Christian Cults

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Onyx
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Post by Onyx » Sat Jan 02, 2010 5:19 am

Coco, I understand your logic. Option #2 is self contradictory. So it's either option #1 or else it's all wrong (which must be option #3).

But among the beautiful things about Christianity is that it does make a central claim of exclusivity, yet the bounds are set to "whomsoever will may come". Furthermore, kindness and love is extended not only to friends, but we also learn to love our enemy.

Christianity as a whole may be right or wrong in this exclusive claim, but it is manifestly loving and good.

However, within the Christian community there spring up groups which find justification to declare (either openly or subtly) that they are the true church of God to the exclusion of other Christian groups. This exclusivity (in my experience) becomes ugly and controlling. It happens within Protestantism, and it happens within Catholicism. Again, it's not the doctrine I take issue with here, it's the nature of cult-like group behaviour which I highlighted in the opening post. As a Christian community I think it's smart to talk and think about this stuff, because it goes on.

What's more, it serves as a warning from those who have made these mistakes (like me), and frankly, it's healing to get stuff out in the open when you've lived with an unspoken code of silence. Those who have experienced this stuff will know what I mean.

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Post by ryland » Sat Jan 02, 2010 6:56 am

Onyx wrote:Coco, I understand your logic. Option #2 is self contradictory. So it's either option #1 or else it's all wrong (which must be option #3).

But among the beautiful things about Christianity is that it does make a central claim of exclusivity, yet the bounds are set to "whomsoever will may come". Furthermore, kindness and love is extended not only to friends, but we also learn to love our enemy.

Christianity as a whole may be right or wrong in this exclusive claim, but it is manifestly loving and good.

However, within the Christian community there spring up groups which find justification to declare (either openly or subtly) that they are the true church of God to the exclusion of other Christian groups. This exclusivity (in my experience) becomes ugly and controlling. It happens within Protestantism, and it happens within Catholicism. Again, it's not the doctrine I take issue with here, it's the nature of cult-like group behaviour which I highlighted in the opening post. As a Christian community I think it's smart to talk and think about this stuff, because it goes on.

What's more, it serves as a warning from those who have made these mistakes (like me), and frankly, it's healing to get stuff out in the open when you've lived with an unspoken code of silence. Those who have experienced this stuff will know what I mean.
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Post by wosbald » Sat Jan 02, 2010 7:23 am

+JMJ+
Onyx wrote:My point (which was not as clear as yours), is that believing your group is the right religion and all others are false is itself a feature of a cult.
Convenient.
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Post by gospeldj » Sat Jan 02, 2010 8:41 am

Thanks for posting this Onyx. I think you were spot-on when you pointed out information control as one of the features of a cult. ("we are the true guardians of truth...no need to look further). A cult will urge newcomers to question everything they've been taught up till now...but once they're in, questioning the cult's doctrines is forbidden.

My brother was a JW for a number of years, and in every one of our discussions he would defer to the Watchtower Society's literature to make his points. Needless to say, our discussions were endlessly circular. He eventually left that cult, but still has some leftover issues.

I would also add that devotion to a human leader is another hallmark of a religous cult (Charles Taze Russell, Joseph Smith, Sun Myung Moon, etc).

Cults also are very good at including just enough truth in their "come-on"
that it doesn't scare away a person who has at least passing knowledge about Christianity.

By the way, there's a pretty good book called "Kingdom of the Cults" by Dr. Walter Taylor that offers some insight into religious cults.

Anyway, thanks again Onyx.

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Post by TomT_90GT » Sat Jan 02, 2010 8:46 am

Dang, Onyx...you SURE you aren't a believer any more??? You sure sound like you are. :)

And Coco, regarding your two exclusive options:
Christ himself made a pretty exclusive claim when he said, "I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me" (John 14:6). This is an exclusive claim that must be denied by other religions that do not regard Jesus as the one way to God and blessedness. So, it seems that there must either be:
1. one, true religion with boundaries limiting who's in and who's out, or
2. all paths lead to truth.
Obviously, I'll agree that Option #2 ain't it, but I'm unclear exactly what you mean in Option #1. Actually, these two options aren't exclusive, as it should really be either:
1) All paths lead to truth
2) Not all paths lead to truth

From which you'd have to further subdivide it (possibly) into
3) Some paths lead to truth (and then mess around which how many and which ones they are!)

