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Old 11th March 2019, 05:09 PM   #1
Trebuchet
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Is Falun Gong a cult?

We're currently being bombarded with advertisements for upcoming Seattle performances of Shen Yun, a spectacular performance of traditional Chinese music, dance, culture, and, um, Falun Gong propaganda.
Certainly the Chinese government considers them a dangerous and illegal cult. It fits the definition of a wildly popular movement with a single charismatic leader. I don't know enough about it, but find the whole Shen Yun thing, which doesn't mention the religious aspect in its advertising, to be a bit deceptive at best.
What do you guys think?
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Old 11th March 2019, 05:27 PM   #2
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From Wiki

Quote:
Falun Gong is a Chinese religious spiritual practice that combines meditation and qigong exercises with a moral philosophy centered on the tenets of truthfulness, compassion, and forbearance.
Sounds like a religion/cult to me. Although that truthfulness, compassion, and forbearance stuff is somewhat inconsistent with most religions.
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Old 11th March 2019, 06:17 PM   #3
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I’ve been to a show like that, not sure if it was the same one. I don’t recall anything out of the ordinary besides the feats performed. Just seemed like good circus. I could easily imagine being in such a troupe could be quite culty though.
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Old 11th March 2019, 06:27 PM   #4
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just go and have fun
go and do the wang chung
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Old 11th March 2019, 08:50 PM   #5
Trebuchet
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Originally Posted by Whip View Post
just go and have fun
go and do the wang chung
Going would require me to enter the deepest pit of Hell, aka Seattle. Some people like large cities. I am not one of them.
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Old 11th March 2019, 09:59 PM   #6
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The ads here in LA are incessant. Just today we got a mailer for it - something new. For a show that claims it gets sold out every year the amount of advertising seems excessive.

I guess I thought the Chinese government was bankrolling the ads to expose us to the culture but I would personally not spend money on seeing it. I'm sick enough of the ads my interest level is at zero.

The connection to Falun Gong is interesting. I'd like to find out more.
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Old 11th March 2019, 11:16 PM   #7
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The best definition I have heard for cult is a group that possesses secret religious tents (Christians will give you a Bible, Scientologists won't tell you about Xenu).
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Old 12th March 2019, 12:11 AM   #8
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Secret religious tents? I didn't realise cults were so outdoorsy.

Anyway, we had a long and (apparently?) productive discussion on the difference between a religion and a cult in this thread. Enjoy!
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Old 12th March 2019, 12:29 AM   #9
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Yes, it is a cult. The leader of the cult, Li Hongzhi, claims to have superpowers, from telekinesis to healing. None of his superpowers have worked to keep him out of prison, though. Also, they tend to teach people not to use modern medicine and that science is wrong. The Chinese government cracks-down on this cult, probably not because of the wacky claims, but because they challenge the Chinese government.

Randi had an article or two about him back when JREF forums existed.

There is this as well:
http://www.chinaconsulatechicago.org...3/t1613213.htm

This article is probably a propaganda article by the Chinese government, but they are accurate about the crazy claims by Li Hongzhi and his cultists.

Here is an article by a non-Chinese person who outlines the case for it being a cult.

https://culteducation.com/group/1254...ng-a-cult.html
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Old 12th March 2019, 02:10 AM   #10
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Yes and no. I've been keeping tabs on this movement since it first emerged several decades ago. It began as loosely affiliated clubs of persons interested in daily exercise using culturally traditional forms. Its vigorous suppression by Chinese officials practically guaranteed that the woo and superstition would take hold out of self-defense.

Originally Posted by Lithrael View Post
I’ve been to a show like that, not sure if it was the same one. I don’t recall anything out of the ordinary besides the feats performed. Just seemed like good circus. I could easily imagine being in such a troupe could be quite culty though.
Agreed. It can be just as cultish as a Broadway musical production, and just as carney

Originally Posted by thaiboxerken View Post
Yes, it is a cult. The leader of the cult, Li Hongzhi, claims to have superpowers, from telekinesis to healing. None of his superpowers have worked to keep him out of prison, though. Also, they tend to teach people not to use modern medicine and that science is wrong. The Chinese government cracks-down on this cult, probably not because of the wacky claims, but because they challenge the Chinese government.

