Not So Polite Dinner Conversation – Just what is a cult? Another review of Billy Graham’s columns

Cults-A-ComparisonWe have a new column from the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, which has been the gift that keeps on giving.  What is this one about, you may ask?   It’s about how to identify cults.  Yes, you might know where this is going already.   When a theist calls something a cult, it’s hard to look away from the train wreck that always ensues.

The querent asks how they can know if a group is a cult or not.  A coworker of the querent has invited this person to attend her “religious assembly”, but the querent doesn’t know anything about it.  The querent finishes by saying that they are not from a religious family but they know that they need God, aka the Christian one.

In that the querent didn’t simply ask the woman about her church e.g. religious assembly, or do an internet search of it is curious enough.   We also have no idea on how someone can come to know that they need some god.  Billy is of course joyous that someone knows that they need his god.  He also has some advice on how to know if a group is a cult or not.  He is sure that such “cults” will lead away from his god rather than toward him.

So how does one identify one of those cults according to the BGEA?

“One way is to find out if the members think that they, and they alone, have all the truth about God.”

The problem with this is that most, if not all religions, do claim this.  Even Billy claims this when he states that his religion is the “only way” repeatedly in this article, titled “The Only Way”. Ahem…. 🙄

“To put it another way, most cults teach that every other church is wrong, and they alone are right.”

Which the BGEA has done when it had an article up on its website saying that Mormons, Jehovah’s Witnesses, etc were cults and when it claims that anyone who uses other books or sources other than the bible is also a cult, aka Roman Catholics. (Billy himself seems to be straying from this position, see the bottom of the article) This article was removed when Billy was schmoozing with Mitt Romney, former presidential candidate and Mormon.

And of course we have other TrueChristians sure that Billy Graham isn’t a TrueChristian at all, here at Christian Apologetics and Research Ministries, a wonderful nest of TrueChristians insisting that they and they alone have all of the truth about their god.  Could it be we have another band of cultists?

Billy also has that another way one can tell is if the “cult” is of recent origin that it is wrong.  Now, at one point his religion was recent, about two thousand years ago or so.  Did that make it a cult?  The people at the time certainly seemed to think so, which would indicate that the “time in grade” argument is utterly subjective and meaningless.  It does indeed help the TrueChristian to decry other religions and even sects of their own religion.  With this claim, the Catholics are much less “culty” than Protestant sects, which seems to indicate that everyone should be a Catholic rather than holding to Protestant ideals of sola scriptura, etc.  Perhaps even the Coptic Christians are even less “culty” than them, so who knows who has the “right” answers?  And then we have to consider the Jewish faith, which is even older and the variations of ancient religions that people have done their best to recreate that may be from much farther back.   To claim that “time in grade” or age is nothing more than the logical fallacy of appealing to tradition.  The inverse can also be true, that just because something is old doesn’t mean that it isn’t true, the fallacy of the appeal to novelty, but as always evidence is needed to establish truth, not just a claim of a fact that has no determined correlation to the claims of truth.

Billy also tries to claim that if a group doesn’t agree with him about what the bible “really” says,  then they are a cult by definition. “Do they see him as both fully God and fully man? Most cults don’t, but the Bible does. Do they teach that because of his death and resurrection we can be saved as we put our faith and trust in him? Most cults don’t, but the Bible does.”   This is no more than insisting that he’s right and everyone else is wrong, what he claims as a sign of a cult repeatedly.  Hmmm, seems we are indeed going in circles here.

Finally, after looking at the BGEA’s website we have this about cults: “Cults also often have a leader who demands full obedience, and threatens members with condemnation if they doubt his teachings. They also may try to cut them off from their families, or anyone else who might try to draw them away.”

Like this? The a new believer of a religious movement says “Before I join you, let me go back and say goodbye to my family“ and the leader replies “You cannot.  If you look back, you are not fit for my religion.”

Or the leader of the religious movement says “Everyone who follows me must hate their family and their own life.  They must give up everything. If they do not, they are not worthy.” ( incidentally, both of the above are in the Gospel of Luke, chap 9 and 14 respectively).

Seems like Billy’s religion is a cult exactly as defined by Billy:  a leader that requires full obedience, an insistence that they and they alone are “right” and a recent minting date for their particular version of the religion, at best circa 1517 or so, and likely much more recent since I rather doubt that Martin Luther would agree with Billy. (A quick look around the internet, search differences Lutheran baptist, shows that at least some Lutherans are quite sure that Billy, a Baptist, is wrong about what their god “really” wants.  More recent words from Billy, that “everyone loves Christ” whether they know it or not and that they will be saved no matter what they worship has incensed some other TrueChristians who again are sure that they have the only “right” answer.)

It is no surprise that such arguments about cults can so easily be turned against those who make them.