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Old 21st February 2019, 10:25 AM   #161
Hellbound
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Originally Posted by ahhell View Post
Sure, but its not exactly how most mainline modern Christian churches operate either.
True, and I didn't mean to imply that. But in it's early days Christianity was very cultish. The cult-like trappings are, as I've said all along, more due to small size and social stigma. And related to the number of fanatics.

To explain, any breakaway sect or new religion is necessarily going to be started by a group of people who feel strongly about it; otherwise they'd stay in the religion/church they're already in (maybe trying to make changes) or otherwise wouldn't risk being part of a socially unacceptable group. So at the beginning you're very likely to have that high fanatics-to-casual-believers ratio.

If it's going to grow, as it must, it must collect more adherents. Fanatical believers (that can be swayed to your cause) are not that common. To grow beyond the fringe you have to adjust the beliefs to be more palatable to society as a whole, which generally means watering down the core beliefs.

Thus, as a cult grows in size it must, necessarily, start lowering that fanatics-to-casual ratio, bringing itself more into mainstream, etc. Which facilitates the change.

Quote:
In modern usage, the label cult is much more about the behavior of the organization than the beliefs. The christian bible says all sorts of crazy ****. Do former catholics get shunned by their families? Are former Lutherans threatened by their former co-religionionists? Do Anglicans require believers to turn over most of their wages or work in the church run restaurant?
First, I've not argued that they're the same, as can be seen from my several comments early. My argument is that the difference is more one of intensity than any fundamental difference.

Behavior and beliefs are intertwined. Modern religions are not cults only because most people ignore or re-interpret the actual biblical passages, and ignore or romanticize much of the history of the early Church (which was very cult-like when it started, and continued as such in many branches through it's early years. Many of the fundamentalist sects in existence today can still qualify with the cult label).

It's not a religion instead of cult today because of anything fundamentally different about how it started, it's precepts, or it's holy texts; it's different because it watered itself down and came into the mainstream. The fundamentals are the same, just expressed more moderately.
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Old 21st February 2019, 11:31 AM   #162
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Fair.
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Old 21st February 2019, 04:53 PM   #163
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Originally Posted by Darat View Post
No I'm not, that is your biases that you are describing.
Do you have any evidence that the opposite is the mainstream preferred interpretation amongst a majority of Christians? I've supported my position with evidence.
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Old 22nd February 2019, 02:10 AM   #164
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Originally Posted by arthwollipot View Post
Do you have any evidence that the opposite is the mainstream preferred interpretation amongst a majority of Christians? I've supported my position with evidence.
Again don't try and push your biasis onto me. Believe it or not arthwollipot many folk here, and yes I do include myself in that have a much deeper understanding of Christianty compared to your rather meagre level of knowledge seemingly informed by quick Google searches.

Never mind also that you are expecting me to argue against a strawman, as ever I'm not obligated to argue against your strawman.
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Old 24th February 2019, 04:31 PM   #165
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Originally Posted by Darat View Post
Again don't try and push your biasis onto me. Believe it or not arthwollipot many folk here, and yes I do include myself in that have a much deeper understanding of Christianty compared to your rather meagre level of knowledge seemingly informed by quick Google searches.
Yah huh. Right. Maybe you and I just went to different churches.

Originally Posted by Darat View Post
Never mind also that you are expecting me to argue against a strawman, as ever I'm not obligated to argue against your strawman.
It's not a strawman.
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Old 24th February 2019, 04:35 PM   #166
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Originally Posted by ahhell View Post
The death of Linden LaRouche reminds me that there is such a thing as a secular cult.

Found this list:
https://listverse.com/2015/04/09/10-...ligious-cults/
Amusing to note that there are two of those groups started by Maoists.

etc.
So, 8 of 10 weren’t Maoist
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Old 26th February 2019, 04:24 AM   #167
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Originally Posted by arthwollipot View Post
Yah huh. Right. Maybe you and I just went to different churches.



It's not a strawman.
My knowledge of Christianity is not limited to which doctrine I was born into, however since yours apparently is then I'm not surprised you know little of Christianity outwith your own personal experiences.

