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    01 Feb '13 11:081 edit
    I have noticed that in religious discussion that there has been the indiscriminate use of the term cult. For example i was listening to a radio program in which a rather right wing American evangelist termed Islam as not a religion but as a cult. On these very forums, Christianity has also been termed a cult, usually without much regard for what the term actually means. So what are the definitive characteristics of a cult, this is my question.
  2. Cape Town
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    01 Feb '13 12:32
    In my experience the word 'cult' is used as a derogatory term for a group/religion that you feel is so wrong that they don't really have the right to believe what they believe. Essentially you don't grant them 'religion' status and the respect that generally goes with it.
    It is especially used when you believe the founders / leaders of the group are frauds.
    It also tends to carry a hint that indoctrination is used and is thus suggesting that members of a 'cult' need rescuing.

    Of course some atheists have argued that the respect given to all religions is excessive and that all religions should be treated as 'cults'.
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    01 Feb '13 14:152 edits
    Originally posted by twhitehead
    In my experience the word 'cult' is used as a derogatory term for a group/religion that you feel is so wrong that they don't really have the right to believe what they believe. Essentially you don't grant them 'religion' status and the respect that generally goes with it.
    It is especially used when you believe the founders / leaders of the group are frau ven to all religions is excessive and that all religions should be treated as 'cults'.
    yes this is fine and good, however, can we try to establish some general characteristics of a cult, for example, they have a charismatic and dominant leader, Aum Shinrikyo in Japan, leader, Shoko Asahara or the Branch Davidiands who were laid under siege in Waco Texas, leader David Koresh. Both of these are termed cults and both had charismatic and dominant leaders, can we therefore put forth the proposition that by definition, a cult must have a charismatic and dominant leader who defines the cult ethos?
  4. Standard memberKepler
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    01 Feb '13 14:31
    Originally posted by robbie carrobie
    yes this is fine and good, however, can we try to establish some general characteristics of a cult, for example, they have a charismatic and dominant leader, Aum Shinrikyo in Japan, leader, Shoko Asahara or the Branch Davidiands who were laid under siege in Waco Texas, leader David Koresh.
    The Roman Catholic Church under the current Pope (referred to by some as God's Rottweiler and the Panzer Pope). Not the Anglican Church as recent archbishops of Canterbury have had all the charisma of overcooked Brussels sprouts. Not Islam as there is no one leader although no doubt various bits count as cults by your measure.

    I can see that your choice of a single charismatic leader as a defining feature automagically excludes the Jehovah's Witnesses as a cult since their leaders are virtually invisible. I prefere this from another thread: "a group or sect bound together by veneration of the same thing, person, ideal, etc." which has the fortunate side effect of making atheism a cult by virtue of the veneration of the ideal of godlessness.

    By your definition, several governments and companies are cults or have been in the recent past. Apple, for instance, had a charismatic and dominant leader in Steve Jobs. Actually, I think Apple might well be a cult! My nearest and dearest all worship at the Temple of Steve in Exeter's Princesshay on a regular basis while I quizz the priests on why I should pay so much for a shiny silver box that doesn't do what I want.
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    01 Feb '13 14:592 edits
    Originally posted by Kepler
    The Roman Catholic Church under the current Pope (referred to by some as God's Rottweiler and the Panzer Pope). Not the Anglican Church as recent archbishops of Canterbury have had all the charisma of overcooked Brussels sprouts. Not Islam as there is no one leader although no doubt various bits count as cults by your measure.

    I can see that your choice of he priests on why I should pay so much for a shiny silver box that doesn't do what I want.
    It also has the unfortunate effect of making Glasgow Celtic football supporters a cult, being a group, bound together by the same thing, person or ideal. Football certainly is a religion to some, they have hymns they sing in the form of football songs, idols they venerate in the form of players stadiums as places of worship. Yes apple is a cult, they have shrines and edifices to their leaders. So can we conclude that in order to be a cult, a charismatic leader must be a defining characteristic. As for the leadership of Jehovahs Witnesses being invisible, well that remains a matter of extreme conjecture but i don't want to get sidetracked with that now, but it raises another interesting point, that of secrecy. Can secrecy be a defining characteristic of a cult. We often hear of certain levels that are not open to the uninitiated, for example, Scientology, which has levels and a charismatic founder which defined its ethos.
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    01 Feb '13 15:091 edit
    Originally posted by robbie carrobie
    I have noticed that in religious discussion that there has been the indiscriminate use of the term cult. For example i was listening to a radio program in which a rather right wing American evangelist termed Islam as not a religion but as a cult. On these very forums, Christianity has also been termed a cult, usually without much regard for what t ...[text shortened]... term actually means. So what are the definitive characteristics of a cult, this is my question.
    Christianity was certainly described as a cult at one time although the barrier to entry or exit of the religion is so low that it is hardly evident.

    Some cultist groups do have charismatic leaders although the presence of one does not make a cult nor does the absence of one exclude the group from being a cult.

    The lowest common denominator in my opinion, is the cost of entry or exit to/from the group especially when that cost is magnified by the remaining group members into psychological punishment.

    For example I can remain a Christian irrespective of whether I join or leave any group whatsoever; however to join your particular brand of Christianity I MUST become a member of your organisation, bear the name and obey the rules.

