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Old 6th April 2018, 06:43 PM   #41
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Originally Posted by kellyb View Post
Interesting perspective.

So, you don't think scientology, JWs, and the Amish are cults?
I don't know.

Gut feeling is "no" for the Amish. They do what they do out of consideration of life in general. They let their children walk free for a while to see what they are missing. Not really the hallmarks of cult. By my standard, they would not simply be a religion, but also have way of life I find very strange.

I have only the vaguest notions of what JW stands for. I am not inclined to drop them in the cult status because they do have worldly concerns. As near as I can tell, they have a passivity and separateness that I do not understand. I probably wouldn't drop them in the cult group because they seem to be doing something they consider personally perilous in the form of missionary pursuits. That's like asking to get beat down.

Of Scientology, the only direct knowledge I have of them is from stuff they do at the local malls. They seem very odd. But I have to say that I don't know anything about them at all. At least, first hand. Second hand, from the media and internet, I almost have a hard time believing what I have seen and read. Its too bizarre to process. I have read Dianetics and a couple of RH sci-fi books. I can't suss anything out of those either. I can't even remember a single line or concept from them, so they weren't very good.
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Old 6th April 2018, 06:45 PM   #42
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Pretty sure all the stuff about scientology is actually true, and yeah, that's out there. lol
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Old 6th April 2018, 06:48 PM   #43
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Originally Posted by kellyb View Post
Pretty sure all the stuff about scientology is actually true, and yeah, that's out there. lol
As much as I hate the term, "yeah, I can't even."
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Old 6th April 2018, 07:03 PM   #44
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Scientology (and to a lesser extant Mormonism) are just weird because they are new.

There's no more objective "weirdness" in either of those than any ancient mainstream religion.
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Old 6th April 2018, 07:18 PM   #45
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Originally Posted by JoeMorgue View Post
Scientology (and to a lesser extant Mormonism) are just weird because they are new.

There's no more objective "weirdness" in either of those than any ancient mainstream religion.
I don't know. I had a Scientologist try to work through my life issues. He opened with "Do you have any relationship problems?". That lead to me counseling him for about 10 minutes on the wisdom of asking a guy, with his wife holding a newborn, in a mall, about relationship problems.

I'd bet the only thing keeping that guy grounded was the metal tubes he handed me. Sort of explains why he became unhinged while I was holding them.

Last edited by solfe; 6th April 2018 at 07:19 PM. Reason: duplicate word
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Old 7th April 2018, 03:57 PM   #46
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Having reviewed posts in this thread I think the answer to the question:

"Is there really a difference between religions and cults?"

No.
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Old 7th April 2018, 04:35 PM   #47
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Originally Posted by JoeMorgue View Post
Scientology (and to a lesser extant Mormonism) are just weird because they are new.

There's no more objective "weirdness" in either of those than any ancient mainstream religion.
Uh huh.


Quote:
John,

True story: I once tried to do an expose on Scientology, back when I was with the Buffalo Beast. I went into the local Scientology office, gave a fake name and address, and tried to sign up and go through the test-taking process, etc., like an undercover thing. So I took the test and came in the next time, and before anything happened the guy running that office told me there was a problem with my paperwork. He asked me if the phony Buffalo address I had given him was my real address, and the reason he asked, he said, was because he had found another address for me -- and it was my real address from my Bard College days in upstate New York. In other words, they had somehow found out my real name without my giving it to them, and in this creepy way they were letting me know they knew what I was up to. I asked to go to the bathroom, snuck out, and never went anywhere the hell near a Scientologist again. What was it you wanted me to read again?g
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Old 7th April 2018, 04:55 PM   #48
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Mormonism is merely new, tho.

