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Well, now, I’ve taken to reading the Life section of the newspaper to continue to monitor the pulse beat of culture.

Thursday there was an Ann Landers-type self-help column about religion written by a Methodist minister. The question she was asked by one of her readers was: “What’s the difference between a cult and a religion?”

The reverend replied with an analogy about politicians. While they’re trying to get elected, she said, they’re cults. After they get elected and become official they’re religions. Cults also have charismatic leaders. Ideas outside the norm. Attract disenfranchised people. And teach their doctrines are true and any others are false.

By then I was thinking Barack Obama and his campaign for change had a lot in common with cults.

But then she defined religions, saying they… cover a broader geographic area. Tolerate diversity. And tend to have more adherents. Well, Obama fits that bill too.

How do cults become religions? “A cult transitions into a religion gradually as its influence spreads… Christianity began as a sect” and became an “established religion toward the end of the 4th century.”

This struck me as pretty odd, coming from a Methodist minister.

Tolerance is a fine thing. But so is conviction. So why shouldn’t the correct answer be, at least from a minister, cults teach false doctrines while St. Paul taught true faith?

I guess in a way it’s perfectly logical to argue cults that get big become religions. But it also sounds like saying, It does not matter if what they’re teaching is true, if they can sell it, it becomes religion. Which is an odd sort of test for the true faith.

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