Randi had an article or two about him back when JREF forums existed.

There is this as well:
http://www.chinaconsulatechicago.org...3/t1613213.htm

This article is probably a propaganda article by the Chinese government, but they are accurate about the crazy claims by Li Hongzhi and his cultists.

Here is an article by a non-Chinese person who outlines the case for it being a cult.

https://culteducation.com/group/1254...ng-a-cult.html
I completely agree with this as well. Whatever it was in origin, Falun Gong is now radically politicized as a mass movement as Eric Hoffer would have expressed it.
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Old 12th March 2019, 02:40 AM   #11
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Originally Posted by thaiboxerken View Post
Yes, it is a cult. The leader of the cult, Li Hongzhi, claims to have superpowers, from telekinesis to healing.
Oh, you mean like the Catholic Church. They claim their leader is an imaginary superbeing, magical powers, and their leader's son came back from the dead, apparently, and they also claim that their leader on earth speaks for the magical superbeing.

When I hear people use the word "Cult" I think of organisations such as the Branch Davidians, Heaven's Gate, The Peoples Temple Agricultural Project (a.k.a. "Jonestown"), and Scientology.

Falun Gong is not a cult, It fails to meet the definition of a cult in the following aspects.

Its members;

- have acquaintances, friendships and relationships outside the group
- hold normal, everyday jobs.
- do not live isolated from society or in compounds or enclosures.
- participate in local recreational activities such as sports and games.
- do not believe that the world's end is imminent
- do not give significant amounts of money to the organisation
- do not advocate violence
- children attend ordinary schools and mix with others not in the group

Falun Gong is an apolitical, atheistic, inward-looking belief system aimed at spiritual, physical and moral self improvement, so in that regard it is very similar in its belief system to Buddhism.

They do, however, have some pretty racist views on mixing of races (interracial marriage). They also hold similar positions to the Catholic Church on homosexuality, premarital sex and abortion.
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Old 12th March 2019, 04:23 AM   #12
thaiboxerken
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Originally Posted by smartcooky View Post
Oh, you mean like the Catholic Church. They claim their leader is an imaginary superbeing, magical powers, and their leader's son came back from the dead, apparently, and they also claim that their leader on earth speaks for the magical superbeing.

When I hear people use the word "Cult" I think of organisations such as the Branch Davidians, Heaven's Gate, The Peoples Temple Agricultural Project (a.k.a. "Jonestown"), and Scientology.

Falun Gong is not a cult, It fails to meet the definition of a cult in the following aspects.

Its members;

- have acquaintances, friendships and relationships outside the group
- hold normal, everyday jobs.
- do not live isolated from society or in compounds or enclosures.
- participate in local recreational activities such as sports and games.
- do not believe that the world's end is imminent
- do not give significant amounts of money to the organisation
- do not advocate violence
- children attend ordinary schools and mix with others not in the group

Falun Gong is an apolitical, atheistic, inward-looking belief system aimed at spiritual, physical and moral self improvement, so in that regard it is very similar in its belief system to Buddhism.

They do, however, have some pretty racist views on mixing of races (interracial marriage). They also hold similar positions to the Catholic Church on homosexuality, premarital sex and abortion.
According to my second link, you're wrong. I think they are more along the lines of Scientology.
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Old 12th March 2019, 06:48 AM   #13
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From our revered and honored leader:

James Randi: About Falun Gong, wrong saint...
Facts of Falun Gong: James Randi’s advice on Falun Gong cult
And you can even have it in Danish! Om Falun Gong
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Old 12th March 2019, 06:56 AM   #14
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Originally Posted by thaiboxerken View Post
Yes, it is a cult. The leader of the cult, Li Hongzhi, claims to have superpowers, from telekinesis to healing. None of his superpowers have worked to keep him out of prison, though. Also, they tend to teach people not to use modern medicine and that science is wrong.
Does this mean Yuri Geller is a cult?
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Old 12th March 2019, 07:10 AM   #15
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Originally Posted by ponderingturtle View Post
Does this mean Yuri Geller is a cult?
I don't think just making supernatural claims (I think Geller has backed off from some of these recently), having a show, and selling tickets makes you a cult. I think what makes Falun Gong a cult is primarily what they do outside their shows, with their shows primarily a funding and recruiting tool for the cult itself.
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Old 12th March 2019, 07:18 AM   #16
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Originally Posted by Lithrael View Post
I’ve been to a show like that, not sure if it was the same one. I don’t recall anything out of the ordinary besides the feats performed. Just seemed like good circus. I could easily imagine being in such a troupe could be quite culty though.
There are a variety of Chinese troupes who do worldwide tours other than the Falun Gong shows; you may have seen one of these. Interestingly many of the martial arts troupes claim supernatural-like feats based on their studies and on philosophies acquired from a Master-like figure. Some probably claim this only for showmanship purposes rather than believe them themselves ("Using powers first discovered and then suppressed by the first Ming emperor, I will now show you how I can catch an arrow in my teeth..."). Others do buy into it. Cultish although probably not full-on cult, but I haven't researched any in detail.
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Old 12th March 2019, 07:21 AM   #17
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Originally Posted by ponderingturtle View Post
Does this mean Yuri Geller is a cult?

Uri Geller. I guess he could have been:

Quote:
In 1973, Uri Geller barnstormed the United States, presenting himself as a psychic who could read minds and bend spoons by sheer force of will. As James Randi (1975) has shown, Geller's feats were achieved through trickery; yet untold thousands of people were fascinated by the possibility that Geller might have real psychic powers. The whole affair was a grand but short-lived audience cult.
The Future of Religion: Secularization, Revival and Cult Formation
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Old 12th March 2019, 07:56 AM   #18
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Originally Posted by Trebuchet View Post
We're currently being bombarded with advertisements for upcoming Seattle performances of Shen Yun, a spectacular performance of traditional Chinese music, dance, culture, and, um, Falun Gong propaganda.
I saw the Shen Yun performance here in Ottawa a couple of years ago.

I went without knowing about their ties to Falun Gong, and in a way I feel like I was almost blindsided to find what I thought would be a straight-up performance of traditional Chinese dance and music was interspersed with songs and numbers about atheism being bad and how the Falun Gong people were persecuted.

Overall I still enjoyed the event however.
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Old 12th March 2019, 08:07 AM   #19
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Quote:
the Communist Party launched a campaign to "eradicate" Falun Gong on 20 July 1999.[3]

An extra-constitutional body called the 6-10 Office was created to lead the persecution of Falun Gong.[4] The authorities mobilized the state media apparatus, judiciary, police, army, the education system, families and workplaces against the group.[5] The campaign was driven by large-scale propaganda through television, newspaper, radio and Internet.[6] There are reports of systematic torture,[7][8] illegal imprisonment, forced labor, organ harvesting[9] and abusive psychiatric measures, with the apparent aim of forcing practitioners to recant their belief in Falun Gong.
Do not worry about it folks, regardless of whether it is a cult or not, the Unyielding marxist atheists in the Chinese government are taking care of them.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Persecution_of_Falun_Gong
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Old 12th March 2019, 08:40 AM   #20
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Originally Posted by Giordano View Post
I don't think just making supernatural claims (I think Geller has backed off from some of these recently), having a show, and selling tickets makes you a cult. I think what makes Falun Gong a cult is primarily what they do outside their shows, with their shows primarily a funding and recruiting tool for the cult itself.
My point is that there are a lot of nutso martial arts making BS claims, that doesn't make this more or less a cult. How they effect the lives of their members is what does that.
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Old 12th March 2019, 11:40 AM   #21
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Originally Posted by thaiboxerken View Post
According to my second link, you're wrong. I think they are more along the lines of Scientology.
Not to quibble, but I reckon the Church of Christian Science would be a better analogy.
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Old 12th March 2019, 11:49 AM   #22
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Originally Posted by Thor 2 View Post
Sounds like a religion/cult to me. Although that truthfulness, compassion, and forbearance stuff is somewhat inconsistent with most religions.
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Old 12th March 2019, 12:18 PM   #23
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Originally Posted by thaiboxerken View Post
According to my second link, you're wrong. I think they are more along the lines of Scientology.