And yes it was and is a strawman since it is not an argument I have made.
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Old 26th February 2019, 04:53 PM   #168
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Originally Posted by Darat View Post
My knowledge of Christianity is not limited to which doctrine I was born into, however since yours apparently is then I'm not surprised you know little of Christianity outwith your own personal experiences.

And yes it was and is a strawman since it is not an argument I have made.
Okay - what is your understanding of the meaning of Psalm 137: 7-9?

My own understanding comes not from one denomination either. As far as I can remember, this particular psalm wasn't discussed much since my church focused more on the happy-clappy. I did research on this well after I left, using sources such as biblestudytools.com, bible.org and christianity.com. Actually, bible.org has a pretty extensive and interesting article on the lines that I found most informative. There's another pretty interesting essay on crosswalk.com but I think that's a little denominational. These two formed the core of my understanding of the context behind dashing babies to the rocks. For now suffice to say that it's just a little bit more nuanced than a naive "durr God says we should be happy about killing babies", which is what a lot of atheists appear to think.

And that was my point in bringing it up. It's easy to look at the Bible and cherry-pick out the atrocities, and use that as evidence of the evil inherent in religion. It takes a little more research to unearth the actual reasons and meanings of such passages and understand both the context in which such passages were written, and their modern understanding and interpretation. Also, the Principle of Charity applies.
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Old 27th February 2019, 08:44 AM   #169
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Originally Posted by gabeygoat View Post
So, 8 of 10 weren’t Maoist
2 were maoist, 1 was started by a former moaist, the rest had disparate origins. Partially because I'd just listened to podcast about one of those maoist cults, it struck me as odd that there was more than one. Any rate, its like comfirmation bias, once I'd heard about it, I started seeing it everywhere.
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Old 27th February 2019, 12:34 PM   #170
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Originally Posted by Hellbound View Post
True, and I didn't mean to imply that. But in it's early days Christianity was very cultish. The cult-like trappings are, as I've said all along, more due to small size and social stigma. And related to the number of fanatics.

To explain, any breakaway sect or new religion is necessarily going to be started by a group of people who feel strongly about it; otherwise they'd stay in the religion/church they're already in (maybe trying to make changes) or otherwise wouldn't risk being part of a socially unacceptable group. So at the beginning you're very likely to have that high fanatics-to-casual-believers ratio.

If it's going to grow, as it must, it must collect more adherents. Fanatical believers (that can be swayed to your cause) are not that common. To grow beyond the fringe you have to adjust the beliefs to be more palatable to society as a whole, which generally means watering down the core beliefs.

Thus, as a cult grows in size it must, necessarily, start lowering that fanatics-to-casual ratio, bringing itself more into mainstream, etc. Which facilitates the change.
I think the best explanations are not about acceptability or size, but about being focused on a charismatic leader or not. When they are not so focused on single leader is when it shifts from a cult to a religion.
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Old 27th February 2019, 05:28 PM   #171
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Originally Posted by ponderingturtle View Post
I think the best explanations are not about acceptability or size, but about being focused on a charismatic leader or not. When they are not so focused on single leader is when it shifts from a cult to a religion.
A single living leader. I think it's important to make that distinction. As I said somewhere upthread, if a cult survives the death of its leader, it starts to become not so much of a cult any more.
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Old 27th February 2019, 06:18 PM   #172
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That reminds me of the way the word "cult" is used in reference to ancient polytheistic religions. A cult within a polytheism would still believe in all of the gods of the pantheon, but pick one of them as their favorite; the Greeks could have, for example, an Athena cult, an Apollo cult, a Prometheus cult, and so on. So there was an individual to focus on and define the cult by, even if it was somebody they never met.
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Old 28th February 2019, 10:15 AM   #173
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Originally Posted by arthwollipot View Post
A single living leader. I think it's important to make that distinction. As I said somewhere upthread, if a cult survives the death of its leader, it starts to become not so much of a cult any more.
Depends, cults do successfully get handed down to replacements, see the FLDS church and so on.

Of course this would mean that for example scientology isn't really a true cult anymore.
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Old 28th February 2019, 11:14 AM   #174
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Originally Posted by arthwollipot View Post
A single living leader. I think it's important to make that distinction. As I said somewhere upthread, if a cult survives the death of its leader, it starts to become not so much of a cult any more.
Originally Posted by ponderingturtle View Post
Depends, cults do successfully get handed down to replacements, see the FLDS church and so on.