Scientology is come bizarre hybrid of a pyramid scheme-like setup, a cult, and a stalker gang all rolled into one.
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Old 7th April 2018, 06:21 PM   #49
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Originally Posted by solfe View Post
I don't know. I had a Scientologist try to work through my life issues. He opened with "Do you have any relationship problems?". That lead to me counseling him for about 10 minutes on the wisdom of asking a guy, with his wife holding a newborn, in a mall, about relationship problems.

I'd bet the only thing keeping that guy grounded was the metal tubes he handed me. Sort of explains why he became unhinged while I was holding them.
Originally Posted by kellyb View Post
Please. Call me when Scientology digs up L. Ron Hubbard's body and puts it on trial. Or when they launch a Crusade to find his long lost foreskin.

Snakes can talk, horses can fly, magic underwear, alien ghost spirits. I can't really rank those things.
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Old 17th April 2018, 01:37 PM   #50
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Originally Posted by The Big Dog View Post
Typically the use of the word "cult" in connection with Religions has a deliberate pejorative sense. There are actual distinctions and indeed some nations have legislated against and specifically defined "cults."

Here is a good place to start:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sociol...#Cult_typology

Enjoy

I can recommend this one: The Cult of Trump (GQ, Aug. 31, 2016)
I guess nobody has legislated against it yet.
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Old 23rd April 2018, 07:13 AM   #51
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There is a difference, but in the end, it's like asking "What's the difference between a pool of diarrhea and a pool of vomit?". Sure, you can go into detail as to the differences, but in the end, it's nothing you wanna have anything to do with.
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Old 23rd April 2018, 08:57 AM   #52
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Originally Posted by Ron_Tomkins View Post
There is a difference, but in the end, it's like asking "What's the difference between a pool of diarrhea and a pool of vomit?". Sure, you can go into detail as to the differences, but in the end, it's nothing you wanna have anything to do with.
A more apt analogy than you pointed out, as well. The only real difference between those two is how they came out and the amount of processing each had first.
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Old 23rd April 2018, 09:00 AM   #53
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Originally Posted by Hellbound View Post
A more apt analogy than you pointed out, as well. The only real difference between those two is how they came out and the amount of processing each had first.
I could extend the analogy but in the interests of decency, I won't.
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Old 23rd April 2018, 10:27 AM   #54
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Originally Posted by baron View Post
I could extend the analogy but in the interests of decency, I won't.
Hah!

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Old 23rd April 2018, 10:37 AM   #55
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This reminds of the demarcation problem.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Demarcation_problem

Basically, its hard to determine where to draw the line between science and non-science but that doesn't mean there isn't a difference.

I think the same is true of cult vs religion. Branch Davidians were split from the 7th day adventists which were a split from more mainstream protestants. When did they become a cult depends on you perspective I guess.
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Old 23rd April 2018, 12:48 PM   #56
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Originally Posted by Hellbound View Post
Difference between a cult and a religion?

Popularity.
Quoting someone, I forget who:
"Christianity was a cult that got lucky."

Someone else said "tax exemption". It's all the same to me - cults and religion. To hear someone talk in earnest about their religion creeps me out. It's like an acceptable mental illness in my opinion.
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Old 24th April 2018, 11:39 AM   #57
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What does one do with the answer to this question once it is figured out?
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Old 24th April 2018, 12:00 PM   #58
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Originally Posted by Tinfoil Hater View Post
As an atheist I regard all religions as superstitious cults . But for many there is a distinct difference between religions and cults. I have heard Scientology and Mormonism called cults as they call for practitioners to cut ties with family members who reject the faith. Isn't it the same with Islam and Christianity (Catholics, Amish).

Better yet- when is a religion NOT a cult?
Not reading the other, no doubt intelligent, answers: MMmm why should I care?

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Old 24th April 2018, 12:39 PM   #59
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Originally Posted by Stankeye View Post
What does one do with the answer to this question once it is figured out?
Publish it on an online article?
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Old 24th April 2018, 01:57 PM   #60
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Originally Posted by Stankeye View Post
What does one do with the answer to this question once it is figured out?
On a serious note, it gives insight (I think). The same methods used to convince and control people in a cult are used in a religion, as well. The mechanisms are the same, usually only the immediacy of the threat/reward system is different.

