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Thread: What is the Difference Between a Church and a Cult?

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    Chairman of the bored Maister's avatar
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    What is the Difference Between a Church and a Cult?

    A definitional inquiry that was raised by someone else on another thread - What is the difference between a church (or religion in this context) and a cult? Is there a difference? Could every religion on earth be said to have started out as a cult?
    People will miss that it once meant something to be Southern or Midwestern. It doesn't mean much now, except for the climate. The question, “Where are you from?” doesn't lead to anything odd or interesting. They live somewhere near a Gap store, and what else do you need to know? - Garrison Keillor

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    Super Moderator luckless pedestrian's avatar
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    Kool-aid...

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    Quote Originally posted by luckless pedestrian View post
    Kool-aid...
    Zing!

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    Cyburbian otterpop's avatar
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    A church is what you belong to. A cult is what everyone else belongs to.
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    Chairman of the bored Maister's avatar
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    I'm getting the impression that the word 'cult' has some negative connotations? Are all cults then by nature a Bad Thing?
    People will miss that it once meant something to be Southern or Midwestern. It doesn't mean much now, except for the climate. The question, “Where are you from?” doesn't lead to anything odd or interesting. They live somewhere near a Gap store, and what else do you need to know? - Garrison Keillor

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    Cyburbian Flying Monkeys's avatar
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    There are some good bands with the word cult...
    Blue Oyster Cult
    The Cult
    Lisa Lisa and the Cult Jam

    The cult lable seems to get used a lot when their is a single leader, many times declaring themselves somehow devine.
    What’s in a name? – Your reputation….:)

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    Cyburbian Duke Of Dystopia's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Maister View post
    I'm getting the impression that the word 'cult' has some negative connotations? Are all cults then by nature a Bad Thing?
    He He!

    The number of adherents and the length of time it has existed.

    Nobody wants to touch this with a ten foot pole! It could start a very divisive message board religious blow out!

    The polite term for a "cult" is the word "sect". So a religion may have fundamentalist sect/cults that are tolerated to encouraged, but these may be harmful to the over all religion if they become visible to the mainstream of that spiritual grouping or outside of it.
    I can't deliver UTOPIA, but I can create a HELL for you to LIVE in :)DoD:(

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    Cyburbian wahday's avatar
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    Yes, the Cult term is a sticky one. I think generally it refers to a group whose beliefs are popularly considered to be outside the norm. It can have a positive or negative connotation, though. Art movements, fashion, literature, all have had the "cult" term applied in the context of being a nascent or emergent form that challenegs mainstream thinking (Dadaism, for example).

    But, in the context of religion, it is usually negative. For me, groups I would call "cults" often have a pattern of trying to create group affiliation by forcing adherents to cut all social ties not associated with the groups - a form of brainwashing through isolation from family and friends. And that just ain't cool, man.

    But, yeah, I'd say most of our major religions started as a "cult" in the sense that their ideas were outside of the mainstream. Its interesting to note that at least one dictionary definition of cult is "A particular system of religious worship, esp. with reference to its rites and ceremonies" which doesn't have quite the negative connotation I usually think of.
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    Cyburbian boiker's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by wahday View post
    But, in the context of religion, it is usually negative. For me, groups I would call "cults" often have a pattern of trying to create group affiliation by forcing adherents to cut all social ties not associated with the groups - a form of brainwashing through isolation from family and friends. And that just ain't cool, man.
    That's an excellent description, IMO. I would also also suggest that cults encourage social deviance, in the most pejoritive sense.


    It's also a relative term.
    My cult as my parents refer to it is non-denominational Christian and not traditional Catholic which, according to the parents, is a church.
    Dude, I'm cheesing so hard right now.

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    Cyburbian craines's avatar
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    What about clubs......what is the difference between the Masons, KKK, Skull and Crossbones, and so forth.......howabout organizations,,,,,uhm howabout some goverments, howabout I shut up cause I am rambling

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    Cyburbian WSU MUP Student's avatar
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    I used to always think of the Marine Corps as a cult because of the whole, "Once a Marine, always a Marine" thing.
    "Where free unions and collective bargaining are forbidden, freedom is lost." - 1980 Republican presidential candidate Ronald Reagan

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    Cyburbian Plus Zoning Goddess's avatar
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    I have seen a cult and it is in Eldorado TX. I watched an interview with 3 of the moms on ABC this morning. Three women: exact same hairstyle, exact same dress, exact same little Minnie Mouse voice. It was creepy. Somebody's making them do that.

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    Cyburbian KSharpe's avatar
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    Cult wasn't always a pejorative word, though. They usually implied loyalty and reverance to one person. You can see scholarly references to the "cult of Mary" for example, or the "cult of Isis". It just means those members really liked one goddess and emphasized her worship above others. (don't start, Catholics, I know what you're thinking)
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    moderator in moderation Suburb Repairman's avatar
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    Here's my attempt at it. I'll try to do it without a distictively Christian bias, though I'm not sure I'll pull it off. I'm using the Eldorado Mormons as an example.

