Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Is my religion a cult? Part 1

This checklist can be found at www.nichirendaishoninsbuddhism.com. Since I've led a very shelter life, I will be comparing 4 religions based on the questions according to my understanding. I'm not sure of the scientific validity of the results but it's definitely food for thought. If any of the information is incorrect, please comment. I am not claiming to be an expert on any of the following religions. For Paganism, I'm answering the questions based this path as a whole. Scoring starts at zero; for every yes answer add 4 points.

Score of 0:  Perfect.  No cultish characteristics.  Not a cult.  
Score of 1 - 25:  Mild cult.
Score of 26 - 50: Moderate cult.
Score of 51 - 75: Serious cult.
Score of 76 - 100: Extreme cult.

1. Do the members depend upon a charismatic leader or his memory and upon whom they heap adoration?
Jehovah's Witness - no
Soka Gakkai Internation - yes, Daisaku Ikeda
Nichiren Shoshu - no
Paganism - no

2. Is there pressure to donate all or most of your disposable income?
JW - no, but you are encouraged to donate to help support the Kingdom Hall itself and special projects as they come up
SGI - not in any of the meetings I attended
NS - not in any of the meetings I attended
P - No. Each coven may ask members to donate to support paying the rent on meeting areas, materials for rituals, etc.

3. Do members devote all or most of their spare time to organizational activities?
JW - members are encouraged to devote time to field service (preaching to non-believers). My mother volunteered to be a Pioneer and is required to devote 90 hours in field service a month.
SGI - I'm guessing that if you hold a leadership position, you will need to devote more time to the organization then one who is not a leader.
NS - unsure
P - not that I have seen

4. Are the members inconvenienced, for example, expected to drive long distances to attend large central meetings?
JW - Yes, last time I checked there were 2 circuit conventions and 1 district convention each year. The circuit convention is usually semi-local but the district one can require a hotel stay over a weekend.
SGI - need more information
NS - need more information
P - too many different paths to have a definitive answer

5. Do the publications co-opt the names and accomplishments of famous people even though the people being co-opted are not members?
JW - not that I'm aware
SGI - not that I'm aware
NS - not that I'm aware
P - not that I'm aware

6. Do the publications ignore the feedback or criticisms submitted by rank and file members?
JW - yes
SGI - unsure
NS - unsure
P - no central publications

7. Are members with long time chronic problems eventually looked down upon and made to feel unwelcome?
JW - I didn't notice this when I was a member
SGI - not that I'm aware
NS - not that I'm aware
P - not that I'm aware

8. Are there high-pressure targets for increasing memberships?
JW - yes, you are encouraged to increase your field service time, start Bible studies, and aid non-believers to get baptized as JW
SGI - not sure
NS - yes
P - no. Pagans in general keep to themselves. In fact because of the secrecy I think it is more difficult to become a member of a coven

9. Are decisions in the organization made top-down and hieracchically?
JW - yes
SGI - yes
NS - yes
P - if you're in a coven, yes

10. Are the organization's leaders appointed rather than elected?
JW - yes, appointed by holy spirit
SGI - unsure
NS - the high priest in Japan is picked by his predecessor, not sure about the local priests
P - it depends on the coven

11. Are the organization's charter, mission, rules, and bylaws made by the top leaders without consulting the rank and file members?
JW - yes
SGI - unsure
NS - unsure
P - no centralized organization

12. Is there an absence of financial transparency?
JW - as far as I know, the local congregations read the statement of accounts once a month.
SGI - unknown
NS - unknown
P - unknown

13. Are members pressured to give inflated testimonials at meetings?
JW - I wouldn't say pressured but members may be called upon to give experiences
SGI - same as above
NS - same as above
P - no

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