From the historical point of view of humanity, it is true that people have been worshipping something in their lifetime. For example, in the past, there was animism which overtime mutated to form major religions we have today in the world. Several people do point out that in the world we have close to dozens of major religions today, while others claim the different religions in the world are hundreds or even thousands which hold, and proclaim various beliefs and practices. For one to have a clearly distinguish between a religion and a cult, he/she has to learn differences between the two terms. Therefore below are the distinctions of the cults and the religions that will enable any humankind to draw a clear distinction for himself or herself.
Since a cult and religion have existed in the past, we ought to get their definitions based on the past and present times. A cult traditionally was defined as a new devout association which had specific followers observing certain practices that could or could not be necessarily mysterious and a possibility of unsavory. However, religion was defined as a way of thinking that was designed to add value to man’s life, facilitated by having a direct communion with a Supreme power which was enhanced by beliefs, stories, and carrying out rituals. The meaning of a cult is noticed to have changed over time, and thus in the modern world, a cult is defined as a private group of individuals who brainwash their members to the extent of engaging in immoral and detrimental practices to please their charismatic leader. Religion meaning has been retained up to the modern world. From the definitions, we find out that cult meaning has changed significantly over time. The reason behind its meaning change is because some cult leaders harassed their members, and also abused them sexually and secretly like Jim Jones.
Moreover, some other cult leaders were involved in some criminal cases like sarin gas crime that occurred in Tokyo which was carried out by Aum Shinrikyo.The best part of religion is that it avails to the individual’s different ways of facing a variety of moments the world can present to them. It draws the soul close to the highest adventure it has to go through thus enabling it to pass across all jungles, ups, and downs related to the human spirit. The call imposed on the soul through religion is purely for confronting reality and mastering the individual’s personality. Religion members who listen to that call usually learn the dangers, and difficulties that are in the journey of lonely life. Any authentic religion will have an organized framework that provides structure, steps, and reminder celebrations, perform rituals, and offer a guide that supports its members to walk the journey. A cult is merely centered on strict devotion, and loyalty to a particular leader, a practice, a belief or even a model, which calls for total conformity and government instead of self-awareness.
In other words, a cult is limited, and a closed system. It does not entertain any form of questing, doubt, or investigation as to the quality or value on the leadership being used or the kind of beliefs they are holding. Instead, it induces unweaving obedience, imposing of practices that favor mob instincts, obliterating originality together with personal choices. Cults mostly do not inspire or support its members for wholeness but avail simple solutions with set limits thereon.The other noticeable difference is identified in the process of joining either the cult or religion. Becoming a cult member is merely a process that entails coercive and persuasive techniques. By joining the cult, the potential member is deceived on the grounds of solving the problems they are facing.
The new members are showered with unconditional love by their leader and the cult existing members. In that process, they get estranged from their friends, and also family members. Whereas, joining a religion is normally a family concern from the word go. From childhood, one is nurtured in a specific religious tradition and undergoes an established initiation process leading to a full member. During the process, there are ceremonies like confirmation. Upon adulthood, if one desire to convert to another religion practice, is required to follow the correct channels for guidance, and learning before full acceptance is done. It should also be noted that being a cult member makes one’s life to be depended on the cult and its top leader.
Since cults are highly restrictive, oppressive, rigid, and segregating compared to religions, it’s wise to be keen on criticizing it. Any critic one can air towards the cult of which you are a member can have severe consequence than criticizing your religion. The consequences can be death threats, life-threatening punishment or even you be exiled from the cult group.Both the religions and cults do have similar claims regarding the end of the world. The difference emerges in how such claims influence their member’s behavior.
Citing the prediction of Heaven’s Gate cult on the claim that the Earth was to be recycled, and the only way out to avoid the destruction, was by committing suicide for their souls to be in an alien spaceship. The claim itself is wild, but not beyond that of Christian religion belief on rising of the dead from their graves and Four Horsemen which are occurring that are predicted to happen during Apocalypse. What brings the differences between the two is the Christianity focus towards apocalyptic prediction and cult leader’s persistence on their followers that they have to take out their own lives in avoidance of that perceived horrible scenario. Religions have leaders who occupy their leadership positions through a predefined procedure. These leaders take predetermined titles such as the pope, imams, priests, and rabbis. Such leaders do have a varying personality in comparison to cult leaders, e.g.
, David Koresh (Branch Davidians). Ordinary, religion leaders to a great extent they do not engage in abusive practices, coercive motives, or control their members or followers for the achievement of private agendas. Their core agenda is the enhancement of the teaching of their particular religion they are in support off, whereas cult leaders are the main sources of what should be taught, followed or practiced. Additionally, they are more powerful with high influence on their subjects.To a greater extent, nearly all religions started as a cult. Using Christianity as an example, it was a cult of Jesus.
After Jesus’ death, it’s when true religion emerged following Jesus’ teaching. It is to state that cult gets its definition from the leader’s character, thus in case the leader is no more alive, and there are only two possibilities. That is, the cult may vanish completely, or cult will be supported by the members to grow and become a religion, whereby member’s keeps n worshipping their deceased founder leader. The difference emerges because, in a cult, there is always a particular person at the top who knows the scam behind the whole thing, but for the religion case, founder leader person is dead.
On the side of coverage and widespread of the two, we find out that the standing difference is based on the extent to which they own real estates. Religion doubtlessly has a greater impact and widespread marks on the society as compared to the cults. For example, religions do own properties, pay taxes, produce their music, registered Television channels, and radio stations, publish books, articles, and carry a variety of activities. Thus religions are very popular, wealthy, influential, and organizational as compared to cults.
Although cults are believed to have total control over person’s mind.Lastly, but not the least, most of the people are familiar with several religions and cults in existence in the world, and therefore know how these two employ external controls and values on their members. One should never forget that sure religion is not an external journey rather is an inner journey. True religion will eventually guide one towards knowing the truth, having joy, peace, and that compassionate love for oneself, others and ultimate good that comes along with religion. A cult is nothing more than what happens most likely when an individual spirit yearning habit ferries that person to a blind lane. It’s advisable not to submit oneself under the control of a particular leader or a group which demands complete adherence and obedience to be recognized as a member.
Most religions do come up with rigid structures that aim at supporting the spiritual seeker in the remaining vigil and attuned. Such structures need to be taken as supports, but not compulsory conditions required for an individual to be accepted or a base for salvation.In conclusion, both the cult and religion can be good vessels that can help people discover their acceptance and fulfill the need of belonging to a particular group of people that observe specific worship, one desire. It can also be noted that they provide to their practitioners a background through which they can understand their world properly. The existence of a cult and religion is also important since it has a categorized set of beliefs and accepted external practices.
Although religions tend to have a mutual respect for each other, cults are practically and commonly belittled, except by their obedient members.