Jehovah's Witnesses are not a CULT ...
…according to 30% of the following definitions. That leaves 70% that show quite the opposite.
So -- are they a cult? Ask any of Jehovah’s Witnesses and the answer is NO! Ask any ex-JW’s and most folks from some other branch of Christianity and their answer is YES! Which is it?
To be honest, there are many definitions of that word. The next time someone asks me the question, “Are Jehovah’s Witnesses a cult?”, I will answer, “Yes, by most definitions they are”.
Ten Definitions of Cult
adherents of an exclusive system of religious beliefs and practices
fad: an interest followed with exaggerated zeal; "he always follows the latest fads"; "it was all the rage that season"
a system of religious beliefs and rituals; "devoted to the cultus of the Blessed Virgin"
In religion and sociology, a cult is a group of people (often a new religious movement) devoted to beliefs and goals which may be contradictory to those held by the majority of society. Its marginal status may come about either due to its novel belief system or due to idiosyncratic practices that cause the surrounding culture to regard it as far outside the mainstream.
In traditional usage, the cult of a religion, quite apart from its sacred writings ("scriptures"), its theology or myths, or the personal faith of its believers, is the totality of external religious practice and observance, the neglect of which is the definition of impiety. Cult is literally the "care" owed to the god and the shrine. ...By extension, "cult" has come to connote the total cultural aspects of a religion, as they are distinguished from others through change and individualization.
A religious group that follows a particular theological system. In the context of Christianity, and in particular, CARM, it is a group that uses the Bible but distorts the doctrines that affect salvation sufficiently to cause salvation to be unattainable. A few examples of cults are Mormonism, Jehovah's Witnesses, Christian Science, Christadelphians, Unity, Religious Science, The Way International, and the Moonies. (See also Cults)
(cult) (kult) a system of treating disease based on some special and unscientific theory of disease causation.
Veneration ( or honoring ) of a saint expressed in public acts, local or universal, and formally approved by the Pope.
A religious group which denies the essential doctrines of Christianity. The term is usually reserved for groups founded after 1750.
A following of people.
 To be fair, many religious groups have their own “essential doctrines”. This, therefore, could be highly subjective.
I have a theory about the minority of real, bonafide, ex-JWs here who are truly out but will argue with you all day long that "they are not a cult". Usually, they try to use "semantic arguments" to avoid the label.
I think this is part of the healing process. I think that for a long time, we feel shame for ever having been in this religion and some of us don't want new friends to actually know where we came from, as it might make us look "weird" or something. It would follow that some do not like their ex-religion referred to as a cult (even if they know in their hearts that it was) as this is a bad reference to them by extension.
I have a friend that I have known for at least 10 years. He quit the Scientology way back about the time I quit the witnesses. He is very secretive about ever having been a member - I think he only told me recently because I am pretty open about my story quitting the Watchtower. He is one who sort of held on to some of the belief structure, but had to leave because of the general wacko factors. How this works, I don't know - but he also gets very upset if you call the Scientologists a cult!
And, of course, if it is not, and if JWdom are not, then I would be hard pressed to tell you what is.
I have two--yes two--dictionaries and each one defines "cult" as a synonym for religion. Religion is cult, cult is religion. However, I suspect both of these dictionaries are out of date. The word "cult" began to transmogrify sometime in the latter half of the twentieth century, as far as I can tell. The word was picked up, emptied of its historical denotation, and given a new denotation by zealous evangelicals and fundamentalists who were determined to extend their "us versus them" mentality into the cult-ure at large. So, "cult" has now become a word for "bad religion." As if there is a religion whose effects have not been primarily deleterious. MM
I would say it is a cult but not according to what most people visualize in their mind when they think of the word "cult", or at least what I imagined when I would hear the word cult. I used to think of the Jim Jones tragedy and the Davidians and smaller groups of people and not organizations that looked like a mainstream religion from the outside. LRG
Mojo, I love your comments. I thought at first you used some home brewed word there, transmogrify, but learned differently as I looked it up. Denotation was another.
As if there is a religion whose effects have not been primarily deleterious.
Your thoughts seem to be right on the nose.
In my own mind it doesn't matter if they are labeled a cult or a religion or a publishing business or a cultural society. I like what Jim Penton wrote, write the facts and let the facts stand or fall on their own merit.
I can only write from my own personal experiences and from the volumes of documentation supplied by the Watch Tower Society and the Jehovah's Witness people.
When I was a Witness, I didn't know I was living in a problem. I thought "THEY" were the problem.
I was raised as a Witness kid by a rigid Witness zealot father and a neurotic mother marked by chronic anxiety and fits of rage. All of the Witness people I was around almost 7 days a week were omnipotent, egocentric, narcissistic, grandiose, and condescending. All were delusional and none were what I'd call pragmatic.
The Witness people I knew were not very kind to children. Some were abusive to children with group approval. In fact, child abuse was a requirement. When they built a new Hall in the 50's they built a "crying room" with soundproof walls and a picture window and sound from the amplified speaker piped right into the ceiling.
I never saw a Kingdom Hall with a laughing room.
It's just like how I feel about President Bush. His supporters can see no wrong. My arguement is, so then we will let history judge him- History will decide, if he was a great President or one of the worst. The same thing would work for JW's , if they just looked at 125+ years of recorded history about the WT Society- AND that is why the Org goes to such pains to make the mind of a JW work like a child's magic slate- every few years they pull up the celluloid and erase the JW brain. Shoot, most will refuse to discuss any aspect of their feelings about 1975. I always ask a JW if they are happy- when they say yes, I tell them "you need to stop lying, Jehovah knows the truth"
I defy anyone to read Steve Hassans "Combatting Cult Mind Control" and come away saying the JW's are not a cult.
Is anyone free to leave without serious personal repercussions? Some JW's are even quite proud to refer to it as a cult.
unclebruce, 'incultcated' at the Kigdom Hall.
Garybus said: "In my own mind it doesn't matter if they are labeled a cult or a religion or a publishing business or a cultural society."
I am 100% with UncleBruce -- they are one, and in the worst of the "mind and behavioral control" context.
Mr MOJO is also correct according to what I can find in most dictionaries - "cult" is usually defined as a religious subset of belief.
So they are one semantically, too.
One of the definitions in my dictionary - Reader's Digest Wordpower Dictionary - defines cult as: "a small religious group regarded as strange or as imposing excessive control over members."
Says it all for me!
if they just looked at 125+ years of recorded history about the WT Society
Heck, how've they got away with it for so long!