What Distinguishes a Cult from a Religion?
Hey there, welcome to our channel of…D-D-Death Death of a Notion If we find anything wrong with the Notions that we examine, WE EXTERMINATE THEM!!! EAU!!! Today we will be asking ourselves the question: “What exactly distinguishes a cult from a religion?” Now, this question in and of itself may not have any bad Notion baggage to bring with it But, there are some people who think that all religions are not cults and vice versa, that there is a definitive barrier between what is a cult and what is a religion I guess that is the Notion that we will bring Death to today So, before we ask ourselves the full question of the day, which is “What distinguishes a cult from a religion”, we will just ask ourselves “What exactly is a cult?” Here are the definitions Well, here is our definition of cult First definition is a religion regarded as unorthodox Second one is a great devotion to a person, idea, object, movement or work, and it’s usually a small group of people Third definition is a system of religious beliefs and rituals The fourth one is a formal religious veneration (i.e. worship) And the fifth definition is a system for the cure of disease based on dogma set forth by its promulgator Some other interesting information on the word “cult” is that apparently, the first known usage of the word was used in 1613, in which the context of the 4th sense of the term was used And then later, in the latter 17th century, the third definition began being used And by the early 18th century, the 2nd definition had been started to be used And it wasn’t even until the early 1800’s when the word started using it’s most popular meaning, the 1st term We will pretty much ignore the 5th definition, because it is not the religious kind of cult, as we know as cult, so we will pretty much ignore that one completely However, separating the term cult from religion, for the purposes of this video, turned out to be a little bit harder than I expected And one of the reasons for that is one of the synonyms for cult IS religion So for comparison purposes, here are the definitions given for the term religion Boop OOOh, here we go So as you can see, all of these words pop up on both sides: religion *bop*, worship *bop*, devotion *bop*, system of religious beliefs *bop* And also, practices and rituals are synonyms *bop* , and since faith is just a really strong belief, we’ll just infer that cults have them too *bop* There are, however, a couple of key differences that I would like to point out One, is that religion can be either personalized or institutionalized meaning that a person can have their own religion, or succumb to the religious notions of others that have been set in place However, for a cult, the source of these opinionated ideas, these notions, come from the leader of the group And the second key difference I would like to point out is that a cult is usually considered more unorthodox and false A cult is basically a bastardized religion A religious leader gives off opinionated ideas that are different from the mainstream, accepted norm, and they are then deemed a cult So let’s give an analogy for a second, let’s say that basically…that there is a BIG Taboo Bubble of Religion And within this Big Taboo Bubble of Religion, we have smaller Religions, so we’ll call that Hinduism, and we’ll call this one Islam We’ll make a big one for this…Christianity And even within the individual religion bubbles, there can be individual denominational bubbles, that pop up But wait! What’s this? A bubble is starting to form right on the edge of one of the bigger Taboo Bubbles of Religion Hmmmm…What will the other denominational Bubbles do about this new comer? Well, they’re going to either accept them into their fold, making the Bubble even bigger, OR cast them out completely, and put them into…THE CULT ZONE!!!! DUN-DUN-DUUUN!!! And out in the Cult Zone, this new comer will have to fight many other cults, to fight to stay alive long enough to eventually grow into it’s own Religion So, time passes *makes clock noises* and then it becomes…it’s own Religion We’ll call it…Pastafarianism…Spaghetti Monster, yay! Now this newly formed Cult Bubble may grow up into it’s own Religion one day, or it might go out in a blaze of glory in a mass-suicide
It could go either way! We don’t know, only time will tell And the funny thing is, different denominations can have different opinions on what to do about this individual Cult Bubble Some of the more liberal bubbles will accept them into the fold, while the others, the ones that are usually closer to the center, will usually deny them, and cast them out into the Cult Zone in their mindset So that makes the whole barrier of a Religious Bubble…blurry Because, you could say that “Awwww…the Big Religious Bubble of Christianity is getting blurred by various peoples opinions on what they think about this one Bubble…” So basically, there is no universal accepted parameter on what should be considered inside this religious Taboo Bubble But one thing does appear to be more