Seriously, I don't at all disagree with your quote from the Lord, that all must come through Him to the Father (although what God's plan for the Jews are, I'm not at all clear on). My points are:

A) I agree with the wise person that once said "Religion is man's attempt at drawing close to God, Christianity is God's attempt at drawing close to Man" (or something to that effect).

B) There are all sorts of either/both error and diversity in all (Christian) faiths. To me, cults exhibit more of the out and out errors. Where we Christians get into attack mode with each other is calling our various diversities errors (as in YOUR diversity is in ERROR, and what you say is MY error is in fact just diversity in my freedom to worship! <redacted_emoji>

The latter reminds me of the "discussion" my wife and I had in our early years of marriage on how to celebrate Christmas (this, from a purely secular aspect, not a faith issue!!):
SHE: "Santa leaves special presents under the tree UNWRAPPED!
HE: "No, Santa wraps his special presents in DIFFERENT wrapping paper!
SHE: "Each person has to take a turn opening one present at a time!
HE: "Are you kidding me?! It will take forever...just let the kids open all their presents at once!"

So who was right and who was wrong? Neither...we were still celebrating the (secular) magic of Christmas for our children, but we had our diverse traditions, and accommodations had to be made for us to make our own family traditions for celebrating the day.

I see many (not all) of our Christian denominational differences as the same. Of course there are still errors... it IS just plain wrong to leave presents unwrapped under the tree! But my wife and I didn't break fellowship over it. :lol:

Okay, I'm doing a lousy job with my analogies this morning; haven't had the first cup of coffee yet, and it is showing here, so I'll quit before I dig a bigger hole for myself. Really, I think it boils down to a couple things mentioned in the Bible...we each have to work at taking the beams/logs out of our own eyes before we worry about "helping" our brothers take out the splinters in their eyes, and each "slave" is accountable to his "master", not to the other slaves (okay, THAT was a very loose paraphrase of something I think Paul wrote).

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Post by UncleBob » Sat Jan 02, 2010 10:12 am

The status of "cult" is essentially a sociological construct (or label) assigned by a larger society to a social minority that practice some belief system (often religious) that is different to established social norms. In the Western tradition, these sectarians are usually associated with a charismatic leader but this is not always the case. For instance, during the 17th-19th century certain Polynesian "cargo cults" arose by trying to explain flotsam and jetsam that washed up on the islands from European commerce. Another example is the 18th century Thugee cult that arose from Kali worship which practiced sacred murder and concentrated on a narrow (or alternative) interpretation of normative Kali worship. In both examples, group members departed from standard social understanding of the cosmology of their given culture.

A cult can become a social institution if the society in which it operates decides to accept its cosmology. Certainly this is the case for Christianity which became officially institutionalized when Constantine established it as the official Church of Rome. In practice, this occurred earlier.

I think that today the great danger is in the form of "destructive cults" that can arise which are anti-social (like the Thugee) and can threaten either individuals within a given culture (don't drink the Kool-aid!) or even the stability of a given social order (like the Cargo Cults).
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Post by Onyx » Sat Jan 02, 2010 2:46 pm

gospeldj wrote:Thanks for posting this Onyx. I think you were spot-on when you pointed out information control as one of the features of a cult. ("we are the true guardians of truth...no need to look further). A cult will urge newcomers to question everything they've been taught up till now...but once they're in, questioning the cult's doctrines is forbidden.
Thanks, Mike. Yeah, a couple of people have picked up on how insidious this control of information becomes. People are encouraged with recommended reading - the implication being that anything outside the recommended list is "not-recommended". People are told to stay off the Internet.

But perhaps most effective is the distrust built for anyone outside of the group. Psychologists or professionals outside the group are treated with the greatest suspicion. Doctors are either barely tolerated or else condescendingly treated as a necessary annoyance - but only accepted within a narrow scope of their medical involvement. Certainly people are taught to reject the wisdom of their own family elders, as these are the people most likely to see the harm done to a cult member's personality. So if you need counsel, you are taught only to go to a senior cult member.

