Author Topic: What makes a cult a cult?  (Read 2023 times)

Outrider

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What makes a cult a cult?
« on: November 24, 2015, 09:06:18 AM »
From an article in this morning's Guardian: "Russia’s justice ministry has long been pushing to prohibit the organisation {Russian branch of the Church of Scientology}, which some countries treat as a legitimate faith but others consider to be a cult."

I understand the pejorative nature of cult (and the slightly less pejorative 'Sect'), but what's the basis for differentiation?

Why are, say, Roman Catholicism and Eastern Orthodoxy or Sunni and Shia 'sects', whilst Scientology is a 'cult'? Why aren't Judaism and Christianity and Islam sects of, say, 'Abrahamism' - is it purely an historical artifact, or is there some sort of legal, sociological or theological rationale?
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Rhiannon

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Re: What makes a cult a cult?
« Reply #1 on: November 24, 2015, 09:10:35 AM »
As I understand it cults have to have certain characteristics - they tend to have a guru figure, they demand financial and emotional loyalty, and isolate followers from family and friends in order to create a culture of complete dependency.

Floo

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Re: What makes a cult a cult?
« Reply #2 on: November 24, 2015, 11:48:27 AM »
As I understand it cults have to have certain characteristics - they tend to have a guru figure, they demand financial and emotional loyalty, and isolate followers from family and friends in order to create a culture of complete dependency.

Like the JWs.
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ProfessorDavey

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Re: What makes a cult a cult?
« Reply #3 on: November 24, 2015, 01:50:17 PM »
As I understand it cults have to have certain characteristics - they tend to have a guru figure, they demand financial and emotional loyalty, and isolate followers from family and friends in order to create a culture of complete dependency.
I'm not sure that many cults do actually 'isolate followers from family and friends', in some respects they do the opposite. Effectively they ensure that all the people considered to be friends or family are within the cult - therefore making it very difficult for the member to leave without becoming detached from all their support network. And often there is an aspect of isolationism embedded, such that friends and family within the cult are expected to ostracise any friend or family member that choses to leave.

So rather than isolate from friends and family when in the cult, they ensure that the cult member will be isolated from friends and family if they leave.

Rhiannon

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Re: What makes a cult a cult?
« Reply #4 on: November 24, 2015, 04:06:32 PM »
I'm not sure that many cults do actually 'isolate followers from family and friends', in some respects they do the opposite. Effectively they ensure that all the people considered to be friends or family are within the cult - therefore making it very difficult for the member to leave without becoming detached from all their support network. And often there is an aspect of isolationism embedded, such that friends and family within the cult are expected to ostracise any friend or family member that choses to leave.

So rather than isolate from friends and family when in the cult, they ensure that the cult member will be isolated from friends and family if they leave.

In gaining new members isolating people from family and friends is a proven technique in cults / it's actually a red flag for anti- cult organisations. It's why so many parents end up losing contact with their children if they become cult members. Once in of course they marry (if permitted) and have children within the cult.
« Last Edit: November 24, 2015, 05:48:01 PM by Rhiannon »

ekim

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Re: What makes a cult a cult?
« Reply #5 on: November 24, 2015, 04:20:36 PM »
In gaining new members isolating people from family and friends is a proven technique in cults / it's actually a red flag for anti- cult organisations. It's why so many parents end up losing contact with their children if they become cult meets. Once in of course they marry (if permitted) and have children within the cult.
They become cultivated?

