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Is Christianity A Cult?


KT45
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I posted this video a while ago in the humor section but I wanted to go into it a little further. The video is here

It's about starting your own cult. It's a funny video but I want to look at it seriously for a moment by comparing it to christianity/groups or other religions. First lets look at the instructions given in the video

 

1. Structure Cult like an onion with benign features on the outside and controlling crazy parts in the middle

2. Use Deception- “Don’t tell them who you really are”, lie, distort information

3. Establish front groups – fronting “pretending to be what you are not”

4. Promise to fulfill there dreams – world peace, self-improvement etc

5. Offer something free!

6. Tell them time is running out. Decide now or it will be too late!

7. Diminish doubting by separate new recruits from each other. Surround them with true believers so that they will do what they will do and think it is normal

8. Start by surrounding them with love. Get info and hone weak spots. Use info to manipulate later

9. Grant or withhold love to shape their behavior

10. Make demands

11. Control behavior

12. Describe a rigid schedule

13. Keep active with as little sleep as possible

14. Restrict eating to low protein food

15. Control thoughts

16. Control emotions: induce guilt, fear

17. Control information: keep them from knowing all information about the cult. Block out information info that is critical of the group

18. Encourage members to spy on one another

19. Separate recruit by attacking the self and inducing a mental breakdown disguised as a spiritual awakening

20. Make them paranoid about there own bodies or thought processes

21. Tell them there is apart of their mind they must eliminate to reach happiness: ego

22. Claim authority from a divine source, bogus science, or special knowledge

23. Make up story about yourself (cult leader) to boost your importance

24. Induce trance state and self-hypnosis by practicing thought stopping rituals and repetitive acts like dancing, singing, chanting, meditation etc

25. Revert them back to child like dependence and mindless obedience

26. Encourage separation from your family and friends

27. Encourage dependency and non-conformity and discourage autonomy and individuality

28. Have confessionals so they can demonize early lives and praise life in group

29. Isolate them from the rest of the world

30. Make them feel part of a special elite group with an important mission

31. Tighten group bond by establishing scapegoats and enemies: demonize outsiders. Develop us vs. them mentality

32. Tell them that there thoughts are evident that they have committed crimes. Investigate and make up crimes.

33. Make them feel guilty. There is nothing wrong with the group just something wrong with the person.

34. Indoctrinate with fear. If they leave something bad could happen

35. Make them easier to die for you by calling there bodies containers

 

 

Now lets see if christianity matches in anyway. I'm doing it too make it so it just the majority of christians denominations

 

1. Yes. You only get the nice parts of the bible first before the ugly parts.

2. No

3. No

4. Yes. Your life will be greater when Jesus is apart of it. You will go to heaven

5. Yes. Salvation is your free gift

6. Yes. time is running out because Jesus can come back

7. Yes. Altar Call.

8. Yes. Most churches assign you a prayer buddy to call you and pray with you. Or have a class

9. No. Some do but not all.

10. yes. You can't sin, you should pay tithe, go to church etc

11. Yes. Moral behavior is told to you

12. No. There is for some like week long bible studies, but not all

13. No.

14. No.

15. Yes. Bible is source of all information

16. Yes. Induce guilt and fear

17. Yes. Only read information that supports the bible

18. No. Memebers do gossip but not encouraged

19. Yes. speaking in tounges, praying daily etc

20. Yes. They are paranoid about 'sins' which are really natural like lust, wrath, envy

21. Yes. They must forget self and give all to god. Mark 8:34 Whosoever will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me

22. Yes. Yahweh

23. No.

24. Yes. Praise and worship, prayer etc

25. Yes. Mark 10:15 Verily I say unto you, Whosoever shall not receive the kingdom of God as a little child, he shall not enter therein.

