Think about it. Is it possible the difference between a cult and religion is nothing more than popularity?
Let’s explore the differences between a religion and a cult.
A Religion is a Popular Cult
Many people conclude that the only difference between a religion and a cult is the size of the membership. So, what’s then is the difference between cults, religion? Religion and cults typically have the same four concerns.
1. your belief in who might have created the universe
2. what may happen after you die and your afterlife beliefs
3. rules to justify bias and prejudices
4. are you a paying member
Religions and most cults focus on after beliefs. They capitalize on our natural fear of death. They add to the fear of eternal punishment for those that disagree. And then provide the solutions, an eternal paradise for those who do “believe.”
Both cults and religions have doctrines and dogma. The most popular religions all have some divinely inspired texts. But texts these also contain multiple inconsistencies. This requires explanation and thus requires priests and other leaders to help sort out what they accept as authoritative and what is not.
But this dilemma of textual inconsistency also provides an opportunity to create a new sect by cherry-picking certain parts of the texts. These inconsistencies lead to the growth of different religious sects. There are 6,000 major gods and 200,000 sub-classifications of religions. Everything from no gods at all to several hundred imaginary friends. Christianity alone now sports 33,000 sects. If you belong to one of the sects of the Abrahamic tree, then all the other belief systems are a cult or unpopular religion.
Of the 8 billion people on Earth, 4 billion belong to three religions. These are the Abrahamic religion of Christianity, Islam, and Judaism.
If you ask the devotees of the Abrahamic religions if they think their religion is a cult, they would say no. If you ask them if other religions are cults, they answer yes. This includes all the other branches of the Abrahamic tree. A cult is a threat to their specific interpretation. In fact, all other religions are a threat.
Of course, not all religions are the same. Not all religions have the same concerns noted above. For example, Taoism and many forms of Paganism do not have the concerns noted above. They also have the fewest constraints on free-thinking. With these systems, you are free to explore and develop your path.
A Cult is an Unpopular Religion?
What is a cult? It’s a system of religious veneration and devotion directed toward a particular figure or object or set of beliefs. A relatively small group having religious beliefs or practices regarded by others as strange or sinister is considered a cult.
It is their excessive admiration for a particular person or extremist views that make them apart from the norm. As more and more religions become extremist in their views, they morph back into cult-like attributes and behaviors.
The characteristics of a religion and a cult are virtually the same. The only distinction might be in the size of their fanbase. So, a cult is can see why some say that religion is a popular cult with a large fanbase. An unpopular religion is any other religion you don’t believe in.
But, with the right charismatic leadership, any cult can become a full-fledged popular religion someday. As a cult becomes more widespread, it grows into a religion. As it gains wider acceptance, it also gains credibility.
Unfortunately, most people do not choose their religious beliefs. They are born into them and are victims of forced indoctrination. The other group who do choose are the vulnerable. When you are in crisis you will accept any answer. They do not choose a religion because they have researched the accuracy. It is an emotional decision based on social pressure and popularity. It doesn’t matter if it is a popular cult or unpopular religion. Proximity makes converts of the young and the vulnerable.
What is Spiritual Exploration?
First of all the term spiritual is a term with vast utility. Its association includes almost everything that isn’t material. So, some people associate it with religion. But, it’s derivation comes from the Old French “spiritual” matters concerning the spirit. This comes from the Latin word “spiritualis”, or spiritus or “spirit”. Religion uses the term but its concerns are with doctrinal issues noted above.
Spiritual exploration has nothing to do with the concerns of religion. It involves the application of tools to expand awareness and open the doors of consciousness. And, these spiritual technologies stand up to the test of science as having repeatable common experiential phenomena. It is the exploration of awareness.
No belief needed. It’s like baking a cake. If you add the right ingredients in the right amounts. Then bake at the proper temperature for the right time. When you follow the recipe, you get something delicious.
Spiritual exploration does not require belief in any set or form of mythology or dogma. For that reason, practicing these tools is often referred to as a “path.” The goal of this path is to explore other realms of perception and consciousness. What you believe does matter. Your beliefs have consequences.
Religion is a cult with social mass and popularity. So, conversely, a popular cult is, therefore, a religion. The problem is when you immerse yourself in the groupthink manipulation, you can’t see the differences. If you develop extremist bias and religious prejudice to protect your beliefs. So, you can’t see the cult-like thinking, values, and behaviors.
Interested in spiritual exploration? Check out the blended learning process at the core of our teaching process. It reflects what Joseph Campbell called the Hero’s Journey. Our learning options include both face-to-face and virtual learning sessions. Please consider donating and supporting our mission. This helps others learn the knowledge for developing their path.
Joseph Campbell & Joseph Campbell’s book The Hero’s Journey, Wikipedia