Religions and cults

Recently, The Big Questions aired an hour long one topic episode asking “is there a difference between a cult and a religion?”

Of course, there is a difference – size. If you’re a large organisation you are described as a religion, if you’re a small one, you’re described as a cult. That is the sarcastic way of saying there is no difference. Which was the general consensus on the show (both the “cult member” guests they had on, and the impartial guests) with the exception of a few religious figureheads.

The general agreement was that cult isn’t a black or white test, it’s a scale, with lots of different characteristics, of each different groups conform to different characteristics, some to many more than others.

Two of the biggest defining characteristics of a cult that kept coming up in the discussion were child abuse and penalty clauses for leaving. I find these two very interesting as the sticking points for whether an organisation is classed as a cult or not due to how closely the major religions match up to such characteristics.

I’m sure no one needs reminding that child abuse is simply endemic in the Catholic Church. Right up to their leader, God’s representative on Earth, Pope Benedict has been involved in trying to cover up child abuse. But they are far from the only example – both the Muslim and Jewish faiths continue to cut out and mutiliate small children’s genitals[1]. Worst of all – they’re proud of it! They define it as their culture to cut apart a defenceless child’s private parts in the name of religion. It’s physically sickening, and it happens on a worldwide scale.

Shunning those who leave is also equally endemic in the major religions. Just try marrying someone who isn’t Jewish[2] in an Orthodox Jewish environment. It won’t end well for you. Oh, and did anyone forget that the punishment for apostasy in Islam is death[3] [4]?

It would seem that one of the main differences between a religion and a cult is whether a group gets away with it’s child abuse and psychological abuse of its members, past and present.



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This entry was posted on Friday, June 8th, 2012 at 12:43 pm and is filed under Religion & Politics. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.