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Is Mormonism a Cult?

Rick Perry’s pastor friend recently called Mormonism a cult because Rick Perry’s opponent Mitt Romney is a Mormon. But I have found that a surprisingly number of Christians make this claim also. The fact is that Mormonism is a cult… and so are Christianity and every other religion.

A while ago, I did a two-hour Dangerous Talk radio show on the history of cults. I did a lot of research into that show. Now however the tape of that show has been lost. I can’t find my notes either. However, I remember some of it and now I also have the benefit of Wikipedea which I didn’t have back then. So I want to talk about this topic briefly.

The original meaning of the term, “cult” was a religious practice. In this original sense, all religions are cults by definition. Christians often tell me that they don’t have a religion and that they just have a relationship with God. That is a cult too!

Then in the 1940s (although I remember that my original research suggested that it was closer to the 1960s but I’m not going to argue with Wikipedea), Christians got their hands on the term and turned it into a pejorative. The new definition was any religion other than the established view of Christianity.

If I remember correctly, “good” Christian parents became worried that their children were leaving Christianity for other more hippy religious ideas. Christian parents started to hire professional “de-programmers” to get their teenaged children back into Christianity. The problem occurred when some teens became Born-Again Christians when their parents were more mainstream believers. So the parents started to hire the same de-programmers to get their children out of the fervent fundamentalist Christianity.

This is where the definition of cult changed again to its current definition of a religious belief which uses mind-control, psychological and sometimes physical abuse, etc. Even by these newer standards, I think the case could be made that most religions today fit the bill. Religious mind-control starts at an early age. When it comes to most forms of Christianity, children are psychologically abused into believing that if they doubt or reject the beliefs, they will be tortured for all eternity in Hell. Guilt concerning sexuality and “sins” is also very psychologically damaging. Many Christians are fans of corporal punishment which is physically abusive.

The main difference I see between cults like Scientology and Christianity is that Christianity is much more subtle and the form of abuse it uses has become much more accepted as “normal” while Scientology is much less subtle in their techniques. Christianity used to be more in-your-face like Scientology but over time they took over society and used that domination to control people without overtly torturing them.

Mormonism is no more or less a cult than most other forms of Christianity. Sure, there are some factors within Mormonism which may seem more cultish to outsiders, but a look at evangelical Christianity shows similar rituals and beliefs.

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  • CuznClem

    Final paragraph: “Mormonism is no more or less a cult than most other forms of Christianity.”

    OK, with respect to that qualifier “most”, kindly name a few forms of Christianity which are NOT cults. Three examples will suffice.

    • http://twitter.com/DangerousTalk Staks Rosch

      You got me. I almost always use modifiers because there might be something I don’t know. So I only use absolute language when I pretty darn certain. I can’t think of a Christian sect that I wouldn’t consider a cult, but I want to leave room for the possibility.

  • skm9

    Mormonism feels more like a cult in part because they keep some parts of their worship secret from non-Mormons.

    And to respond to the other guy, I don’t think the Universalists are a cult, but that’s the only one I can think of.