A new scientific study shows that living in a cult or religious group has some adverse effects on people.
Children who grow up in religious cults face difficulties not only during their childhood, but also after leaving the group.
That is the conclusion of research being presented today, Friday 12 July 2013, by the Chartered Psychologist Jill Mytton at the Annual Conference of the Society’s Division of Counselling Psychology in Cardiff.
In her research Jill Mytton worked with 262 adults (95 women and 167 men) who had lived in a religious group as children. Around 70 per cent of the sample lost their family on leaving, 27 per cent reported child sexual abuse and 68 per cent had found the experience of leaving traumatic.
She asked them to complete a battery of psychological measures. The results showed that the average scores of the 264 participants on these measures were significantly higher than the general population.
The title of the original article targets ‘religious cults’, but I wonder if some of these findings would hold true in highly religious mainstream households. I’m also not sure what the real difference between a cult and a religion are.
For example, the definition of a cult is:
1: formal religious veneration: 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
5a: great devotion to a person, idea, object, movement, or work (as a film or book); especially: 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
I would say that the ones bolded describe Christianity fairly well. Usually people use the word ‘cult’ when describing the 5th definition, particularly the 3rd version of number 5. But even there, the only real difference is the number of adherents that particular religion boasts.
Even definition number 4 can be applied to some mainstream churches. You can find many Christians who believe that praying will cure someone of a disease or ailment. Can speaking in tongues be viewed as anything else besides babbling incoherently?
Christianity and Islam definitely hit the core of definition five. I mean, they venerate a book (Bible or Koran) and a person (Jesus or Muhammad) and do so without the slightest bit of evidence to back their magical claims. I think the real difference between a cult and a religion is simply the number of people who follow a doctrine and/or dogma, and the willingness of society to point them out as a cult.
After all, if someone of prominence were to point out that Christianity fits the criteria of a cult, you’d have a bunch of very angry Christians.
The fact remains, there isn’t much difference between a cult and a religion. They sound to me like two peas in the same pod.