Religion Vs Cult

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Pages: 5

To approach the differences between the modern understanding of a religion and cult, it is necessary to view both similarities and differences. For this reason, consider the following narrative:
Two young men finish their daily prayer alongside their congregation. They follow the rest of the group down to the basement for their monthly ritual. The spiritual leader welcomes and praises the group for attending, as well as commends the strength of their beliefs. Crackers are passed around the group, which are devoured eagerly, crunches echoing around the room. A wine glass is then passed around, everyone taking a sip. One of the young men drops to the floor, dead. The other says goodbye and leaves the room.
The narrative illustrates the similarities
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According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, Religion is “an organized system of beliefs, ceremonies, and rules used to worship a god or a group of gods” (“Religion”). Similarly, a cult is “a small religious group that is not part of a larger and more accepted religion and that has beliefs regarded by many people as extreme or dangerous” (“Cult”). Obvious connections are made between these two terms; part of the definition of a cult contains a reference to religion and both discuss the importance of beliefs. The definition of ‘Cult’ is significantly more judgmental because it is described as “extreme of dangerous.” Because words in the definition of ‘Cult’ have negative connotations, the word itself has a negative connotation. In contrast, ‘Religion’ has a positive or neutral connotation because it describes ceremonies and order, a striking contrast from a definition that describes chaos. Though these two denotations have significant differences, the words’ origins are very …show more content…
The term ‘cult’ is used to describe a religious group that practices rituals different from society’s ideals. It can also be used dissuade others from affiliating with it. Because society characterizes cults as dangerous and extremist religious groups who practice rituals that don’t conform to societal norms, it is used as a political tool of a dominant culture to discourage its implementation. In contrast, religion is seen as a set of beliefs to guide, enrich and help create meaning in one’s life. Though some traditional beliefs of religions are not universal, major Religions such as Judaism, Christianity and Islam are respected. This acceptance allows society to characterize them as religions instead of cults, however, by definition the two words are nearly synonyms. What is ironic about the usage is that one group’s religion is another group’s cult. For example, Mormons would regard their sect of Christianity to be the official church while others have seen them as a cult.This is very ironic because people assume that their religious beliefs are more correct and valid than others yet the others assume the same things about them. For example, Christianity was a religion that was created out of Judaism. At the time, it was considered a cult because many of their beliefs were a radical change from traditional Judaism. Now, we consider Christianity to be a world religion that has spawned