Monday, January 02, 2006

Religion vs. Cult

Here's an interesting quote I read from a discussion on a mailing list:

"Cults are leader-centric. Religions are institutional- and doctrine-
centric, with leadership being essentially disposable."

It makes a lot of sense, actually.


Majik Sznak said...

That's a good point. I'd never thought about it, and had until now mostly just thought size was the difference.

TheSpaceAdmiral said...

That's interesting. I would have attempted to define them on their "popularity : doing-crazy-stuff" ratios. With lots of hand-waving.

I suspect it's generally true, although I'd imagine there are a couple counter-examples or grey areas. It does make a lot of sense.

Chen-song said...

I think cults can certainly become religions, if they get over the initial "cult of personality" stage. I think the main difference between the two is that a religion can last a long time, while a cult will fade away with the leader, and that's why this difference is important. The key to lasting a long time is to not rely on the survival of an individual.

Chen-song said...

BTW, I think a good example of such a transition is the Mormons. Initially it was a cult based around Joseph Smith, but eventually they managed and thrived without him. It seems to me that Wicca is a modern example of this: it was initially just Gardner dancing around naked, but the whole idea has grown far beyond any individual practitioner.