Firstly, in your second link, the writer is just one person and its just his opinion, so its not definitive.

Secondly, this writer states only three criteria for a group being a cult

1. a charismatic leader who increasingly becomes an object of worship as the general principles that may have originally sustained the group lose their power;

2. a process of coercive persuasion or thought reform;

3. economic, sexual, and other exploitation of group members by the leader and the ruling coterie.


This is very weak. It takes a LOT more than these three criteria to make a group a cult. You could apply these to any religious group and call them a cult. Furthermore, after stating the third criteria to be "economic, sexual, and other exploitation of group members by the leader and the ruling coterie.", he then fails to expand on this at all.
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Old 12th March 2019, 03:01 PM   #24
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I saw Shen Yun a few years ago in Philadelphia. Like Segnosaur, I didn't know anything about their connection to Falun Gong going in, but it became pretty obvious because they made that part of the show.

I have more critical complaints about the performance itself than about the political/religious content, but both were relatively minor complaints amounting to, I found the show overpriced. The best parts were the solo performances by the traditional-instrument musicians, which were absolutely enchanting. For the dancing, the appeal is in seeing traditional styles of Chinese dance that one doesn't always get to see. However, you're not seeing world-class dancers performing it (though they're certainly skilled professionals, about on a par with a city ballet corps), and the length of the show exceeds the range of variation of that style, so it becomes a bit repetitive.

The strangest thing about the show was the complete lack of stage lighting variations. No colors, no light cues, not even intensity changes to match the different digital projected backgrounds. Everything was performed under uniform bright white lighting that looked like rehearsal lights.

There were segments of the performance that depicted persecution of Falun Gong groups by the Chinese authorities, and others depicting their not-very-eschatological future vision of a divinely-inspired society-wide spiritual enlightenment, which is more like a New Age "dawn of the age of aquarius" or "harmonic convergence" kind of thing than an apocalypse. Very little veneration or mention of their leader(s). So overall, not very cult-like. A few odd segments seemed to go to great lengths to work some of Falun Gong's more specific teachings, such as that it's okay to eat meat, into some of their dance-story segments. (Few Philadelphians were disagreeing with that one, but why do they bother to emphasize it?)
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Old 12th March 2019, 06:11 PM   #25
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Originally Posted by The Big Dog View Post
Do not worry about it folks, regardless of whether it is a cult or not, the Unyielding marxist atheists in the Chinese government are taking care of them.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Persecution_of_Falun_Gong
What a sad world we live in, that it takes a bunch of unyielding marxist atheists to take care of these whackjobs.

Originally Posted by thaiboxerken
The Chinese government cracks-down on this cult, probably not because of the wacky claims, but because they challenge the Chinese government.
Whereas we give them tax-free status, and don't intervene until after they have caused serious harm (if at all). But what would you expect from a country which is itself run by cults?

And what if the challenge to the Chinese government is their 'wacky claims'.

Chinese State Media Warns Against 14 ‘Evil Cults’
Quote:
...five alleged cult members bludgeoned a woman to death at a McDonald’s in China’s eastern province of Shandong. The adherents of the cult, called the Church of Almighty God, had attempted to recruit the woman to join their sect, then viciously attacked her after she refused to give them her phone number. Caught on video, the attack has sparked online outrage across China...

