Cult and Sect

by JH 14 Replies latest jw friends

  • onacruse

    Along with Gopher's info, there is this from S.I. Hayakawa:

    Sect may designate a smaller group within a denomination, especially one that differs from the larger body in a particular matter of faith or worship. Sect is also used derogatorily of a relatively small, unordthodox denomination, to stress its separateness or peculiarity: odd sects that spring up and bank on emotional appeal. The word sect acquired this derogatory connotation as a result of the many historical instances where sects were formed by groups that had split from their parent religion because of doctrinal discontent: the sects of the Gnostics.

    The term cult is often applied to the forms or followers of a religious system that is looked on with suspicion or disfavor: The cult of Dionysius inspired orgiastic revelry during the celebrations of the Eleusinian mysteries. It also denotes a kind of worship or veneration that is not theistic in principle and is sometimes faddish in practice: the cult of nature; teenage worship that found momentary expression in the cult of James Dean.

    The NT has a number of Greek words that apply here, primarily those translated schism and heresy. A sect is rather more like a schism: distinguished apart in a given religion or church. A heresy, like a cult, distinguishes itself apart from a given religion or church.

    The WTS vehemently denies being a derivative of any other church (Adventist though they are in root and stock), so properly speaking they are not a sect, (or, a denomination: a rather more neutral term, but one that relates the given church to a common core of doctrine with other churches, as in "Protestant" denomination).

    After getting past the "religion is a snare and a racket" campaign under Rutherford, the WTS is apparently quite happy to be called a "religion," but only if designated as "true religion." However, if only because they are a religion "looked on with suspicion or disfavor," they are a cult.

    As far as James 1:27, it is perhaps worth noting that the Greek word used there for "religion, form of worship" is the most superficial of all the words James could have chosen. There are several other NT words that embody the sense of "reverential awe, piety, godly fear." The word James uses only "signifies religion in its external aspect...especially the ceremonial service of religion" (Trench)

    That's one thing the WTS has down to a fine art: the "form" of worship, without the spirit. If for no other reason, they have earned the right and deserve to be called a "cult."



    You know, JH...I never really gave it much thought: cult / sect

    Just an fyi (for your information), although it has been touched on quite a bit already, I'll post the definitions from a Canuck dictionary:

    CULT (kult) n. 1. a system of religious worship: Buddhism includes many cults. 2. great admiration for a person, thing, idea, etc.; worship: In the Soviet Union, the cult of Stalin was discouraged after his death. 3. a group showing such admiration; worshippers. [< L cultus worship < colere worship]

    SECT (sekt) n. 1. a group of people having the same principles, beliefs, or opinions. 2. a group of people forming a part of a larger religious body but rejecting some of the larger body's beliefs or customs: The Protestant church used to have many different sects. [<L secta party, school, probably < sectari keep following, intensive of sequi follow]

    Interesting investigation of the meaning of two words that are often used to describe unpopular religious groups.

  • Francois

    I wonder if it would help to know that the teachings of Jesus, Christianity loosely, was once a SECT within Judahism?

    While cults, on the other hand, are...well, just look at the JWs. That's a cult. A charismatic leader offering an extravagant hope not of the mainstream, that's for sure. There are about 25 or so identifying characteristics of a cult, and the JWs incorporate each and every one of them. See Eric Hoffer's "The True Believer."

    Last year in this space, I challenged the GB to debate the proposition "The organization of Jehovah's Witnesses is a cult." Well. You can imagine how far I got with that. And it was to be me alone against the entire GB and all their attorneys; and at a reasonable time and place of their own choosing, too.

    Perhaps I'll take them on in this space this year, taking both sides. I certainly know what their side is after all. I expect they didn't take me up on it for a variety of reasons, not the least of which is that they already KNOW they're a cult and don't want public confirmation.



  • blondie

    Here is an article on the site

    Some excerpts:


    "...if you believe in it, it is a religion or perhaps the religion;
    and if you do not care one way or another about it, it is a sect;
    but if you fear and hate it, it is a cult."

    Leo Pfeffer. A humorous quotation, but one that is uncomfortably close to reality.

    Meanings of the Word CULT

    There is no generally accepted, single, current definition for the word "cult," or for many other religious terms. This leads to confusion over the meanings of certain religious terms, such as Christian, cult hell, heaven, occult, Paganism, salvation, Witch, Witchcraft, Unitarian, Universalist, Voodoo, etc. A reader must often look at the context in which the word is used in order to guess at the intent of the writer.