In both, focus is placed on faith and blind belief, either in a deity, principal, or person. Lip service may be paid to "questioning" the faith, but it's rarely carried out rigorously and often resolved with platitudes. Members are kept in line via punishment and reward, and this is the main difference: religions tend to keep these vague and usually after death (or at least in the future), or relatively tame (Hail Marys and making amends, for example). Cults often have more immediate rewards and punishments, and often more severe (elevation of status for the loyal, physical punishment or exile for those not). Both keep followers by giving them a sense of belonging (community), and usually feelings of being set apart by status (saved versus worldly), special knowledge (knows the true will of God), or special ability (various evangelical churches with speaking in tongues, for example).

The same types of systems are at play, just to a differing degree. And that difference in degree is often enough to make one socially acceptable and the other not...but it doesn't change the fact that both are based on various fallacies and illogic, and make use of emotional responses to manipulate members.

That can arguably be a good or a bad thing. Some religions can manipulate people to try and be better/nicer, others promote hatred (and sometimes the same one does both). Cults would stand out by being the extremes of these things.
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Old 25th April 2018, 01:19 PM   #61
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Originally Posted by Hellbound View Post
On a serious note, it gives insight (I think). The same methods used to convince and control people in a cult are used in a religion, as well. The mechanisms are the same, usually only the immediacy of the threat/reward system is different.

In both, focus is placed on faith and blind belief, either in a deity, principal, or person. Lip service may be paid to "questioning" the faith, but it's rarely carried out rigorously and often resolved with platitudes. Members are kept in line via punishment and reward, and this is the main difference: religions tend to keep these vague and usually after death (or at least in the future), or relatively tame (Hail Marys and making amends, for example). Cults often have more immediate rewards and punishments, and often more severe (elevation of status for the loyal, physical punishment or exile for those not). Both keep followers by giving them a sense of belonging (community), and usually feelings of being set apart by status (saved versus worldly), special knowledge (knows the true will of God), or special ability (various evangelical churches with speaking in tongues, for example).

The same types of systems are at play, just to a differing degree. And that difference in degree is often enough to make one socially acceptable and the other not...but it doesn't change the fact that both are based on various fallacies and illogic, and make use of emotional responses to manipulate members.

That can arguably be a good or a bad thing. Some
religions can manipulate people to try and be better/nicer, others promote hatred (and sometimes the same one does both). Cults would stand out by being the extremes of these things.
Crap, I thought you were talking about political affiliations.

I still wonder what I would do with anyone family, friend, or otherwise that got involved in a movement that they felt passionate about; religion, cult, politics, social justice, etc.

When someone thinks they have the truth, direction, answers, and so on, do we as skeptics believe we are the there to provide the counter balance to that system? There was another thread somewhere on the board about a guy with a friend who believed all kinds of strange stuff, I really don't know how you reason someone back. Maybe I'm jaded from reading too many conspiracy theory sub-threads here to think people can be reasoned out of their beliefs. :shrug"
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Old 25th April 2018, 01:50 PM   #62
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Eh, I don't think you can reason someone back, necessarily. It kinda depends. But not understanding the factors at play doesn't help in any case, and at the least knowing them should help us empathize; we can recognize a lot of the same desires in ourselves (belonging, praise, etc) even if we seek to fulfill them differently.

I'm just trying to offer insights, I don't really have any solutions

ETA: Just as an aside (and referencing back to your first sentence), I do think there are a lot of similarities between extreme political views and religions/cults, too. Similar factors at play (sense of belonging, of having the answers, of having others standing with you against the outsiders, etc) and similar limitations on thinking (echo chamber effects and confirmation bias, "non-believers" are ostracized (RINOs, etc.)).

