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ARE THE ANTI & COUNTER-CULT
MOVEMENTS A POSITIVE INFLUENCE?

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Sponsored link.


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This question has more than one answer. Various groups view these movements quite differently:

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Among conservative Christians:

The CCM is seen as a vitally needed resource in the defense of true Christianity. Many Fundamentalist and other Evangelical groups share certain beliefs that influence their assessment of new religious groups:
bulletThey view their religion as the only truly valid faith. They see all of the other world religions as not being Bible-based, and thus not being founded on the Word of God.
bulletMany reject other denominations within Christianity, viewing mainline & liberal Protestantism and Roman Catholicism as being only partly Christian.
bulletThey believe that the vast majority of individuals in the world are unsaved.
bulletThey take the Great Commission seriously; this is the command to go into all the world, to preach the gospel, and to bring them to a saving knowledge of Jesus.
bulletTheir belief in Heaven (for the saved) and Hell (for the unsaved) motivates them to save as many people as possible
bulletThey believe in the inerrancy of the Bible. The Christian Scriptures (New Testament) contains many passages where Christians are warned against "false teachers."

Many who hold these beliefs are concerned that new Christian religious groups with untraditional beliefs are teaching unsound theology. They view members of such groups as being led astray with false teachings to the point where their salvation is in jeopardy. They see potential converts to conservative Christianity being adsorbed into quasi-Christian cults. They view the CCM as an important resource to help publicize the dangers of new Christian religious groups, and raise public consciousness against them.

They also view the rapid growth of minority non-Christian religions in North America (such as Islam, New-age, Wicca and other Neopagan traditions) with alarm. 

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Among liberal Christians and some academics:

The ACM and CCM is seen by many as as counter-productive: some view the formation of small, new religious movements as a natural process from which all denominations and major religions evolve. In the past, many faith groups have been founded by a handful of people and later grew to become major religions or denominations. For example:
bulletThe Nazarene (Jewish Christian) movement in 1st century CE Palestine was started by Jesus and a small band of male and female supporters.
bulletPauline Christianity is largely the work of a single individual, Paul. It morphed into the proto-Christian movement and grew to be the present religion of Christianity - the faith of one out of every three persons worldwide. In the United States, at its peak, 7 out of 8 adults once identified themselves as Christians. The current percentage of Christian adults are about 75% and is dropping about 0.8 percentage points annually.
bulletThere have been perhaps tens of thousands of new religious groups created in the past 2 millennia.
bulletIn recent decades, many legitimate new religious movements have been started. Most have failed. A few, like the Children of God, Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (commonly called the Mormons or LDS), Church of ScientologyHare Krishnas, Jehovah's Witnesses (Watchtower Society or WTS), the Unification Church, and others, have flourished. The LDS Restoration Movement in particular began as a tiny organization, the Church of Christ, founded by Joseph Smith and a few other men. In the 19th century, its members were heavily persecuted by their orthodox Christian neighbors in eastern and mid-western states. The movement has have evolved into a group of about 100 denominations and sects with over 12 million members worldwide. Because of their high growth rate, the LDS Church is expected to become the dominant religion in the western U.S. within the next few decades.

The ACM & CCM are viewed as increasing public fear of new religions movements.

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Among civil rights groups:

Some view the ACM and CCM as dangerous. Civil rights groups tend to value and promote sexual, racial, and religious diversity. Many see intolerance (whether based on gender, race, nationality, sexual orientation or religion) as being hazardous to social tranquility and the attainment of "liberty and justice for all." Some believe that the CCM's main product is religious intolerance; they see this as undesirable as sexism, racism and homophobia. Some view the CCM as an extension of earlier American religious persecutions against Jehovah's Witnesses, Jews, Mormons, Roman Catholics, and Shakers.

Freedom of religion, speech, and assembly guarantees that each adult is free to follow any spiritual path that they choose.  - whether it is a "high demand" faith group that requires a major time and effort commitment, or a low demand organization that places few obligations on its membership. Some CCM and ACM groups have persuaded parents to deny their adult children's' civil rights by establishing convervatorships over them. This allows the the parents to control all aspects of their children's lives as if they were minors. In the past, such control was sometimes awarded by the court after hearing only the testimony of the parents. Some ACM or CCN groups have also linked parents with deprogrammers who have kidnapped "cult" members, held them against their will, and forcibly tried to destroy their religious faith. Fortunately, these groups have abandoned such practices in recent years.

In the rest of the world, some federal governments have capitalized on the public's fear of "cults" to oppress legitimate religious and spiritual movements. For example:

bulletFrance has promoted a public hysteria against small religious movements, including the Jehovah's Witnesses.
bulletGermany has seen extensive discrimination against Roma (a.k.a. Gypsies), Jehovah's Witnesses and the Church of Scientology.
bulletChina has oppressed many small religious and spiritual groups, including:
bulletChristians who are members of underground churches, which the state refers to as evil cults. China only allows Christian worship within those "patriotic churches" that the state tightly controls. 
bulletMembers of the Falun Dafa healing and spiritual group have been found guilty in show trials and given jail sentences of 7 to 18 years. They were found guilty of using a cult to "obstruct justice, causing human deaths in the process of organizing an cult and illegally obtaining state secrets.

Because of the importance that they give to free speech and assembly, most civil rights groups would oppose any limitation of ACM and CCM's right to freely disseminate their point of view.

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Among religious scholars:

The Center for the Study of New Religions (CESNUR) at http://web.tin.it/cesnur_org/ and http://www.cesnur.org "is an international network of associations of scholars working in the field of new religious movements" (a.k.a. NRMs). CESNUR has became alarmed at misinformation being disseminated by groups within the ACM. They comment:

"Information supplied by anti-cult activists claims to be eminently practical but in fact is largely theoretical and anecdotal, based as it is on secondary sources, from press clippings to accounts of families of members (not necessarily familiar with the movements), or of ex-members rationalizing their past experiences. Scholars, having a direct contact both with ex-members and actual members may supply more balanced information. And balanced information is precisely what the public powers and the media need."

We believe that these beliefs are shared by most academics studying NRMs.

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Reference:

  1. "About CESNUR" at: http://web.tin.it/cesnur_org/about.htm

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Copyright 1996 to 2006 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Latest update: 2006-NOV-27
Author: B.A. Robinson

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