A listicle by Scientologist Dean Glosup published on the STAND website is an interesting commentary on the use of the word “cult” to falsely denigrate and degrade religious groups.
Here is the definition of a “cult,” according to no less an authority than Merriam-Webster:
1. Formal religious worship
2. A system of religious beliefs and ritual; also its body of adherents
3. A religion regarded as unorthodox or spurious; also its body of adherents
4. A system for the cure of disease based on dogma set forth by its promulgator
5. a. Great devotion to a person, idea, object, movement or work (as a film or book); such devotion regarded as a literary or intellectual fad. b. The object of such devotion. c. A usually small group of people characterized by such devotion. (Merriam-Webster)
All new religions before being “established” are or were considered “cults” (definition 3). That would include Christianity and Judaism among others. But this word “cult” has been used by many to denigrate a set of beliefs, making them seem weird or strange.
Origin and etymology of the word:
French & Latin; French culte, from Latin cultus, care, adoration, from colere, to cultivate.
How about “culture”? Also derived from the same root word. See? Quite an innocent word and yet, when misunderstood, is made to seem damning.
I am a Scientologist! (cult def 2) I am a Catholic (cult def 2), I am a man (cult def 5a), I am a husband (cult def 5c), I am a father (cult def 5a), I am a brother (cult def 5c), a son (cult def 5a), a neighbor (ok, this one is a stretch) and a member of various groups and clubs (all cults def 5a).
I, therefore, am a proud member of at least 7 to 10 cults.
We all have our beliefs, what we have observed, what our faith teaches and what experience has shown us. The issue I have is with prejudice—thinking one knows all about a subject without examining it for oneself.
This bangs up against personal integrity— the confidence that what one observes is true for oneself and is in fact worth fighting for. And I believe we all have beliefs worth fighting for.
When you hear or read what someone else says about someone or something, especially when it’s of an unkind nature, you should never pass it on unless you sincerely take the time to look into it yourself.
Things are not always as they seem.
We all should judge for ourselves what is good, what is bad, what we want to believe in and how we behave. I think we all can agree that being the target of religious intolerance and bigotry is highly unpleasant. I hope and pray for a day in the not-too-distant future when these are things of the past.
Caring, cultivating and adoring. These are what being a “cult member” is all about. I dare you to have another look—perhaps a different perspective.