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Difference Between Cult and Religion

religionCult vs Religion

Throughout the history of mankind, it has been natural for people to worship something. First there was animism and that eventually morphed into the major world religions we have today. Some people claim there are about a dozen major religions in the world today while others say that there are hundreds or even thousands of different religious beliefs and practices. After learning the difference between a religion and a cult, you should be able to make the distinction for yourself.

Traditional Definition of Cult and Religion
Cult ‘“ a new religious movement that has a limited number of followers and whose practices may or may not be mysterious and possible unsavory.
Religion ‘“ a method of thought that is meant to give meaning to man’s life by putting him in communion with a higher power through stories, rituals, and beliefs.

Modern Definition of Cult and Religion
Cult ‘“ a secretive group that brainwashes its members into engaging in obscene and harmful practices for the sake of a charismatic leader.
Religion ‘“ see above.

As you can see, the definition of cults has changed significantly over the past thirty to forty years. This is because some cult leaders, such as Jim Jones, sexually abused his followers. Other cults, such as Aum Shinrikyo, have committed high profile crimes, such as the sarin gas attack that took place in the Tokyo subway.

How to Join Cults and Religions
Cult ‘“ are joined usually through coercive persuasion. To some degree or another, a person is told that the best way to solve his problems is to join the cult. They are then given unconditional love by the cult and its leader while at the same time being alienated from their other friends and family.
Religion ‘“ is generally a family affair. A youngster will be raised in a certain religious tradition and follow a path of initiation and fuller membership. This may include ceremonies like bar mitzvah or confirmation. An adult who wishes to convert to another religion must approach that religion’s leaders directly to ask for guidance and study before being formally accepted.

Both cults and religions can help people find acceptance and belonging. They give their practitioners a framework with which to understand the world. They have a codified set of beliefs and external practices. However, while religions mutual respect each other, cults are almost universally vilified except by their own members.

1. Cults and religions are ways in which people can belong to a group and receive a way to interact with God and the world.
2. Cults are generally considered to be secretive and illegitimate whereas religion is open and legitimate.
3. Cults are joined through coercive persuasion whereas religion is generally inherited.

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  1. Is there anyway I can find out the author of this article and when it was posted? I’m doing a research project and I need the MLA citation. So I would love it if I got a response soon (: Thank you.

  2. okay nevermind I found the source. boy am I dumb… >__>

  3. “Religions mutual[ly] respect one another.” I am not sure this defines relgions very well. The vast majority of people would consider both christianity and Islam real religions but they do not adhere to this statement for most of their exsistence. This is also true with jews and muslims, jews and christians, hindus and muslims, native american religions and christians, and many many more. Religion is one of the largest reasons ever for conflict and while mutual respect occurs from time to time it is not the overall trend.

  4. hey guys its me

  5. Hinduism is the great religious and hinduism is oldest religion in the world99.99%belived that no one launched hinduism islam was launched by prohfet mohmmed and Christianity launched by jesus christ he was born form Joseph&Merry Buddhist also going form Hindustan all are born form
    any one or establistany any one but hinduism lord shiva lord vishnu and lord Brahma they are born form own or no one established them or one launched hinduism belived it hinduism in ancient days one of the hindu temple mecca Medina why non muslim not allowed in kaba because hindus lord shiva was captured in kaba specially hindus are not allowed in kaba because hindu go to kaba then all muslim will died in ancient day kaba was one of hindu temple that is the first time they are occupied our temple and they are destroyed and broke all murti and broke shivalinga but it is not broken any body go and give the cow milk and tulshi leaves will with in this shiva then all muslim will died READ THESE MESSAGE PLZ AND FOLLOWED IT

  6. I know muslim was manner less and shame less they are captured all country and sex with other religious girls

  7. All muslim are postitute

  8. An easy answer to what’s the difference between an ideology (or cult) and religion is that one can freely leave a religion at any time … where an ideology or cult, one can’t leave without repercussions.

    • Oh really? Tell that to a Mormon. No repurcussions for leaving a religion? So if someone says “I’m leaving the church our family goes to”, there’s no social repurcussions at all right? No one EVER gets ostracized for leaving a religion.


      The real answer to this question is the difference between a religion and a cult is popularity.

  9. I love the Jesus

    • Well if they provide the same meaning with different reasons wouldn’t that make them the same thing there are no difference

  10. If this were to be the answer to a philosophy question in a finals exam this candidate would fail miserably. Simplistic, naive garbage which in no way furthers one’s understanding of the difference between a cult or a religion, or indeed whether there is a difference. One man’s cult member is the next man’s Christian.

  11. Seems like the definition between cult and religion is very vague. How can a child born of christian or muslim parents ever get the chance to “choose freely”? There will always be a certain level of indoctrination involved. Religions and cults are one in the same, the only difference is the level of organization and the use of Conscious Thought.

  12. Jesus and Mohammed originally founded cults. They were both cult leaders. The vast majority of people around them believed other established polytheistic religions at the time. During the middle ages, through mostly coercive tactics, followers of pagan religions were forced into following Islam and Christianity. (under constant threat of oppression and sometimes even death)

    Thus in practice the main difference between a religion and a cult is usually just time and sheer numbers. If some cult is around long enough to recruit millions of members it becomes known as a religion rather than more unsavory title of cult.

  13. Really, the only bit that’s spot on is that (personality) cults exist to further the goals and whims of usually a singular charismatic narcissist.

    As others have said above, time is a major determinant. Heresies become sects, cults become religions. The tipping point is really when it transcends being personal and becomes cultural. A good – but in no way definitive – rule of thumb is when the beliefs and practices persist after everyone with direct exposure to the first practitioners has died.


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