Of course this would mean that for example scientology isn't really a true cult anymore.
I think this is why the lists of "cult like behavior" are useful. If it only depends on one thing, then the definition becomes too broad.

Single charismatic leader/founder is useful but it would rule out lots of things that probably should be included, scientology, Heaven's Gate(2), FLDS. varois African Zionist groups, etc. The RCC or my count if all we think of is the single charismatic leader.

In my opinion, Single charismatic leader and tendency to isolate members for society are the most useful characteristics.

Last edited by ahhell; 28th February 2019 at 11:16 AM.
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Old 28th February 2019, 04:35 PM   #175
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Originally Posted by ponderingturtle View Post
Depends, cults do successfully get handed down to replacements, see the FLDS church and so on.

Of course this would mean that for example scientology isn't really a true cult anymore.
As I said...

Originally Posted by arthwollipot View Post
...as I understand it, the existence of a charismatic leader is one of the defining features of a cult. Spirits and ghosts aren't real, obviously, so even if they still believe in the leader it's not the same thing.

And yes, I realise that this makes Scientology not a cult by this definition.
One could argue that Miscavige has successfully replaced Hubbard as a cult leader, though.
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Old 28th February 2019, 05:36 PM   #176
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Originally Posted by arthwollipot View Post
As I said...



One could argue that Miscavige has successfully replaced Hubbard as a cult leader, though.

One could also argue that Francis replaced Benedict as a cult leader I suppose.
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Old 28th February 2019, 06:11 PM   #177
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Originally Posted by Thor 2 View Post
One could also argue that Francis replaced Benedict as a cult leader I suppose.
I think my argument carries more weight than yours, for reasons I have already gone through. Even if you do count the Pope as a cult leader, I don't think the Catholic Church ticks any additional boxes in the list.
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Old 1st March 2019, 06:33 AM   #178
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Okay apparently people aren't going be happy with any distinction between religion and cult that doesn't include a "But my belief structure can't possibly be a cult because that would make me look bad" clause attached to it.
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Old 1st March 2019, 02:40 PM   #179
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Originally Posted by JoeMorgue View Post
Okay apparently people aren't going be happy with any distinction between religion and cult that doesn't include a "But my belief structure can't possibly be a cult because that would make me look bad" clause attached to it.

Well you could say: "A cult by any other name is still a cult."

After all these pages a clear delineation between religion and cults has not been shown, and as Joe points out it is a problem because "cult" is bad and "religion" .... well not so much.
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Old 3rd March 2019, 04:39 PM   #180
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It's basically because there is no clear definitional delineation between a religion and a cult. It's a fuzzy term, like "sect". What's a "sect"? Are the Jehovah's Witnesses a "sect"? What about "denomination"?
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Old 4th March 2019, 07:57 AM   #181
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Originally Posted by arthwollipot View Post
It's basically because there is no clear definitional delineation between a religion and a cult. It's a fuzzy term, like "sect". What's a "sect"? Are the Jehovah's Witnesses a "sect"? What about "denomination"?
As I've mentioned, and I think you agree, the lack of clear delineation does not mean there there is not a distinction without merit.
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Old 4th March 2019, 01:50 PM   #182
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Originally Posted by ahhell View Post
As I've mentioned, and I think you agree, the lack of clear delineation does not mean there there is not a distinction without merit.

Sort of a triple negative here.

I'm quite content with the notion that calling a religion a cult is somewhat meaningless. Just a word with negative connotations that can be thrown in to dismiss a religion the speaker does not approve of.

The best attempt seen in these pages to define a cult as distinct from a religion, is the presence of a charismatic living leader, and given that most or all religions start out that way we can conclude ........... well?
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Old 4th March 2019, 02:32 PM   #183
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Originally Posted by Thor 2 View Post
Sort of a triple negative here.

I'm quite content with the notion that calling a religion a cult is somewhat meaningless. Just a word with negative connotations that can be thrown in to dismiss a religion the speaker does not approve of.

The best attempt seen in these pages to define a cult as distinct from a religion, is the presence of a charismatic living leader, and given that most or all religions start out that way we can conclude ........... well?
That cults can transition into a more traditional religion.