common-place The closer that you are to the middle of your Religious Bubble, the more likely they are going to cry afoul something that is nearer to the edge of their Religious Bubble We’ll call these the “True Believers”, the ones who are closer to the middle So basically, the more Lemon Kool-Aid you drink, the more Lemonade and Pee alike, taste wrong And you can quote me on that kids On Google, I grabbed 12 different lists of “What does it mean to be a cult?” And combining that data with what we already know, I will provide you with a new list So that the answer of the day can be answered as best as possible Even if we already know that the subjective line between cult and religion can be kind of blurry There are about 45 variables amongst all of the sites that I checked, but I was able to condense them down to about 27 variables, due to some obvious synonymous redundancies And even some of my variables, in the 27 that I was able to come up with are darn near synonymous So now, all we have to do is ask If any of these variables, which when all of them are put together DEFINE a cult: “Does this variable also fit within a religion as well?” or rather “Does this variable occur in most religions too?” And then at the end of the day, we’ll have ourselves the magical, unique set of variables that uniquely define what is a Cult vs what is a religion AND HEEERRREEE WE GO!!!! Cults have a charismatic Leader With the unknown exception of Hinduism, every known religion today has been started due to the efforts of one charismatic leader Jesus, Muhammad, Buddha, Confucius, are some well known examples The Truth slash The Law comes from the Leader Jesus said: “I am the way, the truth, and the life.” Muhammad was given the Quran by the angel Gabriel Buddha showed how to live like him And there are similar examples in most religions All Questioning, Doubt, and Dissent is discouraged and Punished For Christians, doubt is the absence of faith, and is frowned upon In Islam, to actively dissent is to become an infidel Disowning from your family is actually kind of common place in young nay-sayers who dissent from the religion Cults manipulate the Thoughts, Actions, and Feelings of it’s members What exactly constitutes as Thought, Action, and Emotional manipulation is kind of subjective, but based off what I have seen, I’ll distinguish this as one of the unique markings of a cult Although religions often times have a core philosophical “How to Think, Act, and Feel like [Insert Charismatic Leader here] or to make your way towards [Insert current or eternal means of salvation here].” Cults appear to be especially good at making it’s members think, act, and feel the same way about certain topics Religions often seem to Kumbaya and chill out about being super controlling of it’s members, given enough time Cults either have “Special Knowledge” which is manifested verbally, or some sort of “Holy Scripture” which is manifested on paper Let’s see, the Torah, the Bible, the Quran, the Mahāvastu, the Vedas Yeah, pretty much every religion has some sort of “Special Knowledge” contained within its “Holy Scriptures” What could be marked as a special marking of a cult, however, is the availability of that Scripture or that Knowledge to the general public Cults use Mind-Altering and Brainwashing tactics It is definitely a variable extensions of the Thought, Action, and Emotional Manipulation mentioned earlier Gaslighting victims, which is saying: “Are you sure that thing happened to you?” “Are you sure that it wasn’t just something else?” There is a heavy social punishment-reward system where one is reinforced with love and acceptance, while even the smallest of flaws usually get a hateful and unpleasant reaction I don’t think that religions necessarily “Brainwash”, but I do think that they nurture you to Think, Act, and Feel a certain way Some may call this nurturing “Brainwashing”, but I stick by my assessment that Religions do not brainwash their members, while cults usually do Cults are an isolated group No major religion today is considered “isolated” With millions of followers, and often an open door policy for newcomers, it is impossible to stay isolated with that number of people
However, if you have to A) Leave the Internet, B) Live in a secluded rural area away from outsiders, or C) You are living in an invite only, exclusive place….you may be in a cult Or perhaps you’re just in a Boy’s/Girl’s Scout Camp on a camping trip, who knows? Peer Pressure and Group Think is how one’s Thoughts, Actions, and Feelings are decided in a cult Although Peer Pressure and Group Think may be elevated in cults, it’s definitely something that happens in religions too Black sheep are shunned in cults This is basically the intensified form of the Questioning, Dissent, and Doubt being Punished variable that we talked about earlier A black sheep’s social life starting fresh is not unique to cults though I’m a black sheep Kai Kai is definitely a black sheep My Christian friends who used to be Muslim are black sheep My Christian friends who used