If you look up the word “cult” in a dictionary you will find many different definitions, such as this one: a religion regarded as unorthodox or spurious. But when most people today use the term “cult”, they usually mean something more sinister. They are usually referring to a group of people who:
– practice some form of mind-control.
– teach that the group’s beliefs are the one and only truth and that those who oppose these beliefs are evil.
–teach its members to avoid intimate relationships with non-members.
–teach that leaving the group will result in horrific consequences.
I believe that conservative Christianity easily meets this definition of a “cult”. Let me give you a couple of examples from my life that prove this point.
First example: I grew up fundamentalist Baptist. In this branch of Christianity, the fire in Hell is literal. People who die as unbelievers will literally burn, in horrific torment, forever and ever. Not only is there literal fire in Hell but there is “utter” darkness. So not only will you be burning alive, but you will not be able to see anything. Pretty horrific. But that’s not all. In addition, there will be worms; worms that will crawl on your body, possibly crawling into your mouth, nostrils, ears, etc.. And “the worm dieth not.” So in Hell, they have fire-resistant worms. There is also “brimstone”. If you are on fire already, I’m not sure that the fact that you are standing on hot stones will make a difference, but its a nasty addition to the scene of utter horror, isn’t it? Burning to death has to be one of the worst ways to die. The only thing worse is burning and never dying! Just imagine the horrific agony…never…ending. It is unimaginable, actually.
Now, teach all this to a five year old child. Teach the child that unless he (or she) believes as they are told by the authorities in their lives (parents, pastor, Sunday School teacher, Christian school teacher) they will be thrown into a “Lake of Fire” to burn forever.
If that is not cult behavior, I don’t know what is.
Second example: When I was sixteen (and still a fundamentalist Baptist) my best friend’s father died. He was not a member of the church. He was not a believer. However, my best friend and his mother were believers. Our church performed the man’s funeral. No mention was made of the man’s eternal destiny at the service, but we all knew where he was: in the scorching fires of Hell! Imagine what went on in the minds of my best friend and his mother. For the rest of their lives, the memory of their father/husband will torment them because when they think of him, they will know that at that very moment he is still writhing in horrific agony in the flames of Hell…and there is nothing they can do that will stop or even diminish his suffering. How horrific.
Third example: In my forties I became an LCMS (conservative) Lutheran. No where in the LCMS doctrinal statements does it say that Hell has literal fire. That is a definite improvement over fundamentalist Baptist teaching. However, LCMS teaching does not rule out the possibility that there will be literal fire in Hell. The LCMS teaches simply that people in Hell will experience “unspeakable suffering” forever. Still sounds pretty horrific.
As I have mentioned before on this blog, when I discovered conservative (confessional) Lutheranism, I thought I had discovered the true, original form of Christianity. I was ecstatic. I loved confessional Lutheranism! I wanted to share the good news of true (Lutheran) Christianity with everyone. I wanted to convert all my former Baptist and evangelical friends and family to confessional Lutheranism. That was the original purpose of this blog!
In my excitement, I became keenly aware of those whom I loved who had not been baptized (saying that one believes in Jesus as one’s Savior but refusing to follow his command to be baptized was a strong indicator that one was not a true believer, according to Lutheranism). Two of those people I was concerned about were my young nephews (at that time younger than five). I went to my LCMS pastor to discuss this issue.
My sister (the mother of my nephews) had been baptized in an evangelical church but had left Christianity and was now an agnostic. Her husband (the father of my nephews) had been baptized as a Catholic but he too was now an agnostic. Was the fact that the parents of my nephews had been baptized, enough to protect them from Hell until they were old enough for me to somehow convince them to believe in Jesus as their Savior and to then follow his command and be baptized?
No, my LCMS pastor said. He could offer no hope for my nephews. If they were to die before being baptized, we could not be certain of their eternal destiny.
I was horrified.
That is cult belief and behavior, friends.
Conservative Christians will respond (and have responded on this blog): But if the teachings of conservative Christianity are true, then all these “cult” teachings and behaviors are true and correct!
My response: That is what EVERY cult says!
Conservative Christianity is a cult. It needs to be exposed, my friends. No child should be forced to endure the fear-based mind control used by this group. No child should grow up fearing being burned alive or suffering “unspeakable torment” by some sadistic invisible boogeyman who threatens them with eternal torture for refusing to love and obey him. This belief system is sick. This belief system (cult) must be debunked. Its members need to be freed from its fear-based superstitions. Let all of us who are ex-members of this cult renew our efforts to defeat all superstitious belief.