"Cult" vs. "Cult"

When your Joe Schmo says "cult," he means an evil, manipulative group that controls its members and hides from the public. For this sense of the word, see my notes on Margaret Thaler Singer's Cults in our Midst.

When a sociologist or historian of religion uses the word "cult" (for example, Rodney Stark in The Rise of Christianity, it connotes no negative judgment whatsoever. A cult is defined as a (usually new) religious movement that is at tension with outside society, usually and especially with other existing religions. Thus Scientology could be considered a cult without negative meanings - although many choose to associate Scientology with the negative connotations that come with the popular usage of the word "cult."

Unless otherwise stated, the content of this page is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 License