When does a cult become a faith? Who is to determine when a cult becomes a religion, especially in a land where freedom of religion is sacrosanct? Random House unabridged dictionary defines cult as a particular system of religious worship and then, seven lines later, as a religion or sect considered to be false, unorthodox or extremist.

A cult in other words, is a religion and isn't one, depending on who's looking. So what will our criteria be? Is a cult defined by the smallness of the congregation? Then what of those who follow Emerson or Whitman in observing a religion of one? Is it characterized by a lack of ancient scriptures? Then why do some believe the old and established faith of Zoroastrianism a cult? Is it a function of a group's distance from orthodoxy? Then what of Jesus or Buddha or Muhammad - all of them heretics in their day?

Every religion, as the great scholar of the world's belief systems, Huston Smith, points out, mixes universal principles with local peculiarities, and the latter, he goes on, are not easy for outsiders to comprehend. Sun Myung Moon's Unification Church was more often described as a cult before it took over 375 organizations (and Jim Jones People's Temple is sometimes considered a church that devolved into a cult).

As Scientologists do battle with the government in Germany, they could point out that religion apparently comes from the Latin religare, or to bind; cult comes from the Latin cultus, meaning worship.

Ascent Foundation has provided you these reliable resources, should you know of someone in need of professional help from a cult. Some words that might suggest cult activity are: secrecy radical gone wrong loss of freedom diminishing respect for family loss of economic resources loss of self-respect brain washed kept captive under tyranny peer pressure among themselves.

here for addresses of organizations that can help you in the recover from a cult situation.

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