ProfessorDavey

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Re: What makes a cult a cult?
« Reply #6 on: November 24, 2015, 05:35:06 PM »
In gaining new members isolating people from family and friends is a proven technique in cults / it's actually a red flag for anti- cult organisations. It's why so many parents end up losing contact with their children if they become cult meets. Once in of course they marry (if permitted) and have children within the cult.
OK - I see where you are coming from now. But the reverse is also true - to create a world in which all friends and family belong to the cult so that it makes it almost impossible to leave without stepping entirely away from all your support circle.

ekim

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Re: What makes a cult a cult?
« Reply #7 on: November 25, 2015, 08:59:47 AM »
This video is a good example of extreme cult practice..... http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/34898778

jeremyp

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Re: What makes a cult a cult?
« Reply #8 on: November 25, 2015, 01:03:16 PM »
When I read the title, I thought this thread was going to be about Piers Morgan.
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Shaker

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Re: What makes a cult a cult?
« Reply #9 on: November 25, 2015, 01:43:36 PM »
When I read the title, I thought this thread was going to be about Piers Morgan.
I recall Stephen Fry saying "Killing Piers Morgan" was the definition of the word countryside.
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Jack Knave

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Re: What makes a cult a cult?
« Reply #10 on: November 26, 2015, 08:21:59 PM »
As I understand it cults have to have certain characteristics - they tend to have a guru figure, they demand financial and emotional loyalty, and isolate followers from family and friends in order to create a culture of complete dependency.
That sounds about right to me. It's a good starting point.

Jack Knave

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Re: What makes a cult a cult?
« Reply #11 on: November 26, 2015, 08:31:07 PM »
OK - I see where you are coming from now. But the reverse is also true - to create a world in which all friends and family belong to the cult so that it makes it almost impossible to leave without stepping entirely away from all your support circle.
But is far easier to extract one person from a family, who is often insecure and rebellious of that family, than to try to convert whole families who could quite easily close ranks and resist the cult.

Jack Knave

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Re: What makes a cult a cult?
« Reply #12 on: November 26, 2015, 08:37:52 PM »
Also, families have their own outlook and disposition, and the whole point of a cult is to mould people into their way of thinking and attitude. If there are whole families in the cult this could undermine it.

ProfessorDavey

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Re: What makes a cult a cult?
« Reply #13 on: November 27, 2015, 10:12:38 AM »
But is far easier to extract one person from a family, who is often insecure and rebellious of that family, than to try to convert whole families who could quite easily close ranks and resist the cult.
But lots of cults are based around families too. And if they are successful they perpetuate themselves by ensuring that cult members marry other cult members and produce new cult members. So ultimately you aren't trying to 'convert' an existing family, the family develops in the cult. And I think this situation is the most challenging for people to leave. So for a young person born into a cult where their family members are also in the cult and necessarily their friends will be too, to leave means leaving behind all your support network.

Spud

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Re: What makes a cult a cult?
« Reply #14 on: November 27, 2015, 03:53:20 PM »
One characteristic not mentioned so far is that cults try to entice people away from mainstream churches, hence they are likened to wolves stealing sheep.

Outrider

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Re: What makes a cult a cult?
« Reply #15 on: November 27, 2015, 03:55:54 PM »
One characteristic not mentioned so far is that cults try to entice people away from mainstream churches, hence they are likened to wolves stealing sheep.

Other churches try to steal people away from churches. Mosques, presumably, are interested in stealing people away from churches and churches are interested in stealing people away from mosques, and the there are synagogues and who knows how many other sorts of institutions of other religions.

How 'active' do you have to be to be considered a cult? My local church has posters up advertising something like 'Jesus is the way, come in to find out more'...

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Jack Knave

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Re: What makes a cult a cult?
« Reply #16 on: November 27, 2015, 03:56:19 PM »
But lots of cults are based around families too. And if they are successful they perpetuate themselves by ensuring that cult members marry other cult members and produce new cult members. So ultimately you aren't trying to 'convert' an existing family, the family develops in the cult. And I think this situation is the most challenging for people to leave. So for a young person born into a cult where their family members are also in the cult and necessarily their friends will be too, to leave means leaving behind all your support network.
You're talking about forming families within the cult from existing members. That's a different matter. At the start they have to obtain members at the individual level from without but once that core group has been formed the cult's integrity is contained by restricting marriage within the group and so breeding new members. It's all about control and power.

