When Is A Cult Not A Cult?

One source of morbid but free amusement is to take a “charismatic” church that has been fretting about the sequestration of youngsters by “cults”, and ask them to define the differences between these “cults” and themselves. Any member of the church who, instead of getting instantaneously angry and threatening you with hellfire, as some of them do, actually tries to answer the question, as (to be fair) other members do, is going to have difficulties. For the criteria are met in precisely the same way. The cults set children against their parents? Well, so do you, and with plenty of Dominical authority. They go further and attempt to isolate impressionable youngsters from the rest of the world? Well, so do you, also quoting Scripture as well as the charismatic doctrine of infernal powers – which derives, not from the Bible as you pretend, but from Dante Aligheri and even from the occultist tradition. They subject the faithful to unaccountable leaders? Well, you yourselves talk about holy submission to godly men, always meaning yourselves. They empty the pockets of the converts and funnel it all up the sales pyramid? Enough said.

Church members honest enough to recognise the congruence are obliged to fall back on the line that it is different when the exact same things are done by Good than when they are done by Evil. The one is the original, the other a satanic imitation. This may make sense inside their own closed universe, but tends not to impress to the questioner.

It is in fact possible to have some sympathy with these housegroup leaders if one asks what, under some definitions, is not a cult? For it may be the occupational hazard of professional cult “deprogrammers” to conceive of everything as a program – to conceive of everything as neural subversion or a parasitic meme running on human wetware. There are two big problems with this approach. First, what they are doing is then exactly the same as what the cult is doing, but with different clients; and this they practically admit with the very term “deprogramming”. Second and more generally, if everything is X then nothing is. For example, it makes no sense to say that all money is forged. We need a non-X with which to contrast our X. So if everything is a cult, then nothing is, and we need to work a little harder at distinguishing cult religion from cult movie.

Posted on June 15, 2011 at 19:13 by Hugo Grinebiter · Permalink
In: THE LONGEST CON, From Rationalism to New Age

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  1. Written by The Ghost in the Machine
    on November 6, 2017 at 13:55

    Let me attempt an answer: A non-cult is a religious group that never claims to have found “the only way”.

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