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What's the difference between a cult and a religion?

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  • Arch
    Lv 7
    10 months ago
    Favorite Answer

    That depends on who you ask.

    I think most psychologists define a "cult" by the degree to which the group's leader maintains direct, minute control over the lives of the people. In a "cult", the group's leader is often seen as divine or being a prophet who alone can communicate directly with God. But it takes more that that. The leader has to either be in direct control over the lives of each individual member of the cult, or there needs to be a hierarchy to accomplish the same.

    By direct control, we mean over minute details like choosing who each member will marry (they often take the sexiest members for themselves), where they live, and what they do for a living. They generally take most or all of the members' incomes for the good of the cult.

    Cults generally try to limit the members' contact and communication with anyone OUTSIDE the cult. And family members or friends not part of the cult are to be shunned, in most cults. This, of course, feeds into the whole control thing.

    This is why we do not generally classify the Roman Catholic Church as a cult. Yes, the Pope is seen by Catholics as being able to speak directly for God, but does he really have direct control over the world's Catholics? How many American Catholics use birth control against the Pope's teaching? And aside from some rules about who can get married in the Church, the Pope certainly doesn't choose spouses, occupations, or residences for members. Also, Catholics are certainly not taught to shun non-Catholic family members.

    The same is true, IMO, of the Latter Day Saints. Yes, their "Prophet" is thought to speak for God, but how much power does he really exercise over things like where to live, who to marry, or what to do for a living. And Mormons will gladly be friends with non-Mormons.

    This is why cults are GENERALLY small. The larger a group gets, the harder it gets to control individual members' lives.

    The Boston Church of Christ is often viewed as one of the larger cults. While the organization is far too large for the leader to maintain the requisite control over members, they have a very ingenious hierarchical system in which local leaders maintain control over a small group, and then report back to leaders higher up.

    And certainly the "Prophet" of the FLDS, an offshoot of the LDS, maintains rigid control over members' lives, and is one of the better known cults. Their famous leader, Warren Jeffs, is still in prison.

    I disagree with the definition of "cult" used by many Evangelicals in which basically anything NOT evangelical Christianity, except for Judaism, is considered a "cult". It's simply too broad a definition. They fail to distinguish between "cult" and "false religion". And often make no pretense of trying to distinguish. I think that is intellectually dishonest.

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  • 7 months ago

    It depends on how you define a cult.   All religions are cults by one definition.   If you mean a very extreme religion or group,  think Charles Manson and his followers,  the Branch Davidians,  Jim Jones and his followers.   Mostly the word cult is used in a derogatory way for the purpose of being mean to others,  or a lazy way to discredit an organization without actually having to do the work of actually disproving it.   Slap an unflattering label and hope simple minded people believe it.  

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  • Raja
    Lv 7
    10 months ago

    As far as I knew, a religion has cult but a cult need not has a religion.

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  • 10 months ago

    A religion asks for 10% of your income, a cult gets it all.

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  • 10 months ago

    The term cult is often avoided as it means many things to many people but the following references give the general idea:

    "The World Book Encyclopedia explains that “traditionally, the term cult referred to any form of worship or ritual observance.” By that criterion, all religious organizations could be classified as cults. However, in general usage today, the word “cult” has a different meaning. The same encyclopedia notes that “since the mid-1900’s, publicity about cults has altered the meaning of the term. Today, the term is applied to groups that follow a living leader who promotes new and unorthodox doctrines and practices.”

    Endorsing the popular usage of the term, Newsweek magazine explains that cults “are normally small, fringe groups whose members derive their identity and purpose from a single, charismatic individual.” Similarly, Asiaweek magazine notes that “the term [cult] itself is vague, but it usually denotes a new religious creed built around a charismatic leader, who often proclaims himself to be the personification of God.”

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  • 10 months ago

    Not all cults are religious.

    There are cults of politics, or fashion, or sport etc.

    But not all politics, fashion or sport are cults.

    The difference is whether whatever it is you are supporting is controlling the information you are taking in, and making monetary / time requirements of you that are unreasonable, and threatening you with scary consequences if you try to leave or weaning you away from family / friends who are not supportive of the group.

    Many religions do not try to exert such control over members, therefore they cannot be said to be religious cults.

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  • 10 months ago

    You can leave a religion anytime you like. A cult won't let you leave.

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  • 10 months ago

    A cult controls and claims exclusivity.

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  • 10 months ago

    "Cult" has become a 'four-letter-word' used by some atheists to denigrate religion. In the modern use of the word, "cult" refers to religious groups led by charismatic leaders who preach unorthodox views.

    Source(s): Greek Orthodox Christian
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    • Anonymous
      Lv 4
      7 months agoReport

      You are trying to imply that a cult is a religion that is simply not YOUR cup of tea,  is a cult.   As always.   

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  • Anonymous
    10 months ago

    the definition of cult changed over time where now it means a group of people who murder people who don't follow their beliefs or just murder for fun like heaven's gate,the KKK, and Charles Manson's cult, cult originally was a synonym to religion and meant a group of people believing in a higher power, i usually think of Joseph's cult in far cry 5 which is basically an example of what modern cults are like.

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  • Hogie
    Lv 7
    10 months ago

    Depends upon the religion you are referring to.

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