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Old 4th June 2018, 04:00 PM   #63
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I forgot who said, "Christianity is a cult that got lucky" but - ya.
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Old 4th June 2018, 10:18 PM   #64
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A cult is a group, usually centered around a charismatic figure, that is relatively small and keeps itself closed off from the mainstream. In order to join, you have to devote yourself entirely to the group and basically give all your time and money to the group (leader). Leaving the group is strongly discouraged and usually prevented with threats.

A religion is a larger and older such group where the original charismatic figure might not even be around anymore but the followers have continued to embrace the teachings and expanded them as they see fit -sometimes over centuries. Because they are larger and more mainstream, it isn’t necessary anymore to have every member give everything up or threaten them to keep them in.

In their beginnings, Christianity, Buddhism, Islam, etc etc, were all just cults like we might consider the Branch Davidoans, Heaven’s Gate, et al. Centuries hence, who knows what craziness might be a mainstream religion?
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Old 5th June 2018, 12:55 AM   #65
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Originally Posted by xjx388 View Post
A cult is a group, usually centered around a charismatic figure, that is relatively small and keeps itself closed off from the mainstream. In order to join, you have to devote yourself entirely to the group and basically give all your time and money to the group (leader). Leaving the group is strongly discouraged and usually prevented with threats.

A religion is a larger and older such group where the original charismatic figure might not even be around anymore but the followers have continued to embrace the teachings and expanded them as they see fit -sometimes over centuries. Because they are larger and more mainstream, it isnít necessary anymore to have every member give everything up or threaten them to keep them in.

In their beginnings, Christianity, Buddhism, Islam, etc etc, were all just cults like we might consider the Branch Davidoans, Heavenís Gate, et al. Centuries hence, who knows what craziness might be a mainstream religion?
Re: the highlighted, it's a continuum, there are still places where if you try to leave the established religion, you will definitely be in trouble, up to and including execution for apostasy.
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Old 5th June 2018, 08:45 AM   #66
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Originally Posted by zooterkin View Post
Re: the highlighted, it's a continuum, there are still places where if you try to leave the established religion, you will definitely be in trouble, up to and including execution for apostasy.
That is true. . . I guess the key point is that a religion is a larger group that is accepted in the mainstream. In some places, where religion is the law, what you point out applies. But in most free societies, this is not the case. A continuum, as you pointed out.

As someone else also pointed out, it's also a matter of cultural perception. A religion is simply a cult that has gained a wide perception as being a religion

Mormonism, for example, started out as a Joseph Smith cult but grew into mainstream acceptance somehow. Even Christianity was a Jesus cult - a charismatic leader with just a few close knit adherents that was not in the mainstream at the time but grew to the number one religion.

Scientology, I would still consider a cult because it is keyed around a leader -David Miscavige right now - who has made it all about enriching himself. It's way too expensive to be even a rank and file member right now. But I wonder. . . 200 years from now, there's no reason it couldn't reform itself over time into something more accessible. It could rid itself of the more esoteric, controversial crap (much like Mormonism has to some extent) and focus on the fundamental beliefs which did attract a fair number of adherents before it went all crazy (relatively, anyway -I think all religious beliefs are crazy). The people that come after Miscavige, indeed there is a sizable Scientology Freezone movement right now, could transform it from cult to religion in a century or so.
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Old 23rd January 2019, 12:57 PM   #67
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I just ran across a perspective on this that's new to me. It's easy for atheists, looking at it from the outside, to say they look the same, and religions have enough members that we've probably all met some of them and could hear their answers... but here we have someone who's met some actual cult members and heard what they think. Apparently their answer was that the idea of cults & religions being the same is nonsense because the experience of being in a cult is much worse.

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I AGREE
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Old 23rd January 2019, 09:24 PM   #68
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How about spending your childhood with a cult member?

My father was chin deep in the Worldwide Church of God stuff. Magazines decades old and well worn and him trying to get us kids to follow him at every turn.

