Scientology - What makes a religion evil, dangerous, or a cult?

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Reuben
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Re: Scientology - What makes a religion evil, dangerous, or a cult?

Post by Reuben » 24 May 2018, 19:57

dande48 wrote:
22 May 2018, 13:28
DevilsAdvocate wrote:
22 May 2018, 07:29
I don't think there is any clear dividing line or consistent definition of "cult" that everyone is going to agree with.
I think the universal definition is "an ideological group I don't particularly like at this moment." Still, I imagine some concrete lines have to be drawn.
I think "cult" has too many dimensions to draw a useful line. I'll break out some of them to get more precise definitions.

Fundamentalist: Requires belief in fundamental claims to be a member in good standing.

Narcissistic: Includes as a fundamental claim that it is superior to all other religions.

Doomsday: Includes as a fundamental claim that the world will end soon.

Charismatic: Teaches and encourages "gifts of the Spirit" sorts of behavior such as faith healing, wild meditation, holy rolling, and snake handling.

Vindictive: Performs boundary policing that causes grief or harm to people who leave or want to leave.

Extortionist: Requires absolute or income-proportional donations.

Authoritarian: Teaches members to strictly obey. Provides no safe, meaningful channel for upward communication.

Coercive: Uses a few means of strong social control or many means of weak social control to manipulate members.

Echo chamber: Teaches members to refer only to official materials.

Culty: Takes the place of members' families. (Better word?)

Isolationist: Cuts off members' ties to the outside world.

Codependent: Makes members depend on it for their self-esteem.

Communal: Requires members to live together.

Have I missed anything major?
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Love before dogma. Truth before loyalty. Knowledge before certainty.

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SamBee
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Re: Scientology - What makes a religion evil, dangerous, or a cult?

Post by SamBee » 25 May 2018, 07:42

I think "cult" like "troll" is all too often bandied about to describe something we don't agree with.

The two basic types of cult are the ones which largely cut themselves off and the ones which interact with society to some degree.

Mormonism as a whole, and even Scientology, do not conform completely to the first type although Mormons have their MTCs and Scientologists have Sea Org which fits the bill.

The Branch Davidians fall into the first category, Moonies into the latter although less so than JWs and NXIM. Hare Krishnas fall somewhere in between because they go out begging but return to the compound at night. (I think the Branch Davidians were hard done by). FLDS would also fall somewhere in the middle.

The early LDS would be an example of an open organization which started open and became more and more reclusive until it moved away from everyone in Utah... and then gradually went back the other way.

As I've stated elsewhere our dress and health codes are actually far less strict than Jews or Muslims. Hindus also have a wealth of rituals, rules and regulations. The Amish are much stricter too.

Once we look at the wider picture, Mormonism's main crimes are - not conforming to mainstream Christianity, and being a New Religious Movement (NRM). But then again Roman Catholicism is highly divergent from real Protestantism (and vice versa)... and has a charismatic & sometimes authoritarian leader & claims of exclusivity.
DASH1730 "An Area Authority...[was] asked...who...would go to the Telestial kingdom. His answer: "murderers, adulterers and a lot of surprised Mormons!"'
1ST PRES 1978 "[LDS] believe...there is truth in many religions and philosophies...good and great religious leaders... have raised the spiritual, moral, and ethical awareness of their people. When we speak of The [LDS] as the only true church...it is...authorized to administer the ordinances...by Jesus Christ... we do not mean... it is the only teacher of truth."

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DevilsAdvocate
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Re: Scientology - What makes a religion evil, dangerous, or a cult?

Post by DevilsAdvocate » 25 May 2018, 09:11

Reuben wrote:
24 May 2018, 19:57
dande48 wrote:
22 May 2018, 13:28
DevilsAdvocate wrote:
22 May 2018, 07:29
I don't think there is any clear dividing line or consistent definition of "cult" that everyone is going to agree with.
I think the universal definition is "an ideological group I don't particularly like at this moment." Still, I imagine some concrete lines have to be drawn.
I think "cult" has too many dimensions to draw a useful line. I'll break out some of them to get more precise definitions...
Have I missed anything major?
What about sex cults? There could be others like austerity cults as well. To be honest, I think the LDS Church fits many of these descriptions you listed at the same time but many members would deny that these points are a bad thing because it is supposedly coming from God so who are we to question God and his chosen prophets?

On top of that, I think many Church members think of the word "cult" mostly as an identifier for some of the relatively small and most extreme groups like the followers of Jim Jones that drank the Kool-aid, the followers of David Koresh, Heaven's Gate, etc. and they will feel like anyone calling the LDS Church a cult is just a hater calling us names out of spite. Personally I think there really is more to this than many Church members want to admit but I definitely wouldn't call the Church a cult when talking to most Church members because it seems like it will typically just make them defensive.
"Truth is what works." - William James

AmyJ
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Re: Scientology - What makes a religion evil, dangerous, or a cult?