Chinese authorities have long been wary of religious sects. The 19th-century Taiping Rebellion, a violent uprising led by a man claiming to be the younger brother of Jesus, lasted for 14 years and resulted in the deaths of over 20 million people.

To be sure, China is far from the only country that is home to fringe religious groups, as state media has been swift to point out: Eight of the 14 cults listed in the Xinhua article were founded outside of mainland China... a People’s Daily article on June 5 called the United States a "stronghold for the breeding of cults."
At least someone is willing to stand up and tell it like it is! But being concerned about foreigners who are infiltrating your country and brainwashing its inhabits? Totally unacceptable.

Meanwhile our own government is excluding Muslims for having the temerity to believe in a slightly different version of their god, and barely tolerates non-believers.
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Old 12th March 2019, 06:26 PM   #26
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Originally Posted by smartcooky View Post
This is very weak. It takes a LOT more than these three criteria to make a group a cult. You could apply these to any religious group and call them a cult.
The difference between a cult and a religion is the numbers of people, in my opinion.
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Old 12th March 2019, 06:29 PM   #27
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Originally Posted by smartcooky View Post
This is very weak. It takes a LOT more than these three criteria to make a group a cult.
Says who?

Cult
Quote:
In modern English, the term cult has come to usually refer to a social group defined by its unusual religious, spiritual, or philosophical beliefs, or its common interest in a particular personality, object or goal. This sense of the term is controversial and it has divergent definitions in both popular culture and academia and it also has been an ongoing source of contention among scholars across several fields of study.
IMO the three criteria given were more than enough to identify a 'cult', and the only reason major Christian sects escape the definition is that (sadly) their beliefs are not considered 'unusual'.
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Old 12th March 2019, 06:32 PM   #28
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Originally Posted by Roger Ramjets View Post

Meanwhile our own government is excluding Muslims for having the temerity to believe in a slightly different version of their god, and barely tolerates non-believers.
It is sad. Freedom of religion is a double-edge sword that is used by the religion with the political power.
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Old 12th March 2019, 06:34 PM   #29
arthwollipot
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Okay, let's have this talk again, shall we?
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Old 12th March 2019, 06:37 PM   #30
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Originally Posted by Roger Ramjets View Post
What a sad world we live in, that it takes a bunch of unyielding marxist atheists to take care of these whackjobs.
By torturing them to death?

Not surprised that folks are defending, hell flat out advocating, murdering these people.

Roger Ramjets folks.
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Old 13th March 2019, 12:40 AM   #31
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Originally Posted by thaiboxerken View Post
The difference between a cult and a religion is the numbers of people, in my opinion.
Global Memberships...

Bahá'í: 7 million

Shinto: 4 million

Zoroastrianism: 2.6 million

Neo-Paganism: 1.0 million

Rastafari: 600,000


Scientology: 40,000

Children of God/ Family International: about 10,000

The Peoples Temple Agricultural Project: 909 (all deceased at Jonestown, Guyana)

Branch Davidians: Approx 100 (76 deceased at Waco, TX)

Heaven's Gate: 43 (41 deceased at San Diego CA)


The top five (green) are all accepted as bona-fide religions
The bottom five (red) are generally accepted to be cults.

Draw a line into which you fit Falun Gong as a cult based on their number of members: between 10 million and 70 million.
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Old 13th March 2019, 01:08 AM   #32
thaiboxerken
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Originally Posted by smartcooky View Post
Global Memberships...

Bahá'í: 7 million

Shinto: 4 million

Zoroastrianism: 2.6 million

Neo-Paganism: 1.0 million

Rastafari: 600,000


Scientology: 40,000

Children of God/ Family International: about 10,000

The Peoples Temple Agricultural Project: 909 (all deceased at Jonestown, Guyana)

Branch Davidians: Approx 100 (76 deceased at Waco, TX)

Heaven's Gate: 43 (41 deceased at San Diego CA)


The top five (green) are all accepted as bona-fide religions
The bottom five (red) are generally accepted to be cults.

