Religious Or Motivational Cults? Or Sci-Fi?
Some comments in another thread about "Scientology" inspired a new thread.
I am not sure of the details, but I think there was some controversy about Scientology calling itself a "religion", back in the early '90's. The IRS among others was involved, as I recall. And they were using business trademark/copyright laws to prosecute their critics for a while. Germany outlawed them for at least a while.
There are some other groups that push the envelope of what constitutes a "religion" and this can be confusing, IMHO. I tend to define "religion" as a set of beliefs and practices that relate to a deity or group of deities.
I have often tuned into TV at those odd hours of the night when infomercials and suchlike dominate the airwaves, and occasionally come across people who appeared to be independent evangelists, but then I found they turned out to be preaching some kind of motivational sales program. One can't always tell when it is a preacher who has slipped too much marketing into his sermon, or a sales trainer who is trying to appeal to folks in the Bible Belt.
Then there is that quirky sci-fi element in groups like Scientology and the way religion seems to creep into honest fiction like "Star Wars", with references to "The Force" and all that.
How much of a problem is this? Do non-religious cults outnumber religious cults? Are they a threat to anyone? How common is it to see an individual actually start a cult, or do some people sort of coalesce into a cult around some figure out of their own need for leadership?