Post by AmyJ » 25 May 2018, 09:24

DevilsAdvocate wrote:
25 May 2018, 09:11
Reuben wrote:
24 May 2018, 19:57
dande48 wrote:
22 May 2018, 13:28


I think the universal definition is "an ideological group I don't particularly like at this moment." Still, I imagine some concrete lines have to be drawn.
I think "cult" has too many dimensions to draw a useful line. I'll break out some of them to get more precise definitions...
Have I missed anything major?
What about sex cults? There could be others like austerity cults as well. To be honest, I think the LDS Church fits many of these descriptions you listed at the same time but many members would deny that these points are a bad thing because it is supposedly coming from God so who are we to question God and his chosen prophets?

On top of that, I think many Church members think of the word "cult" mostly as an identifier for some of the relatively small and most extreme groups like the followers of Jim Jones that drank the Kool-aid, the followers of David Koresh, Heaven's Gate, etc. and they will feel like anyone calling the LDS Church a cult is just a hater calling us names out of spite. Personally I think there really is more to this than many Church members want to admit but I definitely wouldn't call the Church a cult when talking to most Church members because it seems like it will typically just make them defensive.
I could be wrong, but I get the impression sometimes at church that we are trying to outgrow the smaller, insulated, non-mainstream cult-like church we could be perceived as being previously as an organization. It's an awkward question to ask if we were previously cult-like, and since everything is "eternal" - does that mean we are cult-like in some aspects now.

Curt Sunshine
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Re: Scientology - What makes a religion evil, dangerous, or a cult?

Post by Curt Sunshine » 25 May 2018, 12:57

At the extreme, a cult includes active, intentional, coercive brainwashing as a central component.

Practically every new religious movement begins as a cult to some degree, but most weren't at the extreme. Many non-religious organizations begin as personality cults, at least.

Every new religion is seen as a cult by the orthodoxy of the time. Every. Single. One.

The LDS Church's journey away from culthood was complicated by the persecution and subsequent isolation.

The question is whether or not each movement moves away from the extremes of its origin without losing what made it successful in the first place - or substituting successful elements in place of what made it successful originally. The LDS Church is doing a pretty good job right now in making the necessary shifts, even if there still are elements that remain.
I see through my glass, darkly - as I play my saxophone in harmony with the other instruments in God's orchestra. (h/t Elder Joseph Wirthlin)

Even if people view many things differently, the core Gospel principles (LOVE; belief in the unseen but hoped; self-reflective change; symbolic cleansing; striving to recognize the will of the divine; never giving up) are universal.

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dande48
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Re: Scientology - What makes a religion evil, dangerous, or a cult?

Post by dande48 » 26 May 2018, 06:43

Curt Sunshine wrote:
25 May 2018, 12:57
At the extreme, a cult includes active, intentional, coercive brainwashing as a central component.
How do we define "brainwashing"? To me, this fits in the same category as "cult", being a word with more stigma than concrete definition. Replace it with "indoctrination", "proselytization", or "persuasion" (all which are fitting synonyms with less stigma), and you've got most every religion or ideological organization.

My difficulty is, I think we can all agree that certain practices, paradigms, and ideologies have a negative effect on its participants. But we have a hard time pinning down on exactly what those are and why, other than they contradict with what we believe in. It feels like we're willing to grant forgiveness and understanding to our own particular groups, while passing judgement on those who are different from us. And the more different, the more we condemn them.

I think as was said before, ALL religions and ideological movements contain cult-like attributes and practices. But especially with religions, where the eternal souls of all mankind and the favor of the gods is one the line, it's justified. Either "it works because it's true", or it is seen as an effective means to an end. Sadly, emotion and rhetoric will never be as persuasive as reason. But when such cult-like methods are used by groups which contradict our own, it's much easier to see them as manipulative and evil.
Anakin, Star Wars ep III wrote: Well from my perspective, the Jedi are evil!
"The whole world is a comedy to those that think, a tragedy to those that feel." - Horace Walpole

"Even though there are no ways of knowing for sure, there are ways of knowing for pretty sure."
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DevilsAdvocate
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Re: Scientology - What makes a religion evil, dangerous, or a cult?

