What is the difference between a Cult & Religion?

Can someone tell me what is the difference between a Cult and Religion?
Take for example Heavens’ Gate that was mocked as a Death Cult. ABC’s 20/20 did a feature on this recently - Diane Sawyer using her deepest voice possible intoning “preying upon the weak, suffering, giving them false hopes” ok, but do religions give True hope? Where is the evidence?
As far as I can tell

  1. Neither Cults nor Religions have any Evidence! ZIP, ZERO!
  2. Both make happy promises of a wonderful life AFTER DEATH! But of course, no one can check their tall claims and amazingly no one even asks!
  3. They talk of signs - for Heaven’s Gate it was a space rock and for religions it is any disturbing or bad event that takes place. The knight in shining armor is coming to save us damsels in distress any day now. Even uneducated goat herders understand that the boy crying wolf a few many times is just having fun at their expense but amazingly religions keep promising this and find new suckers all the time!

As far as I can tell - Cults have few members who can defend and support their beliefs whereas Religions have billions of members
So this is what it boils down to - Might Makes Right - even in the 21st century
Very disturbing

I think this what it boils down to. Cults are just smaller.

Exactly - scary isn’t it?
If Christianity had started just now the dominant religion of the day would be labelling it as a cult
I am not defending Tom Cruise but honestly the dominant religions have more skeletons in their closet than these cults. Almost every day we hear about more pedophiles running around in Churches. Pastors living the rich life fleecing their flock

That’s because it is a cult on a grand scale.

By definition, maybe, but the fact is, Xianity and other religions meet the criteria because they are. People just don’t want to admit Xianity, Islam, and others fit the criteria, because that would mean a massive number have been brainwashed, including them. Mass hysteria would also fit some modern day religions. Xianity is a cult, despite its size and whether or not people want to admit it.

He’s in a serious cult. Scientology has been labelled as a cult and even listed as a cult. It’s large, worldwide even, and yet it’s still on the list of cults. Another one is Jehovah Witnesses- they are a labelled as a cult too, at least by the Council of Churches. So now I’m questioning if the the size thing has anything to do with it.

Here’s a few sites that define a cult:

I hate using the Catholic Church, but notice they drop the last two, religious dogma and fear:

Here’s an extended list:


Last one, which I think does better:

We have the founder on record saying he wanted to start a religion. Traditional religions have a mysterious, untraceable origin story.

The book, Mistakes Were Made, but not by Me, is a good study

I have to disagree. Xianity does have a traceable history, with branches and all, dating back to Judaism and Judaism once worshipped more than one deity, until around the time of Moses. One can find this in the works of a professor I once had, Dr. Victor H. Matthews. Not only was he one of my religious profs at MO State Uni (MSU), we also attended the Episcopal Church together before my family and I left the Church and religion. He has a lot of works sold on Amazon, if you are interested in what he has to say. He’s not radical like Robert M. Price or Tom Harpur, but he can help to lead one into realizing religion isn’t what we’ve been taught to believe.

And let’s not forget that Islam has a traceable origin with a founder, as well as Buddhism too. Now Hinduism, not so much. Taoism seems to have a founder or at least one person who is attributed to influencing the start of the Tao. Shintoism, not so much.

I’ve read Carrier’s work on the historicity of Jesus. Pretty convincing. But, no consensus yet. I was thinking about the time of it’s founding. Back then, history was not a science

True, but it’s all we have prior to science, but I wasn’t thinking about Jesus as being the founder of Xianity. He was a Jew. I was thinking more like Paul, the Gnostics, etc.

According to Carrier, Paul brought the Jewish myths together and added the spiritual being Christ, who did his sacrifice somewhere above the earth. The human stories were added later.

That is my post, right? If they become bigger, they then get to call themselves Religions, a respected Institution with full rights where the govt cannot do anything to them even if horrible things are going on inside those walls?
Might Makes Right?
That is so wrong

Still don’t want to defend Cruise or Scientology but who is labelling it as a Cult? The dominant religion. Christianity & Islam have a long history of not playing nice with other religions, Islam more so even today in countries where they dominate. They want equal rights, everyone to be treated equally in countries where they are the minority, but do an about-face in countries where they are the majority

How does one preach hate that leads to killing? You demonize them
Hence Native Americans were Blood-thirsty Savages, even though much of our govt was based on their input. “Indian Givers” while it was the total opposite!
But once labelled that way it becomes easier to kill and hate

