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Distinction between Cult and Religion Term Paper

There is a clean distinction between cult and religion (Crnic, 2009). The debate between the differences about the two sparks a lot of difference of what exactly should be termed as a cult. Some view it as being a religion by itself. Others see it as a corrupt or wrong practice with a lot of secrecy. In some countries, cults are not accepted. In these countries, they term cults as criminal, antisocial and brainwashing practice. Sociologists have looked into the technical sense of these practices.

Sociologists see cults as tension group within a society. On the other hand, religion is a vibrant movement in the lives of many people (Fisher, 2010). It has gained popularity over the majority of people in the world. The beliefs and practices of these traditions have changed over time. This thesis gives account of the difference between cults and religion.

The differences between these two disciplines cut across various elements that affect the society. The changing nature of both cults and religion touches on the role of women, issues and controversies of fundamentalism, globalization and interfaith initiatives (Fisher, 2010). The modern religious world is an emphasis about personal consciousness in contemporary life. All religions in the world have a connecting purpose that they share. They all strive to achieve the goal of tying people back to something behind the surface of life.

On the other hand, cults explain spiritual needs. It splits personal deeds to good cult self and dirty old self. This requires one to assess oneself from his or her old life to the new life in the cult. Moreover, the followers have to be cleansed from the evil deeds they did in the past (Nosco, 2008). During conversion the follower unconsciously surrenders to external forces. The cult cares little about people’s identity. Members hasten to make quick decision to join whilst having little information about the cult.

Cults see the family as an enemy to the success of an individual (Moore, Pinn & Sawyer, 2004). When a person joins the cult, he or she receives unconditional love from the leader. The member is then alienated from the family. This leads to breaking up of families since the followers are prohibited from associating with close family members. They perceive that the wealth and moneys one acquires are means towards achieving power. The wealth and money are selfish goals of a leader.

They believe wealth does not benefit its members. Therefore, they extort a lot of money from their followers. Some even go as far as asking for lifetime savings of their followers. In addition, they do not discourage unethical deeds (Moore, Pinn & Sawyer, 2004). For instance sexual appetites to the leaders by its members are highly acceptable. Jim Jones of the people’s temple cult was implicated for sexually abusing his followers.

Cults often urge communal living and warn their followers from getting contaminated with earthily deeds. This practice is well established in communities such as monasteries. However, the cults display exclusiveness and isolation from the society (Moore, Pinn & Sawyer, 2004).

In addition, the followers depict a lot of conservatism. The leaders of these cults have control over members. The cult followers believe that all practices that are outside the cult are evil. The activities in the cult are clean path towards salvation. The cult leaders bear the burden to teach and guide all the followers towards salvation. The cult leaders or founders are usually self appointed. Hence the society they lead is an elitist society.

The cult followers view their leader to be charismatic, messianic dogmatic and unaccountable. Psychological coercion is a technique cult leaders have mastered to recruit and indoctrinates members. When selecting followers, the cult leaders single out the lonely and marginalized people to be part of their cult. They target these individuals since they are receptive to any social contact (Nosco, 2008).

Cults impose a lot of doctrines to their followers. For instance, social disruption comes out vivid since the members’ isolation from the society is mandatory. The followers are under a lot of pressure to commit fully to the cult. The members are subjected to stress and fatigue as well as self criticism and humiliation. Cults subvert the human will with obedience to the leaders. Fear and criticism is the main character for these followers.

They have the desire for material achievement and the sense of purposefulness. In addition, cult followers are assessed by their on rigid adherence and loyalty to the leader. The leader conforms to control his or her followers rather than to advocate for self awareness in quest for the truth (Nosco, 2008). All cults have a closed system. Therefore, members have no right to investigate or question the leadership of the cult.

This restriction denies the followers the mandate to make individual choices. Whenever members of the cult encounter problems, the cult leaders’ offers straightforward solutions for those problems. This is contrary to the religious way of solving problems where they advocate support for wholeness and inspiration. They advocate reckless living and advocate for alcohol consumption and irresponsible sexual behavior.

The plight of the woman is linked with water, serpent eggs spirals and the moon in most cults (Fisher, 2010). The woman is believed to bring about the currents of the earth as well as holding key psychic powers that control good and evil deeds. The woman is also responsible for recreation and renewal of life. Her womb and vulva are an important symbol in the cultic world. In the temples of these cults, there are several images and sculptures of feminine nature (Fisher, 2010).

Religious followers are considerably more active in their activities than the cult followers. It is backed with multiple and varied sources of authority and leaders.

Some of the characteristics that are vivid in religion include; sacred scriptures and historical traditions. Religion respects individual anatomy. It tries to help the followers to meet their spiritual deeds (Crnic, 2009). Believers in Most religions in the world have the freedom to questions certain aspects of their religion. Additionally there is much independence and room for members to think critically.

However, religion expects believers to surrender egocentric views and have personal control rendered to the religion. The human needs catered for by religion are strong and hold power to control and dominate followers. The day of worship is strictly observed in all religions. They believe the Sabbath day is the holy day for worshiping their supreme being. This Sabbath day varies with the different religion. Christians Hindu Buddhist and Islam have totally different days of the week which they dedicate it for worshiping their God.

In order for a person to become a full member, the person has to reveal his internal identity that is opening up the heart for acceptance. This process is crowned by psycho-spiritual integration. The members are given a chance to think carefully before making crucial decision concerning the religion.

A clean conscious is mandatory before dedicating ones soul to the religion. In addition, the religions in the world currently value ethical considerations. They strongly condemn unethical deeds as well as unethical behavior (Crnic, 2009). When followers and members attribute unethical behavior, they are immediately excommunicated from their religious institutions.

