Definition of a Cult

Definition of a Cult

Definition of a Cult


A cult, defined as a religious or ideological group perceived by its followers as advocating principles or beliefs shared by the group, typically strong outside allegiance and common symbols by which group members differentiate themselves from ordinary society, and a totalism which involves total commitment to the group, its leaders, and the way it is managed.


Since the 1940s the Christian countercult movement has opposed some sects and new religious movements, labeling them "cults" because of their unorthodox beliefs. Since the 1970s, the secular anti-cult movement has opposed certain groups, and in reaction to acts of violence which have been committed by some of their members, it has frequently charged them with practicing mind control. Scholars and the media have disputed some of the claims and actions of anti-cult movements, leading to further public controversy. J. Gordon Melton stated that, in 1970, "one could count the number of active researchers on new religions on one's hands." However, James R. Lewis writes that the "meteoric growth" in this field of study can be attributed to the cult controversy of the early 1970s. Because of "a wave of nontraditional religiosity" in the late 1960s and early 1970s, academics perceived new religious movements as different phenomena from previous religious innovations.

In 1978, Bruce Campbell noted that cults are associated with beliefs in a divine element in the individual; it is either soul, self, or true self. Cults are inherently ephemeral and loosely organized. There is a major theme in many of the recent works that show the relationship between cults and mysticism. Campbell, describing cults as non-traditional religious groups based on belief in a divine element in the individual, brings two major types of such to attention—mystical and instrumental—dividing cults into either occult or metaphysical assembly. There is also a third type, the service-oriented, as Campbell states that "the kinds of stable forms which evolve in the development of religious organization will bear a significant relationship to the content of the religious experience of the founder or founders." (Source: en.wikipedia.org)


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