My criteria for a Death Cult or Death Religion would be an institution that says Death is preferable to life - because Death is a gateway to a magic land of joy & happiness forever!
Religions had to make Suicide a sin because they didn’t want to be labelled as Death Cults
After all, why stay here struggling with life when a wonderful life of ease & comfort awaits us? And all we had to do was basically polish the right shoes to get it!
And those that polish the wrong shoes, or like Atheists who do not polish any shoes, get dumped into hell!
In the 21st century to understand that these ideas are widely disseminated, it is disturbing to hear the silence from the educated & moral

Well, as you say, the dominant culture. They are distinct for keeping people in near prison like captivity. Religions keep people dependent on the community. It can be very hard to build support from nothing when you leave a church.

Some Muslim culture still have apostasy punishments. That wouldn’t be allowed in a free country

The ideas are very, very, very simple - I see primitive people patterning these Gods after their Kings/Dictators - such men, in a violent world, demanded obedience and loyalty & rewarded/punished accordingly
That was the life they had and those were the Gods and an after life that they created - a King like God would sit on his throne in the heavens, his kingdom, and it would be open to supporters only
Simple, primitive ideas of simple, primitive people - not that hard to figure out these religions

Sort of like living in Russia or North Korea today - better say nice things about the “Dear loving leader” or else!
What frightens me is to see educated people can clearly see the horror of living in Russia or North Korea & yet turn around and support the same in the afterlife - all because they are told THEY will be rewarded with the good life!
Somehow changing Putin to God makes even the best of minds lose their common sense & morality

Indoctrination is extremely powerful. It’s only recently that information is available to contradict our elders. And, amazingly, people don’t just look it up. We are taught to pass tests, not to think for ourselves.

But are we this easy? That is what frightens me & the silence of philosophers, sociologists also - how is it that someone can clearly see Putin, Kim Jong-un as evil, their supporters pure scum and yet as soon as the name is changed to God suddenly become the same scum? Willingly?

I was told by an African-American co-worker, no less, a guy who I thought was my friend, coolly telling me I was going to hell! What is my crime, here? Just belief! That’s it?
Like how Jews were condemned for being simply Jews!
And yet this same guy will lecture me on how one should not judge people by skin color, here he is happy to abuse people based on belief!
Women, children, entire families - these are people he works with, interacts with, his doctor, his kids teachers, the reason he has food on the table - and amazingly just because a religion promises an eternal life of comfort, he is more than willing to be a Nazi, a Racist!

What is more frightening to me is the silence of the philosophers, the sociologists who refuse to study this! I have contacted so many people about this and NONE have replied! One guy did and his solution? Ignore it!

Do you personally know of any media people or organizations that would welcome these thoughts? I have written about my experience to NY Times, Wapo and the like - liberal media and yet they have turned me down! Even Skeptic magazine didn’t like my views - I can’t get published!
It is frightening to see the extent of this cover-up

No one around here is running death camps. Calling people Nazis is not going to get you in the NYT. Most churches just run their free dinners and clean up parks, they don’t go looking for fights. So, I don’t think you’re going to find much support for your crusade.

There was a surge after 9/11, but that’s died out, people are looking for new ways to organize.

There are also new scholars, looking at how religions develop and sustain

You posted an emotional response there. In a free country harsh words will be said, NYT should not be protecting religions just because it makes people uncomfortable

I am comparing the similarities between what the Nazis did and what religious people promise what will happen
The Nazis didn’t care for the human being - he was a Jew and that one factor ALONE condemned the Jew to gas chambers
Religious people are saying the same thing - who we are as people does not matter, what we did in life does not matter - our beliefs, religion ALONE will determine our fate
Racists do the same thing - here again the black person does not matter, his skin color ALONE will determine his fate
Do you see the similarities?

The problem with saying God sees us for who we are as people means religion would not matter, what matters is what we do in life - the Euthyphro dilemma. The same way you want to be seen in REAL LIFE.
But then religions would lose their biggest weapon in proselytization - conversions would not matter, which is why some good religions do not preach conversions
What these religions are saying God see us for what is in our hearts, religion does not matter
And it is these religions that you notice do not preach hatred against Atheists

But these are not the top religions of the day, the ones that preach division and hate based on beliefs are.

May I ask what are your beliefs? Are you a Theist?

Religions aren’t above the law. They can get away easier with some things because they are respected, but if they’re obviously doing something illegal then government will come after them.