This Independent Study is a critique o f the criteria used to define a religion and o f cults. The object ofthis Independent Study is to detennine distinctive characteristics between "cults" and "religions." In doing this I have discussed the background ofboth ofthese words along with some examples and characteristics of each. It is concluded that the main characteristic used to distinguish a cult is the use of violence and, in most cases, the use ofbrainwashing. Also, it has been detennined through this study that brainwashing, or some fonn ofmind control, had indeed been used. These fonns ofbrainwashing and mind control have, through this study, been directly connected to violence and coercion. In relation to religion, there has been some aspect attached to Christianity ofboth groups discussedinthecasestudies,thusdetenniningtheirstatusofreligion. Includedinthis study are case studies of The Monnons and The Amish, as examples of established religions; and Aum Shinrikyo, The Branch Davidians, and Heavens Gate, as examples of "cults." The case studies have been used as examples ofwhat a religion and a cult might entail or how they may be viewed by the outside world.


Graham, Mark


Religious Studies

Publication Date


Degree Granted

Bachelor of Arts

Document Type

Senior Independent Study Thesis

Available for download on Thursday, January 01, 2150

Request Access



© Copyright 2004 Molly Spirer