to be Hindu are black sheep There is black sheeps everywhere An Authoritarian and Submissive social structure is used in cults This variable is definitely more of a scale rather than more of a defining factor Many cultures and religions vary between having a more Authoritarian verses being a more Democratic and free society With that said, it is possible to have a Democratic cult, even though it’s rare, and it’s also possible to have an Authoritarian cult Cults often exploit you for money In religions, 10% of your money goes to the church, called a tithe Jews give money gifts in multiples of 18 Muslims give a 1/40th of their income to the poor, which is called “Zakat” Money and religion are kind of hard to separate Cults are often found to sexually exploit their members This is definitely something along: “It depends who has the dick.” If somebody (religious or not) finds an opportunity, for some self-righteous reason to sexually gratify themselves, at the expense of somebody weaker than them, with no solid morals to counteract that behavior, sexual exploitation will occur It happens with dicks in religion It happens with dicks in cults It happens with dicks in political power Moral of the story: DO NOT BE A DICK!!! Unless your name is Dick, then by all means be a Dick, but only in the context of your unfortunate name RICHARD!!! Cults are usually defined as a zealous group In religions, zealous Christians become missionaries, and zealous Muslims become jihadists, zealous monks become…out of character? For all intents and purposes, zeal is definitely not limited to just cults It is more of a scale of a person’s personal motivation to expand the groups ideology Cults are preoccupied by the recruitment of new members Ever heard of evangelism? Cults are an elitist and an exclusive group In religions, Jesus is the only way to heaven Allah is the only way to Jannah You must fully understand suffering in order to reach Nirvana And for Hindus’ “Good karma and good merit is the only way to beat bad karma and bad demerits, to be reincarnated into the Celestial Kingdom, or the Human Kingdom, as opposed to the Infernal Kingdom, or the Animal and Plant Kingdom.” But, oh wait, that ideology applies to everybody In Hinduism, there are still some bad Notions that need to be dealt with, but they sure as heck did a good job of being so dang anti-cultic Cults require a significant amount of time taken out of their week in order to be a good member of that group For subjectivity purposes, we will say that 40 hours a week is considered “significant” For Christianity, I figured that out of past personal experience, I was experiencing about 16.5 hours a week to my religious duties For a Muslim, I calculated about 20 hours a week These are still considered pretty low for significance Cults can have their members do a large range of work for their group including: farming, evangelizing, creating their ideologies’ magazine, chores for the convent, and longer class times And just for starters, and out of complete coincidence to the 40 hours a week bar of significance that I made, here’s a quote that I got from the Scientology website: “The Saint Hills special briefing course, which is a chronological study of all materials of Dianetics and Scientology takes approximately 1 year, at 40 hours a week Granted, this is some seminary level shiz, but all Scientologists are expected to read all of the stuff that Hubbard published during his lifetime For both cults and religions, however, the more time that is spent nurturing those faith based notions, the more Kool-Aid you may be drinking Cults can have heavily legalistic doctrine This is one of those scale things again There can be heavily legalistic religions, and there can be heavily liberal cults It’s not exactly a good single-defining variable to define cults Cults view their Leader as Messianic in some form or fashion Jesus was considered the Messiah Muhammad was considered the last of many Messengers
Even Buddha is considered a universal enlightened consciousness, or even god-like This isn’t even exactly a requirement for cults either, it just happens to happen most of the time Cults are usually good at Love-Bombing their members I almost didn’t count this one as being cult-exclusive, cause I feel that religions also are capable of Love-Bombing their new members too But in order for Love-Bombing to REALLY work, you kind of need it in conjunction with the above mentioned: Isolated group, the Thought, Action, and Emotion manipulation, and the Mind-Altering tactics Love-bombing is used to create higher emotional dependence on the individuals to move them towards the more desired group behavior So in conclusion, as far as religions go, they do it, they just suck at doing it Cults have an US vs THEM mentality Yeah, this variable just shows how unloving a group can be towards those of a different mindset In the American political system, you could say that Republicans and Democrats are reinforcing an US vs THEM mentality to up their group dominance against the other group I believe that it actually takes a special group to actively love people who are of differing opinions than ours So this definition is definitely not cult-specific The Ends justify all Means in a cult I’m starting to see why some of these lower variables didn’t show up on as many sites as some of the earlier ones This one is just a representation of bad philosophy For example, an Islamic extremist leader says to it’s new member: “RAPE THIS WOMAN!”