Religion and cults, are they the same?

This is a question that has puzzled me for sometime, i have heard people say christianity is a “death cult” and so forth. My two other qeustions related to the main question (aka title) are:

Is there a key distinction between the two that people overlook?

Why do so many people seem to lump the two together?

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Not sure why Christianity should be singled out as the one “about death”. Any religion or cult (whatever the distinction) that is worth its salt had better deal with the reality of death head-on. If it doesn’t then it’s little more than some self-help hobby.

Say rather that Christianity is about Life. Life being brought up from hopelessness and death.

As to what cults are … They’re always somebody else’s religion. Especially if it’s a lot smaller than your own.



My brother, why are you still letting other people do your thinking?

Let’s hear what you think, if you want some input.

death cult


  1. a fringe religious group that glorifies or is obsessed with death.

Is Christianity a fringe religious group? No. It is the largest religious group.

Does Christianity glorify death? No. It warns of a danger after death. So that would be like saying that the law of gravity is a death cult because warns of the danger of jumping off tall buildings.

Is Christianity obsessed with death? No. Neither does it go to the opposite extreme of suppressing the reality of death, which a common cause for neurosis. Scott Peck wrote of having a love affair with death, which not an obsession with death but about facing and accepting the reality of death.

Conclusion: There is no similarity. This is the same sort of made up lie we are seeing presented by creationist visitors trying to equate evolution with Marxism or Gnosticism. Well… what I say is…
such liars are of their father, the devil.

I guess it depends on the exact definition of a cult you use. By some definitions all religions are cults and by some it’s reserved for something heretical ( which has its own various meanings ) or it’s reserved for something secretive, controlling and potentially harmful. But even mainstream faiths can kind of do that.

I guess ultimately I don’t care. I can be in the Church of Christ or the Cult of Christ and either one is fine with me.

The line is blurry. I guess it depends on the level of control and authoritarianism exerted. Another thing is the reaction to members who want to leave (although a lot of mainstream faiths don’t do very well here either).

All groups are cults to an extent, but not necessarily in the flavor-aid drinking way.

The word cult is etymologically derived from a word for worshipping gods that was related to the idea of cultivation/care (In Spanish and French the name for any worship service is a culto/culte).

It became associated with devotion to a person or thing at some point in the last couple hundred years. (As in “cargo cult” “cult following” of a TV show)

In the US, the designation of a religious sect as a cult can have two meanings from what I’ve seen. Some Christians use cult to refer to any religion that is not an orthodox form of one of the creedal world religions. So Nation of Islam is a Muslim cult, Jehovah’s Witnesses are a Christian cult. Probably a better, more neutral word is sect.

It is also used in the wider sense of an ideological community that exercises coercive control over members. So Scientology for example. I personally prefer this meaning and when I use “cult” or “cult-like” I am referring to the social dynamics of an ideological or religious community.

Signs of cults are charismatic figureheads, founders, or leaders who cannot be questioned and aren’t accountable in a meaningful way to any system of checks and balances. They expect unquestioning obedience from cult members and what they decree is seen as authoritative and binding. Cults often consume all aspects of a person’s life, exercising control over how people spend their money, what relationships are allowed, how they make decisions about things like marriage, procreation, and education, and they often require an extensive time commitment devoted to the cult’s meetings or activities or lifestyle requirements. Cults tend to isolate people from meaningful relationships and networks outside the cult community and control access to information. People are often left with very little recourse if they want to get out because they have been cut off from the outside and often depend on the cult or other cult members for their livelihood.

Some fundamentalist Christian groups function in a very cult-like way, even if they aren’t necessarily that unorthodox in their beliefs. They have authoritarian, spiritually/emotionally manipulative leaders. They effectively isolate their group members (especially women and children) from “corruptive” outside voices, influence, and relationships. They exert tremendous social and emotional pressure on members to conform to the group’s norms, to the point where people feel they cannot act independently or cut ties without significant personal cost or harm. The fact that they are so insular and self-protective means things like domestic abuse, sexual abuse and child abuse/neglect often goes unchecked and the authoritarian ways attract abusive men. So you find things like refusing to educate girls, marrying off young women to older men without real consent, using extreme forms of corporal punishment, outlawing birth control and encouraging families so large that siblings are expected to care for/educate younger siblings and provide significant domestic labor in the home since the parents cannot possibly care for all the children, refusing to let women have any control over money or access to the internet.


In regards to your question, i let other people do my thinking or rather i regurgitate their thoughts as a means to try and understand were the hostility and distrust towards religion comes from. As to what i think, i think there is a difference between religion and cults even if it is a small one, however i have yet to find a demonstatable difference. I also am afraid to approach religion, concerned of ridicule and to be seen as naive or deluded just because of such held beliefs, i am also unsure of what is true and what is not in regards to Christianity, frankly it all seems like a gamble as to wether its true or not. I am also unsure of prayer, for instance i saw a comment of someone saying “i will pray for ukraine” due to current events and some replied with “your prayer will do nothing for ukraine”, i hate to admit it but prayer in these kind of situations seems useless and not worth considering.

i think that worthy of starting an new thread on “Why pray for Ukraine?”


Kevin, life is a gamble, but that should not keep you from living, but it is because you seem to be afraid to make a commitment. If you do not believe in God, how can you believe in yourself?

You are afraid to make a commitment because of what others will think of you, but if God is for you who can be against you? Right now, you seem to be afraid of your shadow. People do not respect those who do not stand for anything, who have no backbone.

