Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Cults for Dummies 1

Welcome to "The Gods Are Bored!" If you got a gift card for a god, better come and redeem it right away. The gods and goddesses are flying off the shelves. Wow! People are acting like they're prosperous and their jobs are secure. Go figure.

For Xmas my daugher The Heir got a book called Cults from a friend of hers. The Heir is very interested in mind control. She has a deep suspicion of the Christian church because during her Confirmation Hearings she had to go to this Christian camp where she feels she was coerced into professing faith. She didn't like that much. The Scotch-Irish in her rebelled.

No better time than the present to look at the whole issue of cults.

So, out comes the trusty dictionary, the one published in 1974 that does not include any of the following words:
cellular telephone
world wide web
text message

Guess I need a new dictionary, eh?

Here's the dinosaur dictionary's definition of a cult:

1. A system of religious worship or ritual for a person, principle, etc., esp. when regarded as a fad. (Dino dictionary uses nudism as an example!)

2. The object of such attachment.

3. A group of followers; sect.

Okay, that is very broad indeed. Where do we draw the line between a cult, i.e. worship of a specific person by a group of followers, and religion, defined in dino dictionary as a belief in a divine or superhuman power or powers to be obeyed and worshiped as the creator(s) and ruler(s) of the universe.

Now that's what I call a great definition. Gives respect to us polytheists.

I'm thinking we need to revise the too-broad definition of cult.

My definition of cult goes something like this:

A group of followers whose devotion to a person or persons causes those followers to perform dangerous acts that are either self-destructive or harmful to others, or both.

Al-Qaeda, Christian Science, Scientology and Heaven's Gate make the cut. Ditto the Peoples' Temple and their Kool-Aid binge. The Mormons, however weird, get a pass. Ditto the Krishnas. That's a religion, and their flowers are pretty.

Some religions start as cults and morph. Hard as it may be to believe, the goddess Diana tells me that the earliest Christians were considered a cult and were accused of slaughtering babies as part of their secret rituals.

One good barometer of a cult is whether or not it survives the death of its founder. Both Christian Science and Scientology have done that, but they're cults because they refuse modern medicine and even belittle such useful tools as psychiatric drugs and epidurals. (Katie Holmes is in for a long, hard -- and pointlessly painful -- battle.)

The most virulent cults, of course, are the ones in which the leader requests that his followers join him in the Great Hereafter immediately. I mean, when was the last time you saw a mass suicide in honor of Tiki?

Other virulent cults ask their followers to kill innocent people (and themselves in the nonce) for political reasons. What does that lead to? Nut cases flying planes into tall buildings in search of virgins and shade in the Great Hereafter.

So why is Anne the goat judge pontificating about cults? Because druids were listed as a cult in The Heir's Xmas gift book. Right alongside another credible religion, Santeria.

So for the next few days we'll be discussing cults, people who claim to be God, Jesus, or Satan returned to earth, and the followers that buy these claims even though there are so many bored gods sitting out there just begging for a little candle-lit prayer.

We'll meet Reverend Moon, a dude in the Southwest who calls himself Maitreya, and the eager young cadets of Keswick Camp.

We'll also offer some valuable suggestions on how not to have your religion dismissed as a cult. Okay, maybe that one's a no-brainer, but hey. This is Cults for Dummies.

If you're smart, go read someone else's diary.

jk jk jk jk jk


Athana said...

Excellent post, Anne. I checked my dictionary for "cult," and it's as bad as yours. Your definition sounds superb to me, and is definitely one that's needed. It's been my experience that the word "cult" is often used to describe someone else's religion, no matter what that religion may be like. Archaeologists for example, often use it to describe the religious practises of the ancients. It'd be interesting to study how and when Christians use the word.

Scott said...

OK,, I like the subject matter, it is definitely something that needs to be discussed.. And as eccentric as Ol A.C. was I just wonder why his pic up on the Cult101 post here??? I mean,, Jimmy Jones, or the Matreiya dude,, I can see.. But as an on again, off again Thelemite, and someone who has studied/used the methods taught by the Golden Dawn, A:A: and the Beast himself A.C. I know that he gets listed under cult alot,, but Anne, Thelema did survive his death, and is a strong and robust philosophy/religion by most standard pagan outlooks...????
Thin line I know,, but do you really class every "Follower" of A.C. work as cultist?? As much of a showman as he was,, he definitely was no Jim Jones... my opinion only and wouldn't knock you if you say that is your stand on A.C. I just wouldn't class Thelema as a cult.

I am going to like these post I am sure,, cool topic. Since I only follow my own "Higher Self" I hopefully escape a cultist label by most definitions???

Anne Johnson said...

I'll have more to say about A.C. There is definitely a gray area where religious devotion is concerned, and IMHO Crowley is the conquering example of this.

PS - I tried to upload about 6 pictures of Jim Jones. Never worked. Meanwhile, the A.C. pic was so compelling, n'est ce pas?