- – – “Why?” “It’ll help reproduce more Muslims for future generations.” – – – “O.K.” For all cults, religions, races, tribes, and political groups alike, the ends of making the group that they are apart of larger and more superior to rival groups can bring justification to murder, which brings about less of them, and rape, which brings about more of you However, ideally, love, life, and truth should be the dominant force of means to reach the ideal ends Cults wear cookie-cutter apparel Imagine for a moment what Jewish clothing looks like Now Islamic Now Hindu Buddhist monk apparel And what a Catholic priest wears You get the idea Cults promise salvation from the very near Apocalypse And although it may take a very cultic personality to say: “THE END IS NIGH!!!! AND HERE IS WHY!!!!” It really doesn’t take much for a religious person to add one of these time-constraining, malarchious sub-belief to their religious repertoire Although religious claims may not seem rational after the date by which the end was supposed to come, and that date comes and goes Any minimally rational person would just walk away at that point So therefore, if the end is coming, and they serve Kool-Aid on that final day, DON’T DRINK IT, OK? Cults have been recently formed This is definitely one of the markers for discerning a cult from a religion Religions have taken centuries upon centuries to evolve into their current form Like I said in the Bubble analogy earlier, cults are just essentially baby religions that haven’t really formed yet I think I’m going to give an arbitrary 200 years for a cult to graduate from being a cult into being a religion Cult members often times have a Persecution Complex As it appears to me, all religions have some sort of Persecution Complex “You persecute me because of my faith Therefore, my faith is validated Because you suck as a human being And you are not as good as I in my faith Therefore, my faith is right Because you are wrong for persecuting me.” That essentially is what a Persecution Complex is Cults are often times a negative and unhealthy group Although research suggests that many cults can actually have a positive effect, for the purposes of distinguishing cults from religions, I figured this variable might be good for determining if a cults Notions are worthy of being destroyed This is basically a combination of 10 or so of the previous mentioned variables However, when combined next to religions, you realize that their ability to be either positive and healthy or negative and unhealthy vary between groups It is actually just a scale that every religious group is on Another one of those scale things There are necessary rituals to perform in a cult But pretty much all religions have their rituals Whether it’s prayer, baptisms, Special Holy Food, shaving their heads, wearing certain clothes, fasting, SAC-RI-FICE! or….EEEE-YEAAAA-YEAAA-SUUUU-DOOOM-MEEEE-NAAAY *hits head with a board* So here is a quick recap to most precisely answer today’s question: “What distinguishes a cult from a religion?” Well, cults usually use Love-Bombing and other Mind-Altering tactics in order to manipulate people’s Thoughts, Actions, and Emotions to fit in with the group mentality
Cults have also been isolated from the greater society, and have been formed within the last 200 years And cults usually often require 40 plus hours a week of their members in order for their members to be considered good members of the group So now as a result of all this research, I, and now hopefully you, can be more comfortable calling early Christianity a cult I mean, be able to distinguish a cult from a religion And recognize that 90% of religions at one time were considered cults And here’s another thought, in order to start a religion, you have to start a cult Wait, what the actual duck? Nobody can actually start a religion, but only disciples can carry on cults…………huh [Outtro Music] This video was made by Tim and Kaiida Snavely on a channel called Death of a Notion And definitely not by people who want to cookie-cutter our fellow See-Creatures into the relative salvation that is the Great Notion Ocean in the Sky See-Creatures live in the Notion Ocean You will join us You will be one of us If you would like to join our anti-cult Cult, and become more enlightened, depressed, or enraged with us (depending on your previous Notions), please do us a giddy and click on those like and subscribe buttons Until next time, Kumbaya Mother Duckers! You know, I think a wise man once said: “Cults are B.S. piled on top of B.S. and sold to the common man as chocolate cream pie, and the common man buys it.”