I am a closet atheist, and I have a Catholic family and I hear from other atheists about how Christianity is a cult. I am wondering is Christianity a cult and if so why?

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Yes, as practiced I most definitely view Scientology as more of a cult than Christianity. Perhaps the difference in the sheer number of centuries they've had to evolve differentiates them, especially wrt the level of secrecy followers can maintain over time. Cults by nature can be more extremist and behave more fatalistically, at least in the short term. I fear what North Korea might do someday with their atom bombs, or ISIS/Al Qaeda with radioactive materials. I would call ISIS an Islamic cult, since most Muslims do not behave extremely or wish to blow themselves up.

Even when we disagree, I think this is a useful conversation. It highlights both the similarities and differences between mainstream religions vs isolated cults, over both geography and historical time lines.

since most Muslims do not behave extremely

Mmm. Probably better to avoid that can of worms.

Even when we disagree, I think this is a useful conversation. 

Indeed.

Yep. North Korea is a perfect example of what a cult is. 

Oooo! Pope Beanie. You are familiar with Miscavige the despot!? Me too. I don't like the word cult too much because it's just so highly debatable and the definition varies greatly from people who do use the word in a definitive way. I like to refer to Scientology as a an organization though they do have one very faintly vague theistic concept and it goes something like "mans relationship to spiritual awareness", or some such. Please don't hold me to it. I need to go back and review it. I can think of only one place in all the mega tons of L. Ron Hubbard writings, that he even mentions the word God. I'm sure there are probably other times he mentions it, but not that I've ever come across.

I know Scientology likes outsiders to think of them as a religion, but only for tax purposes, imo and anyway, they should have never received the 501(c)(3) tax exempt status as far as I'm concerned. I believe they bulled the IRS into that although, I have heard some recent interesting rumors that there may have been a little back scratching going on when that deal was finally made. I'm no expert though.

By the way, I started a thread today about the new documentary based on a book called "Going Clear - Scientology and the Prison of Belief". It's under the discussion section 'Neuroscience, Cognitive Science, Psychology".

Yes, I should find a handy reference for the word cult that I like best, to qualify when I use the word. The one characteristic that's clear to me where Scientology differs from other mainstream religions is the way they still enforce family disconnection.

I'm definitely interested in Going Clear... I hope I can find a friend with HBO! I'll definitely join the discussion group too, thanks!

I can help with you with that lol. I'll send you a friend request lol.

I challenge anyone to read this testimonial and describe how it's like Christianity. It's long, but you don't have to read far to learn about why Scientology should be understood as different from Christianity, or (in my terms) a true "cult".

Now, even if you can say that the writer could be describing experiences atypical to Scientology, I think you'll find it hard to deny how institutionalized their authority and codified procedures are. From other reading, I know that most of what the writer describes come straight from officially written procedures and officially filed cases within Scientology, much of which has become public knowledge as a result of court cases that required the surrender (at least temporarily) of church records.

No and yes. I went to an Episcopal church when I was young and if it was a cult, it was a pretty weak one. No pressure not to lose the faith. No shunning of people who left. No blindly following a cult leader. (The idea of the Archbishop of Canterbury being a cult leader is hilarious, given his lack of sway over the Church.)

On the other hand, these little churches that spring up in the strip malls, probably mostly Pentacostal, and the mega TV churches, there seem to be cultish aspects to those.

Hi Alex. I'm also a closet atheist and I grew up in a Catholic family (and I was an altar boy, ha ha). I've heard of atheists making the accusation that Christianity is a death cult because it requires a person or an animal to die in order for "sins" to be forgiven. I have a hard time believing that Christianity is a cult if you define "cult" as a small branch of people who have bizarre beliefs (example: Heaven's Gate in 1997). I suppose you can call it a cult if a particular church as an exaggerated obsession with Jesus Christ. That's my personal opinion. I've never been so religious that I'd want to kill or abuse somebody, end my relationships with my friends or family, or kill myself. 

After working for a city once, it seems unclear to me if the term 'cult' is just a little too slippery.

I would rather use the term 'ideology'. Sadly in some of the quarters I have functioned in, Theists consider their stuff as the 'truth'. If you attempt to reference them as a 'cult', some might attempt to defeat you by speeking in tounges, try to cast out your 'demon'. Their 'truth' is 'power' for them. They will not allow you the opportunity to break their little 'frame' that they play in.  

Like most religions, christianity is a cult.  The only real difference between a cult and religion is that cults are relatively new and small.  You don't see the cult characteristics because you are so used to them.  Just try to look at christianity with new eyes as if seeing it for the first time.  The cult like aspects should be obvious.

A cult does not have to be small or new. By definition a cult meets these three critera:

  • It has a super natural ideology (or gives their figurehead or leader gold like characteristics)
  • It has unique beliefs and bizzare practices (which may be anti-social)
  • It is menacing to it's victims who are followers and or non-followers

The problem is most cults that are labeled cults or the ones we hear about in news and in documentaries are small and relatively new. But that's not the definition of a cult. Catholicism in particular meets number one easily and meets number two and three with a list of examples that never ends (even if their happy 21st century now that they can't get away with murder version and their Pope Cuddles is analysed)

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