Last week in the Sunday Morning Post, there was a letter from the Asia area public affairs office of “The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints – a religion that just rolls off the tongue. The writer was pointing out that his church had nothing to do with Warren Steed Jeffs a polygamist leader of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, - another punchy name for a religion, who was recently jailed for sexually assaulting two young girls he had taken for wires. The writer was keen to point out that there is no such thing as: “A Mormon fundamentalist, or radical Mormon, nor are there Mormon sects.” Now I think he is being obtuse, but then thats what church leaders do.
Oh well, if this is not the work of radicals or fundamentalists, then perhaps I have the wrong definition: Lafferty Case Still Haunts
But in truth, I don’t really care, it’s self evident that Mormons are strange, they believe in a guy who said an Angel directed him to the word of God, in the 1820′s, he was this charlatan!
I am more interested in fact in what defines a sect or cult from a religion. I did post it on my Facebook as a question, a few of the more amusing answers were: “When enough idiots believe,” or “immediately,” or more thought provoking: ” When it stops killing it’s own members and starts killing non-members.
Not enough for me, so I went to the web, and here are the answers from the wisdom of the crowd. Enjoy!
Generally a “cult” is based upon a single charismatic leader with direct access to God. When that leader dies, there are crises of faith and succession. If the cult survives, it may be transformed into a “sect”, where beliefs and leadership are in flux. Access to God is widespread. A “religion” has established dogma and leadership. Access to God is restricted to trained specialists.
David Dreaming Bear, Horsethief Canyon, California USA
A cult becomes a religion when it burns its first heretic.
Peter Brooke, Kinmuck Scotland
‘A religion is a cult with an army and a navy’ (to borrow from Max Weinreich writing on language and dialect). Consider the role of the state in the demise of the Roman religion and the rise of Christianity; the Crusades; persecution of the Jews; the battles between Catholicism and Protestantism; the fate of the Bah’ai in Iran; amongst many other examples. Keith Mason, London UK
A Cult becomes a religion once it is viewed by outsiders as having a degree of moral authority. It’s a nominal distinction subjectively made. Andrew Johnson-Green, Leeds West Yorks
As soon as you have to part with cash to join, it’s a cult. As soon as there are more than 10000 of you, it’s a religion. So, the Reader’s Digest is a cult, and London is a religion. Tom Attah, Farnborough UK
Is this not one of the plural irregular verbs? We are a religion, you are a community, they are a cult. Geoff Cohn, Sydney Australia
A cult is a religion without any political power. Big Bill Robinson, Slough England
A cult becomes a religion when its members become so numerous that they require recognition by a governing authority. Witness the evolution of the Mormon religion in the US. Initially it was identified as a “cult” (and you can look this up in various almanacs), but eventually, it had so many adherents that it was recognized by the US government as a religion. Nancy Thomas, Las Vegas, USA