Have you ever thought about the difference between a cult and a religion? What is it that separates the two? I believe the only difference is the conditioning we received which leads us to our conclusions. The programming of others is what establishes the beliefs that we carry with us each day.
Cults have the reputation for brainwashing people. Many who lead these enterprises are manipulative people with a self-serving (and sometimes evil) agenda. They are often delusional individuals who prey upon the weak. Those who fit a particular profile are targeted. Many believe that it is the weak who fall prey to this type of manipulation.
However, couldn't we say the same thing about the world's religions? People get their belief system from the "church" which tells them what is going to happen. They are instructed of how they are to live, what to worship, and with whom to interact. All stages of life, and thereafter, are often spelled out. Yet millions of people show up to their places of worship every Sunday.
So what is the difference between Jim Jones and the Pope? A case could be made that they are similar in how they influence the beliefs of others. Obviously Jim Jones was seriously demented in his quest for power and immortality. Having people commit mass suicide is probably not the path that God wants one to travel.
I feel the difference is in how we perceive the institutions we place our trust in. Since most of society readily accepts the major religions as legitimate, they are looked upon favorably. Yet something like the Church of Scientology is frowned upon because it is not the norm. In fact, Western culture carries the viewpoint of some of the Eastern philosophies while extolling the virtues of their own beliefs. Have you noticed how Islam is one of the most popular religions yet Christians feel those believers are barbaric? As if nobody ever died in the name of God.
My purpose in writing this is not to start a religious war. Personally, I have no "dog in this fight". Nevertheless, I do feel it important to show how powerful the conditioning of others is upon us. For those who truly want to live their own lives, it is vital that we make our own choices. Questioning our beliefs is crucial to this process.
Too often people are afraid to stray from the norm. They feel they have to behave in certain ways. Sadly, conformity is often the road to misery. Study the life of any successful person and you will realize that they broke from the masses at some point. Blind followers are like sheep. They are open to the abuse of others. This is something that the powerful in every walk of life prey upon. Cults, religions, government, and major corporations all use methods to program our thinking. Those who fail to question anything are the easy targets they seek.
Start to take control of what you think. Continually check your belief system and ask yourself, "why do I believe this"? How did you come about those conclusions? Is this something that you consciously selected or was it instilled in you by others? Family, friends, and schooling all have a part in this process. That is why people from similar backgrounds often behave in the same manner. The social conditioning can affect all of us.
Freedom starts with the thoughts in your mind. Begin the process of taking back control by looking at all the thoughts you have. If you find yourself defending a particular viewpoint, question why you believe that. It will be an enlightening exercise.
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