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Counter-cult Movement

Groups Targeted by the CCM

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Overview:

As described in our essay on cults, sects and denominations the word cult has been used to refer to many different styles of worship or religious groups. We will deal with four meanings of "cult" - the ones attacked by the Counter-Cult Movement:
bulletChristian faith groups whose beliefs deviate significantly from historical, mainline Christianity. For example:
bulletThe Jehovah's Witnesses is a Christian group that has unique beliefs concerning the Trinity and the battle of Armageddon.
bulletThe Mormon Church is a Christian group with unique beliefs concerning the ancient history of America and of the nature of heaven
bulletEstablished non-Christian faith groups. For example:
bulletWicca is a non-Christian religion, derived from ancient pagan beliefs and practices of Northern Europe
bulletSanteria is a syncretistic religion centered in the Caribbean which combines elements of Roman Catholicism and of ancient African aboriginal religions.
bulletNew or emerging religion or faith groups. For example:
bulletThe Church of Scientology was founded in 1954 and is based on the writings of L.R. Hubbard.
bulletEckankar is a religion with ancient roots which was established in its current form by Paul Twitchell in 1970.
bulletCovenantal or Spiritual Communities. These are intentional communes formed by people following a single religious or philosophical system.

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Christian Faith Groups

There in excess of 1,000 Christian denominations, sects and other faith groups in North America. The exact number can never be determined because new groups are continually being created even as older groups disbanding or merging. Some groups hold novel beliefs which put them outside of the main thrust of Christianity in North America. Some non-traditional beliefs are:
bulletPeople can become Gods.
bulletThe organization's leader is considered a modern day prophet with a direct channel to God
bulletThey deny the Trinity
bulletThey deny the Godhood of Jesus; they consider Jesus to have been just a good man
bulletThey deny the personhood of the Holy Spirit; they consider the Holy Spirit to be an impersonal force
bulletPersonal salvation is achieved through good works, or by a combination of faith and works
bulletHell does not exist as a place of eternal torment
bulletThey add new scriptures to the Bible
bulletThey maintain an isolation from other Christian groups

In common with other Christians, they frequently teach that:

bulletTheir faith group is the only true church.
bulletThey are a Christian group.

Groups which are often accused of being cults are: Christian Science, Jehovah's Witnesses, Mormons, Seventh Day Adventists, Unification Church, Unity Church, the Worldwide Church of God (before its recent changes), and hundreds of others.

Unfortunately, in the minds of many Christians, the various unrelated meanings of the word "cult" get blurred. These faith groups are assumed by many to be evil mind control or destructive cults. Once a neutral term, "Cult" has lately become a snarl word. It's often used to direct hatred and intolerance towards other religious organizations. The word is used with great effectiveness by the CCM; they direct the public's fear of truly destructive cults (like the People's Temple at Jonestown and the Branch Davidians at Waco) against faith groups that the CCM feels are not doctrinally pure.

Of course, religious movements may not be involved in mind control or life-threatening doomsday beliefs and still be somewhat dangerous to their membership. For example, Jehovah's Witnesses actively discourage blood transfusions among their membership; the Christian Science church encourages non-medical healing techniques; the Roman Catholic Church actively discourages some methods of birth control or health-related abortions. These policies have resulted in early deaths to a small minority of their members.

Most organizations in the CCM appear to work from within a conservative Christian belief system. Their prime goal is to expose and fight what they believe is heresy. Misinformation by organizations within the CCM has generated a climate of fear and intolerance towards many Christian groups whose only "crime" is to hold different interpretations of fundamental beliefs.

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Established Non-Christian and Emerging Faith Groups

There are many hundreds of religious organizations in North America which are non-Christian. These include all of the other great religions of the world, and hundreds of small established groups from Asatru to Zoroastrianism. There are also hundreds of alternative and emerging religions in North America which have been recently created.

These groups are often targeted by mainline Christian churches, by the ACM and CCM. Again, the term "cult" is sometimes used to imply that they engage in evil practices. Some of these attacks are based upon misinformation; for example that Asatru, Druidism, Santeria, Wicca etc. are parts of the occult which engage in black magic and are related to Satanism. Meanwhile, Satanists have been falsely accused of kidnapping, sexually abusing and ritually killing infants.

Other attacks on non-Christian and emerging groups are based upon an inability to understand a faith that is so different from their own; for example calling Hinduism a Satanic religion, or condemning animal sacrifices in Santeria while acknowledging the same activities amongst ancient Israelites as perfectly normal.

Very few churches teach about other religions in their child or adult classes in a way that creates respect for these faith groups. Some liberal churches and religious organizations do have courses in comparative religion, but these are in a small minority. Many books about other religions which are sold in Christian bookstores are filled with misinformation and spread lies, hatred and intolerance.

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Covenantal or Spiritual Communities:

These have often been targeted by the CCM and others as mind control cults. Many Child Protection Service workers have raided intentional communities, assuming that child abuse is rampant. These are "live-in" communes, primarily located in rural areas. Their purpose is to promote a specific religious or philosophical belief system. They often isolate themselves from mainstream society. Many of their members enter as young adults. Like religious communities throughout history, (convents and monasteries) many require their members to adhere to a onerous schedule of work and/or prayer, to keep to a strict diet, and to conform to other strict rules of the group. Some are organized along democratic lines; others are autocratic. Member's parents, relatives and friends may become alarmed at their participation in the group. These concerns can be aggravated by:
bulletlack of information about the group's beliefs,
bulletbreakdown of communication between the member and family,
bulletmisinterpretation of the member's devotion to the group
bulletalarming information in the media about other unrelated groups which use dangerous mind control techniques.

Members often stay for a few months or years and then leave the movement when it ceases to be a positive experience. Some exit gracefully and move on with their lives. Others leave on bad terms, having concluded that their time in the commune has been wasted. A few of the latter go public with their criticisms.

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Related essay on this web site:

bulletWhat a CCM group thinks about this web site

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Copyright © 1997 to 2007 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Latest update: 2007-JUN-30
Author: B.A. Robinson

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