In common usage, the word cult refers to a group of social outcasts who practice some obscure religion. Often there is a pointedly negative connotation to the beliefs and practices of such a group.
However, a more accurate application of the term would focus not on the bizarre nature of a group’s belief, but rather on the behavioral, cognitive, and organizational impact the belief system has on the participants. Whether a religion is built around the alleged spirits of giant mushrooms, or a carpenter from the Middle East, it can reasonably be called a cult when certain characteristics become evident among those who follow the faith.
Here is a simplified list of “symptoms” that can be used to identify members of any cult:
- A belief in the core cult dogma that is independent of facts, logic, or even one’s own intuition. In other words an absolute and blind acceptance of any information provided by cult leaders and literature as undeniable fact.
- tendency to isolate from the rest of society, often justified by the suggestion that those outside of the faith are wicked, lost, etc.
- A compulsive need to recruit others into the cult.
- The deriving of most or all of one’s self esteem from the cult collective and the cult dogma. Often cult members will see themselves as worthless (because this is what they are taught) and will insist that only through the practice of the cult’s teachings can they serve the world in any worthwhile manner.
- The complete loss of individuality, logic, and objectivity. The only reasons for continued existence becomes the serving of the cult’s agenda.
Irrational Belief In Core Cult Dogma
Christians, like everyone, have their own beliefs about the origins of the universe, the meaning of life, and the nature of right and wrong. However in almost every case, followers of Christianity adopt what they are taught by their pastors and priests, and what they read in their biblical texts, as their own truths.
Rarely, if ever, do Christians make their own conjecture about the nature and phenomena of life and living. They accept without question everything given to them by the church leadership, even when the information is contradictive of science, history, logic, and previous information from the same church source.
In the event a Christian feels strongly about a particular issue, and these feelings are exposed as being contradictory to the official dogma, he or she will reject the original belief in favor of that presented by the clergy or by biblical texts. This means a Christian typically has no real ability to decide what he or she believes about the world and about life in general, as the church organization is allowed to “overrule” even what goes on in the individuals’ mind.
Furthermore, any attempt to challenge these beliefs will likely be met with hostility. Regardless of what scientific, historical, even mathematical evidence you can produce to offset any given church teaching, expect to be resisted or even attacked by any Christian you present this information to.
Justified Isolation From Society
The core Christian teaching insists that the world is evil, and only those who accept the Christian faith will be saved from eternity in hell. Therefore many Christians are afraid of anything and everything that is not directly condoned by leaders within their organization.
Christian organizations and individuals often target television, movies, music, games, politicians, retail organizations, and even children’s toy franchises. After declaring an entity wicked and wayward, Christians will use boycott and even public protest to show disdain for a wide range of institutions.
Granted, there are many movies, games, songs, politicians, and so forth that are distasteful or even downright uncouth. But Christians are not content to simply refrain form interacting with people, places, groups, and services they deem evil; indeed their objective seems to rid the world of such things and to label any who disagree with their position as evil as well.
Compulsive Tendency To Recruit Others
Anyone who has spent much time with Christian friends knows very well the policy of conversion this organization practices. In fact they believe god has charged them with the task of turning everyone in the world into a Christian.
As scary as this might sound, it’s critical that you understand I’m not joking here. Christians believe it is the will of the divine that they make every effort to recruit every other human being on the planet into their religious organization.
The idea of simply worshipping their god, observing their traditions, and allowing the rest of the world to do the same is unacceptable. In fact the suggestion is blasphemy to a Christian, and you are in danger of burning in hell for all eternity (as far as they are concerned) for having the audacity to resist their efforts to convert you.
Deriving One’s Self Esteem From The Cult Collective
Sadly, most Christians honestly believe they are intrinsically unworthy, powerless, and wicked. In order to be of any value at all they must denounce themselves, beg god to forgive them for their evil ways, and devote their lives to following the very specific tenants of the Christian faith.
That all humans are born evil and unworthy is one of the most basic teachings of the faith. And a primary reason for this belief is the assumed fact that Eve, the first woman ever created, collaborated with a talking serpent to steal and eat a piece of fruit from a tree god specifically told her not to bother.
At the risk of getting sidetracked here I am compelled to elaborate a bit on this whole “born evil” thing. In the very same book in the Christian bible (Genesis) where the reader learns of their inherent wickedness and unworthiness, they are also told that “god created man in his own likeness”.
So if you were to keep score, you would find that:
- You were created by god in his own image and likeness.
- God is good and great and loves you more than you can understand.
- You are, at birth, an evil sinner whom must one day beg god to forgive you.
Complete Loss Of Logic, Individuality, And Objectivity
This list item is really a reflection of all the other listed items. I use it to explain how an otherwise intelligent, seemingly decent, full-grown adult can behave in a manner described in this article.
How people choose to think, believe, and even act is completely up to them. But I become concerned when a group - any group - has a clear and aggressive mission of subverting and disrupting the rights of other people in an effort to impose its edicts upon the masses.
Ironically, I remember a multi-part course on the dangers of cults being part of my Sunday school curriculum so many years ago. We were warned about such deviant religions as Mormon and even cautioned about certain Catholic practices by the protestant Christian minister who led the classes.
I didn’t realize until years after I had left the church that in fact Christianity is one enormous cult. Like the majority of organized religions I have encountered, this belief system seems to have originated as a method of fear-based mind control, and to this day remains a very powerful method of subtle tyranny.
Timothy Aaron Whiston grew up in an aggressively fundamentalist Christian family. He understands the inner workings of the religion and has firsthand insights to the potential impact the dogma has on practitioners. Visit his blog at http://blog.timwhiston.com