    For you to leave your group the cost would be socially and psychologically catastrophic for you. Hence my viewpoint and posting position.
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    01 Feb '13 15:162 edits
    Originally posted by divegeester
    Christianity was certainly described as a cult at one time although the barrier to entry or exit of the religion is so low that it is hardly evident.

    Some cultist groups do have charismatic leaders although the presence of one does not make a cult nor does the absence of one exclude the group from being a cult.

    The lowest common denominator in my o ...[text shortened]... be socially and psychologically catastrophic for you. Hence my viewpoint and posting position.
    by your definition jail would be a cult, leaving or entering a country as a fugitive would be a cult, as would the inhumane and indiscriminate use of drones to attack so called militants. If i found it difficult to speak up or attend an alcoholics anonymous meeting it could be termed a cult.
  8. SubscriberProper Knob
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    01 Feb '13 15:18
    Originally posted by robbie carrobie
    by your definition jail would be a cult.
    No one chooses to go to jail.
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    01 Feb '13 15:18
    Originally posted by robbie carrobie
    It also has the unfortunate effect of making Glasgow Celtic football supporters a cult, being a group, bound together by the same thing, person or ideal. Football certainly is a religion to some, they have hymns they sing in the form of football songs, idols they venerate in the form of players stadiums as places of worship. Yes apple is a cult, th ...[text shortened]... , for example, Scientology, which has levels and a charismatic founder which defined its ethos.
    a football teams supporters do not all have to follow the same rules though. if it were a cult there would be a strict, excessive code or law that all would be forced to follow. my personal opinion is that a cult is subjective, even the dictionary description of the word is pretty vague. i would say any religion that says you will die if you do not follow it is asserting excessive rules upon people and is therefore a cult (although the dictionary says cults are small, but then again does not define what small is).
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    01 Feb '13 15:202 edits
    Originally posted by Proper Knob
    No one chooses to go to jail.
    No one is saying that anyone does, the point is that the assertion has been made that entering or leaving a place of psychological pressure should be termed a cult, we might as well throw in the theatre of war while we are at it or going to the dentist to have root treatment.
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    01 Feb '13 15:262 edits
    Originally posted by stellspalfie
    a football teams supporters do not all have to follow the same rules though. if it were a cult there would be a strict, excessive code or law that all would be forced to follow. my personal opinion is that a cult is subjective, even the dictionary description of the word is pretty vague. i would say any religion that says you will die if you do not foll ...[text shortened]... lt (although the dictionary says cults are small, but then again does not define what small is).
    on the contrary there are certain codes and standards of behaviour that are expected of all football supporters, and if one contravenes that code, one is liable to be banished from the game. Are some not given a life time ban and cannot congregate with the other supporters for some gross misdemeanour? What is more, there exists at football matches, a mob mentality, in which the individual conscience can somehow fail as a safeguard as personal responsibility is diminished by virtue of being in a large crowd. This was demonstrated in the London riots, people caught up in the melee who , because they saw other people doing it, thought that it was acceptable behaviour, the mob mentality had taken over as their sense of personal responsibility was diminished.
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    01 Feb '13 15:27
    Originally posted by divegeester
    Christianity was certainly described as a cult at one time although the barrier to entry or exit of the religion is so low that it is hardly evident.

    Some cultist groups do have charismatic leaders although the presence of one does not make a cult nor does the absence of one exclude the group from being a cult.

    The lowest common denominator in my o ...[text shortened]... be socially and psychologically catastrophic for you. Hence my viewpoint and posting position.
    but what if you decide not to be a christian?
  13. SubscriberFMF
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    01 Feb '13 15:32
    Originally posted by robbie carrobie
    on the contrary there are certain codes and standards of behaviour that are expected of football supporters, and if one contravenes that code, one is liable to be banished from the game. are some not given a life time ban and cannot congregate with the other supporters? what is more, their exists at football matches, a mob mentality, in which the i ...[text shortened]... iour, the mob mentality had taken over as their sense of personal responsibility was diminished.
    Fanatical football fans have the 'freedom' to criticize players, managers, front office, signings and so on [vehemently so], just as they can be inclined (and permitted) to idolize players, doggedly defend managers, hear no cross words said about front office, and welcome signings [also vehemently so] etc. etc. Football fandom is probably a pretty poor example of a group "having to follow the same rules". It's an analogy that does not stand up to much scrutiny.
  14. SubscriberProper Knob
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    01 Feb '13 15:33
    Originally posted by robbie carrobie
    No one is saying that anyone does, the point is that the assertion has been made that entering or leaving a place of psychological pressure should be termed a cult, we might as well throw in the theatre of war while we are at it or going to the dentist to have root treatment.
    No one has mentioned a 'place of psychological pressure'.
  15. Cape Town
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    01 Feb '13 15:57
    Originally posted by robbie carrobie
    .....can we try to establish some general characteristics of a cult, for example, they have a charismatic and dominant leader, ....
    .... can we therefore put forth the proposition that by definition, a cult must have a charismatic and dominant leader who defines the cult ethos?
    I think we can give general characteristics of what people generally mean when they say 'cult', but I do not think one can go so far as to tie down the definition. I do not think a charismatic or dominant leader is a requirement before one can call a group a cult.
    On the other hand I am generally against the use of the word altogether as it is, as I said, normally intended as a derogatory term.
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