>So what is cult according to your definition, and what’s the dividing line between a cult and not?
1. Claims world is ending imminently
2. Wants you to sell or give away your belongings
3. Wants you to cut off family who interfere, and leave your home/job to follow him
4. Unverifiable reward if you believe
5. Unverifiable punishment if you disbelieve
6. Sabotages the critical thinking faculties you might otherwise use to remove it
7. Invisible trickster character who fabricates apparent evidence to the contrary in order to lead you astray from the true path
8. Targets children and the emotionally/financially vulnerable for recruitment
Can also include stuff like assigning you a new name to redefine your identity, but those are the basics.
>”socially neutral, hmmm…if you follow football, surely you know that many football fans are against each other, such as Juve vs Inter, MU vs Liverpool, Barcelona vs Real, to the point that they insult, abuse, hurt and kill their rival’s supporters. The most updated event is the chaos that happen between Riverplate and Boca in the Copa Libertadores this week. ”
That is only a single parallel. It would be like saying that because an apple and a fire engine are both red, an apple is therefore a fire engine.
>” What about the raging debates between Apple and Android fan, where supporters of each company hurl insult and abuse toward each other, and still many other cases. So I don’t think there are many groups which are socially neutral”
Still, that’s only a single parallel. Also that isn’t what I meant by socially neutral. I was referring to the public image of the group. Scientology has a mostly negative public image for example.
>”Maybe not on paper, but on practice, have you ever worked in a factory where if there is problem on its production line then you have to come to the factory even if it’s 1 or 2 AM in the morning? or where you have to leave your newly married spouse just because of business trip? or where you have to risk your health and body repairing machine on a dangerous environment?”
That is only a single parallel. Show me a business which ticks all the boxes I listed. Christianity ticks them all.
>”Besides, Jesus that I know never demand those things, your interpretation about those verses are wrong, you cannot just interpreted a quoted text without its context.”
This is another common argument I hear all the time. First of all, saying it’s “out of context” is a bluff. You are *assuming* it’s out of context without having checked. I can prove this by calling your bluff and inviting you to show me how the context of these verses changes when their surrounding verses are included:
Imminent end of the world:
1 John 2:18
Dear children, this is the last hour; and as you have heard that the antichrist is coming, even now many antichrists have come. This is how we know it is the last hour.
For the Son of Man is going to come in the glory of His Father with His angels, and will then repay every man according to his deeds. Truly I say to you, there are some of those who are standing here who will not taste death until they see the Son of Man coming in His kingdom.
Truly I tell you, this generation will certainly not pass away until all these things have happened.
When you are persecuted in one place, flee to another. Truly I tell you, you will not finish going through the towns of Israel before the Son of Man comes.
Sell your belongings:
“In the same way, those of you who do not give up everything you have cannot be my disciples.”
Jesus answered, “If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”
“Sell your possessions and give to the poor. Provide purses for yourselves that will not wear out, a treasure in heaven that will never fail, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys.”
When Jesus heard this, he said to him, “You still lack one thing. Sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”
Please note that only Luke 18:22 and Matthew 19:21 concern the story of Jesus advising the wealthy young man about the difficulty of entering heaven.
These verses are included for completeness, and to acknowledge the existence of this story because the most common objection I receive to the claim that Jesus required followers to sell their belongings is that I *must* be talking about this particular story and misunderstanding the message it conveys.
However in Luke 12:33 and Luke 14:33 Jesus is not speaking to that man but to a crowd following him, and in 14:33 he specifically says that those who do not give up everything they have **cannot** be his disciples. It is therefore not a recommendation but a requirement, and is not specific to the wealthy.
Cut off family members who try to stop you:
“If anyone comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters — yes, even their own life — such a person cannot be my disciple.”
“For I have come to turn a man against his father a daughter against her mother a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law — -a man’s enemies will be the members of his own household. Anyone who loves their father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves their son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me.”
And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or wife or children or fields for my sake will receive a hundred times as much and will inherit eternal life.
Do not apply critical thought to doctrine:
“Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding”
2 Corinthians 5:7
“For we live by faith, not by sight.”
“There is a way that appears to be right, but in the end it leads to death.”
“Those who trust in themselves are fools, but those who walk in wisdom are kept safe.”
Moreover, it can be difficult or impossible for people in the religion to see it in this way. Aspects of how it’s designed help put it as far beyond doubt as possible such that it’s the *absolute last* institution that a believer would *ever* suspect as fraudulent.
As a result, describing it as an unusually successful end of the world cult will sound to them either like crazy talk or a deliberate attempt to be hurtful. They will see the verses supplied above as being misconstrued, because there is an “in-religion” rationale for each of them which the true believer feels is the actual meaning.
For instance, in Scientology there is a disconnection policy which urges members to cut off family members who are trying to extricate them from the church. We all know why. But the reason they give, which members take at face value, is that being around people low on the tone scale will inhibit their movement up the bridge, the Scientologist equivalent of spiritual growth.
So it goes for the Biblical verses I supplied. Someone still on the inside will perceive, interpret, and feel completely differently about them than a skeptic, even while being able to identify the true purpose of the exact same practices in religions they are not a part of. You can only see what stuff like that’s really intended for *from the outside*.
>”Maybe, because not all those witnesses have time, skill, or enough material to write? or maybe they wrote but many of those accounts were perished?”
That’s not possible, if there were really hundreds of them. The odds are at least some of them would be scribes. It’s true, Christianity is very old, so it’s harder to fact check. But Mormonism for example is much younger, which is why we have surviving accounts of what sort of person Joseph Smith really is.
If Mormonism were thousands of years old, we wouldn’t have those accounts, as you argue. The only indication we’d have of what sort of person Joseph Smith was would be the Book of Mormon and the opinions of Mormons.
Doesn’t this show that we don’t really know what Jesus was like? Couldn’t he easily have been somebody like Joseph Smith, and we would never know just because the only account we have of his life is the holy book of the religion he started?
>”Beside, the bible that we have today are not what it used to be back then. Surely you know that the bible is a compilation of individual writing/books, Matthew wrote his own version, so did Mark, Luke, John, then Paul. At least there are 5 different eyewitnesses who wrote about miraculous signs and wonder that Jesus’ performed.”
Every supposed eye witness in the Bible was either an early Christian or somebody we have no writings from.
>”Tell me, who is the greatest human being in modern history according to you? Mother Theresa? Gandhi? How many books about them are written by eyewitnesses?”
Loads, all you had to do was search Amazon:
>This will make sense if the devoted members have something to gain for himself. But consider the situation of Matthew, Mark, John, apostle Paul…they have nothing to gain except persecution and death threat, from the Jews, from Rome, but they still faithfully write and preach the resurrection of Jesus.”
No, it makes sense if they sincerely believe, because they were tricked. For example, look at Missouri Executive Order 44. It was a government sanctioned attempt to exterminate Mormons before Mormonism got too big to stop.
According to you, there is no reason Mormons would have held onto their beliefs under threat of extermination unless Mormonism were true. Does this convince you of Mormonism?