Difference Between Cult and Religion

When it comes to mankind’s history, for people it has been natural to worship something like stone, tree, etc. Firstly, there was animism which means the living souls attributed to inanimate objects, plants, and natural phenomena.


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It eventually morphed into the crucial world religions in the present time.  

Most people claim that there are approx a dozen of considerable religions in today’s world. On the other hand, others say that distinctive religious practices and beliefs are hundreds or even thousands.

After learning the differentiation between cult and religion the confusion will be cleared up. In this article, the main focus is on differentiating cult and religion. 

Cult vs Religion 

The difference between the cult and the religion is that a cult is a religious and small group that is not part of a larger accepted religion, with unique beliefs or socially deviant and practices. On the other hand, religion is a particular system of belief or/ and worship, often consisting of a code of philosophy and ethics. 

Cult vs Religion

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A cult is generally a group or system of people who follow excessive devotion to an object, figure of belief system, particularly following a leader.

The cult term is commonly linked with religious sects of highly unorthodox that take part in sinister demonstrations and practices. However, with several instances popping up throughout recent history, it can be said that cults can be non-religious too. 

Religion is an organized set of practices, systems, and beliefs that most often relate to worship and belief of a controlling force like another supernatural being or a personal God.

It often consists of worldviews, revelations, cultural beliefs, prophecies, morals, and texts that have spiritual meaning. 

Comparison Table  

Parameters of ComparisonCultsReligion
ConnationsOften associated with negative and pejorative connotationsNot linked with negative and pejorative connotations
DurationNewerLonger history
FollowersFewer compared to religion More followers are in religion in comparison to the cult
ViewsMight be viewed as wicked, abnormal, and abusiveMore accepted
NatureNot established and less organizedEstablished and organized

What is a Cult?

In modern English, it is a social group that is considered by its unusual philosophical, spiritual or religious belief or its common interest in a specific object, goal, or personality.

This term’s sense is controversial and has divergent definitions both in academia and popular culture and across many study’s fields among scholars, it has been an ongoing contention’s source.  

The word cult’s older sense consists of a conventional religious set devotional practices within their culture and often associated with a specific place and are related to a specific figure.

The references to the cult of a specific imperial cult or Catholic saint of ancient Rome for instance use this sense of the word.  

The original and literal sense of the word remains in use in the language (English), which arose in the 19th century as a derived sense of excessive devotion.

Religious movements may consider a cult as a social group with novel practices and beliefs or socially deviant, although this is often unclear.  

Whereas other researchers present a cults picture as less organized and say that around novel practices and beliefs they arise spontaneously.

Groups referred to as cults from local groups range in size with a few followers to the organization at an international level, along with adherents in million. 

What is Religion?

Religion is a system of social-cultural that designates practices and behaviors, beliefs, sanctified places, morals, texts, ethics, prophecies, or organizations.

It relates humanity to spiritual, supernatural, and transcendental elements. But there is no scholarly consensus on what religion constitutes.  

Distinct religions might not or might include several elements which range from the faith, divine, sacred things, or supernatural being.

Religious practices might consist of veneration, rituals, festivals, sermons, meditation, dance, prayer, feasts, initiations, or other human culture aspects.  

They generally have sacred narratives and histories which might be preserved in sacred symbols and scriptures and holy places that goal mainly to offer meaning to life. Religions might consist of symbolic stories that are said by followers to be true.  

Worldwide there are distinct religions estimated at 10,000. The world’s population approx 84% is affiliated with Hinduism, Christianity, Islam, Buddhism, or some kind of folk religion.

The religion study comprises a variety of academic disciplines consisting, comparative religion, theology, and social scientific studies. 

Main Differences Cult and Religion 

  1. Cults are usually illegitimate and secretive. On the flip side, religions are generally considered to be legitimate and open.  
  2. Through coercive persuasion, cults joined like to some degree that the perfect way to sort out problems is through joining a cult. Conversely, religion is mainly inherited like a youngster raised in a particular religious tradition and follows initiation path and fuller membership.  
  3. When it comes to respecting, cults are vilified almost universally except by their members. On the other hand, mutual respect is given to each other in religions.  
  4. When it comes to examples, the Branch Dravidians, Children of God, The Peoples Temple, Heaven’s Gate, and Sullivaniare are a few of the examples of cults. In contrast, some of the examples of religion are Hinduism, Buddhism, Islam, Judaism, and Christianity.  
  5. A cult is a religious and small group that is not part of a more and larger accepted religion, with unique beliefs or socially deviant and practices. Meanwhile, religion is a particular system of belief or/ and worship, often consisting of a code of philosophy and ethics. 
Difference Between Cult and Religion


  1. https://search.informit.org/doi/abs/10.3316/agispt.20190613012288
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