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What makes a religion a cult?

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Diopolis
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Postby Diopolis » Wed Sep 11, 2019 7:08 am

When members are expected to cut ties with nonmember relatives as a default.
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Novus America
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Postby Novus America » Wed Sep 11, 2019 7:10 am

Dumb Ideologies wrote:It's mostly other people's reaction to it. Trying to define it by specific features of the religion itself is a slippery business.


I disagree, there are some features that distinguish what we call dangerous “cults” in the pejorative sense.
And avoid the moral relativism of “it is just personnel opinion on what religion you like”.

The main factors I think are:
1) Secret teachings. If a religious group or political organization hides its teachings, does not make all its scriptures public, requires you to reach a certain “level” before you can even access certain teachings, run. Stay away.

2) Pay to play. Most religious groups let you be a full member regardless of how much you pay, and have voluntarily contributions.
If you must pay to achieve levels, and get punished or expelled, or prohibited from moving on because you did not pay enough, run.

3) Societal isolation/ostracism. If the religious group requires you to reduce or cut off contact with other people, especially family members not part of it, and especially those who left, run.

4) Required to sign documents, like a contract to give them access to you finances, pay a certain amount per month, give up sensitive personal information it records and the like, run.

5) Authoritarian/no accountability. If the religion has an authoritarian system of governance where the method by the leader is chosen is unclear, and they are self appointed, if the religious group does not produce financial statements for the members, does not say how money is spent, how much employees and clergy are paid, has no auditors, etc., run.
Last edited by Novus America on Wed Sep 11, 2019 7:16 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Hammer Britannia
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Postby Hammer Britannia » Wed Sep 11, 2019 7:11 am

A cult, according to the modern definition, is any religion the someone doesn't like.

Weird edgy teens who kill goats? Cult
Christians? Cult
Islam? Cult
Pagans? Cult
All forms of Buddhism? Cult

According to my definition, however, a cult is any religion where community and service to god is placed over the individual. However, I don't use the word cult as a slanderous label and in fact I can see some cults as being Okay so long as nobody is being coerced.
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Postby Europa Undivided » Wed Sep 11, 2019 7:13 am

When it has around a few hundred members.
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Novus America
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Postby Novus America » Wed Sep 11, 2019 7:13 am

Kowani wrote:Popularity.


This is unhelpful moral relativism. There are different organization requirements and models, that allow for a fair enough comparison of which are using particularly worrisome requirements and organizational models.
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Think something like prewar Fallout, minus the bad stuff.

Politically I am an independent. Pragmatism is my ideology.

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Hammer Britannia
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Postby Hammer Britannia » Wed Sep 11, 2019 7:17 am

Europa Undivided wrote:When it has around a few hundred members.

So Scientology isn't a cult?
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Postby Page » Wed Sep 11, 2019 7:46 am

Hammer Britannia wrote:
Europa Undivided wrote:When it has around a few hundred members.

So Scientology isn't a cult?


Scientology is a cult for the people at the bottom, it's a business for the ones at the top, laughing their way to the bank about Xenu and thetans.
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Postby Caracasus » Wed Sep 11, 2019 7:57 am

Hammer Britannia wrote:
Europa Undivided wrote:When it has around a few hundred members.

So Scientology isn't a cult?


Technically not, no. Technically, as in legally speaking, it has the status as a religion in the US and a bunch of other countries. It's one of the reasons why new religious movement is probably a better label than cult.

Note that I'm absolutely not condoning the awful shit scientology gets up to here.
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Postby Evil Dictators Happyland » Wed Sep 11, 2019 8:01 am

In general, I'd say that any new religion is a cult, but it stops being a cult and starts being a religion if it survives the death of the founder and unites under a new religious head, because that proves that there was something that kept the followers together other than the founder's charisma.

