Christianity, a at least 2000 year old religion and possibly the most popular in the world, with over 2 billion adherents, is what 90% of a group of fifteen to eighteen year old students answered when they were asked which religion first comes to mind when they hear the word “religion”. Cults on the other hand, are a controversial topic due to their bizarre practises and mind control techniques. Cults are often derived from principles of popular religions, including Christianity, however practised in an extreme manner.
The difference between Christianity and a cult can be explained and discovered through an in-depth comparison between devout Christians and brainwashed cult members and the public’s perspective of both. These points and the definitions of major terms will be expanded into the paragraphs below. Through this research the following question sets to be answered: is Christianity essentially the world’s largest cult? A Christian can be defined as “following the teachings or manifesting the qualities or spirit of Jesus Christ”.
Christian’s believe that; there is only one God, that Jesus Christ is the son of God, that the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus Christ occurred and that there is an afterlife (Heaven and Hell). A devout Christian could be described as somebody who dedicates their life to Christianity. More than attending a Sunday mass once in awhile, or saying Grace before dinner, a devout Christian is somebody who’s entire life revolves around their religion. Religion in our society is generally socially accepted. There are some places in the world where it is a social norm to practise a religion.
It is often forgotten that Christmas, a worldwide holiday, is actually a religious occasion. It is almost expected that Christmas, the birth of Christ, is celebrated by everyone in our society, that when one doesn’t, they are questioned or looked down on. Acceptance of Christmas is a good summary of how our western culture considers religion to be a social norm. The term cult can be defined as “usually religiously based and generally have a living, charismatic leader who guides the beliefs and practices of a group”. Commonly, cult members appear to be “brainwashed” by the cult leader and the cult’s beliefs.
Cults generally base their faith on an extreme view of religious principles (sometimes a mixture of different religions), with their own interpretations. Cults are highly destructive, both for its members and those associated with them, as a common cult practise is to isolate members from their loved ones. In Australia, cults are viewed negatively. Cults are something to be feared, as are its “insane” members. Cults are regularly investigated by numerous mainstream sources. It is common to turn on A Current Affair and find a report on a malicious cult leader.
It is common to flick open a copy of a weekly woman’s magazine and read an article on the life of an ex cult member. Cults in mainstream media are frowned upon for their malevolent nature, and the public follows this belief. It is apparent that the idea of there not being a difference between Christianity and a cult to people of Christian faith is considered ludicrous. Obviously, members of a religion believe their faith is the one and only answer to life’s questions. If this issue is viewed on the subject of Catholicism, ministers and popes could be compared to cult leaders.
However, the Catholic perspective of this topic is the same as Christian’s. Religion to them is not a cult. Religion holds their answers, their faith, and their life. It brings together their families and friends, and guides them through periods of despair. Cults are seen as something to be incredibly cautious of, to not be involved with. To Catholic’s and Christian’s, the contrast between their faith and a cult is so strong; it is almost as if they have been controlled to think that. The difference between Christianity and a cult is simple depending on one’s owns beliefs.
For example, an Atheist may feel that Christianity is a cult, a socially accepted one. A devout Christian or Catholic are obviously able to differentiate between their faith and a cult, and will argue that they are not a cult member (however, when true cult members are confronted they usually respond defensively) . Essentially, Christianity is a thoroughly established religion, not a cult. Cult’s extreme behaviour with its rites, rules and rituals are nothing like the laws of Christianity. Christianity is open and loving; you do not have to be devout to come to a mass.
However cult members must distance themselves from their old life, commonly even pledging a percentage of their income to the cult. Devout Christian’s, although sometimes extreme, are not destructive. The difference between Christianity and a cult are clear, and not just through the public and media’s perspective and social acceptance of both terms. In conclusion, the difference between Christianity and a cult can be explained through examining the members of both, their beliefs and faiths compared to the others, and the public’s perception of both terms.
Nonetheless many will continue to argue that there is no true difference between either term, that both brainwash and manipulate their members into believing false fairytales, which raises the question that perhaps the difference between Christianity and a cult is subjective to one’s own beliefs. It is most likely that Christianity will remain as one of the largest religion’s in the world and that cults will continue to be viewed negatively, however the difference between the two should be made clear by how one interprets their own faith.