social group with socially deviant or novel religious, philosophical or spiritual beliefs and practices
(Redirected from Cults)

In modern English, the term cult has usually been used in reference to a social group that is defined by its unusual religious, spiritual, or philosophical beliefs, or by its common interest in a particular personality, object or goal. This sense of the term is controversial and it has divergent definitions both in popular culture and academia and it has also been an ongoing source of contention among scholars across several fields of study. It is usually considered pejorative.

Ernst Troeltsch's church-sect typology, upon which the modern concept of cults, sects, and new religious movements is based.


Alphabetized by author
  • Another term coined by Haack is Psychokulte (therapy cults), of which he distinguished two kinds: those with techniques which promise self-discovery or self-realization and establishments with therapies (Therapie-Institutionene)—Heelas's 'self-religions'. The followers of both types show the effects of Psychomutation, a distinct personality change (Haack, 1990a:191). Schneider (1995:189–190) lists organizations, such as Landmark Education, Verein zur Förderung der Psychologischen Menschenkenntnis (VPM), Scientology/Dianetics, Ontologische Einweihungsschule (Hannes Scholl), EAP and Die Bewegung (Silo) as examples of 'therapy cults'. These groups do not immediately suggest religion of Weltanschauung, but reveal ideological and religious elements on closer inspection. Their slogans are 'We have the saving principle' or 'We enable those who are able' and they offer Lebenshilfe (advice on how to live). Such advice is a commodity which is sold in very expensive seminars. The ideologies involved often lie in the grey areas between the humanities, psychotherapies, Lebenshilfe, 'mental hygiene' (Psychohygiene), and religion.
    • Arweck, Elisabeth (2004). Researching New Religious Movements: Responses and Redefinitions. Leiden: Brill. pp. 145-146. ISBN 0203642376. 
  • There was nothing special about our time with Andrew. We've been members in just another cultish group that make its members feel special. Our experiences are fundamentally no different from countless others in spiritual and political groups. We see clearly that corruption is difficult to avoid when a charismatic individual is given absolute power over a group of followers. All authoritarian groups have more or less the same dynamic. The emphasis on surrender, the initial happiness of merging into something bigger, the dogmatism, the rules and regulations, the suppression of doubts, it's the same everywhere.
    • Andre van der Braak, about how he and another former see their time with Andrew CohenAndre van der Braak (2003). Enlightenment Blues: My Years With an American Guru. Monkfish Book Publishing. p. 215. ISBN 0-9726357-1-8. 
  • Years ago recruitment for cultic groups was far more obvious than today because extreme religious groups were easy to identify. They lived isolated from the general population, and the public had become aware of their deceptive recruiting techniques. Today many are attracted to organizations that are less overtly cultic, not overtly religious, and are often linked with the human potential movement, while others operate as businesses, with their tactics focused around financial success.
  • Another potent element of the new cult milieu was the therapy sect, which offered believers the chance to achieve their full human potential through personal growth and self-actualization by taking total responsibility for one's actions.
  • Religion, cult, there's no real definition of which is which. It's more like, 'if the shoe fits'. I personally define a 'cult' as any religion with fewer followers than Snooki has on Twitter. Also, Mormonism is secretive, and that's another trait I associate with cults. Catholics own their crazy. It's right on the table. Mormons are more like Fight Club.
    • Bill Maher, referring to the rules of Fight Club in Fight Club: "The first rule of Fight Club is: You do not talk about Fight Club. The second rule of Fight Club is: You do not talk about Fight Club." — Bill Maher (04 May 2012). "Real Time with Bill Maher, May 4, 2012". Real Time with Bill Maher (HBO). 
  • After a decade of activity, the anti-cult movement had one significant accomplishment to its credit. It had succeeded in creating a pervasive negative image of the new religions and spreading a popular public prejudice against several groups which had become well known as "cults." However, it proved incapable of implementing any of its major program goals, which sought to severely regulate, inhibit the growth of, and eventually eliminate the cults altogether.
  • Outsiders often criticize the extreme commitment of group members. But what is really happening is that leader and followers are conspiring to realize a vision that is falsified daily. For the cult is not paradise, and the leader is not God. Hence the follower is embattled; to squarely confront the many failings of the leader and the group is to call into question one's own great work. Only by daily recommitting himself can the follower continue to work toward his ultimate goal. Each follower works out a secret compromise, acknowledging some things while denying or distorting others. Clearly this is a high-risk strategy that may go awry.
    • Len Oakes (1997). "Followers and Their Quest". Prophetic charisma: The Psychology of Prophetic Charisma. Syracuse University Press. p. 137. ISBN 0-8156-2700-9. 
  • I do not want this material to be considered any sort of mumbo jumbo. It is not a cult in the terms people often consider material that seems to come from a source beyond the individual who gives it. The designations spirit, and medium, and so forth, are ridiculous to begin with. You are simply using your inner senses. These senses are not magical, they certainly are not religious in any sense of the word, and I am not some degenerated secondary personality of Ruburt's. Nor will I be compared with some long-bearded, beady-eyed spirit sitting on cloud nine.
  • Whenever there is an absolute truth at stake, the manners become careless. This applies both to the owners as well as their opponents of that truth and to all people involved.
  • Some of these terms, including "cult" and "sect," have long traditions of use, stretching back to the centuries when Latin was the official language of scholars. But the meanings of words often change over time; and terms that once were neutral or simply descriptive sometimes take on harshly negative implications and potentially lose their original usefulness, including the two just mentioned. Other terms have been coined more recently to circumvent the stereotypes associated with older categories. Among this newer terminology are "outsider groups" and "New Religious Movements." Sometimes the newer nomenclature is useful despite certain limitations. "Marginal religious communities," for example, is a positional designation — not a qualitative judgment — implying a location on the margin or edge of mainstream religious groups. When using these terms, it is important to recognize that they are often loaded with powerful assumptions and implications.

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