There are several definitions of cult, and we don't fit any of them.
I define a cult as any group that says it's a religion, but spends more than 50% of its total resources (time, money, and energy) trying to convert other people. If you spend more time trying to get others to worship than you do actually worshiping, what is going on here?
We don't spend anything trying to get anyone to convert. We know this path isn't for everyone. If you like the path you are on, and feel it's the right one for you, we are happy for you! Go for it!
CyberPatrol defines cult as "A closed society that is headed by a single individual where loyalty is demanded and leaving is punishable."
Most of our groups are not closed. Some are, largely because of the fear of misunderstanding and ignorance. But many of us have realized that only by opening our groups, and taking that risk, can we change misunderstanding and ignorance to understanding and knowledge. After all, it's just silly to expect someone to understand something they have never encountered, or heard the truth about.
Headed by a single individual! Ha! Just try it! We value our freedom and independence way too much for that, and we trust our own instincts. In his "Advanced Bonewits' Cult Danger Evaluation Frame" Isaac Bonewits lists as one of the danger points the disempowerment of the members of the group, as they hand over their will to the leader, allowing him to be responsible for their personal decisions. (The ABCDEF is excellent, by the way, but far too long to cover point by point here.) I think that is what CyberPatrol means. We believe in empowerment, not disempowerment, and feel that each of us is solely responsible for all of our personal decisions. Most of us feel, as I do, that no one can make us do anything. Anything we do, we have chosen to do ourselves. Even not choosing is a choice, really, and we are responsible for it.
As for leaving being punishable, well, I have always said that Pagan/Wiccan groups are a lot like Lava Lamps. They are constantly breaking apart, flowing, and coalescing in some other form. No one has ever been punished for simply leaving a group, as far as I know, although they may be sorely missed. In fact, we have a saying when one disagrees with the things the rest of the group has decided to do. We "vote with our feet." Leaving a group is a fine old tradition around here!
So, basically, we are about as far from a cult as you can get! We don't ever recruit, we don't have any national leaders to whom everyone owes loyalty at all, and people leave the group they are in all the time!
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