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Definitions of Cult: From Sociological-Technical to Popular-Negative

James T. Richardson
Review of Religious Research
Vol. 34, No. 4 (Jun., 1993), pp. 348-356
DOI: 10.2307/3511972
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/3511972
Page Count: 9
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Definitions of Cult: From Sociological-Technical to Popular-Negative
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Abstract

This paper examines the theoretical and historical development of the term "cult," from its inception in the work of Troeltsch to more modern delineations of the term in the work of researchers studying new religious groups. The usurpation of the term by popular usage associated with strong negative connotations is discussed, along with efforts by a few contemporary scholars to salvage the term by redefining it in ways which attempt to combine traditional and popular meanings. The futility of this approach is discussed, and the paper concludes with suggestions that scholars should avoid the term and that it should not be allowed to be used in legal proceedings because of its confused and negatively connoted meaning in contemporary society.

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