After hearing the assertion made by one of the contenders in a recent republican presidential debate that Mormonism is a cult,  I thought it might be a good idea to examine the word cult a bit. lists the following definitions:

Cult: noun

  1. a particular system of religious worship, especially with reference to its rites and ceremonies.
  2. an instance of great veneration of a person, ideal, or thing,especially as manifested by a body of admirers: the physical fitness cult.
  3. the object of such devotion.
  4. a group or sect bound together by veneration of the same thing, person, ideal, etc.
  5. Sociology . a group having a sacred ideology and a set of rites centering around their sacred symbols.

According to’s definitions — those that relate to religion — a cult appears to be indistinguishable from religion itself.  I thought this was rather strange, so I opened my Merriam Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary, the third definition reads:

3.   A religion regarded as unorthodox; also its body of adherents.

I am surprised that this definition was not number one on the list, because in my forty years of observing and reading about groups that were publicly referred to as religious cults, that definition has fit.   These groups tend to be composed of idealistic people who are already steeped in a particular set of beliefs, but are unhappy for one reason or another with some aspect(s) of the doctrine or the behavior of the larger group.   Given that this is correct, I conclude that at some point all religions that now exist were once cults.  Here is a list of minor cults, but I would like to list some major ones:

  • Judaism as it is today, in fact as long as it has referred to itself as such, grew out of polytheistic traditions, from which it broke to embrace monotheism.
  • Anyone who thinks Christianity is not a cult of Judaism is not getting their information from the bible.  Christ was born and raised a Jew, was clearly unhappy with aspects of culture and faith and clearly broke off and formed a cult.
  • Islam is also in my opinion cult of Judaism. Protestant Judaism?  One only needs to read a little of the Koran to know that the god worshiped and the major events and characters described therein are the same as those in the bible — Adam & Eve, Noah, Moses, etc from the old testament as well as Jesus playing prominent roles in a few of Mohamed’s visions.
  • I can’t get my mind around calling Catholicism a cult of Christianity, because it can be traced back to the beginning of it becoming a formal religion at the First Council of Nicaea in 325 A.D.   This event, was composed of a large group of shouting and arguing Christian bishops — with widely varying ideas of the nature of Christ —  and was presided by the pagan emperor Justinian, who made the ultimate decisions in the creation of the doctrines  and practices of the catholic church and who decided which of the multiple gospels would make the cut in the bible.  So in my view, Catholicism was the opposite — instead of being a cult breaking off from a religion, it was a religion composed of bits and pieces of a bunch of cults — again, bits and pieces assembled and enforced by a Pagan Roman Emperor.  However, it did not take long before cults such as the Eastern Orthodox Church and others after that.    but all the various protestant groups fit the cult definition perfectly for me — they didn’t like the way the Catholic church functioned, so they reinterpreted scripture and broke off to form their own faith(cult).  This process has continued until their are hundreds(if not thousands) of sub-cults of both Catholicism and Protestantism dotted all over the world.  For example The Mennonites are a Protestant sub-cult that spawned the sub-sub-cult of The Amish.
  • Seventh Day Adventists split off from the Baptists, due to doctrinal disagreements over important things like that the Sabbath should be on Saturday not Sunday.  Their leader also predicted the second coming would occur “between the Spring of 1843 and the Spring of 1844.”  It didn’t happen then nor any of the other countless times it has been predicted by various Christian cults, many of them formed specifically because of these predictions.
  • Evangelical Christians:  Members of this group are also clearly cult members.  Unlike the bulk of Christianity, they believe that at some future moment, that they and they alone will be snatched up clothing and all, to spend eternity playing shuffleboard with G.W. Bush and Dick Cheney.
  • Branch Davidian: Just about anyone would call this group as a cult, with its charismatic, psychopathic leader David Koresh an obvious cult leader.  but interestingly, this was yet another group who were following a psychopathic madman because he falsely predicted the end times and convinced his followers so well that they allowed themselves to be barbecued.
   So, opinion is that all of the major republican contenders for the nomination are cult members:
 Mitt Romney is a Mormon and we don’t have to go to ancient history to examine the nature of the founder of that cult.  If Joseph Smith was not a huckster, neither was P.T. Barnum, but that doesn’t necessarily make LDS a cult.  The fact that the rest of the Billion Christians in the world do not believe that Christ showed up on a hill in upstate New York and like some up-state New York Moses  deposited the gold tablets that Mr. Smith fortuitously came upon some twenty centuries later,  does make Mormanism a cult.  So as much as I was shocked by and hate to admit it, but I have to agree that in this one case, a member of this “debate, made a correct statement.
Sociopath Herman Cain is a member of the cult of corporate greed as well as being a member of the Baptist cult, not to mention his extreme bigoted views of Islam. [Expansion 11/25/11: To expand on this, do I actually think Herman Cain is a classic sociopath, like say Dahmer?  I wouldn’t actually know, but I suspect that in his personal life, he probably makes at least some decisions based on the voice of his conscience and not self-interest.  But on the job as the head of major fast-food chain, I guarantee his job description was to absolutely not listen to that voice, but make all decisions based on the bottom line.  He is running for the highest office in this country based on his ability to fulfill the conscience absent job requirements of a corporate executive, who is  trying to convince us to allow him to apply these non-principles on (to) all of us.   So, whether he can turn his conscience on and off at will is not an issue, the issue is: Since those of us who would suffer the consequences of his becoming our leader — that would be 99.9% of us –will never experience what ever level of conscience Mr. Cain either does or does not exhibit in his personal life, I think my original characterization, is apt]
Rick Perry is not only a member of the evangelical cult, he is also the leader of the cult of stupid — The king of the anti-intellectuals, whose credentials include graduating high school grabbing the seventh place in a class of thirteen, who has repeatedly and publicly shown that even though there is great hair on the outside of his head, there is very little inside.
Sick Rantorum Why not just go one step further rick and say that each man is killing a few billion half-people each time he ejaculates.  Even if, when using the missionary position with his wife he successfully impregnates one or even two eggs, doesn’t that mean we should morn the loss of those other 1,999,999,999,999 (or 998) potential half humans will tragically be murdered?
  1. worldtake says:

    I usually don’t reply to my own posts and this is actually not a reply, but an addendum to the post. The following article appeared in today’s New York Times online and it details a sub sub sub cult.

    “7 in Renegade Amish Group Charged With Assaults

    In a case that drew wide attention because of the unusual nature of the attacks, five of the men were arrested last month on kidnapping and other state charges, and were out on bail. At the time of those arrests, officials said that the founder of the breakaway group, Sam Mullet, 66, had not taken part directly in the nighttime assaults against his perceived enemies, and he was not initially charged.
    But at 6 a.m. on Wednesday, the F.B.I. and local sheriffs raided the splinter settlement near the village of Bergholz, arresting Mr. Mullet, three of his sons and three other followers on federal hate-crime and conspiracy charges.
    “We believe these attacks were religiously motivated,” Steven M. Dettelbach, the United States attorney for the Northern District of Ohio, said in a telephone interview. “While people are free to disagree about religion in this country, we don’t settle those disagreements with late-night visits, dangerous weapons and violent attacks.”
    Prosecutors in Holmes County, Ohio, said Wednesday that they would dismiss the state charges to allow the federal prosecution to go forward. The seven men were to be arraigned Wednesday in Youngstown, Ohio.
    The distinctive beards worn by married Amish men, and the uncut hair that married women keep rolled in buns, are treasured symbols of religious identity, and the attacks appeared intended to inflict public humiliation, said Donald B. Kraybill, an expert on the Amish at Elizabethtown College in Pennsylvania.
    In at least four violent attacks over the last few months, groups of men from Mr. Mullet’s compound held men down to shear their beards with scissors and battery-operated clippers, according to the authorities. In one case, they said, several of Mr. Mullet’s nephews also hacked off the hair of their own mother — Mr. Mullet’s sister — who had fled the compound years earlier.
    One victim told investigators that “he would prefer to have been beaten black and blue than to suffer the disfigurement and humiliation of having his hair removed,” according to the F.B.I. affidavit supporting the hate-crime charges. The attacks caused fear and bewilderment among the 60,000 Amish of Ohio, who are pacifists and reject the idea of revenge.
    Former residents of Mr. Mullet’s compound said he exerted iron control over the settlement of 120, many of them his relatives, sometimes imprisoning men in a chicken coop for days or beating them. Former residents also said that Mr. Mullet had sex with married women in the community “to cleanse them of the devil,” according to the F.B.I. affidavit.
    Mr. Mullet moved with some followers to an isolated valley near Bergholz in 1995 after conflicts with Amish leaders in another part of the state. He was ordained as a minister in 1997 and later as a bishop. But he fell out with other Amish bishops in eastern Ohio, who determined that his effort to excommunicate eight families that left his compound in 2005 was not justified.
    Mr. Mullet has apparently nursed a grudge ever since, and the recent victims included bishops who opposed his excommunication decrees as well as people who aided those who fled from his community.
    The federal affidavit provides details of four beard-cutting attacks and notes that the assailants took photographs of the victims to keep a record of their humiliation. It describes recorded telephone conversations between Mr. Mullet and some of those jailed in October, in which they discussed possible further beard-cutting reprisals against their Amish enemies.
    In justifying the charges against Mr. Mullet, the affidavit also cites his statements to reporters that the dispute was a religious one, that he had been treated unfairly by other Amish and that he should be able to punish people who violate the laws of the church.”

  2. the only difference between a cult and a religion is the number of adherents… so, actually, there is no difference. Just because a cult attracts a large number “believers”, it shouldn’t be considered any more acceptable than any other “smaller” cult.

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