In common usage, the word cult refers to a group of social outcasts who practice some obscure religion. Often there is a pointedly negative connotation to the beliefs and practices of such a group.
However, a more accurate application of the term would focus not on the bizarre nature of a group’s belief, but rather on the behavioral, cognitive, and organizational impact the belief system has on the participants. Whether a religion is built around the alleged spirits of giant mushrooms, or a carpenter from the Middle East, it can reasonably be called a cult when certain characteristics become evident among those who follow the faith.
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Filed Under: Tim Whistorn