Psychology Today published a really important article about the word “cult” in July 2016. Here’s a little teaser:
We all know what a cult is, right? It’s one of those weird organizations founded on crazy ideas. It also may be exploitative or dangerous. But wait, something’s not quite right here. If we step back and take an honest look at how this label is applied it’s plain to see that nothing more than popularity and power separate cults from “normal” religions. The application of this term is prejudice in practice. The vast canyon of meaning that people imagine exists between cults and religions is not there. It is a fabrication of sloppy thinking.
One should not have too much difficulty recognizing “cult” as an unsavory stealth word with an unjust mission. This is verbalized bullying that demeans less popular groups and distances them from more popular groups. Labeling a group a cult is a cowardly way of tolerating, condoning, appeasing, or promoting favored religions while simultaneously rejecting and disparaging a minority religion. A religion’s conduct, safety, and validity of claims mean nothing when it comes to determining who gets slapped with the “cult” smear. Only the length of membership rolls and political/economic/social influence count.
People argue that some groups deserve the cult insult because of their potential danger to members and/or others. But how does this make “cults” special when the world’s most widely respected religions have helped cause and inspire hate, violence, and destruction on a massive scale for centuries and still do today to a significant degree?
Continue reading the full article at Psychology Today: And now for something different: A skeptic defends cults