In the United States of America, most religious people are concerned by the massive influx of new and strange religions referred to as cults. These cults are religious groups that are not approved as recognized religions by any official organ and state. Presently, the term "cult" is considered to imply the religious groups that have controlling and destructive tendencies and whose beliefs are considered potentially dangerous to the associated members or to the entire community. The cult groups posses some unique characteristics that separate them from other recognized religion mainstreams. For example, they deny that Jesus was God and they also deny the trinity (I John 4:1-3). Some of the top cults in the United States include The Watchtower Bible and Tract Society, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, The Twelve Tribes, The Family, Christian Identity Movement, United Pentecostal Church, The Nation of Islam and The Church of Scientology (Christian Answers® NetworkTM). This research paper discus the various aspects of the cults in the United States of America and it discusses about scientology religion as an example of the cult movements.
The immergence of cults in America
The secularization the existed in the American society in the 20th century made life easier for various occult groups because there were very few costs that were associated with deviance. This made the cult groups not to hide behind the Christian façade. Since the Puritans entered in the United States of America, the country has been a fertile ground for many new religions. For instance, several new faiths have appeared in America and some of the have been successive in their operations. There are many ways through which these new religions appear whereby the most common origin has been through the schism. This is where some groups splits from the already established religious movements or bodies to new groups. When these new schismatic groups continue to exist within the dominant religious traditions, they are always identified as sects. However, many religions in the United States are new and they never become part of the religious traditions that are considered predominant. Many of these groups immerged because a certain individual or a group of people claimed that they had new revelations and they successively recruited other new people/members to their new faith. Subsequently, other additional new subgroups resulted from the original new faith and as long as they were or are part of the deviant religious traditions, they qualify to be cults. The cults also appear in the American society through importation from other societies. For example, Hinduism is considered to be a cult in the United States of America because it is an independent and deviant religious tradition. Therefore, the presence of people with a special spiritual knowledge in America has made others vulnerable to manipulations these people (Stark, R).
The cult life and practices
The cult groups are synthetic in their doctrines and character and they are a mixture of the Judaeo- Christian and oriental religions. People wonder why some Americans decide to join these extreme religions. There exist several reasons that make them to take such steps. Many people join the cults to escape loneliness, self dissatisfaction and boredom. When some American citizens run out of personal endurance to accept various lives's hardships, they join the cults with beliefs that they will take them through the hardships. People who experience hopelessness and uncertainty are the most susceptible to cults. Streiker says that men and women turn to powers that they consider greater than themselves for comfort and aid when they are faced by frustrations. In the cult groups, the victims are not allowed to question the lives and various actions of their leaders. Usually, the young recruits invite the prospect to some parties such as dinner land to share joyful times. These young Americans do not decide to join or become followers of a certain cult but they get themselves involved in various cult activities. They are subjected to various things such as love and affection, sharing, lectures, music and beautiful world. Then, they are invited to some workshops to spend their time with new friends. When at the retreats, the new recruits receive much attention to an extent that they are unable to think on other things that happens to them. For instance, they are kept busy by lectures, singing and confessional sessions. During this time, the recruits may get an idea of what they are getting into but they are not given chance to express themselves. Young people are even deceived by the use of sexual charms in order to accept the recruitment into the groups. The recruitment exercise is administered by peer approval, heavy love dose and good atmospheres. The cult members of the opposite sex are directed to entice new recruits through showering them with flattery and attention. It is observed that the cult people sleep for less than five hours and their diet is characterized by low proteins, vegetarian and high carbohydrates. This unique sleeping habits and diet contributes to the sense of removal of the ordinary life. The cults constantly condemn the world as satanic and they use the use the sinfulness of the world to convince the young people of the safe environment (Papademetriou, C. G).
The cult's theology
In the United States of America, the success of the cults is enhanced by the special attention given to them by the media. The various tenets are made by the founder prophet on whom the other cult members depend on. The theology of the cults involves their demand for obedience instead of understanding and belief. The members' strong belief in the supernatural characters of the cult leaders transforms the leaders into worship objects. The cult members are fully convinced that they possess the truth and they consider other religious groups wrong. This makes them to dishonest and uses deception for achieving their goals. Essentially, the cults in the United States of America are a distortion of the Christian truth. Even the cult groups that sometimes proclaim faith in Christ fail to understand the actual mission and works of Christ. They replace the Holy bible's authority with their own teachings and doctrines (Papademetriou, C. G).
Scientology is one of the high profile religions in the United States of America with various controversial teachings and celebrity followers. There are usual charges that this religion is cult and it engages in various criminal activities such as tax invasion, fraud, brainwashing and false imprisonments. It is also considered to attack the free speech by intimidating and issuing threats to the opponents such as the internet and media (Jerome, B. et al, 2007). Similar to other religions, scientology is a product of the activities of the founding people called Ronald Hubbard (1911-1986). In some manner, the Hubbard's role in coming up with the scientology religion is likened to that of some biblical prophets such as Moses, Muhammad or Jesus. Some of Hubbard's writings formed the movement's scriptures that contain mythology, spiritual teachings, doctrines, theology, rituals and practices of the scientology religion. Further, the founder's works gives the processes and organizational structures of the religion. During the Second World War, Hubbard served as a navy officer and he spent some time in 1945 to recover from the injuries that he got during the war. Due to these early experiences, he developed an interest in native America as well as the mental and physical healing. He carried out studies which led to the identification of Dianetics which were therapeutic techniques and its publication in the year 1950 is regarded as a seminar event of the century by scientology. This day was finally made a religious holiday. Later, the Hubbard Association of Scientologists was established out of the Dianetics movement in the year 1952 and it led to the founding of the first scientology church in Los Angeles. After this, many scientology churches and centers were established in the United States (Neusher, J, 2009).