Funny how you choose only one criteria that suits your pre-existing opinion. Its absurd to pretend there is no useful distinction between say, the Branch Davidians and Lutherans.
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Old 4th March 2019, 03:01 PM   #184
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Originally Posted by ahhell View Post
That cults can transition into a more traditional religion.

Funny how you choose only one criteria that suits your pre-existing opinion. Its absurd to pretend there is no useful distinction between say, the Branch Davidians and Lutherans.

Well I did say "the best attempt" which I would expect you to take as my own assessment.

Why don't you give us a distinction between those two cults. I would say Martin Luther could be described as a cult leader when he was strutting his stuff those few years ago. I think the RCC would have described him as such at the time.
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Old 4th March 2019, 05:35 PM   #185
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Originally Posted by ahhell View Post
As I've mentioned, and I think you agree, the lack of clear delineation does not mean there there is not a distinction without merit.
Right, and the extreme exemplars of each end of the spectrum are easy to spot. The grey area is where problems arise.

Originally Posted by Thor 2 View Post
Sort of a triple negative here.

I'm quite content with the notion that calling a religion a cult is somewhat meaningless. Just a word with negative connotations that can be thrown in to dismiss a religion the speaker does not approve of.

The best attempt seen in these pages to define a cult as distinct from a religion, is the presence of a charismatic living leader, and given that most or all religions start out that way we can conclude ........... well?
Don't forget the other features I mentioned earlier in the thread:

Originally Posted by arthwollipot View Post
Definitions vary, and it's impossible to create a firm line between the two. But as far as I am aware some of the defining features of a cult are:

Veneration of a single charismatic leader
The leader's word dictates doctrine and cannot be questioned
The leader is not answerable to any other authority
Separation of members from family and friends
Forced detachment from aspects of society and culture
Secret teachings revealed only to the initiated
Doubt and dissent are discouraged, or punished

This is just off the top of my head. There are others that I can't remember right now.
There is no single hallmark of a cult, but a range of features that may or may not be exhibited by any particular group. We've been talking most about the leader, but that's not a sole defining criterion.
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Old 4th March 2019, 06:38 PM   #186
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Sometimes with words the "negative connotation" is... kinda the point.

A "Cult" is an insulting term applied to (usually) smaller, (usually) more insular, belief systems (usually) centered around a central charismatic figure and that (usually) require their followers to break away from normal society more than is generally deemed necessary.

So yeah at the end of the day "A cult is just a religion you don't like." Yeah, well duh? The point?

It's like saying "A jerk is just a person you don't like! I demand you define the exact point one becomes the other!"
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Old 4th March 2019, 06:53 PM   #187
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There are more things that define a cult than there are that define a jerk. It's kind of the same, but there's a matter of degree.
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Old 4th March 2019, 07:09 PM   #188
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Originally Posted by JoeMorgue View Post
Sometimes with words the "negative connotation" is... kinda the point.

A "Cult" is an insulting term applied to (usually) smaller, (usually) more insular, belief systems (usually) centered around a central charismatic figure and that (usually) require their followers to break away from normal society more than is generally deemed necessary.

So yeah at the end of the day "A cult is just a religion you don't like." Yeah, well duh? The point?

It's like saying "A jerk is just a person you don't like! I demand you define the exact point one becomes the other!"



I think you and I are more or less on the same page on this Joe.
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Old 4th March 2019, 07:10 PM   #189
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Originally Posted by arthwollipot View Post
There are more things that define a cult than there are that define a jerk. It's kind of the same, but there's a matter of degree.

I could give you an impressive list of attributes (or lack thereof) that define a jerk.
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Old 4th March 2019, 07:14 PM   #190
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Originally Posted by Thor 2 View Post
I could give you an impressive list of attributes (or lack thereof) that define a jerk.
Yeah, but they're all pretty fuzzy, will apply to a-holes and wankers as much as they apply to jerks, and any two people are likely to disagree with any of them.

Both terms - jerk and cult - are fuzzy in their definition, but of the two, jerk is fuzzier.
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Old 4th March 2019, 07:18 PM   #191
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But my broader point was the "negative connotation" is the core definition of a jerk and a cult.

