Is Rome a Cult?

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Page 17: Revised 04/10/2000

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On this page: | What is a Cult? | How to Understand Orthodoxy | Your Cult Checklist | Vote Your Opinion! | A Poetic view of Cults | The Final Answer! |

What is a Cult?

The term 'cult' has a variety of meanings - some good, some bad (see definition below).
cult (k¾lt) n. 1.a. A religion or religious sect generally considered to be extremist or false, with its followers often living in an unconventional manner under the guidance of an authoritarian, charismatic leader. b. The followers of such a religion or sect. 2. A system or community of religious worship and ritual. 3. The formal means of expressing religious reverence; religious ceremony and ritual. 4. A usually nonscientific method or regimen claimed by its originator to have exclusive or exceptional power in curing a particular disease. 5.a. Obsessive, especially faddish, devotion to or veneration for a person, principle, or thing. b. The object of such devotion. 6. An exclusive group of persons sharing an esoteric, usually artistic or intellectual interest. --attributive. Often used to modify another noun: a cult figure; cult films. [Latin cultus, worship, from past participle of colere, to cultivate.

American Heritage Dictionary

From this variety of definitions, we can say that every church, every religion in the world is a cult. Why, then, is the term most often used in a derogatory manner? The answer lies within the definition itself. If you look carefully, you can see that the term 'cult' falls into one of two categories: theological (religious) and sociological (social).

From a strictly social viewpoint, all religions are cults and there is no negative connotation at all. From a theological, or religious viewpoint, all religions are not cults. Rather, a cult is seen as a false, unorthodox religious group under the direction of an authoritarian or charismatic leader.

How to Understand Orthodoxy

Because orthodoxy is the baseline from which we measure whether or not a group is a cult, it is in our best interest to know the basics of Christian orthodoxy. How do I know what is true, what is orthodox religious belief and practice? For Christianity the answer is the Bible - Sacred Scripture. Since the Bible is accepted by all Christian groups as the overall rule of faith, we are on solid ground if we look to it to find out what is true, what is real, what is orthodox.

An orthodox Christian group, therefore, is one that reflects the Biblical point of view on these critical doctrinal issues:

Any group that does not hold and practice these basic beliefs is not orthodox, and is, by the above definition, a theological cult. Further, if that group operates under the dictatorial direction of an uncorrectable, authoritarian leader, its position as a cult is confirmed.

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Your Cult Checklist

The following table lists many hallmarks (identifying beliefs, practices, and so forth) of a theological cult. Any group that displays three or more of these hallmarks may well be a cult. Any group that displays five or more is almost certainly a cult. So you can compare, I have included the Jehovah's Witnesses and the Mormons(1), two groups that most of the Christian world agrees are cultic. It should be interesting to see how the Roman Catholic Church stacks up against these two false religions!

What Do You Think?

You can see that the column for the Roman Catholic Church is blank. I left it empty on purpose. Why? So that you can ask and answer the questions about the Roman Catholic Church for yourself. Are you a Roman Catholic? If you are, did your church teach you how to think, how to defend your faith? Did it prepare you to answer reasonable questions about your faith? Now is your chance to stand strongly, and prove that your church is really a theologically sound, non-cultic, Bible-based Christian church.