The organization of scientology
All the scientology organizations are referred to as "orgs" and they are responsible in carrying out one of the three major missions namely: technology and application, social reform and practice and training. Every org consists of various membership categories such as the staff, the lay practitioners and the Sea Org members. Although it is expensive, the lay practitioners pay on a basis of straight fees for the services for auditing and training. The staff members work for the church in exchange their labor with auditing. The staff signs various contracts for up to a period of five years and they receive their auditing and training at a reduced rate. On the other hand, the Sea Org staff has the responsibility of administrative staffing above the local level of the scientology church. The Sea Org members carries out their roles for long hours and they get nominal compensation and they are allowed to sign contracts in which they pledge themselves wholly to the organizational services. All these scientology church related organizations are very bureaucratic and all their activities are coordinated to the fine detail through a system of directives and memoranda. All the three organizations above gather stats systematically on the individuals and on the performances of groups to enhance the production of viable final products. The operation of the budgets within the organizations is based on various performance indicators that are subjected to frequent reviews. From the earlier Dianetics times when scientology was developed, the founder thought that scientology works perfectly when it is properly applied. Each org in scientology has an ethics officer who ensures that the church is precisely administered according to the way it was developed by Hubbard (Gallacher, E & Ashcraft, M. W, 2006).
The scientology church and controversy
The scientology's mixture of science and technology, religion, business and therapy has created many problems for the church. For instance, various regulatory agencies have taken action against the organizations of the church due to the allegations and claims that concerns the effectiveness of the practices such as healing. For example, the Food and Drugs Administration seized some tablets referred to as Dianazene which was distributed by certain scientology related organization to treat the radiation sickness. Further, the FDA conducted raids on the offices of the church and seized the E-meters claiming that the scientology church was representing these instruments to the public as the only effective physical ailment's treatment (Gallacher, E & Ashcraft, M. W, 2006).
The basic teachings of scientology
Similar to other religions, scientology is a blending of the already existing ideas and a reflection of some particular social, historical and cultural circumstances in which this religion was founded and developed. As other religions in the United States of America, scientology religion reflects many important or essential American and western values such as individualism, freedom and democratic sacred beliefs. The scientology religion borrows very little from the biblical religions such as Christianity. However, there are some similarities between scientology and the asian religions such as the Buddhism and Hinduism. It seems to incorporate some western esoteric traditions hence shares some features with the Gnoticism, new thought religions, theosophy and the Latter-day Saint religion. Scientology is the mix of the unconscious mind and the life images after the life MEST experiences that are contained in the reactive mind are referred to by scientology as engrams. With the accumulation of lengrams, many people tend to move further away from their original spiritual identity and condition. The salvation and restoration from this fate is the basic goal of scientology. Therefore, scientology recognizes the causal relationships between the present life experiences and the one for earlier incarnation. This religion has a bridge to freedom which provides the scientologists with religious means through which they increase their understanding and spiritual awareness (Neusher, J, 2009).
The churches of scientology's beliefs are grouped to three categories namely: the creed, therapy and mind purification and application. The following is the Creed of the church that was composed in the year 1954 when the scientology was constituted as a religion:
We of the church believe:
That all men of whatever race, color or creed were created with equal right;
That all men have inalienable rights to their own religious practices and their performance;
That all men have inalienable rights to own lives;
That all men have rights to their sanity;
That all men have inalienable rights to their own defense;
That all men have inalienable rights to conceive, choose, assist or support their own organizations, churches and governments;
That all men have inalienable rights to think freely, to talk freely, to write freely their own opinions and to counter or utter or write upon the opinions of others.............
And we of the church believe:
That man is basically good;
That he is seeking to survive;
That his survival depends upon himself and upon his fellow and his attainment of brotherhood with the universe.
And we of the church believe that the laws of God forbid man:
To destroy his own kind;
To destroy the sanity of another;
To destroy or enslave another's soul........
And we of the church believe:
That the spirit can be saved and
That the spirit alone may save or heal the body (Jerome, B. et al, 2007. Pg 91-92).
Practices of scientology
Similar to the Dianetics, the scientology takes auditing as a primary practice that leads to clear and states beyond. Further, application of the religion's principles to social treatment, social reforms and organizational models are incorporated in various programs such as the National Commission on Law Enforcement and Social Justice, the World Institute of Sociology Enterprises and the Citizens Commission on Human Rights. There is an association for better living and education has the responsibility of administering the programs that are designed to alleviate the American societies from crime, drugs, illiteracy and immorality. The auditing which is the main practice is designed by the scientologists to remove the engrams from the reactive mind. The church's auditor follows a number of various processes such as asking many questions that are designed to assist people who are audited increase their knowledge and involve themselves in the association technique which aims at eliciting the reaction of the respondents (Jerome, B. et al, 2007. Pg 91-92).
In conclusion, there are many cult movements or religions in the United States of America which exists by taking the advantage of secularism in the country. Among these cult groups, there is scientology which was started by Hubbard. The beliefs and practices of these religious groups are controversial because some of them are anti-Christian. Even if there is freedom of worship, people must be aware of the ill motives of the cult groups and the American government should regulate their activities in order to enhance the safety of the public.