Occultism, Official Religion, & Nonofficial Religion – Week 3 Reflection

Considering “official” vs. “nonofficial” religion is a very interesting concept for me, especially when adding the third idea of occultism. I had never thought of the factors that would make a religion official or nonofficial or something that would be defined as a cult.  I don’t consider myself to be a religious person but I do have some religious practices in my everyday life. Thinking about official religions and nonofficial religions is interesting when considering what my life’s religious practices have involved.

After the class discussion this past week, I still have questions and thoughts regarding the difference between being a religious group and a cult. McGuire defines official religion as “a set of beliefs and practices prescribed, regulated, and socialized by organized, specifically religious groups” (page 104), and she defines occultism as “a worldview based on a set of claims that contradict established scientific or religious knowledge and that typically emphasize ‘hidden’ teachings” ( page 337). Would being an unofficial religion be considered a cult? Where is the line drawn? At what point does a cult become a religion and vice versa? I’m curious about this topic because I feel as though it isn’t discussed as much as maybe it should be. I find that cults can be seen as a negative thing, and they are looked down on my others. How does the negative stigma around occultism effect the way the groups are seen? How does it effect the way they interact with each other?