Now a cult is a group built around a person. The leader like Trump does the thinking for the group. A religion is a group built around a belief system. You join the group because you are in basic agreement with the system. You join the cult because you agree to follow the Leader Who is the only voice of God, and generally there is no way out.

You can leave Christianity or move to a different church if you see fit. You do not want to become involved in a cult.

As I suggested before, you need to start with Jesus. Is He the Person you can put your trust in, yes, or no? We have to 4 gospels to tell us who he is. If He is the One, then you need to find a church or start your own. Otherwise, you need to keep looking. You can do it. God bless.


Your right, i am afraid of what others will think because my whole life I just wanted to fit in, to blend in with the crowd and to be apart of the rest of the group but instead i stood out like a sore thumb whenever i tried to fit in and as a result i was looked down upon by my peers. Honestly, i probably have been q little to open as to what others have to say in regards to beleif and christianity, for a while i even considered the things they said, like “God is just an imaginary friend, it is similar to beleiving in sanra clause as an adult” or “who cares about wether or not a sky fairy exists?” Some even go so far as to say “religion is a poison that must be wiped from the earth so that humanity may progress”. The funny thing is i considered what they were saying maybe a little to much… i started to think what if they are right, what if it is all made up? What if humanity would be better off with out it, maybe it is just an unrecognized mental illness as others have said and needs to be eradicated entirely? When people make suggestions or even extreme ones i let it get to me, i let it fester and spread in my mind, i always manage to forget what was said but it is always replaced by something else. I wish i knew how to be more confident, more unwavering of others thoughts and ideas yet still being able to hear them out fir the sake if being polite, even if they are not polite back, i am afraid to believe.


Thank you for being so forthright! I wish I could somehow transfer the confidence in spiritual reality that many of us have. Maggie, Rich Stearns and myself are obvious examples, but there are a good number here and elsewhere currently, and there have been multitudes over the millennia, of course. Many of us may think of our parents.

Maybe it does take a personal encounter in one way or another and not just an intellectual assent or a hyped-up emotional ‘decision’ under duress or peer pressure. But C.S. Lewis, for instance, never had such an occasion, to my knowledge – he just suddenly realized that he believed. (Others please correct my characterization, if I haven’t got it right.)

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With a little help from William James, I realized a few years back that what we pay attention to is a continuous moral choice that we make. (That’s why men have to avert their eyes from the girly covers of magazines at the checkout counter – it a choice of what we’re paying attention to.) So I would encourage you to pay attention to the right things, especially things that you know are true, and may those things become more numerous!

Scripture encourages us to do that, and that is what Peter’s problem was when he started to look at and sink into the dark stormy waters:

Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.
Hebrews 12:2

(That joy is us, if we belong to him!)

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Kevin, you need to learn from your experience. You tried to fit in by conforming to the world, but instead you stood out. The answer is to stop trying to fit in, and if someone does not like it, respond by insisting that you are entitled to your opinion, and you do not want to discuss it at this time!

For those who insist that God does not exist, that God is imaginary, the question is; From whence did the Big Bang come, if not God? This is not some kind of slam dunk evidence that God does exist, although it is close, but it should be considered as evidence that belief in God is reasonable.

Please, do something for yourself. Read the Bible. Begin to think about Jesus. Make some friends who are interested in God. Thank about what is right and good, rather than what others might think.


I ran into this in my parents’ church a couple of decades ago. The pastor was quite charismatic, but never went to Bible school. He used to be rebellious, and even after repentance, didn’t like the idea of being under another authority (he had the church leave the denomination). He thought it was biblical to teach his girls only enough to run the home in homeschool, and then matched one of them up to the son of a friend. The marriage ended badly. He even had more wacky ideas, like not to protest or fight bad things, because they were signs of the end times; and that babies crying was a sign of their inborn evil. Sheesh. It is amazing how many seemingly normal people can get wrapped up in this.

I like the word “sect.” In French, “culte” is simply a worship service, often a Protestant one. Thanks.


Sounds a little like friends who got involved in the Bill Gothard stuff. Their daughters also have have bad marriage experiences.


I think there were a lot of people who were kind of rebellious or in other ways regretted some of their life choices who became Christians later in life. They wanted this perfect formula for having well-behaved, godly children. The advice they were given was a bunch of made up stuff based on what some reactionary guys decided SHOULD work, and it was mostly just an extreme pendulum swing to compensate for their own mistakes and make up for the deficient parenting they received themselves; it wasn’t tried and true godly wisdom based on generational experience raising good kids. It was like one big, terrible psychology experiment on a generation and it has ended very badly for many if not most. I’ve heard some pretty sad stories in the missionary community I work in.


It reminds one of Paul’s description of those who forbid others of things because their own consciences are seared as with a hot iron.

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New religious groups have a lot to learn. So they make a lot of mistakes. Some learn from those mistakes and improve. If they don’t learn from their mistake but cling to them stubbornly as commanded by God, then they will get worse and worse. Certainly some of those mistake are things psychology will tell you are very bad and do a lot of harm. So I frequently say, religion is dangerous - extreme caution required! And the word “cult” used for new religious groups is quite appropriate. Thus it is no surprise this includes Christianity which was once known as “the cult of the Nazarene.”

One of the more important roles of religion is to guard against bad religion and to channel the irrepressible religious impulses of people in a better direction. More established churches are thus a great deal safer. But if they are too hidebound or insular they also can become culturally irrelevant, attracting less and less people. I have often likened it to a tree where all the life is in the new growth on the outside, while the inside is just dead wood.

For this reason, choosing between the new and the old can be difficult.

“Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.” -Colossians 4:6

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