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 Definition Religious sect or group that is relatively limited in size and often considered to be particularly dangerous, manipulative or all-encompassing. [d] [e]
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Core definition

"A cult is a religious sect or group that is relatively limited in size and often considered to be particularly dangerous, manipulative or all-encompassing." Later, however, you say not all cults are religious. Perhaps a better starting point might be that group, using 12-stem terminology, believes in a "Higher Power".

Another criterion might well be a charismatic leader, who either represents or is the higher power. By every account I've read of people that have talked with Osama bin Laden, he is personally humble and considers himself merely a representative of his god.

Think of the idea of "cult of personality", as with North Korean leadership. Their special operations forces routinely commit suicide rather than be captured, and it's not quite the same situation as bushido, where the culture required it. At what level was Nazi belief a cult? Howard C. Berkowitz 15:32, 15 October 2009 (UTC)

Yep, something like an 'often-religious sect'. Feel free to try and iterate something better. –Tom Morris 15:44, 15 October 2009 (UTC)
I've never liked "secular religion", but "transcendental value" seems too social science technical. Is "power greater than the individual" adequate and sufficient to cover personality cults? Howard C. Berkowitz 15:59, 15 October 2009 (UTC)


The comparison with cults is broader than one speaker at the APA, and the observation is made for more militant jihadists than al-Qaeda. Does suicide attack, as a doctrine, imply cult? I'll give you examples in either direction.

New Age

There needs to be more sourcing on the allegations here. I had personal experience, not with a group directly managed by Erhard, but by one of his proteges, and can say that I both saw cult-like behavior from some individuals, and a lot more people that knew when to draw the line -- this is from a perspective on a series of trainings I took around 1980. Howard C. Berkowitz 15:32, 15 October 2009 (UTC)

Highly related article

Before I start hacking at this, may I suggest a reading of thought reform and discussion of the overlap? Howard C. Berkowitz 18:42, 15 October 2009 (UTC)


We'll probably need a disambiguation page for "cult," so that there can be a separate article on "cults of saints," which are not regarded by church hierarchies (esp. the Roman Catholic) as necessarily being in any way unorthodox. And perhaps also a separate article on specific arguments within evangelical Protestant Christianity (esp. in the U.S.) about such groups as Jehovah's Witnesses, LDS, Seventh-day Adventists, etc. Bruce M. Tindall 03:20, 30 October 2010 (UTC)

Indeed, in RC canon law, there's a term "disparity of cult", as an impediment to marriage, meaning just that the parties belong to different religions. In other words, "cult" can mean just "religion". Peter Jackson 10:06, 30 October 2010 (UTC)


I certainly get a general impression of bias in the article, or parts of it, but it's hard to pin down. This morning on the Today programme I heard Dr David Barrett claim that sociologists of religion and some psycholigists of religion reject the concept of a cult, saying that some abusive behaviour is found in all organizations, religious or not, but that no religious group is inherently abusive. An anticult spokesman denied this was what the experts say. A quick check of reference books failed to turn up an answer, but did produce the following interesting statement (Blackwell Dictionary of Sociology, 2nd ed, 2000, page 69):

Virtually all major religions began as cults, including Buddhism, Islam, and Christianity

Peter Jackson 09:59, 7 July 2012 (UTC)

Now found backing for what he said in a new book: Hammer & Rothstein, Cambridge Companion to New Religious Movements, pages 1-3. Basically it says NRMs are just new religions, not essentially different from old ones, that they'll turn into old ones if they survive, and the old ones were new once. Peter Jackson 10:04, 30 August 2012 (UTC)

It presents that as the conclusion of a large body of sociological and anthropological research. Peter Jackson 10:06, 30 August 2012 (UTC)