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View Full Version : Religions and Cults: What's the difference?


DrPhil2501
10-13-2007, 09:54 PM
Though I am an Atheist, I have always wondered; what is the difference between a Religion and a Cult? I'm just curious...

I mean, they both seem to follow the same basic principles; they believe in something spiritual, or follow a belief. When you think about it, religions and cults are technically the same thing, but I just cannot seem to spot the difference.

Jae Onasi
10-13-2007, 10:03 PM
Religion:

re·li·gion (rĭ-lĭj'ən) Pronunciation Key
n.

1.
1. Belief in and reverence for a supernatural power or powers regarded as creator and governor of the universe.
2. A personal or institutionalized system grounded in such belief and worship.
2. The life or condition of a person in a religious order.
3. A set of beliefs, values, and practices based on the teachings of a spiritual leader.
4. A cause, principle, or activity pursued with zeal or conscientious devotion.

[Middle English religioun, from Old French religion, from Latin religiō, religiōn-, perhaps from religāre, to tie fast; see rely.]

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The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition
Copyright © 2006 by Houghton Mifflin Company.
Published by Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.

Cult:


cult (kŭlt) Pronunciation Key
n.

1.
1. A religion or religious sect generally considered to be extremist or false, with its followers often living in an unconventional manner under the guidance of an authoritarian, charismatic leader.
2. The followers of such a religion or sect.
3. Obsessive, especially faddish, devotion to or veneration for a person, principle, or thing.
4. The object of such devotion.
2. A system or community of religious worship and ritual.
3. The formal means of expressing religious reverence; religious ceremony and ritual.
4. A usually nonscientific method or regimen claimed by its originator to have exclusive or exceptional power in curing a particular disease.
5.
1. Obsessive, especially faddish, devotion to or veneration for a person, principle, or thing.
2. The object of such devotion.
6. An exclusive group of persons sharing an esoteric, usually artistic or intellectual interest.

[Latin cultus, worship, from past participle of colere, to cultivate; see kwel-1 in Indo-European roots.]

cul'tic, cult'ish adj., cult'ism n., cult'ist n.
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The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition
Copyright © 2006 by Houghton Mifflin Company.
Published by Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.

Religion in general is usually designed to venerate a deity. A cult usually forms because the cult leader wants to be venerated.

mimartin
10-13-2007, 10:41 PM
Religion in general is usually designed to venerate a deity. A cult usually forms because the cult leader wants to be venerated.
OFE

I have always wondered; what is the difference between a Religion and a Cult?
The effect the Kool-Aid has on the members. :(
Jonestown (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jonestown#Mass_murder-and-suicide)

SilentScope001
10-13-2007, 11:02 PM
Though I am an Atheist, I have always wondered; what is the difference between a Religion and a Cult? I'm just curious...

To me: A Cult is a religious group that hasn't reached the critical group when it can get accepted by the community. In other words, a cult is a religion-in-training. All religions start off as cults.

John Galt
10-14-2007, 02:29 PM
To me: A Cult is a religious group that hasn't reached the critical group when it can get accepted by the community. In other words, a cult is a religion-in-training. All religions start off as cults.

I support this message.

I think most new religions are viewed as cults until they either last long enough to be taken seriously, or if they manage to grow large enough to be considered "legitimate" religion.

adamqd
10-15-2007, 02:08 PM
the American Heritage Dictionary version of a cult seems to explain a cult the way I see Religion...

Achilles
10-15-2007, 05:52 PM
I support this message.

I think most new religions are viewed as cults until they either last long enough to be taken seriously, or if they manage to grow large enough to be considered "legitimate" religion.Correct. Christianity started off as a cult centered around Paul (acting as proxy for Jesus). Islam started off as a cult centered around Muhammad (acting as proxy for Allah). I have no reason to suspect that Judaism didn't have a similar beginning as well. I imagine if we went back far enough, we'd find an ancestral holy man (probably suffering from epilepsy or some other similar brain dysfunction) that has powerful spiritual experiences trying to "rally the troops" in accordance with his "visions".

Dagobahn Eagle
10-15-2007, 05:53 PM
SilentScope nails it.

PoiuyWired
10-15-2007, 07:53 PM
Simply put:

Size does matter.

Thats it.

Gargoyle King
10-15-2007, 08:42 PM
To me: A Cult is a religious group that hasn't reached the critical group when it can get accepted by the community. In other words, a cult is a religion-in-training. All religions start off as cults.Preciseamundo! :)
However i doubt extreme cults such as the Aum Shinrikyo would develop into a well loved and respected religion! :lol:

SilentScope001
10-15-2007, 09:42 PM
Support From The Many People Who Does Not Exactly Sympathize With Religions

Erm. Uh.

While I still stand by my message that cults are religions-in-training, I was not, in any way, attempting to disparge religions as evil or crazy or made-up entities. Just that it is how people preceive them...after all. (Like the "Cult of Reason" in the French Revolution. Or the "Cult of the Supreme Being", also from the French Revolution. Man, what if those cults actually turned into actual religions...alternate historians could seriously ponder this question for a while.)

Just stating my belief, that's all. Needed to make that clear.

DrPhil2501
10-16-2007, 07:57 AM
I like Scope's view of it so far, and it makes a lot more sense. To me, they do now sound like religions still currently in development.

Prime
10-16-2007, 11:38 AM
So there is a critical mass where a cult becomes a religion?

John Galt
10-16-2007, 12:08 PM
So there is a critical mass where a cult becomes a religion?

I think we're beginning to see Mormonism approach Critical Mass, especially considering that Mitt Romney is being moderately successful in the Republican primary race. I mean, we didn't elect a Roman Catholic President until 1960, and we haven't since. To see mormonism transform in the public perception from a fringe cult into a somewhat-accepted(depends what your slant is) religion in about 150 years is unprecedented.

PoiuyWired
10-16-2007, 01:27 PM
Preciseamundo! :)
However i doubt extreme cults such as the Aum Shinrikyo would develop into a well loved and respected religion! :lol:

But technically that can happen, even if it may be highly improbable.

As for an "ideal number" to be critical mass. It depends on many things, not jsut pure numbers. Obviously it would help if somewhat respectable/influential/popular personality would act as active member of a cult, but views on non-members does matter. Extreme actions of cult members tend to be negatively affact public relations, reducing the ability to absorb neothites.

That is also the reason why many cults (or even big religions) would sometimes do some charity work targeted at expansion of followers, as seen in the old 18th-20th century mssionary work where you get "free food stuff after church" and "free food stuff for destruction of other-religion items"

Groups also alter their own rituals to resemble already existing customs to prompt easy trasition into believer, like modified local holidays/celebrations and what not, or even rituals modified from other localized-other-religion.