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Post by coco » Sat Jan 02, 2010 3:42 pm

TomT_90GT wrote:Dang, Onyx...you SURE you aren't a believer any more??? You sure sound like you are. :)

And Coco, regarding your two exclusive options:
Christ himself made a pretty exclusive claim when he said, "I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me" (John 14:6). This is an exclusive claim that must be denied by other religions that do not regard Jesus as the one way to God and blessedness. So, it seems that there must either be:
1. one, true religion with boundaries limiting who's in and who's out, or
2. all paths lead to truth.
Obviously, I'll agree that Option #2 ain't it, but I'm unclear exactly what you mean in Option #1. Actually, these two options aren't exclusive, as it should really be either:
1) All paths lead to truth
2) Not all paths lead to truth

From which you'd have to further subdivide it (possibly) into
3) Some paths lead to truth (and then mess around which how many and which ones they are!)

Seriously, I don't at all disagree with your quote from the Lord, that all must come through Him to the Father (although what God's plan for the Jews are, I'm not at all clear on). My points are:

A) I agree with the wise person that once said "Religion is man's attempt at drawing close to God, Christianity is God's attempt at drawing close to Man" (or something to that effect).

B) There are all sorts of either/both error and diversity in all (Christian) faiths. To me, cults exhibit more of the out and out errors. Where we Christians get into attack mode with each other is calling our various diversities errors (as in YOUR diversity is in ERROR, and what you say is MY error is in fact just diversity in my freedom to worship! <redacted_emoji>

The latter reminds me of the "discussion" my wife and I had in our early years of marriage on how to celebrate Christmas (this, from a purely secular aspect, not a faith issue!!):
SHE: "Santa leaves special presents under the tree UNWRAPPED!
HE: "No, Santa wraps his special presents in DIFFERENT wrapping paper!
SHE: "Each person has to take a turn opening one present at a time!
HE: "Are you kidding me?! It will take forever...just let the kids open all their presents at once!"

So who was right and who was wrong? Neither...we were still celebrating the (secular) magic of Christmas for our children, but we had our diverse traditions, and accommodations had to be made for us to make our own family traditions for celebrating the day.

I see many (not all) of our Christian denominational differences as the same. Of course there are still errors... it IS just plain wrong to leave presents unwrapped under the tree! But my wife and I didn't break fellowship over it. :lol:

Okay, I'm doing a lousy job with my analogies this morning; haven't had the first cup of coffee yet, and it is showing here, so I'll quit before I dig a bigger hole for myself. Really, I think it boils down to a couple things mentioned in the Bible...we each have to work at taking the beams/logs out of our own eyes before we worry about "helping" our brothers take out the splinters in their eyes, and each "slave" is accountable to his "master", not to the other slaves (okay, THAT was a very loose paraphrase of something I think Paul wrote).
I think that we are mostly on the same page here.

I accept Onyx's option #3 as a logically viable option, though it would not be acceptable to anyone who was not willing to embrace the fullness of the nihilism that it would imply.

Indeed, your option #2 is also logically viable. Thus: one path, some paths, all paths, and no paths would seem to exhaust all possible logical options.

I think I lumped your options 2 and 3 into my two options. Here's why: In option #1, I was arguing that different religions possess some mutually exclusive claims that imply that definite boundaries must exist between their religion and others. I was not arguing that every group or every adherent within a given religion has exactly the same beliefs about everything. Even good Roman Catholics have some divergent beliefs between themselves, though they should believe in the same core doctrine.

Jesus made a similar distinction concerning paths of course. He said, "Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. 14 For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few" (Matt 7:13-14). Here, he boils all possible religious options down to two basic options. Either we follow him (as the exclusive way to God), or we choose a way that leads to destruction.

In relation to all of this, I was arguing that religious organizations must be able to make exclusive claims, and making an exclusive does not make a religious organization a cult. I think that this argument stands, whether we consider two options or four.

That being said, Onyx has given us some important insight that I don't think we should overlook. He says that the way in which a cult makes its claims of exclusion can often by "ugly and controlling" rather than loving. We must always wish to have people on the right path because we genuinely love them and want the best thing for them.
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Post by wosbald » Sat Jan 02, 2010 7:30 pm

+JMJ+
I finally have a few minutes to give attention to this topic.
Onyx wrote:People are encouraged with recommended reading - the implication being that anything outside the recommended list is "not-recommended".
Catholics have the Index of Forbidden Books, which are publications that are not to be read without proportionately justifying cause. Is there supposed to be something wrong with this?