How to Identify a Cult

QUESTION: Does the Roman Catholic Church display any of these marks?
Hallmarks of a Theologically Cultic Group Jehovah Witness Mormon Roman Catholic
1. Is it reluctant to reveal all its doctrines on request? Yes Yes .
2. Is it closed to inside/outside criticism? Yes Yes .
3. Does it place curses on those who disagree? No No .
4. Does it have practices or doctrines that are not found in the Bible? Yes Yes .
5. Has it made prophecies that have not come to pass? Yes ? .
6. Have its doctrines changed a lot over the years? Yes Yes .
7. Does it discourage or forbid its members to read other religious literature? Yes ? .
8. Does it claim divine authority to interpret the Bible for you? Yes Yes .
9. Does it teach that the Bible can not be understood apart from its own literature? Yes Yes .
10. Does it teach that its own traditions are of equal value with the Bible? Yes ? .
11. Does it tell you the Bible is dangerous to read for yourself? Yes ? .
12. Are any of its doctrines contradicted by the Bible? Yes Yes .
13. Does it say that the Bible 'contains' the truth, but is not 'the whole truth?' ? Yes .
14. Does it teach that all other Christian groups are false? Yes ? .
15. Is dissent discouraged, penalized, or punished? Yes Yes .
16. Do the call all dissent 'sin, pride, or rebellion?' Yes ? .
17. Are members required to sever all ties with the past, or with family or previous religious friends? Yes ? .
18. Does it have a totalitarian or dictatorial structure? Yes Yes .
19. Are its members financially exploited? Yes No .
20. Is fear a primary motivating factor in its teaching? Yes No .
21. Does it teach that there is no salvation outside itself? Yes ? .
22. Does it say that the sacrifice of Christ was not sufficient, but that you must pay the price for your own sins? Yes Yes .
23. Does it ask you to pay for its prayers for dead loved ones? No ? .
24. Does it profit from the sale and use of icons, a practice forbidden by the second commandment? No No .
25. Does it teach that Jesus was one of many saviors, avatars, or gurus? No Yes .
26. Does it teach that Jesus was just an angel, or some highly evolved human being? Yes Yes .
27. Does it have hidden, secret knowledge or rituals available only to its members. ? Yes .
28. Does it offer something other than, or in addition to Jesus Christ as our Savior? Yes Yes .
29. Is attendance at its rituals mandatory, with damnation being the price of your failure? No ? .
30. Does it make artificial distinctions between 'levels' of sin? No No .
31. Does it teach that you must 'expiate' (pay the price for) your own sins, thus negating the sufficiency of the sacrifice of Christ? Yes Yes .
32. Does it tell you to confess your sins to dead people in order to obtain forgiveness? No No .
33. Does it promote worship, or veneration of the dead? No Yes .
34. Does it claim its leader's pronouncements are perfect, irrevocable, and unchangeable? Yes Yes .
35. Does it teach that sin can only be forgiven by its own representatives? No No .
36. Are its moral teachings based on its own code of law instead of the Bible? No Yes .
37. Does it keep you paying for years for the spiritual benefit of deceased loved ones? No ? .
38. Does it tell you to pray for, or get baptized for the dead? No Yes .

Total Number of "Yes" answers

24 20 .

QUESTION: Now that you have answered for yourself, I have just one question left for you: According to your own answers, is the Roman Catholic Church a cult or not?

Your answer?

Vote Your Opinion

Please use the polling feature below to tell us your opinion regarding the cultic nature of the Roman Catholic Church.

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A Poetic View of a Cult

I came across this little ditty while researching the history of the Roman Catholic Church. Its author was a person named A. Nonymous (a pseudonym for a person who'd rather not be known). Since the author declined recognition, it passed into what the publishing trade calls 'fair use material.' That is, you can use it freely, as long as you give attribution (recognize the source), which I just did. I added a couple of lines to round it out. Sorry, Mr. (Mrs.?) A. Nonymous, but you left it up for grabs!
How very foolish is the practice of idolatry!
For life, man prays to that which is dead;
For health, he prays to that which has neither health nor strength;
For skill, he prays to workers long since gone to dust;
For a good journey, he prays to that which cannot move a foot;
For great success, he prays to that which cannot do a single thing;
For wisdom, guidance and blessings, he prays to senseless bits of wood or stone;
For strength, he eats a bit of lifeless bread he thinks is God;
For sins, he begs forgiveness of a man just like himself;
For forgiveness, he prays to statues that cannot hear;
For worship, he runs them all together, and will kiss the bauble on another's hand;
Yes, how foolish is the practice of idolatry!

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The Final Answer!

The old saw that 'one picture is worth a thousand words' is time-proven. So, without more words (I've written enough on this topic already!), you can see below the only answer there really is, or ever was, to the question, "What must I do to be saved?!"


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1. MORMONS: At the time of this writing, I am less familiar with the Mormons than with Catholics and Jehovah's witnesses. Thus the question marks.