The authorship of these files on cults has his or her own motivations for providing them a

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[Fredric Rice, The Skeptic Tank: The authorship of these files on cults has his or her own motivations for providing them and will contain his or her own bias. What I find typical is that individuals and organizations which report on cults are usually themselves a competition cult yet like to think of themselves as "a religion, not a cult." In actual fact, _ALL_ religions are cults by the primary, secondary, and terciary usage definition of the term. Some of the information you find here is inaccurate and contains urban legend -- take what you find with a grain of salt. If you wish to acquire a copy of the Law Enforcement Guide on Occult Crime, contact myself at frice@stbbs.com or at The Skeptic Tank (818) 335-9601 and I'll forward the address and information you need.] The A-Z of Cults Scenes from 1995: a nerve gas attack on the Tokyo subway that kills 12 people and leaves thousands vomiting; a federal office blown to pieces in the Mid-West backwater of Oklahoma City with up to 200 dead; shaven-headed, camouflage- wearing youths on the march through Britain's campuses looking to 'save' souls. Unrelated events, certainly, but perhaps there is a unifying theme in thebackground. As we hurtle towards the third millennium, it seems our rationalist, materialist culture is in danger of exhausting itself: running out of reason, running out of resources. Add to this the anxieties that have always lurked deep in the human psyche - 'why are we here?' 'I don't want to die' -and we begin to see some of the reasons for the rise in New Religious Movements(NRMs). Of course, the Aum cult in Japan, the militias in the States who've turned the Branch Davidians into martyrs and Middle England's Jesus Army are unrelated sects with wildly varying aims. But, like the rest of the groups which feature in this issue and over the following two weeks of Life, they symbolise, in the most dramatic fashion, an abiding hunger for extreme belief in an unbelieving world. As traditional religion recedes in the West, unorthodox systems of belief are increasingly moving into their stead. They need not be religious, either, at least not in the conventional sense. Nor do the vast majority have any interest in direct, still less violent, action. Look at evangelical sales organisations that bring born- again fervour to persuading the uninitiated to buy water filters; the spiritual types meditating cross-legged in suburban sitting rooms. They all stand on the margins of Western society, united only in their conviction that they know the truth. There is not a word which can encompass such a diverse spread of beliefs and actions. Our use of 'cult' is limited to the general dictionary definition: 'a system ofreligious belief: formal worship: a sect: an unorthodox or false religion: a great, often excessive, admiration for a person or idea: the person or idea giving rise to such admiration: a fad' (Chambers). Even politically correct sociologists have had trouble finding euphemisms. Their suggested alternative, NRMs, has been widely ignored by media, public and even other sociologists. Perhaps this is because cults do not receive the protection that other minority views have enjoyed in recent years. One public misapprehension about cults, though, that the experts are keen to qualify is the question of money. In almost all cases where a cult has found itself exposed in the press for financial corruption and deceptive recruitment, it has come about because the cult has grown in size beyond the control of its founders. The seminal case is the Hare Krishnas, an organisation that was started in the late 1960s by people who had until then forsaken worldly ambition. They were in no way equipped for the bureaucracy of running a body politic of thousands, nor of accounting for the millions of dollars that began pouring into their coffers. With the exceptions of L Ron Hubbard and Revd Moon, modern visionaries do not appear to make good generals. The bottom line for most broadminded liberals is whether the customer is satisfied. If a person experiences a genuine and lasting feeling of enhanced worth as a result of joining a cult, then doesn't that validate the existence of that cult? What follows below is not an answer to this question (hopefully you'll find that elsewhere in the series). Neither is it comprehensive or comparative. It is, though, a random - the alphabet apart - selection of groups of people whose beliefs locate them on the edge of our understanding. To comment about this Website, our paper and all associated articles, you can mail us at the Observer: bill@dial.pipex.com

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