EDIT: Yes, Scientology is not a cult by this definition. The Roman Catholic Church has done basically everything that Scientology is criticized for and more, but that alone did not make it a cult. We can criticize religions for being authoritarian and exploitative without insisting that they're not real religions.
Last edited by Evil Dictators Happyland on Wed Sep 11, 2019 8:04 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Postby United Muscovite Nations » Wed Sep 11, 2019 8:34 am

Thepeopl wrote:Cults mostly try to segregate their flock from the "unbelievers". They tend to live in remote places and they are not bound by the rules of society. (According to the guru/ leader)

^This is a good definition for the colloquial meaning.
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Postby Novus America » Wed Sep 11, 2019 8:43 am

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Page wrote:
Hammer Britannia wrote:So Scientology isn't a cult?


Scientology is a cult for the people at the bottom, it's a business for the ones at the top, laughing their way to the bank about Xenu and thetans.


Which goes back to my 5 criteria. Scientology hits all 5 “run” criteria. Especially 1, 2 and 3.

1) Secret teachings. If a religious group or political organization hides its teachings, does not make all its scriptures public, requires you to reach a certain “level” before you can even access certain teachings, run. Stay away.

2) Pay to play. Most religious groups let you be a full member regardless of how much you pay, and have voluntarily contributions.
If you must pay to achieve levels, and get punished or expelled, or prohibited from moving on because you did not pay enough, run.

3) Societal isolation/ostracism. If the religious group requires you to reduce or cut off contact with other people, especially family members not part of it, and especially those who left, run.

4) Required to sign documents, like a contract to give them access to you finances, pay a certain amount per month, give up sensitive personal information it records and the like, run.

5) Authoritarian/no accountability. If the religion has an authoritarian system of governance where the method by the leader is chosen is unclear, and they are self appointed, if the religious group does not produce financial statements for the members, does not say how money is spent, how much employees and clergy are paid, has no auditors, etc., run
Last edited by Novus America on Wed Sep 11, 2019 8:46 am, edited 1 time in total.
___|_|___ _|__*__|_

Zombie Ike/Teddy Roosevelt 2020.

Novus America represents my vision of an awesome Atompunk near future United States of America expanded to the entire North American continent, Guyana and the Philippines. The population would be around 700 million.
Think something like prewar Fallout, minus the bad stuff.

Politically I am an independent. Pragmatism is my ideology.

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Postby A m e n r i a » Wed Sep 11, 2019 8:49 am

SD_Film Artists wrote:
A m e n r i a wrote:The thing worshipped - if it's a demon, it's a cult.


But that's misguided even by cult standards, as why worship a demon when demons aren't gods? That's like a Christian worshipping an angel rather than God (since angels are basically demons but with better PR). Demons can be revered but not worshipped.


I don't know, ask any demon worshipper. The Black Goat and the Snake Queen offer monetary rewards though, so maybe some people are just that desperate.
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Myrensis
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Postby Myrensis » Wed Sep 11, 2019 9:48 am

All religions are cults. Some are just big enough or long lasting enough to claim some arbitrary distinction.

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Postby Luziyca » Wed Sep 11, 2019 9:53 am

Alvecia wrote:Time, popularity, and the lack thereof.

Essentially this.
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Postby Dogmeat » Wed Sep 11, 2019 9:55 am

A m e n r i a wrote:
SD_Film Artists wrote:
But that's misguided even by cult standards, as why worship a demon when demons aren't gods? That's like a Christian worshipping an angel rather than God (since angels are basically demons but with better PR). Demons can be revered but not worshipped.


I don't know, ask any demon worshipper. The Black Goat and the Snake Queen offer monetary rewards though, so maybe some people are just that desperate.

If this actually worked, Cults would be way more popular.
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Postby Kiruri » Wed Sep 11, 2019 10:00 am

-Ocelot- wrote:If you are not allowed to leave, it's a cult.