It didn't attract any of us and frankly it was weird to see old Jewish law and strict fundamentalist bible based beliefs all mixed in the soup.

Mom is Catholic and she got my older brother into that but the rest of us all found alternate routes. Not good scores for either of option they offered.
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Old 23rd January 2019, 10:22 PM   #69
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I believe there is a lot of gray area and like all things people get involved with the lines get fuzzy.

To me a cult is one where the followers lives are controlled, mixing with the outside world is limited or controlled and leaving is very difficult and one other trait. Cults I think tend to break communication with those leaving or not involved like breaking ties with "outside" family. But there is a a sort of middle ground where the difference is hard to parse.

Mormonism is a bit cultish in some ways but I have a few friends/acquaintances who freely left the church with no repercussions or need to cut ties with family so not a total cult. The polygamist subgroups who call themselves Mormons on the other hand to me are cults - Warren Jeffs and his crowd for example.

A lot of very orthodox or fundamentalist believers tend to keep within the group but are not isolated from the outside world so maybe they border the line.

But I think one other trait may be the threat a group poses to those who oppose them. And I think many cults do pose a threat to those they or the leader see as hostile or in opposition.
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Old 23rd January 2019, 10:36 PM   #70
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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.
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Old 24th January 2019, 12:41 AM   #71
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Originally Posted by kellyb View Post
Interesting perspective.

So, you don't think scientology, JWs, and the Amish are cults?
Scientology, definitely. There's a ton of evidence I don't need to bore people with.

The Amish and the Mormons are borderline. They make people feel threatened for leaving, sometimes that means excommunicating members and encouraging their families to boycott those family members.

I don't know enough about the JWs to know if they do that to members or not.

Past that point on the continuum I don't think religious beliefs fit into the cult definition.

As for Muslims, I think they have a similar continuum with the extreme end like ISIS falling into the cult territory. But the Muslim down the street, maybe not so much.
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Old 24th January 2019, 12:43 AM   #72
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Originally Posted by solfe View Post
...
I have only the vaguest notions of what JW stands for. ....
Jehovah's Witnesses. They are fairly extreme in their beliefs, I think that's the issue.
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Old 24th January 2019, 12:46 AM   #73
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Originally Posted by JoeMorgue View Post
Scientology (and to a lesser extant Mormonism) are just weird because they are new.

There's no more objective "weirdness" in either of those than any ancient mainstream religion.


No. It's not about weird, if you care you should read up on Scientology.
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Old 24th January 2019, 12:48 AM   #74
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Originally Posted by Thor 2 View Post
Having reviewed posts in this thread I think the answer to the question:

"Is there really a difference between religions and cults?"

No.
There are plenty of religious groups that don't implement cult actions.

Claiming they do would be like saying there's no difference between Jim Jones and the local preacher down the street.
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Old 24th January 2019, 12:50 AM   #75
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Originally Posted by Skeptic Ginger View Post
There are plenty of religious groups that don't implement cult actions.

Claiming they do would be like saying there's no difference between Jim Jones and the local preacher down the street.
I'm pretty sure there are some people of my acquaintance who would claim exactly that. At best they'd say it was merely a matter of degree.
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Old 24th January 2019, 12:51 AM   #76
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Originally Posted by JoeMorgue View Post
Please. Call me when Scientology digs up L. Ron Hubbard's body and puts it on trial. Or when they launch a Crusade to find his long lost foreskin.

Snakes can talk, horses can fly, magic underwear, alien ghost spirits. I can't really rank those things.
Those are absurd measures.

Take a deep breath and rethink your POV about Scientology because it's wrong, really really wrong.
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Old 24th January 2019, 12:53 AM   #77
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Originally Posted by ahhell View Post
This reminds of the demarcation problem.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Demarcation_problem

Basically, its hard to determine where to draw the line between science and non-science but that doesn't mean there isn't a difference.

