20+ Differences Between Cult And Religion (Explained)

Religion is popularly known as a set of beliefs and norms shared by many people who believe in a supernatural being or God.

Cult, however, is restricted to small members who form a group based on common faith towards a particular saint or person and become their followers.

But the study is intense and requires a more profound understanding of the difference between a cult and religion.


Differentiating Cult and Religion:


  1. Religion is a shared belief of millions of people who perform according to that particular religion they follow.
  2. Religion has certain norms and beliefs that every follower is expected to perform.
  3. There are certain restrictions depending on which religion one follows.
  4. There are sacred rituals that need to be carried out by people.
  5. Religion’s primary purpose or pillar is giving people moral conduct and restraining evil.


  1. A cult is a form of a group that follows a particular person or saint.
  2. There are set guidelines according to which the follower must act.
  3. Cults are made by influencing people and actively motivating them to join.
  4. Cults closely control the life of its follower.
  5. The basis of a Cult is to do certain activities and perform or behave according to the leader.

Comparison Of Cult And Religion

Belief People believe in supernatural power, i.e., god, and faith in his path. There are monotheists, polytheists, agnostics, etc.The belief is bestowed upon a man who is considered to be the chosen leader, and followers live the rest of their lives according to him.
SizeReligion is an expanded institution and is still growing at a fast pace. Over a billion people follow religion and perform religious activities.The size is very small, only some thousand people join a cult, and some leave it in between. It’s not a growing organization.
BookDifferent religions have varied books, and believers follow the norms mentioned and have full faith in the holy book. A cult does not have any holy book, but the lease sets various rules according to which members of the group behave.
HistoryReligion has an ancient history, and archaeological surveys can trace it and visit places of worship. The cult was a reformed movement bought by people who sometimes proclaimed themselves to be the chosen ones.
RecognitionReligion is recognized by various governments and is a legal body.Any government does not recognize a cult.

Important Differences Between Cult And Religion

What Is Religion?

Religion is a standardized set of spiritual practices, beliefs, and norms about the God, superior being, or supernatural power they believe to be sacred.

People of particular religions act righteous according to the religion they follow and believe in the afterlife and prosecution.

What is a Cult?

A cult is a community formed through a shared belief in a person and his path. A cult leader guides its members to bring new members to the cult and ultimately discourages rebuttals or discussions. It has a relatively small number of people associated with it. 


Cult vs. Religion- All you need to know


  • The cult revolves around the axis Mundi, the leader of the cult.
  • A cult follows strict rules and controls the life of its members.
  • It does not take criticism and cuts away from everyday life.
  • It is not culturally sound like religion and does not provide freedom to its members.
  • Members are disconnected from the outside world and live according to the shamanic leader they have chosen for the rest of their life.


  • Religion is culturally and morally sound and is followed by many people.
  • Following a deity or superior being is considered the ultimate truth and worthy of worship.
  • Religious followers believe in fate and divine blessing from their God.
  • Religion is much more ancient and is legally recognized by governments.
  • The believers visit holy places to connect to god and gain blessings.

Contrast Between Religion And Cult


  • Religion – Religion has a more sacred belief system that motivates one to walk on the righteous path. The belief is bestowed upon the god one follows and acts according to their religious norms.

    It means believing in the faith and idea of religion, as Christians believe Jesus to be the son of God.
  • Cult – A cult is formed by people who have a shared ideology and follow the same leader.

    They believe the leader has all the required solutions to solve their problems and does not question him. Instead, it is focused on bringing more members to the group.


  • Religion – Religion has millions of followers and has been carried away since time immemorial. However, it’s been existing for generations and has billions of followers. Faith in its compound form was there even when nobody belied it to be true.
  • Cult – A cult does not have a long history. It was a self-made concept by the people. Cults are not followed for generations as they are left unattended or included in unlawful activities, which bring them banned.

    There’s nothing passed on to the next generation. It has not more than thousands of people.


  • Religion – Every religion has its holy book, which has stories of how that religion started and its expansion, the glory of it.

    It also informs the believer about the rule, does, and doesn’t to be kept in mind by their religion. Every individual who follows some religion behaves in a manner written in their holy books, like Bible, Quran, and Bhagavadgita.
  • Cult – The members of a cult do not have a holy book. However, they follow the rules set by their cult leader, and the members must adhere to them; otherwise, they are removed from the cult. 

Place Of Worship

  • Religion – Almost all religions have places of worship that are considered sacred. Therefore, the devotees perform visits and tours to get moral cleansing and attain blessings.

    The sites are Temple, Masjids, churches, synagogues, etc. Some famous religious places are Mecca Madina, Rishikesh, Buddhist temple, Gurudwara, and many more.
  • Cult – Cult functions as a social organization, and the members perform activities within that social group on some site. Cult sites are the name given to permanently established sites.


Purpose of Religion vs. Cult


  • A cult is a structural formation to dominate the lives of its members and manipulates them.
  • The cult leader asks their followers to isolate themselves from the outside world.
  • The followers believe their leader to be confirmed by all means.
  • People are influenced to join the cult; it is difficult to leave or disconnect.
  • Involvement in conspiracies and unlawful practices.
  • They hold you accountable, and there’s no place for criticism or discussion.