26. Yes. Mark 10:29 And Jesus answered and said, Verily I say unto you, There is no man that hath left house, or brethren, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands, for my sake, and the gospel's, (30) But he shall receive an hundredfold now in this time, houses, and brethren, and sisters, and mothers, and children, and lands, with persecutions; and in the world to come eternal life.

27. Yes. Everyone must become christ-like

28. Yes.

29. No. Christianity to large to need to isolate.

30. Yes.

31. Yes. Damn Atheist!!!

32. yes. You and your evil lustful thoughts.

33. Yes. Why would anyone want to leave christianity? Psa 14:1 ... The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God. They are corrupt, they have done abominable works, there is none that doeth good.

34. Yes. Hell

35. No. Bodies are called containers for their spirit but not told to die.

 

 

Well I got 25/35 that match cult like activities. In my view it's almost a cult but not quite. The biggest difference is the isolation from everyone else. The religion is too big to feel that way. Well maybe they are made to feel isolated so I could be wrong. Also the leader usually doesn't conisder himself god. Back when christianity was small (around paul/jesus' time) it was definitely a cult. But not now. Thoughts?

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Simple definition of a cult:

 

Religion spoken of in the third person (such as "their religion").

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To your questions 2 and 3, I'd say yes. The only reason one might consider that these criteria don't fit the Christian MO, is because enough of them earnestly believe this is not what is happening. To #9, I would have to say again enough do, in fact, reading the testimonies, this seems to happen more often than not.

12-- some do.

13. Ever been to an all-night praise and worship? How about all night bowling, or all night skating? I know I have.

18. I would disagree.

23. Yes. Except it's kinda different: You have to describe your worst sins and the more "horrible" the person was before, the more saintly he appears afterward.

29. Debatable. Jehovah's Witnesses are horribly isolationist, and christians in general have an us versus them mentality.

35. Debatable. I think you're only not allowed to kill yourself. Strange that allowing yourself to be killed does not constitute suicide. Consider the crusades, and to a lesser extent, Iraq.

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Well, in terms of isolation, Xianity possesses a worse characteristic. Xianity encourages mass acceptance, which compels believers to spread the cult. Were it not for this, it would remain an isolated cult, and have caused less damage to human history.

 

People may not be encouraged to kill themselves for the cult of Xianity, but they are not encouraged to defend their lives rather than submit to martyrdom. The Xian is fed dozens of stories about martyrs who let their precious gift of life be stolen because of their religion, told all the while that thier god will reward them for preferring death over life.

 

To me, extremely cultish behavior.

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Addressing the topic question.

 

Webster's New World Dictionary defines "cult" as:

 

1. a system of religious worship or ritual.

2. devoted attachment to, or admiration for, a person, principle, etc.

3. a group of followers; sect

 

 

Using the above definition, in my opinion, yes...christianity

is most definitely a cult...along with every other religion in existence.

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Of course, the real problem lies not in that Xianity is a cult per se, but in the characteristics of the Xian cult.

 

But merely point out that Xianity is a cult, and most Xians would have coronaries. A cult differs from the Xian definition of a group of clandestine people worshipping evil deities with blood sacrifices.

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I made a chart of the whole thing. I added a third column to fill in the items that differ between Old Order Mennonite culture and mainstream Christianity. But I lose to format when I try to post it on here so I will just post the parts that pertain to the OOM group I come from and similar group. I will use numbers that correspond with your numbers.

 

Bold-faced=cult

Italics=Christianity in general

Regular type=Old Order Mennonite and related groups

 

11. Control behavior

11. Yes. Moral behavior is told to you

11. Yes. Church rules

 

18. Encourage members to spy on one another

18. No. Memebers do gossip but not encouraged

18. Yes. Each one is his/her brother's/sister's keeper

 

19. Separate recruit by attacking the self and inducing a mental breakdown disguised as a spiritual awakening

19. Yes. speaking in tounges, praying daily etc

19. Yes. Ingrain the corruption of human nature. Without God we cannot so much as produce one good thought (somewhere in Bible).

