Religion or Cult?

There are advantages for a group to have their beliefs considered to be a religion, ranging from favored tax status to potentially having a greater degree of respectability. There has been controversy in many countries as to whether to accept the claims that groups such as Scientologists qualify as a religion. Slate has a piece on how France handles such questions.

French law doesn’t define the term “cult.” Rather, it uses the expression “cultlike movements” to describe groups that demand unreasonable financial contributions, encourage nonparticipation in elections, promote anti-social behavior, or cut members off from their families. It’s easier to target bad behavior, the thinking goes, than to get into a semantic debate over what is and isn’t a cult. The French government has, however, tried to define the term in the past. In 1995, a special parliamentary commission compiled a list of 10 cultish characteristics, including the indoctrination of children, a mentally unstable membership, and the attempt to infiltrate public institutions. The commission also released a list of 173 groups that qualify as cults—that is, they meet at least one of the 10 criteria—including the Jehovah’s Witnesses and the Church of Scientology. (At least one group—the followers of Anthroposophy—sued the report’s main author for defamation and won.)*

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4 Comments

  1. 1
    Eclectic Radical says:

    ‘In 1995, a special parliamentary commission compiled a list of 10 cultish characteristics, including the indoctrination of children, a mentally unstable membership, and the attempt to infiltrate public institutions.’
     
    Wow.
     
    The Republican Party is a cult according to French law!
     
    Who’d’ve thunk it?
     

  2. 2
    Ron Chusid says:

    There have been a number of articles and blog posts comparing the current right wing movement to cults, especially as their views are frequently based upon beliefs about the world which are untrue. Add to this all their defenses against hearing the actual facts, such as seeing Fox as a legitimate news source and believing true news services are part of a mythical liberal media and misleading them.

  3. 3
    Fritz says:

    “indoctrination of children”.  I was raised RC and, well, remember the famous quote from the Jesuits?  Is there any religion that doesn’t fit that one?
    “Jesuits” and “infiltrating public institutions” are almost synonymous.
    MSM has a quite consistent “urban corporate government-access-loving” bias.  To progressives, that looks like conservative bias.  To non-elite conservatives, that looks like liberal bias.   It’s a bias in favor of any system that gives media owners and employees nice privileges.   And, of course, government is in the business of granting private law (privilege).  So MSM loves government (as long as government loves them).

  4. 4
    Eclectic Radical says:

    Well, MSM has a pretty straight-up corporate bias. This is neither liberal nor conservative in the main, as it is primarily about serving the industry’s customers… the corporations for whom it advertises.
     
    Actual political tilt of coverage tends to shift toward a weakly conservative ‘center’ which pays lips service to certain liberal principles while rarely endorsing liberal policies. Not because of actual ‘bias’, but because that is what the media corporations will reach the largest audience and thus keep the advertising dollars rolling in.
     

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