Post by DevilsAdvocate » 26 May 2018, 10:30

AmyJ wrote:
25 May 2018, 09:24
I could be wrong, but I get the impression sometimes at church that we are trying to outgrow the smaller, insulated, non-mainstream cult-like church we could be perceived as being previously as an organization. It's an awkward question to ask if we were previously cult-like, and since everything is "eternal" - does that mean we are cult-like in some aspects now.
Maybe many individual members are becoming more mainstream on their own by ignoring some of the backward focused ideas still taught by the Church such as homophobia but personally I can't think of any real top-down changes to become more mainstream since they abandoned the racial priesthood ban in 1978. What other real meaningful official changes have been made since then? For example, the mission age change and exclusion policy for the children of homosexual parents look like they were mostly about trying to maintain tight control over members rather than letting them decide things for themselves. And one instance where it looks like the Church has actually become more cultish recently is modesty. For example, there is a picture of the 1964 BYU homecoming queen wearing a sleeveless dress but now they are pushing the LDS version of "modesty" (garment friendly clothing) even for very young girls.

To me it looks like Church leaders want mainstream popularity, acceptance, and raw numbers but they don't want to (or don't feel like they can) let go of some of the cult-like thinking and control such as the us-versus-them mindset, whitewashed narratives, unquestioning obedience, etc. that will typically prevent being truly mainstream in countries like the US that have increasingly valued freedom and equal rights. So instead of real changes to try to become more mainstream in practice what we typically get instead is some kind of PR spin and marketing like the, "I'm a Mormon" advertising campaign to try to make us look mainstream, diverse, etc. without really changing anything.
Last edited by DevilsAdvocate on 27 May 2018, 12:42, edited 2 times in total.
"Truth is what works." - William James

NightSG
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Re: Scientology - What makes a religion evil, dangerous, or a cult?

Post by NightSG » 26 May 2018, 17:35

DevilsAdvocate wrote:
26 May 2018, 10:30
To me it looks like Church leaders want mainstream popularity, acceptance, and raw numbers but they don't want to (or don't feel like they can) let go of some of the cult-like thinking and control such as the us-versus-them mindset, whitewashed narratives, unquestioning obedience, etc. that will typically prevent being truly mainstream in countries like the US that have increasingly valued freedom and equal rights.
Yeah, I've yet to get a straight answer out of missionaries and others as to why they'll latch on to things that don't really affect how one actually lives as a Christian to fight with anyone of differing beliefs. I mean, why not focus first on similarities, (though granted, LDS ideas about any other faith make the "how Mormons are" comedy look pretty darn accurate by comparison) and then on differences that really do make a difference in one's life, and save the deeper theological points for later?

For example, from another board, about two weeks ago, and not a single response:
Then explain how it really matters; does the way we follow Christ change one bit whether he was the literal Son of God, God Himself formless but stuffed into a human suit to come down for a few years, some part of God's essence given human form, or some other relationship we're entirely incapable of understanding in this state? If an angel stopped by tomorrow to give you a note signed by God that says "Hey, you guys have all got that one point mixed up, and your brains simply can't handle even an approximation of how it really is, but Jesus still lived as the perfect example for you, suffered and died for your sins, and acts as your mediator in prayer regardless of how We are actually related, so Son is probably as good a word as any you have" would you consider your faith so irreparably shaken as to go join the Hari Krishnas, or would you do exactly the same things that you've done all your life? Do you really believe that if everyone got those, that even one person who possesses any measure of faith in any representation of Christ would change anything about their lives other than to find some other point of Scripture to bicker about?

I mean, you're probably one of those heathens who will follow the green eyed impostor right into eternal torment, and have tuned out those of us who follow the true brown eyed Savior as spreading heresy, but it's possible there could be some hope that you will see His brown eyed Light of Truth someday.

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dande48
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Re: Scientology - What makes a religion evil, dangerous, or a cult?

Post by dande48 » 26 May 2018, 19:42

NightSG wrote:
26 May 2018, 17:35
Yeah, I've yet to get a straight answer out of missionaries and others as to why they'll latch on to things that don't really affect how one actually lives as a Christian to fight with anyone of differing beliefs.
Seriously, if the Church were to do away with the requirement to believe in "truths" that don't have anything to do with Christian living, I would jump straight in to 100% activity, hold callings, do "ministering", get my temple recommend, the whole shebang! But I've got to draw the line when I'm forced to bare my "testimony" of things I simply don't believe in. I'm fine with all the other commandments, but the "sin of unbelief" is what's really holding me back.
"The whole world is a comedy to those that think, a tragedy to those that feel." - Horace Walpole

"Even though there are no ways of knowing for sure, there are ways of knowing for pretty sure."
-Lemony Snicket

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Ilovechrist77
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Re: Scientology - What makes a religion evil, dangerous, or a cult?

Post by Ilovechrist77 » 26 May 2018, 19:54

DevilsAdvocate, it's funny that you mentioned garment friendly clothing. I checked the recent garment designs from LDS.org and I was shocked. The women's garment tops sleeves are shorter than the men's, almost sleeveless. The men's garment top sleeves don't look like that. I just don't understand.

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