Draw a line into which you fit Falun Gong as a cult based on their number of members: between 10 million and 70 million.
Around 1 or 2% of China's population.
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Old 13th March 2019, 02:11 AM   #33
smartcooky
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Originally Posted by thaiboxerken View Post
Around 1 or 2% of China's population.
I don't expect to see this ...




... from a skeptic!
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Old 13th March 2019, 02:26 AM   #34
thaiboxerken
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Originally Posted by smartcooky View Post
I don't expect to see this ...


https://www.dropbox.com/s/k17rpz8lg0...osts.gif?raw=1

... from a skeptic!
You're right. I actually think there is no distinguishable difference between a cult and a religion other than acceptance by the general public.
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Old 13th March 2019, 04:44 PM   #35
arthwollipot
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Come on folks. This is really easy to look up.

Originally Posted by Wikipedia
In modern English, the term cult has come to usually refer to a social group defined by its unusual religious, spiritual, or philosophical beliefs, or its common interest in a particular personality, object or goal. This sense of the term is controversial and it has divergent definitions in both popular culture and academia and it also has been an ongoing source of contention among scholars across several fields of study.[1][2] It is usually considered pejorative.

In the sociological classifications of religious movements, a cult is a social group with socially deviant or novel beliefs and practices,[3] although this is often unclear.[4][5][6] Other researchers present a less-organized picture of cults, saying that they arise spontaneously around novel beliefs and practices.[7] Groups said to be cults range in size from local groups with a few members to international organizations with millions.[8]
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cult
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Old 13th March 2019, 04:55 PM   #36
arthwollipot
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The International Cultic Studies Association has a lot of resources. Look at their FAQs and their list of defining characteristics of a cult.

I found this page by Googling.
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Old 18th March 2019, 06:58 AM   #37
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I actually know someone who practices Falun Gong. She is Chinese and immigrated to the USA. I have spoken with her a little bit about religion in general, and hers specifically (I have always been interested in how different religions seem to get along in Chinese culture better than they have in the west). My impression is it sounds very much like “New Age” beliefs with heavy emphasis on meditation, stretching and breathing exercises, and prayers. She believes in the ability of prayer and meditation to make physical changes in the world, and holds that positive thinking can make positive changes, and negative thinking can make negative changes. It does not seem particularly dangerous to me, as far as religions go.

From my impression of her, Falun Gong seems non-violent and harmless, except to the extent that its members do actively cultivate a sense of “magical thinking”. In general this sense of “magical thinking”, being inherently irrational, can lead one to irrational acts. I don’t think it is any more dangerous that the other “qigong” style beliefs. The whole idea of “qi” is irrational, and has no proof, but neither does Karma, Original sin, God, or Valhalla, so who can say which one is a cult and which one is a religion.

Don’t get me wrong, I am not at all an expert in Falun Gong, but to a westerner her belief sounds similar to much “New Age” fluff of an Asian flavor. Outside of her religious beliefs I would say she is a very pleasant, intelligent, hard working person. Her immigration to the USA is China’s loss. I would be happy with her as a neighbor.
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Old 18th March 2019, 09:15 AM   #38
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It's the Chinese version of the Turkish religious exile group FETO .
Same game, same result.
Who knows how many other countries have their version working within their government right now.
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Old 18th March 2019, 02:31 PM   #39
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Originally Posted by Thor 2 View Post
From Wiki



Sounds like a religion/cult to me. Although that truthfulness, compassion, and forbearance stuff is somewhat inconsistent with most religions.
Originally Posted by Belz... View Post
When a man lies he murders some part of the world.

If there is some really, really, deep message contained in these words of yours Belz then it's too deep for me.
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Old 18th March 2019, 04:05 PM   #40
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I must have seen a different group, then. The one I saw had more in common with a cirque de etc. with lots of impressive acrobats. I still remember some amazing standing jumps and pillars made of stacked contortionists. It definitely didn’t go on long enough to get repetitive and dull.
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