|Sent on:||Thursday, September 11, 2008 10:27 PM|
"Cult" typically refers to a cohesive social group devoted to beliefs or practices that the surrounding population considers to be outside the mainstream.
A group's cult status begins as rumors spread of its novel belief system, its great devotions, its idiosyncratic practices, its perceived harmful or beneficial effects on members or its perceived opposition to the interests of mainstream cultures and governments. Persistent rumors may follow relatively small and recently founded religious or non-religious groups when they are perceived to engage in excessive member control or exploitation.
The issue of perception, whether notably positive or negative, is the main cause of variation in the use of "cult" as a descriptive term. In common usage, "cult" has a positive connotation for the members of devotee groups in the domains of painting, music, writing, fiction, and fashion devotees, despite or even due to the relatively low economic value of the object of art. In contrast, when used to describe new religious groups, extreme political parties, questionable therapeutic alliances and pyramidal business groups, the word usually has a negative connotation. For this reason, most, if not all, non-fan groups that are called cults reject this label. In general, translation of the pejorative connotation from modern English to use of the same term in other languages can be misleading as they (e.g. French) may retain the original meaning.