 

28. Have confessionals so they can demonize early lives and praise life in group

28. Yes.

28. No.

 

29. Isolate them from the rest of the world

29. No. Christianity to large to need to isolate.

29. Yes. Emphasize evil corrupt world. Emphasize how much better "we" are than "the world." Church rules are designed to emphasize separation from the world.

 

COMMENT: Number 29 for regular Christianity. Christianity per se may not isolate itself but (as testified by too many people on exC) many conservative Christian groups do isolate, ostracize, excommunication, or shun unbelievers. This is esp. the case for family members and former church members.

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I would say it is, but then pretty much all religions are, especially according to the dictionary definition. Granted, some are mostly harmless cults. I still wouldn't join them, though.

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Addressing the topic question.

 

Webster's New World Dictionary defines "cult" as:

 

1. a system of religious worship or ritual.

2. devoted attachment to, or admiration for, a person, principle, etc.

3. a group of followers; sect

 

 

Using the above definition, in my opinion, yes...christianity

is most definitely a cult...along with every other religion in existence.

According to American Heritage dictionary a "cult"

1. A religion or religious sect generally considered to be extremist or false, with its followers often living in an unconventional manner under the guidance of an authoritarian, charismatic leader.

2. The followers of such a religion or sect.

3. A system or community of religious worship and ritual.

The formal means of expressing religious reverence; religious ceremony and ritual.

 

I think a cult must contain the following:

1. The leader/doctrine is ultimate guidance

2. Brainwashing/Indoctrination (drugs, manipulation, lack of sleep, chanting, power of suggestion, learning only religion)

3. Isolation (loss of contact from non-followers, loss of contact from the world around you)

4. Scare Tactics (physical force, fear, pain, guilt etc)

5. Some higher power (the group, a divine being, a diety, a person or a being)

6. Denying Individualism (self loathing, everyone dress the same, denial of self etc)

7. Participants feel powerless

8. Profitable

9. Difficult to leave, easy to get in

10. Strong focus on gaining more members

11. Contains Rituals

12. Secretive about rituals, followers, leader etc

 

I still think that Christianity isn't strong enough in area 3 and 12 to be considered a cult. It's worldwide so it's really hard to isolate yourself or be secretive about what goes on with the inner workings of the religion. Or maybe I can say it like this, a cult must follow all this criteria, but once it is mainstream/worldwide it is a religion. Can a worldwide religion be considered a cult (example)? Maybe rules 3 and 12 are debateable. I think for a main stream religion to be considered a cult it should have to be more extreme with things like scarifices, murder, drugs, mutilation and pain or basically things you don't want others to know about. I wouldn't consider all religions cults (at least by my or American Heritage Dictionary standards). I don't think buddhism is a cult (not all of them) because it doesn't follow rule 1 (they are instructed to question doctrine) or rule 7 and 12. I'm sure the Odinist and Wiccans on this board don't meet the criteria to be called a cult and probably wouldn't consider themselves one. I guess I'm saying just because you have religion, doesn't mean you are in a cult

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I think a cult must contain the following:

1. The leader/doctrine is ultimate guidance

2. Brainwashing/Indoctrination (drugs, manipulation, lack of sleep, chanting, power of suggestion, learning only religion)

3. Isolation (loss of contact from non-followers, loss of contact from the world around you)

4. Scare Tactics (physical force, fear, pain, guilt etc)

5. Some higher power (the group, a divine being, a diety, a person or a being)

6. Denying Individualism (self loathing, everyone dress the same, denial of self etc)

7. Participants feel powerless

8. Profitable

9. Difficult to leave, easy to get in

10. Strong focus on gaining more members

11. Contains Rituals

12. Secretive about rituals, followers, leader etc

 

Christianity contains all of these to some extent. Some branches of it are more watered down than others, and hence do not do all of them, but you can find these practices in the fundy churches.