Jack Knave

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Re: What makes a cult a cult?
« Reply #17 on: November 27, 2015, 04:03:04 PM »
One characteristic not mentioned so far is that cults try to entice people away from mainstream churches, hence they are likened to wolves stealing sheep.
They do that because they know that there are people there looking for answers, and asking questions, and may not totally be satisfied with what they have heard or received. They also know that those people are thinking in the same kind of ballpark as they are, i.e. spiritual terms and a meaning to life.

Hope

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Re: What makes a cult a cult?
« Reply #18 on: November 27, 2015, 05:12:19 PM »
One thing worth mentioning is that, more often than not, the term 'sect' is applicable to religious groupings, but the term 'cult' doesn't have to.  Think of the term 'a cult film': do we refer to 'sect films'?  OK, his may not answer the question completely, but it gives an idea of whaty that answer may involve - some aspects of which have already been touched on.

I don't often use this group as a reference - I oftren disagree with their theological pov - but this article is worth a read.  http://www.gotquestions.org/sect-cult.html

Some of the opinions expressed here may be contradictory, but there are 2 or 3 helpful ones in my view, such as that expressed by "Nathan Coppedge", "mayo_carl" and "zirp".

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« Last Edit: November 27, 2015, 05:20:52 PM by Hope »
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Hope

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Re: What makes a cult a cult?
« Reply #19 on: November 27, 2015, 05:15:26 PM »
The bit in the bible they use is this one.

Matthew 10;35
The Sword of the Gospel
34"Do not think that I came to bring peace on the earth; I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. 35"For I came to SET A MAN AGAINST HIS FATHER, AND A DAUGHTER AGAINST HER MOTHER, AND A DAUGHTER-IN-LAW AGAINST HER MOTHER-IN-LAW; 36and A MAN'S ENEMIES WILL BE THE MEMBERS OF HIS HOUSEHOLD.
A good example of using a passage out of context to develop a theology - something that several people on both sides of the theological debate here do, by the way.
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BashfulAnthony

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Re: What makes a cult a cult?
« Reply #20 on: November 27, 2015, 06:00:09 PM »
Only if the whole family is already in it.

Where they are not, they cut them off from their family, because it's the family that is most likely to object and talk them out of it.

Also they don't want them to have a support group outside the cult.

If you read accounts of families who's relative joins a cult it's quite common.

The cult community becomes their replacement family, should relatives decline to join.

The bit in the bible they use is this one.

Matthew 10;35
The Sword of the Gospel
34"Do not think that I came to bring peace on the earth; I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. 35"For I came to SET A MAN AGAINST HIS FATHER, AND A DAUGHTER AGAINST HER MOTHER, AND A DAUGHTER-IN-LAW AGAINST HER MOTHER-IN-LAW; 36and A MAN'S ENEMIES WILL BE THE MEMBERS OF HIS HOUSEHOLD.


Yes they try to convert the whole family, but use this as a way of dividing them , should the rest of the family not walk into it like mindless sheep.

They know relatives are likely to object, so kind of build it in to the religion itself.

They teach you,  your family will turn against you when you turn to Jesus and the correct way,  which is how a prospective member will see the resultant upset.

That the bible is being fulfilled, and that relatives objections are proof of that.


Jehovah's witnesses discourage you from mixing with non JW at least initially.

My JW relatives do mix with us ( well my mother) but their social circle is the JW's in the Kingdom Hall they belong too.

They obviously don't join in at Christmas which is when many families " get together"

It doesn't matter so much now, because we are no longer as tightly knit as when my grandparents were alive.
But it mattered a lot when I was a kid.

My grandfather was an Athiest and it's the only time I ever saw him cry, when they joined that.

But we all get on now and they mix, but their life is their church and the people in it.


I would describe JW as a cult.

But they obviously haven't realised, or don't want to, that it  describes how people will be thrown apart for their differing beliefs, but not in the sense of physical confrontation.
« Last Edit: November 27, 2015, 06:16:49 PM by BashfulAnthony »
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