Defining a Cult


This paper explains that arguments which are used to define cults can actually be used to define religions as well; but most of these definitions, unfortunately, have come from rumors and the negative portrayals of these cults through the media. The author relates that, because the word cult deviates from the similarities between the two, a common phrase to describe cults used by scholars and theologians of religion, is new religious movements. The paper relates tha, much like the Branch Davidian community of the 1990’s, major contemporary religions such a Catholicism and Mormonism, went through similar hardships of persecution within America based on stereotypes and rumors

From the Paper:

“The meaning of the word ult itself has changed over time. Once believed to be a form of worship or ritualistic and systemic religious belief, today many perceive cults as associated with groups such as Heavens Gate, Jonestown, and Branch Davidians. People tend to believe that cults in general have many connotations associated with them whether it is “from the images of slaughtered men, women and children at Jonestown, to the impression of a movie with a small but devoted following” (“New Religious…”). But these connotations, be it good or bad have mislead the public to their understanding of what a cult actually is. Because both religions and cults have a basis of worship, the only difference is that of the size of the group, how the public sees the group, and of how orthodox or compatible it is with societal standards.”


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