believe this to not be true and members are often baptized multiple times.
L, myself was baptized on multiple occasions while practicing Christianity. So who is right? Who is deceiving when they speak of this minute difference? The answer, believe, points to no one and everyone simultaneously. Cults are seen as scams, however, as Rich admits in his article, some cult leaders Often start to believe their own lies.Let us not mention that countless religious leaders reveal themselves to be phonies on a yearly basis around the world. The next conclusion about cults made by Barker is that they are dangerous. Once again, this lies in what one might see as danger. Many religions can be dangerous when practiced in certain locations around the world.
Religious practices often involve “fasting. ” I may only have a few years of Biology under my belt, but I happen to know that starving oneself cannot be healthy. Neither can becoming a martyr, a practice glorified in many religions.As dove deeper into my research, I found even more astonishing similarities between religions and cults. The Integration Cultic Studies Association has a convenient “cult checklist” on their website. Written by Dry. Ganja Alice and Dry.
Michael Lange, it contains a total of fifteen characteristics of cults. One of them being, ‘The group displays excessively zealous and unquestioning commitment to its leader and (whether he is alive or dead) regards his belief system, ideology, and practices as the Truth, as law’ (Alice, Lange).Sounds a lot like the devout worshipping of The Holy Trinity, a spirit so jealous, as the Bible dictates, it is actually one of the ten laws of Christians to not worship any other Gods but Him, and is both alive and dead. And another,”Questioning doubt, and dissent are discouraged or even punished” (Alice, Lange). Many religions have some form of spiritual deliverance if they succeed in following the word of their leader and will have some divine retribution for nonbelievers or hypocrites. “The leadership dictates, sometimes in great detail, how members should think, act, and feel” (Alice, Lange).Most elisions have a set Of rules or guidelines for life that, if not followed, will result in the aforementioned retribution.
“The group has a polarize us- versus-them mentality, which may cause conflict with the wider society’ (Alice, Lange) In today’s world, particularly the united States, some religions feel so entitled they believe actual laws should be put in place based on their belief systems. The terms “sinners” and “nonbelievers” making up the vast majority of those opposed to their beliefs, they cause tension politically and socially for themselves as a whole. ‘The group is preoccupied in bringing n new members” (Alice, Lange). Missionaries, as they are called, travel to foreign countries at the risk of their own lives to promote their religion. Jehovah Witnesses, for example, go door-to-door proclaiming only 140,000 individuals will succeed in being the chosen ones yet they still hand out thousands of packets and willingly sit at people’s houses to talk about their religion. These coincidental similarities between religions and cults only vilify my position on the matter: religions can be seen as cults, and vice versa. This statement brings me to the conclusion wish to derive.
Perhaps it is possible that all religions began as some small group of individuals seen as cults, and gradually gained enough followers to be seen as reasonable systems of life. The categorization of radical thinking, although in some cases may be justifiable as seen by David Sullivan, Only discourages new religions from arising. People will, in their endeavors, always seek comfort and spiritual wellness. Wherever they find it, be it a religion or a cult, their beliefs are no more ludicrous and their practices no more barbaric than those that took place in the dawn of all forms of religion.