 

If something walks like a duck, quacks like a duck, and looks like a duck, chances are pretty good that it's a duck. Just because you don't want to accept that a duck is a duck doesn't make it any less of a duck.

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Christianity contains all of these to some extent. Some branches of it are more watered down than others, and hence do not do all of them, but you can find these practices in the fundy churches.

What about #12? I don't know of any christian churches that keep secret about their beliefs or rituals. To me if it can function inside a working society without being secretive it can't be a cult. Other cults like sciencetology are very secretive and follow all the criteria thus they are a cult.
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Christianity contains all of these to some extent. Some branches of it are more watered down than others, and hence do not do all of them, but you can find these practices in the fundy churches.

What about #12? I don't know of any christian churches that keep secret about their beliefs or rituals. To me if it can function inside a working society without being secretive it can't be a cult. Other cults like sciencetology are very secretive and follow all the criteria thus they are a cult.

 

Mormons are pretty secretive, and they consider themselves Christians. Also remember that Catholic services were conducted in Latin even though it was only spoken by highly educated people in those times. As I recall, they were only translated into native languages in the 1960's, even though the Bible was translated sooner than that.

 

If you take a rose and cut off one of its thorns, is it less of a rose? Of course not. If you cut off all of its thorns, does it then stop being a rose? No. If something meets 99% of criteria for being something, but there's 1% of criteria it doesn't meet, is it then not that thing? Logically, no.

 

Modern Christianity may have fewer thorns than ancient Christianity, but that doesn't make it not a cult.

 

Do you think it was easy for me to admit to myself that I was in a cult? That was one of the hardest things that I have ever had to do in my whole life. It was very, very hard to admit to myself that I had been lied to and deceived for over 20 years and that my whole family is still in a cult. Just because the truth is painful and ugly doesn't make it any less the truth.

 

I think you're afraid to admit it, just like I was when I first left. It's not politically correct to say that a religion is a cult, true. But that doesn't mean it's not the truth. I think you're focusing on details, like "are they secretive?" and ignoring the larger picture which is all the other things that it does do, because it's safer to focus on the details that agree with what you want to think rather than look at the whole picture. That's human nature. We've all done it.

 

I'm willing to bet that the vast majority of Scientologists won't agree that they're in a cult, either. That doesn't make Scientology not a cult.

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Mormons are pretty secretive, and they consider themselves Christians. Also remember that Catholic services were conducted in Latin even though it was only spoken by highly educated people in those times. As I recall, they were only translated into native languages in the 1960's, even though the Bible was translated sooner than that.

Yeah I forgot about some of those. I also remembered that the vatican keeps a big secret library that very few have the privilage to see.

 

I think you're afraid to admit it, just like I was when I first left.
It's not that I'm afraid to admit it is a cult. Its just that when I was in christianity, I thought all the answers to everything were nicely defined and exact. I guess I still like nice neat definitions to go with everything so that things appear stable and concrete. I know things aren't like this but I can dream.

 

It's not politically correct to say that a religion is a cult, true. But that doesn't mean it's not the truth. I think you're focusing on details, like "are they secretive?" and ignoring the larger picture which is all the other things that it does do, because it's safer to focus on the details that agree with what you want to think rather than look at the whole picture. That's human nature. We've all done it.
I mostly concentrate on the "secretive" part because I felt it had the most weight. All the major cults I can think of were kept from the public eye and it's members were uniformed about much of its development. I thought the secretive nature affected cults the most. but then I think of smaller cults like alcoholics anonymous or the Phelps family that aren't secretive making it hard to define what makes a cult.

 

I guess I'd like the line to be drawn between religion and cult. Maybe the line is far to blurry to tell the difference. Do you think there is a line? What separates cults from religions? Are there any religions you wouldn't consider cults? Why?

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I guess I'd like the line to be drawn between religion and cult. Maybe the line is far to blurry to tell the difference. Do you think there is a line? What separates cults from religions? Are there any religions you wouldn't consider cults? Why?

