“Cult” is a pejorative term used to marginalize a group. It is a classic example of a collective majority marginalizing a minority and of authority marginalizing those of no authority or power.
The term has powerful connotative meanings and is used primarily to discredit or disparage a group. Most of the time, this label is used inconsistently and unfairly. Ignorance fuels our perception, as we fear what we do not understand.
In the state of Ohio, there is a group of principled, conservative people that live in their own communities, called the Amish. They believe strongly in their religious and philosophical principles and have lived in isolation from the larger American community for a long time. They do not use modern technology or conveniences. They grow their own food, fetch their own water, run their own schools, all the old-fashioned way. Normally, a group engaging in this type of behavior would, no doubt, be considered a cult, but I do not believe the Amish receive that judgement. The Amish are good people. They take care of their own community, keep to themselves and don’t bother anyone.
Buddhist and Shaolin monks are similar. They live in isolated communities and adhere to strict philosophical and spiritual doctrines.
So, exactly, what quality distinguishes similar functioning communities as a cult? Does it require a ritual, a blood contract, or a secret oath?
Gangs and cartels are everywhere. Affiliation is easily indicated by tattoos and hand signs, all forms of symbology. It’s common practice to go through a hazing ceremony in order to be “initiated.” And here’s the kicker: To leave the group is a form of apostasy, punishable by death. In jail, defecting gang members often go into special protection.
The Aryan Brotherhood and the Nazis, both organized gangs, can be said to have ideological ties to Hitler and the Aryan race. I recommend you do some homework to understand where the whole “Aryan” race ideology comes from. It’s widely considered occultic in origin.
ISIS and Al’ Qaeda are said to indoctrinate children from a very young age to embrace Islamic jihadism as selfless militants.
Most organized religions have a conversion ceremony. Christianity is popular for “baptizing” its members. It requires the oral recital of a few words and a witness. Many Christian churches also hold ceremonies where, in honor of Jesus Christ, bread and wine are consumed in communion to symbolically represent the sacrifice of Jesus’ body and blood. Apostasy is also a crime punishable by death, and this isn’t exclusive to the Christian faith; it’s standard across all of the Abrahamic faiths.
Let’s try one more angle. Maybe a cult is a group similar to all the above, but whose main focus is to control, take advantage of, or manipulate its members through twisted doctrines and lies.
In ancient times, the head clergy of the Roman Catholic church held the exclusive privilege to have access to the biblical texts, while the people didn’t. Even more recently as an example, during the European slave trade, slaves weren’t allowed to have access to the text and were forbidden from learning how to read in order to take advantage of their ignorance. In fact, the slaves were taught specific passages in order to convince them to live happily in servitude.
Many evangelical groups and so-called missionaries, charities, and non-profit organizations pose as good-intentioned groups, when in reality their intentions are not as pure as they pretend them to be. It’s important to understand that not everyone participating in such evils is guilty. The majority of the members simply follow a chain of command and only see the surface. They don’t see what’s behind the curtain.
Most of these communities operate in the public domain unlike what you might actually expect from a cult. And the largest, most subliminally widespread cults may be right in front of your eyes.
The Knights Templar was a cult.
You could argue that the entire country of North Korea is a cult. For sure, North Korea’s ruling dynasty is a cult, but just as much as is the Roman Papacy.
Jesus, a luminary who had devout followers, was, in fact, a cult leader. Again, this doesn’t mean he was a liar or a bad person. The documentary film company, VICE, has a documentary about someone that’s been touted as the reincarnation of Jesus who has gathered followers.
But what does the general public think of this?
“Well, it’s just a cult.” – General Public
None of what is said here is intended to discredit anyone or any faith. My goal is to underline the selective psychology most of the world is guilty of, unknowingly.
The term cult is used arbitrarily as a pejorative label. Those that apply this label to other groups typically do so out of a sense of false righteousness, hate, or ignorance. Chances are, they are probably in some type of “cult” themselves, but don’t realize it.
Finally, a cult isn’t necessarily a negative group. A cult could be a harmless, insulated society like the Amish, instead of a far-reaching cult like the Roman Catholic church, who has literally tried to take over the entire world through many wars.