I think the same is true of cult vs religion. Branch Davidians were split from the 7th day adventists which were a split from more mainstream protestants. When did they become a cult depends on you perspective I guess.
Continuums, exactly, that's what we have here.

And BTW, it's not about size.
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Old 24th January 2019, 12:56 AM   #78
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Originally Posted by mgidm86 View Post
Quoting someone, I forget who:
"Christianity was a cult that got lucky."
Has some truth.

Originally Posted by mgidm86 View Post
Someone else said "tax exemption". It's all the same to me - cults and religion. To hear someone talk in earnest about their religion creeps me out. It's like an acceptable mental illness in my opinion.
No, there is a difference, at least in how we define mental illness, between false beliefs and cult indoctrination and mental illness. Believing false things does not equate to being mentally ill.
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Old 24th January 2019, 09:21 AM   #79
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Originally Posted by arthwollipot View Post
I'm pretty sure there are some people of my acquaintance who would claim exactly that. At best they'd say it was merely a matter of degree.
I think they'd be right, it is really a matter of degree. A large degree, yes, but the basic ideas are the same, just carried to extremes in cults. For example, to borrow from your earlier list of cult traits and apply to Christianity:

Veneration of a single charismatic leader:
Jesus. The influence is faded because of time, but it started out that way.
The Pope might be a more modern example, but again, it's become an establishment and mellowed a b it over time.

The leader's word dictates doctrine and cannot be questioned:
"I am the way, the truth, and the light. No one comes to the father except through me."
The Bible, specifically Jesus's word, is inviolate. Or for Catholicism, Papal Infallibility

The leader is not answerable to any other authority:
The Pope, of course.
Jesus was not under God, but a part of the trinity.

Separation of members from family and friends
But only if they aren't believers (a whole family in the same cult isn't unusual). Separation from doubters/unbelievers might be a better criteria.
While this generally isn't enforced in modern times, it is part of Biblical teachings. Matthew 5:30:
Quote:
And if your right hand causes you to stumble, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to go into hell.

Forced detachment from aspects of society and culture
Again, there's biblical backing for this, and it's given a lot of lip service even today. This is the basis for attempts to legislate morality (blue laws, anti-abortion, etc): to separate the believers from the aspects of society that are sinful. Again, more mellow than extreme cults, but still a point.

Secret teachings revealed only to the initiated
Not so much anymore, but there are a LOT of Bible verses about God revealing mysteries to chosen people: https://bible.knowing-jesus.com/topi...ling-Mysteries
For an example, take Ephesians 3:5:
Quote:
which in other generations was not made known to the sons of men, as it has now been revealed to His holy apostles and prophets in the Spirit;
And, of course, the Catholic church again (also much mellowed these days, but priests used to be the only ones allowed Bibles, because the lay people couldn't understand).

Doubt and dissent are discouraged, or punished
Inquisition, numerous wars in Europe, etc, etc, etc. Even these days, there are a lot of religions that discourage doubt, or pay lip service to doubting but stop short of real critical examination (using platitudes to calm doubt without really answering it).

In short, it is a matter of degree. Religions are cults that have become socially acceptable and mellowed over time. The social acceptance, in itself, means much of the tactics you list for cults become unnecessary. And in areas where a religion is persecuted, you often see the cult-like behaviors start coming back.
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Old 24th January 2019, 02:49 PM   #80
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Originally Posted by Thor 2 View Post
Having reviewed posts in this thread I think the answer to the question:

"Is there really a difference between religions and cults?"

No.
Originally Posted by Skeptic Ginger View Post
There are plenty of religious groups that don't implement cult actions.

Claiming they do would be like saying there's no difference between Jim Jones and the local preacher down the street.

Cult actions ......... hummm. Can you point to an authority that defines these? I see arth has had a bash at putting together a list which was comprehensively answered by Hellbound ^.

Don't see much difference between Jim Jones and the local preacher to be honest.
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