 

I personally don't think there is a difference anymore. At one time I would have said yes there is, but now I'm leaning heavily towards the atheists on that.

 

The only religion I don't really consider a cult is Buddhism, but I don't really consider it a religion. No offense to those who are Buddhists, but from what I've read, it's more like a philosophy. Depends on the sect, I would say. Some sects have been heavily influenced by Christainity.

 

I do consider some cults to be harmless, as opposed to Christianity and Islam. Depends on a number of things.

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How does that saying go....'a cult is any church/group that I don't go to'...?

 

I think the term 'cult' is handy for the religous to use on other religious groups - that's about it.!

 

opps forgot to add.....that in my opinion there is NO religous groups that are not vulnerable to becoming victimiser's or destructive - including Judism, Buddhism, Hinduism, Taoism & all the rest.

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All religious bodies are cults. "Cult" only became a bad word thanks to Xianity. But by the book, any religious body of worshippers can be considered a cult.

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I guess I'd like the line to be drawn between religion and cult. Maybe the line is far to blurry to tell the difference. Do you think there is a line? What separates cults from religions? Are there any religions you wouldn't consider cults? Why?

 

You're asking some pretty good questions here.

 

Let's look at this one:

 

1. The leader/doctrine is ultimate guidance

 

I'm still reeling from an experience I had today. I'm three-quarter ways through a degree in theology and I just deconverted very recently. It seems reasonable to finish my degree.

 

Frankly, I don't know if I ever had anything to deconvert from. What I trusted and had absolute faith in was that the church--or at least Christianity--had the answer and would relinquish it when I got "old enough to understand." That's what my mom promised when I was an inquisitive child. At forty I realized that I was probably old enough to understand. Still no answers to be found.

 

My question was theological and it's posted on here somewhere. Maybe this is why I had to do a theology degree so that I could satisfy my mind that not even the most highly educated theologians and biblical scholars knew the answer.

 

Back to the present topic. Is Christianity a cult? How does it measure up on Number 1: A cult is something where the leader or doctrine is the ultimate guidance.

 

As stated, I have now been at this school of theology for quite a while. Here's what happened today:

 

The question regarded topics such as whether or not the virgin birth happened, whether or not it's true. The same about the resurrection and Jonah in the belly of a fish. Prof more or less ridiculed the idea of taking the Jonah story literally. He said it's the truth behind the story that is important. I suggested the same could be said for the resurrection story. He asked what that would be. I said it could be taken as a symbol that we can overcome serious difficulties in life. (Fact of the matter is that is how I take it. Didn't tell him, though.)

 

Using the word "symbol" was a mistake. He rejected my idea out of hand. I protested that he had asked me how else we could take that story and that I had just answered that question. He got sort of lost and asked me to repeat things. I did. He accepted it as my suggestion but not as a viable option for belief.

 

Somewhere along the line, other students were challenging him on some of these concepts. He explained that we have to hand over control. We want to control things so much; we have to let go of that and just trust the belief.

 

To me, that sounded like handing control over to the church. I argued that the church controls people. He confessed that yes in the past there have been very terrible things committed by the church. I insisted it's on-going. I guess he does not like having the church challenged openly like that. He talked to me about it afterward and said he feels it is not good use of class time, and that I should talk with him afterward if there is an issue I want to address.

 

There wasn't really. I just wanted a bit of fun. Fact of the matter is, I had a problem with the way he put it that the individual must give up control to the church. Well, he didn't put it that way. He said we had to give up trying to control our understanding--actually I don't know what he was trying to say. Maybe that is why I challenged him the way I did. Apparently he didn't like it.

 

All of this has prompted me to really think. WHAT WAS GOING ON HERE? I've been at this school for a good two years and I am quite sure the other profs would have just laughed it off. Some of them are rebels at heart, too.