An example of an unethical deed that is strongly opposed by religion is sex between clergy and faithful. To supplement their ethics, religion views the family as an essential element in the society. Therefore, families should be cherished and respected. Furthermore, religion perceive that a person with wealth and money faces a lot of ethical restraint in making achievement.

Members are expected to uphold the practices of the cult. They are trained to reject criticism and lies from Satan. They suppress anything that may reflect negative appeal to the outside world. Members act as spies on each other (Asher, 2006). They carry out the role of reporting improper conducts of their fellow members. Disciplinary action will be taken to members who question the cult policy. Others are even excommunicated. The members forgo their education, and career to concentrate on the cult.

In religion, the symbol of a woman has more significance than the male counterpart. In the ancient times, the Greek referred to their gods as the goddess of all things. The goddesses have been found in almost all Neolithic and archeological historic sites. Moreover, women signified the spiritual participation in religion (Fisher, 2010). They did so by being obedient to the rule of men. In Christianity women, works are acknowledged, and their position in the church is upheld.

The women are expected to be receptive, intuitive, and mystical to the communion of religion. Even though, the women are denied from equal spiritual rights to their male counterpart, the religions are widely challenged (Fisher, 2010). Women are seen as the possible elements to transcend and heal the fragment between male and female spiritual lives. This will assist to link the gender groups, nature and society as well as races and classes.

In religion faith drives the follower to believe in that religion. The faith provides a sense of relief from anxieties. They perceive it as a secure felling of rootedness and orderliness amidst the society. Religion promises there is life beyond the grave. Punishment also awaits the sinners. In Christianity, the scriptures warn that the sinners will be thrown in the pit of hell (Fisher, 2010).

The fundamentalism within religion varies widely. The behavioral codes of these religions matter a lot. Religious leaders may influence the rigidity of their followers to believe that their spiritual leaders are always correct. Everything they perceive is rooted to the spiritual essence. Other religions may cause antipathy among their followers to detest other religions’ traditions. In Muslim, they insist that their women to wear a veil and men to put on turbans (Fisher, 2010).

The religious liberals’ portray a flexible approach to religious fundamentalism. They view scriptures as products of a specific culture and time (Fisher, 2010). They also interpret them metaphorically rather than literally. These liberals are the current religious leaders of the world nowadays.

They use the scriptures to explain situations that are affecting the world currently. The religious followers of the world today have turned to religion in order to get assistance on how to make an ethical decision. Religion is also perceived to develop moral conscience to the believers (Moore, Pinn & Sawyer, 2004).

Religion informs its followers that there is going to be a punishment for those who sin against the Supreme Being (Asher, 2006). The teachings never fail to remind the believers about the punishment for the sinners. This thus wreaks psychological havoc to believers with feeble faith.

Those believers, who will maintain holiness in the earth, are promised a reward in the end. For instance, in Christianity eternal life awaits those who lived a saint life here on earth. Religion instills these teachings to its followers while they are at a tender age. This ensures that the young worshipers maintain their loyalty to the religion until their old age. This also ensures the religion survives through the years and preaches messages that persuade the society around it to embrace the religion.

The authenticity of religion is to provide the call to confront reality and to understand self awareness. They all believe in a supreme being whom they believe created them (Asher, 2006). The journey in a religion leads to joy and peace. Believers are urged to love themselves and others.

The believers are taught to develop a relationship with spirits and the power within. Most religion ensures the believer stays awake and attuned. They do so by providing offer strict structures to support them. The support structure is wisely chosen and not imposed (Fisher, 2010).

Religious tends to advocate for healthy living. They provide sympathy counseling and guidance to people recovering from addiction of alcohol or other and other drugs. Almost all religious institutions have banned alcohol consumption (Crnic, 2009). This is a reasonable measure to ensure believers stay healthy. The humanitarian assistance from the religious institutions is quite immense. Money donated from these institution help the disadvantaged in life. The leaders preach for improvement of the world by acting in an objective manner.

All religions assist their believers to uncover meaningfulness in the midst of the mundane. They achieve this by exploring the transpersonal dimension of life. They infuse every moment in life with the awareness of sacred. The religious scriptures have numerous stories of miraculous deeds performed by the ancient profits.

Hence the believers who seek a solution for physical illness and personal problems are guaranteed to get instant aid. In some religion, the believers are allowed to develop their own intuitive abilities of spiritual truths within them. They have developed meditation techniques to increase wisdom and divine in believers (Fisher, 2010).

Cults and religion are deeply interlinked. Sociologists are viewing this as an evolving relationship. Religions and cults seem to share similar elements in logistics and their congregation (Crnic, 2009). In addition, Cults are gaining popularity across the board. They do so in disguise by naming themselves new religion in the world.

Christians and other viable religions are raising concerns over the issue. Members of the cult continue to deny the allegation of brainwash and other conspiracy (Crnic, 2009). They are optimistic that soon the world will accept them and will join the mainstream of religious institutions.


Asher, J. R. (2006). The religion of the mithras cult in the roman empire: Mysteries of the unconquered sun. Choice, 44(4), 661-661.

Crnic, A. (2009). Cult versus church religiosity: Comparative study of hare krishna devotees and catholics in slovenia. Social Compass, 56(1), 117.

Fisher, M. P. (2010). Living Religions, New Jersey: Prentice Hall, PTR. Print.

Moore, R. Pinn, A. B. & Sawyer, M. R. (2004) People’s Temple and Black Religion in America Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press. Print.

Nosco, P. (2008). Emplacing a pilgrimage: The oyama cult and regional religion in early modern japan. The American Historical Review, 113(5), 1503.

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