Theology is a subtle and nuanced subject. It is easy for fallen man to be led astray (especially the simple an unlearned) by the blandishments and sophisms of heresiarchs. Are we all supposed to be armchair theologians? I know that I am discomfited and wary when reading theology of non-Catholics. Sure, it might be easy to dismiss some animist's Legend of the Cucumber-God as mere puffery, but treatises on Grace by an intellectual Reformed theologian can quickly trap the even the schooled, especially those bloated with foolhardy self-confidence.

Would you let your 5 year-old read a battery of math primers that gave the solution to 2+2 as anything other than 4? Would you trust that they would have no developmental problems stemming from being exposed to a slew of such error? Of course not. Holy Mother the Church, ever solicitous for the salvation of Her children, wouldn't do so, either.

It seems as if you are infected with a case of Modernism, where both truth and error (if even knowable) are accorded equal respect and consideration.
Onyx wrote:... so my challenge to you is to consider that you might be under the same delusion that I was.
Here, you are asking me to abandon Catholicism. Sorry. No can do. You don't accept the RCC? That's your decision, but I won't follow suit.

It's unfortunate that you were so burned by you experiences with a false religion, but bitterly wallowing in the complaint of how they've "damaged" your psyche doesn't seem to be helping.
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Post by Thunktank » Sat Jan 02, 2010 9:28 pm

All this is making my head hurt.

O Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me a sinner.
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Post by Jocose » Sat Jan 02, 2010 9:39 pm

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Post by Onyx » Sat Jan 02, 2010 10:07 pm

wosbald wrote:+JMJ+
I finally have a few minutes to give attention to this topic.
Onyx wrote:People are encouraged with recommended reading - the implication being that anything outside the recommended list is "not-recommended".
Catholics have the Index of Forbidden Books, which are publications that are not to be read without proportionately justifying cause. Is there supposed to be something wrong with this?
I don't know. I suppose it depends what's on the list, who controls the list, who has access to the list, how and by whom the proportionally justifying causes are assessed.
wosbald wrote:Theology is a subtle and nuanced subject. It is easy for fallen man to be led astray (especially the simple an unlearned) by the blandishments and sophisms of heresiarchs. Are we all supposed to be armchair theologians? I know that I am discomfited and wary when reading theology of non-Catholics. Sure, it might be easy to dismiss some animist's Legend of the Cucumber-God as mere puffery, but treatises on Grace by an intellectual Reformed theologian can quickly trap the even the schooled, especially those bloated with foolhardy self-confidence.

Would you let your 5 year-old read a battery of math primers that gave the solution to 2+2 as anything other than 4? Would you trust that they would have no developmental problems stemming from being exposed to a slew of such error? Of course not. Holy Mother the Church, ever solicitous for the salvation of Her children, wouldn't do so, either.
Yes, your logic is valid. But it depends on what authority is treating you like a child, and what motive and guidelines determine their decisions. Yes, I do this for my kids. Mother Russia might have done the same to protect her people in the 70s. My cult did this to keep me in the dark.
wosbald wrote: It seems as if you are infected with a case of Modernism, where both truth and error (if even knowable) are accorded equal respect and consideration.
Onyx wrote:... so my challenge to you is to consider that you might be under the same delusion that I was.
Here, you are asking me to abandon Catholicism.
No, not at all. I think that the Catholic church is helpful and healthy. I'm especially a fan of your current pope. I don't think that membership of the Catholic church makes it impossible for people to be deluded though.
wosbald wrote:Sorry. No can do. You don't accept the RCC? That's your decision, but I won't follow suit.

It's unfortunate that you were so burned by you experiences with a false religion, but bitterly wallowing in the complaint of how they've "damaged" your psyche doesn't seem to be helping.
No, you've got it quite wrong. I am neither bitter nor wallowing. I'm thinking out loud, and loving it. I'm not complaining about those who "damaged" me. Hell, I hadn't even thought in those terms - perhaps I am "damaged", I hadn't considered it! But I'm not going to start worrying about it now. I'm just taking time to understand it.

But I guess for you when I won't accept your RC church, that appears to be because there is some fault with me. That's another characteristic of a cult - by the way. Anyone who dissents must himself be flawed.

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Post by AFRS » Sat Jan 02, 2010 10:09 pm

Jocose wrote: The strangest part is both are also members of Mensa, they no dummies..
Clearly, membership in Mensa is no indicator of being a dummy or not.