This sums it up nicely, perhaps a bit too much, but the point is that a cult, generally, is a hierarchical organization where its members are extremely limited in their freedom by the leadership of the entity they adhere to.
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Ard al Islam
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Postby Ard al Islam » Wed Sep 11, 2019 10:03 am

The way I see it, a religion based on the teachings of one who isn't a Prophet, is a cult. And the last Prophet was Muhammad, so any religion formed after CE 610 is a cult to me.
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Postby Greed and Death » Wed Sep 11, 2019 10:07 am

Secrecy is a big one. If the majority of your members are subjected to secret rituals and those rituals become the basis of why you are different/better than outsiders.
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Postby Page » Wed Sep 11, 2019 10:13 am

I would recommend the YouTube channel TellTale for anyone interested in cults and the question of whether a religion is a cult or not. He's an ex-Jehovah's Witness who has exposed all the fucked up things JW's do and he analyzes other religions in how cult-like they are.
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Postby -Ocelot- » Wed Sep 11, 2019 10:18 am

Kiruri wrote:
-Ocelot- wrote:If you are not allowed to leave, it's a cult.


This sums it up nicely, perhaps a bit too much, but the point is that a cult, generally, is a hierarchical organization where its members are extremely limited in their freedom by the leadership of the entity they adhere to.


Another definition I know of is "if a member can't fully explain what the religion is about, it's a cult".

In scientology, for example, you have to buy your way through a gorillion "OT" levels to learn about the entire Zenu story. The official explanation of what scientology means is very vague and confusing.
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Postby Evil Dictators Happyland » Wed Sep 11, 2019 10:24 am

-Ocelot- wrote:
Kiruri wrote:
This sums it up nicely, perhaps a bit too much, but the point is that a cult, generally, is a hierarchical organization where its members are extremely limited in their freedom by the leadership of the entity they adhere to.


Another definition I know of is "if a member can't fully explain what the religion is about, it's a cult".

In scientology, for example, you have to buy your way through a gorillion "OT" levels to learn about the entire Zenu story. The official explanation of what scientology means is very vague and confusing.

I'm pretty sure that the average Christian can't fully explain what Christianity is about either.
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Postby Dogmeat » Wed Sep 11, 2019 10:26 am

Evil Dictators Happyland wrote:
-Ocelot- wrote:
Another definition I know of is "if a member can't fully explain what the religion is about, it's a cult".

In scientology, for example, you have to buy your way through a gorillion "OT" levels to learn about the entire Zenu story. The official explanation of what scientology means is very vague and confusing.

I'm pretty sure that the average Christian can't fully explain what Christianity is about either.

I'd love to see someone try to give a brief synopsis of Hinduism.
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Postby Valrifell » Wed Sep 11, 2019 10:26 am

"Cult" isn't all that well defined, and attempting to latch an academic definition onto it isn't really useful due to how derogatory it's connotation is. Unless we're talking about things like the Cult of Mithras or something.

The reality is, however, that if you're feeling bold enough any religious movement can be labelled as a cult. It just denotes if a religous movement is inside what society deems "acceptable"

For instance, early Christianity can be classified as a cult, but it seems stupid to do so by modern standards.
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Postby United Muscovite Nations » Wed Sep 11, 2019 10:32 am

Evil Dictators Happyland wrote:
-Ocelot- wrote:
Another definition I know of is "if a member can't fully explain what the religion is about, it's a cult".

In scientology, for example, you have to buy your way through a gorillion "OT" levels to learn about the entire Zenu story. The official explanation of what scientology means is very vague and confusing.

I'm pretty sure that the average Christian can't fully explain what Christianity is about either.

I think he means whether the religion would provide them with the information to learn about it without special conditions.
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Postby Tombradyonia » Wed Sep 11, 2019 10:36 am

-Ocelot- wrote:If you are not allowed to leave, it's a cult.


And if leaving carries the death penalty?

Most religions and cults are nonsense. Once people tell me they have an imaginary friend who has set rules that we must all follow, I just shake my head in disbelief.
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