Since the SNAFU with the polygamist group the word cult has been used to freely.
The Merriam-Webster online dictionary lists five different definitions of the word "cult."
1. Formal religious veneration
2. A system of religious beliefs and ritual; also: its body of adherents;
3. A religion regarded as unorthodox or spurious; also: its body of adherents;
4. A system for the cure of disease based on dogma set forth by its promulgator;
5. Great devotion to a person, idea, object, movement, or work (as a film or book).
The Random House Unabridged Dictionary's eight definitions of "cult" are:
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;
3. The object of such devotion;
4. A group or sect bound together by veneration of the same thing, person, ideal, etc;
5. 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.
Webster's New World College Dictionary defines "cult" as:
1a. a system of religious worship or ritual
1b. a quasi-religious group, often living in a colony, with a charismatic leader who indoctrinates members with unorthodox or extremist views, practices or beliefs
2a. devoted attachment to, or extravagant admiration for, a person, principle or lifestyle, especially when regarded as a fad [the cult of nudism]
2b. the object of such attachment
3. a group of followers, sect
The Merriam-Webster online dictionary lists four different definitions of the word religion:
1 a: the state of a religious b (1): the service and worship of God or the supernatural (2): commitment or devotion to religious faith or observance
2: a personal set or institutionalized system of religious attitudes, beliefs, and practices
3archaic : scrupulous conformity : conscientiousness
4: a cause, principle, or system of beliefs held to with ardor and faith
Better yet lets talk about a religion that mentions giants that are biproducts of a sexual interlude between beings from the celestial beyound and humans.:Genesis 6:4 claims: "There were giants in the earth in those days;" or better yet there were people of enormous size that roam the earth that could have been from another form of existence that was not earthly: Deuteronomy 3:11 states that the bed of Og, king of Bashan, was 9 cubits by 4 cubits (approximately 14 ft long by 6 ft wide).
How about a crazed apocolyptic hermit that ate locust and honey. A talking snake that tricks a lady into eating some fruit which damns her and any other females to the pain of childbirth. Talking snake....
I am not trying to justify what that group of individuals did because I do not know of their practices first hand. When a person calls for help that is a red flag. When certain supporters try to make the connection with marrying practice of the past were 13 was not uncommon to get married is.... Nuts!!! Apples and oranges.... 400 kids again 400 children, were was social service.
Cults come in different shades Christianity, Islam and Juadism were at one time considered cults along with many mainstream religions some are welcomed while others are demonized such as Scientology. I do not condemn either of the ones mention because what works for one may not work for another.