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Post by Onyx » Sat Jan 02, 2010 10:15 pm

AFRS wrote:
Jocose wrote: The strangest part is both are also members of Mensa, they no dummies..
Clearly, membership in Mensa is no indicator of being a dummy or not.
I think that the lesson is that being a member of a cult is no indicator of being a dummy.

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Post by wosbald » Sat Jan 02, 2010 10:41 pm

+JMJ+
Onyx wrote:
wosbald wrote:
Onyx wrote:... so my challenge to you is to consider that you might be under the same delusion that I was.
Here, you are asking me to abandon Catholicism.
No, not at all... But I guess for you when I won't accept your RC church, that appears to be because there is some fault with me. That's another characteristic of a cult - by the way. Anyone who dissents must himself be flawed.
Of course, you are. You are asking me to doubt whether "there is one true religion and that others are false". Though you may not see it, in a roundabout way, you are asking me to abandon the Catholic Faith.

But I guess for you, when I won't accept your "challenge", that appears to be because there is some flaw with me... (You know the rest.) :wink:
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Post by OldWorldSwine » Sat Jan 02, 2010 11:28 pm

Onyx wrote:
AFRS wrote:
Jocose wrote: The strangest part is both are also members of Mensa, they no dummies..
Clearly, membership in Mensa is no indicator of being a dummy or not.
I think that the lesson is that being a member of a cult is no indicator of being a dummy.
CLEARLY... Mensa is a cult.
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Post by Onyx » Sun Jan 03, 2010 12:11 am

wosbald wrote:+JMJ+
Onyx wrote:
wosbald wrote:
Onyx wrote:... so my challenge to you is to consider that you might be under the same delusion that I was.
Here, you are asking me to abandon Catholicism.
No, not at all... But I guess for you when I won't accept your RC church, that appears to be because there is some fault with me. That's another characteristic of a cult - by the way. Anyone who dissents must himself be flawed.
Of course, you are. You are asking me to doubt whether "there is one true religion and that others are false". Though you may not see it, in a roundabout way, you are asking me to abandon the Catholic Faith.
You're quite wrong. I'm not. I said I'm not asking you to abandon Catholicism, please take me at my word. Although I don't imagine my recommendation is important to you, for what it's worth, I'd recommend you stick with Roman Catholicism, just open your mind a little.
wosbald wrote:But I guess for you, when I won't accept your "challenge", that appears to be because there is some flaw with me... (You know the rest.) :wink:
That's quite wrong again. I don't think you're flawed because of this. Of course, I think we're both flawed humans, and I'm sure you'd agree with me there. I think (from the history of communications on this site) that your beliefs are more narrow that the Roman Catholic church in that you do not accept "Vatican II" (about which I'm spectacularly ignorant). So I don't know whether you are part of the small minority of Catholics who are actually still right in God's eyes. My BS-meter tells me that this is unlikely - but it may be so. At any rate, I didn't ask you to abandon anything other than a refusal to contemplate that perhaps you are the one in delusion rather than everyone outside of those RCs which reject Vatican II.

By the way, you described me as bitter, which I'm not at all. I've told you that I'm not bitter... any acknowledgment of that would be appreciated - I found it kind of insulting.

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Post by wosbald » Sun Jan 03, 2010 1:36 pm

+JMJ+
Onyx wrote: So I don't know whether you are part of the small minority of Catholics who are actually still right in God's eyes. My BS-meter tells me that this is unlikely - but it may be so. At any rate, I didn't ask you to abandon anything other than a refusal to contemplate that perhaps you are the one in delusion rather than everyone outside of those RCs which reject Vatican II.
As far as being "right in God's eyes", I don't really know what that means. I know that I have right belief. And I know that I attend right worship. But am I "right in God's eyes"? I don't know. That's a pretty broadly encompassing claim. Like I said, it depends on what you mean by that.
Onyx wrote:By the way, you described me as bitter, which I'm not at all. I've told you that I'm not bitter... any acknowledgment of that would be appreciated - I found it kind of insulting.
Okay. I acknowledge that. Feel bitter? I mean... "better"?
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Post by Jocose » Sun Jan 03, 2010 2:39 pm

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Post by Jocose » Sun Jan 03, 2010 2:44 pm

There is a way that seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death.

Every way of a man is right in his own eyes, but the Lord pondereth the hearts.
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