    In the newsgroup alt.usage.english, terms like this one are often called "skunk words." They have varied meanings to different people. In fact, they have so many meanings that they often cause misunderstandings wherever they are used. Unfortunately, most people do not know this, and naturally assume that the meaning that they have been taught is the universal definition of the term.


    However, the term has since been assigned at least 7 new and very different meanings. The original meaning of "cult" remains positive; later definitions are neutral, negative, or extremely negative:

    bulletPositive Meaning:
    bulletTheological usage: Oxford English Dictionary defined "cult" as:
    bullet"worship; reverential homage rendered to a divine being or beings"
    bullet"a particular form or system of religious worship; especially in reference to its external rites and ceremonies"
    bulletdevotion or homage to a particular person or thing."

    This is the historical meaning of the word, but is rarely today heard outside of religious circles. A reference to the "Cult of Mary" appeared in a newspaper report on the Pope's 1999 visit to the Americas. It simply means that the Pope devotes special attention to the Virgin Mary.

    bulletNeutral Meanings:
    bulletSociological usage: A small religious group that exists in a state of tension with the predominant religion. Hinduism might be considered a cult in North America; Christianity might be considered a cult in India.
    bulletAdditional sociological usage: An innovative, fervent religious group, as contrasted with more established and conventional sects and denominations.
    bulletThe Observer: An English newspaper seemed to use the term to refer to any small religious group, no matter what its age or teachings. 1
    bulletGeneral religious usage: A small, recently created, religious organization which is often headed by a single charismatic leader and is viewed as an spiritually innovative group. A cult in this sense may simply be a new religious movement on its way to becoming a denomination. The Christian religion, as it existed in 30 CE might be considered a cult involving one leader and 12 or 70 devoted followers. The Mormon denomination was started in the 19th century by Joseph Smith and a few followers; it later grew to become an established denomination.
    bulletNegative Meanings:
    bulletEvangelical Christian and Counter-Cult Movement usage: Any religious group which accepts most but not all of the historical Christian doctrines (the divinity of Jesus, virgin birth, the Trinity, salvation, etc.). The implication is that the cult's theology is invalid; they teach heresy. Under this definition, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (the Mormons), Unification Church and Jehovah's Witnesses to be cults. But they would not classify Wicca as such, because it is not associated with Christianity. The earliest use of this meaning of the word "Cult" is believed to be a 1938 book "The Chaos of the Cults" by J.K. VanBaalen. On the other hand, new religious groups such as the Mormons, Unification Church and Jehovah's Witnesses generally regard themselves to be the true Christian church. They view all other denominations as being in error. Thus, one groups true church is another group's cult.
    bulletFundamentalist Christian usage: Some Fundamentalists would accept the Evangelical definition of cult defined above. Others might brand any religious group which deviates from historical Protestant Christian beliefs as a cult. This definition would include the Mormon Church, Wicca, mainline and liberal Christian denominations, Islam, Hinduism, and all of the other religions of the world. Over 70% of humanity would belong to cults, by this definition.
    bulletMental Health Groups and anti-cult movement usage: A small number of therapists, research psychologists, self-taught individuals, etc., form the anti-cult movement (ACM) They attempt to raise public consciousness about what they see as dangerous and authoritarian mind control cults and doomsday cults. Many do not care about the faith group's theology. They target only what they see as deceptive practices, and dangerous psychological pressure techniques, such as brainwashing. The ACM appears to hold opinions about the effectiveness of brainwashing that are not shared by the mental-health community generally. They see mind control/doomsday cults as a widespread social problem.
    bulletVery negative meaning:

    Popular, media usage: (very negative meaning) a small, evil religious group, often with a single charismatic leader, which engages in brainwashing and other mind control techniques, believes that the end of the world is imminent, and collects large amounts of weaponry in preparation for a massive war. Often used as a synonym for mind control religious group or for doomsday cult. The earliest use of this meaning of the word is believed to have been in a 1965 book by Walter Martin "The Kingdom of the Cults" (revised and expanded in 1985).



  • gumby




    A religion or religious sect generally considered to be extremist or false, with its followers often living in an unconventional manner under the guidance of an authoritarian, charismatic leader

    I can't decide if this sounds more like Jesus and his followers......or the dubs.


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