Sure there's a billion difference things that can make a person a jerk or a belief system a cult, but at the end of the day the negative connotation is the defining attribute.

We have words like this all over the language, words where the definition is literally "I use this term to denote that I perceive the thing negatively" but for some reason people act like it's some confusing concept in some cases because the negative connotations aren't being defined in the same breath.

If I say Brussel Sprouts taste yucky I don't have to define why they taste yucky to me. in the same term.
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Old 4th March 2019, 07:54 PM   #192
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Okay, fair enough, I get what you're saying now. But while I agree that the negative connotation is used as pretty much the defining feature in most usages of the word "cult", the phenomenon of cults in general has been academically studied, and the word is more clearly (though obviously still not perfectly) defined in such contexts. I guess I was just putting more emphasis on this academic interpretation of the word than you.

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Old 4th March 2019, 11:13 PM   #193
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What about:

A religion is a system of dogma that has broad mainstream acceptance in society and culture while a cult is such a system that exists on the fringes of culture and society?


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Old 4th March 2019, 11:36 PM   #194
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Not the most precise of definitions, but I'll go with it.
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Old 8th March 2019, 12:10 AM   #195
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Originally Posted by ahhell View Post
That cults can transition into a more traditional religion.

Funny how you choose only one criteria that suits your pre-existing opinion. Its absurd to pretend there is no useful distinction between say, the Branch Davidians and Lutherans.
The Government seems to be able to distinguish between a cult and a religion, namely when the latter qualifies for tax-free status by the Government.
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Old 8th March 2019, 07:55 AM   #196
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Originally Posted by Tassman View Post
The Government seems to be able to distinguish between a cult and a religion, namely when the latter qualifies for tax-free status by the Government.
I think that's more dependent on the quality of lawyers involved and the resources behind them. Its a mistake for the government to treat religion any differently from any other organization. If they are a non-profit and thus not taxable, well let them show it like any other non-profit. But that's a different subject.
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Old 8th March 2019, 11:40 PM   #197
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Originally Posted by ahhell View Post
I think that's more dependent on the quality of lawyers involved and the resources behind them.
Yes, I know. I was being facetious. IMO religions are the same as cults but with a veneer of respectability and general acceptance.

Quote:
Its a mistake for the government to treat religion any differently from any other organization. If they are a non-profit and thus not taxable, well let them show it like any other non-profit.
I totally agree.
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Old 9th March 2019, 08:37 PM   #198
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Originally Posted by Tassman View Post
Yes, I know. I was being facetious. IMO religions are the same as cults but with a veneer of respectability and general acceptance.
In essence, I agree, but I think that respectability and acceptance makes a qualitative difference, as well.

If it's an accepted belief, then more casual believers will feel comfortable associating with it, which reduces the level of "crazy", to throw in some layman's terms Much like I said before. The small, unaccepted cults will be avoided by the casual follower, because they fear the social stigma. That in turn leaves them as a solid core of hard core believers that feed on each other. As it becomes socially acceptable, more casual believers join and temper or mitigate the more extreme beliefs of the hard core. The casual believers, attracted because of the social acceptance, act as control rods in the nuclear reaction of belief

I really do think the primary difference is popularity, but that makes a qualitative difference in the actions of the cult/religion as a whole.
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Old 9th March 2019, 09:59 PM   #199
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Originally Posted by Hellbound View Post
In essence, I agree, but I think that respectability and acceptance makes a qualitative difference, as well.

If it's an accepted belief, then more casual believers will feel comfortable associating with it, which reduces the level of "crazy", to throw in some layman's terms Much like I said before. The small, unaccepted cults will be avoided by the casual follower, because they fear the social stigma. That in turn leaves them as a solid core of hard core believers that feed on each other. As it becomes socially acceptable, more casual believers join and temper or mitigate the more extreme beliefs of the hard core. The casual believers, attracted because of the social acceptance, act as control rods in the nuclear reaction of belief

I really do think the primary difference is popularity, but that makes a qualitative difference in the actions of the cult/religion as a whole.
True. Once they have attained respectability, acceptance and popularity, they have to maintain it in order to retain and build on their social acceptance. This to the point that, as per Christianity over the years, people join up just because that is what most people do, often without much knowledge about the religion believes.
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