 

Back to:

 

1. The leader/doctrine is ultimate guidance

 

It appears for all the world that even for very highly educated and respected scholars the Bible has to subjected to the accepted doctrine. I got a similar answer from another prof at that school a few years ago. That prof put so much emphasis on the value of baptism of children. The school is Lutheran. As a Mennonite raised on the doctrine of believer's baptism, this made absolutely no sense. Finally he told me, "I think something happens when a person is baptized."

 

I questioned him very thoroughly as to the actuality of "something" happening. At a certain point in the discussion he would just say, "I don't know." I proposed this hypthetical situation:

 

Suppose there were two seventy-year-old men. Neither had been inside a church in more than fifty years. One had been baptized as an infant. The other was born, and lived all his life, outside of religion and had never been baptized. Would there be a difference between these two men?

 

He would only say: I don't know.

 

At the time I believed that he was incapable of thinking on that level. After what happened today I am more inclined to believe that he chose not to think on that level. Like the prof today, he subjected his thought to the doctrine of the church.

 

These two highly educated Christians are part of a mainstream Christian denomination. NOT fundamentalism. I read somewhere in the school's policies that in order for a person to teach theology at this school, he or she had to stick to (believe in) this Church's official beliefs. I suspect this is what these two profs were doing and why they refused to ask certain questions. It could cost them their jobs.

 

The school's policy is not to reject any student because of religious belief or lack thereof. What they do require in the line of religion is a demonstration of a comprehensive and consistent belief system. I seem to pass that test.

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Sidetracking this topic for a moment, do you know how they call the services at my old church? Yes you guessed it, in french it's 'culte' which means worship but can easily mean cult as well :HaHa: At least they're not denying it. Anyway, back to your regurlar programming....

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Addressing the topic question.

 

Webster's New World Dictionary defines "cult" as:

 

1. a system of religious worship or ritual.

2. devoted attachment to, or admiration for, a person, principle, etc.

3. a group of followers; sect

 

 

Using the above definition, in my opinion, yes...christianity

is most definitely a cult...along with every other religion in existence.

According to American Heritage dictionary a "cult"

1. A religion or religious sect generally considered to be extremist or false, with its followers often living in an unconventional manner under the guidance of an authoritarian, charismatic leader.

2. The followers of such a religion or sect.

3. A system or community of religious worship and ritual.

The formal means of expressing religious reverence; religious ceremony and ritual.

 

 

 

..and here are a couple of more dictionary definitions:

 

 

The Merriam-Webster online dictionary lists five different meanings of the word "cult"

 

  1. Formal religious veneration
  2. A system of religious beliefs and ritual; also: its body of adherents;
  3. A religion regarded as unorthodox or spurious; also: its body of adherents;
  4. A system for the cure of disease based on dogma set forth by its promulgator;
  5. Great devotion to a person, idea, object, movement, or work (as a film or book).

The Random House Unabridged Dictionary definitions are:

 

  1. A particular system of religious worship, esp. with reference to its rites and ceremonies;
  2. An instance of great veneration of a person, ideal, or thing, esp. as manifested by a body of admirers;
  3. The object of such devotion;
  4. A group or sect bound together by veneration of the same thing, person, ideal, etc;
  5. Group having a sacred ideology and a set of rites centering around their sacred symbols;
  6. A religion or sect considered to be false, unorthodox, or extremist, with members often living outside of conventional society under the direction of a charismatic leader;
  7. The members of such a religion or sect;
  8. Any system for treating human sickness that originated by a person usually claiming to have sole insight into the nature of disease, and that employs methods regarded as unorthodox or unscientific.

...and lessee...Taylork45 is basing his definition of a cult on a YouTube video. So, given that there are even more definitions of what constitutes a cult than these examples...not to mention, that the movie by Ed Wood entitled "Plan Nine from Outer Space" is considered by many (whomever "many" are) to be a "cult classic"...shouldn't we conclude that "definition is in the eye of the beholder"?

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