A reader posed the question on a previous entry, asking if Masonry could be considered a cult.
Here are definitions of "cult" from dictionary.com:
1. a particular system of religious worship, esp. with reference to its rites and ceremonies.
2. an instance of great veneration of a person, ideal, or thing, esp. as manifested by a body of admirers: the physical fitness cult.
3. the object of such devotion.
4. a group or sect bound together by veneration of the same thing, person, ideal, etc.
5. Sociology. a group having a sacred ideology and a set of rites centering around their sacred symbols.
6. a religion or sect considered to be false, unorthodox, or extremist, with members often living outside of conventional society under the direction of a charismatic leader.
7. the members of such a religion or sect.
8. any system for treating human sickness that originated by a person usually claiming to have sole insight into the nature of disease, and that employs methods regarded as unorthodox or unscientific.
I'd say that Freemasonry would qualify as a cult under definitions 2, 4 and 5.
It venerates not only ideals, but certain men.
It holds as its basic tenets the ideals of Brotherly Love, Relief and Truth, or in some jurisdictions, Brotherly Love, Relief and Morality.
It venerates sometimes specific men, but even moreso, specific titles or positions within the Order.
It has an ideology and a set of rites centering around its symbols, which are considered "sacred."
For a group that ostensibly promotes equality, and says that all men are "on the level," it is heavily hierarchical in its organizational makeup; sometimes not following the rules or even whims of those "in power" can result in ostracization, ridicule, suspension or expulsion.
Are we a cult? How many of us would drink the Kool-Aid for Freemasonry?
(Fun fact: The cyanide-laced fruit drink consumed by the Peoples' Temple cult in Jonestown, Guyana, in 1978 was Flavor Aid, not Kool-Aid. The phrase "drink the Kool-Aid" has come to refer to those who blindly follow an authority even if it leads to serious harm or death, even though the term was used pre-Jonestown by The Merry Pranksters, and referred to taking LSD.)
Image: Houses used by the Peoples' Temple in Jonestown, Guyana
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