  • Religions involve attaining salvation and peace through prayers.
  • It has a cultural formation motivated by morals, ethics, and prophecies.
  • Its purpose is to promote the feeling of belongingness and keep the community connected.
  •  It provided a higher purpose for living a righteous life.
  • It keeps you connected to fellow members and celebrates various functions together.
  • It is believed that the connection with God makes you strong and feel like egoism, hate, or revenge is eradicated. 

Examples Of Religion And Cult


Heaven’s Gate

Popularly known as the UFO religious cult, this group wanted all its members to give up their possessions. It also leads to mass suicide in US history.

David Koresh

David Koresh was an American cult leader who proclaimed that he could have a conversation with God. He also claimed to be the chosen one and that he was a prophet. Later the government moved after him and his followers for doing unlawful activities. 

The people’s temple

It was founded by Jim Jones in Indiana and came out as a progressive, helping organization that provides shelter and security to people. But this movement also ended up in mass death as the leader ordered his followers for suicide.

Children of God

A communist Christian sect founded by David Moses Berg, influenced the moral duty of evolution and promoted sex relations irrespective of age. It is present to date and practiced in 80 countries. However, children having sexual life are not granted permission.



  • Christianity is the most followed religion, with 2.8 billion followers. 
  • They believe in the life of Jesus, mainly known as the son of God. 
  • There are branches such as the Catholic, Eastern, Protestant, and Oriental orthodox churches.
  •  The West is dominated by Christianity, with 70% of the population following religion.
  • They believe in an afterlife and the day of judgment. They follow monotheism.


  • Islam is the fastest-growing religion and believes in monotheism. 
  • There is only one God, i.eaAllah and the prophet Muhammad is the messenger of God. 
  • Now Islam is the second largest religion after Christianity. 
  • The religion revolves around the teachings of the Quran and the sunnah (Practices) of the prophet. 
  • Popularly divided as Sunni and Shia. Islam also believes in the afterlife.


  • It is an Indian religion centered around Gautama Budha and his teaching.
  • Religion emphasizes overcoming worldly desires and focusing on self-cleansing.
  • The aim is to come out of the bubble of suffering that the world has caused humans.
  • It promotes non-violence and seeking truth and meaning in life.
  • Buddhism also believes in rebirth and liberation.


  • Hinduism is a religion dominated in the Indian region.
  • It is now the world’s third most followed and practiced religion.
  • It promotes non-violence and restrains people from hurting living beings such as animals.
  • The followers can be monotheistic, polytheistic, agnostic, atheist, etc.
  • It does not have the concept of the prophet and one God.


    Pubic belief 


  • People view religion as an institution that provides security, culture, and humanitarian attributes to the world.
  • They consider it necessary to be morally correct and accountable for everything.
  • Belief in God gives power and peace for people to survive.
  • It is viewed as bonding and connecting source for communities and societies to function.
  • Believers often relate religious practices to science and make them a necessity.
  • Religions also influence political movements and are used as fuel to incite various activities.
  • It has also been a center for the divide in many countries but living within a religious circle provides safety to people at large.


  • A cult has an opposing viewpoint as it never gained respect or official recognition.
  • A cult does not have an ancient history like religion, which makes it difficult for the people to believe in having faith in it.
  • Society always opposes any change and restrains them from moving their consciousness to something new.
  • Cults have often involved themselves in unlawful activities, which resulted in many people’s deaths and mass killings, making it even more challenging to survive.
  • The primary reason for the destruction of various cults is the way it functions.
  • Society does not want to have faith in something with no accountability or consequences for its actions.
  • The government has not recognized cults and never framed legality for it.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Q1. What motivates people to join a cult?

People who join a cult are often motivated by promises of rewards if following a particular leader. People often become the target of the cause.

They also suffer from existing insecurities within them and want answers that they seek in this cult.

But getting out of it becomes a scary ride as the members do not allow you to contact the outside world. It expects you to be completely isolated.

Q2. Why do people follow any religion?

Religion has been here for centuries, and the people who follow any particular religion have security and respect in society.

Some p[eople do it for a feeling of belongingness and acceptance, and others have faith in God and believe it to be the ultimate truth.

People spend all their lives according to the religion they follow as they believe and have faith in its promises.

Q3. What makes people atheists?

Some people willingly decide not to believe in any supernatural being as they do not believe in the concept of some power that controls them.

They have questions on whether God exists or not and what the proof is. They look at life more scientifically and argue that everything that exists can be explained without including God.

Q4. Is all cult involved in unlawful activities?

A cult motivates you to cut ties with the natural world and do specific tasks which might harm the people around you or yourself.

There is no space for arguments or discussion in a cult. People usually do whatever is told by their leader.

Q5. Can a cult and religion coexist?

Religion and cults have a lot of differences, and people look down on cults because of their practices and accountability.

They can, however, exist on their own separately, but nothing inclusive can ever happen as a cult functions by distancing from society and disallowing its members to interact.

At the same time, a religion builds communities and holds events that bring people closer.

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