    They usually teach that only the members of their group will be saved. I don't mean like Christians & Muslims saying each other will go to hell; more like how the Fundamentalist Mormons (Eldorado) think pretty much everyone but them is on the A train straight to a toasty place. It's probably not the best definition though because the line between a sect/denomination and cult is pretty thin under this definition.

    They often insist on absolute loyalty to their group and exercise strict discipline over people by placing extraordinary demands on them. This doesn't have to be extreme like Jim Jones and a poisoned glass of Kool-Aid; I would argue forcing barely pubescent girls to spiritually marry 50-year-old men against their will likely qualifies, among other FLDS practices.

    They often have a distorted view of the end of the world. Going back to the mothership, etc.

    Basically, I think to get called out as an authentic cult, there has to be a high level of social deviancy going on and give off a certain, undefineable vibe of kookiness. It is very much in the eye of the beholder.

    "Oh, that is all well and good, but, voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same way in any country."

    - Herman Göring at the Nuremburg trials (thoughts on democracy)

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    Cyburbian KSharpe's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Zoning Goddess View post
    I have seen a cult and it is in Eldorado TX. I watched an interview with 3 of the moms on ABC this morning. Three women: exact same hairstyle, exact same dress, exact same little Minnie Mouse voice. It was creepy. Somebody's making them do that.
    I know, aren't they creepy? I sometimes wonder if they feel they have to say those things, or if they've convinced themselves to believe it...much like Wintson believing that 2+2=5 in 1984.
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    Cyburbian Plan-it's avatar
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    From the Merrian-Webster On-line Dictionary -

    A Cult is:
    1: formal religious veneration : worship
    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 a: great devotion to a person, idea, object, movement, or work (as a film or book); especially : such devotion regarded as a literary or intellectual fad b: the object of such devotion c: a usually small group of people characterized by such devotion

    A Church is:
    1: a building for public and especially Christian worship
    2: the clergy or officialdom of a religious body
    3: often capitalized : a body or organization of religious believers: as a: the whole body of Christians b: denomination c: congregation
    4: a public divine worship
    5: the clerical profession
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    Chairman of the bored Maister's avatar
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    Along the brainwashing lines it seems to me that most cults try their hardest to establish an 'us and them' mentality. 'Them', of course, being all the unholy nonbelievers and 'us' being members of the group. Physical and social isolation are crucial to helping this mindset along - hence the necessity for having 'compounds'.

    There are even cult rehabilitation centers.

    http://www.cultinformation.org.uk/article3.html
    Last edited by Maister; 17 Apr 2008 at 10:46 AM.
    People will miss that it once meant something to be Southern or Midwestern. It doesn't mean much now, except for the climate. The question, “Where are you from?” doesn't lead to anything odd or interesting. They live somewhere near a Gap store, and what else do you need to know? - Garrison Keillor

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    Cyburbian craines's avatar
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    Would mormonism be classified as cult, how about scientology, at what point does a cult become a religon....when there are enough members?


    I mean I do not want to offend Mormons but orginally they as whole practiced polyogmy and still have different levels of the after life, some of which were off limits to people of color and could only be obtained by whites who donated a lot of cash. All of
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    Cyburbian michaelskis's avatar
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    This is a fascinating discussion. I have always seen a cult as a religious order that has a negative and often controlling impact on its members based on the specific ideals or concepts of one person. They often go against governmental laws in one aspect or another. I think that the leaders of cults have this preconceived notion that they need to control ‘their’ followers first by suggestion and encouragement, then by abuse or neglect, and finally the followers fall into a completely submissive role where they no longer question the leader. Maister was correct... it is brainwashing.

    The interesting part about the cult that is on TV this week where authorities have taken their children way while the investigation is underway is that they are welcoming the media into their 1700 acre ranch. That is not something that cults often do. But then again their lawyer encouraged them to do such. I think he said do this or your world as you know it will end.

    Overall, I don’t think that cults allow for free will.
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    Cyburbian Duke Of Dystopia's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by michaelskis View post
    .......Overall, I don’t think that cults allow for free will.
    Fascinating...YES.

    The problem with saying cults are this or that is the barrier between a cult being negative while the larger trunk of that belief is ok. The barrier is in reality, non-existent. A religion is a cult, whether it is christian, pagan, or any other description. Hell, atheism as it is practiced in the US is a cult.

    I posit that there are only cults that are more or less egregious in their behavior.

    In christianity as a whole, expressing "free will" carries negative connotations indicating contrary positions to the divine will, and thus representing varying degrees of sin. In any side by side comparison of Cult vs Religion, any named branch of a mainstream religion (I will throw in any religion, big or small as well) when compared against a checklist of cultish behavior, becomes indistinguishable at first glance.
    I can't deliver UTOPIA, but I can create a HELL for you to LIVE in :)DoD:(

  21. #21
    A church is associated with a relegion which is prescribed set of beliefs about the world.

    A cult seems to be assoicated with men having sex with under-aged women and having more than one wife/cocubine or suicide if the some event does not occur or if THEY come to get YOU.

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