If it acts like a cult and fits the definition of a cult – it must be a cult.
There are some people who consider that ALL organised religion is a series of cults. Generally, I concur with that view. Within Judaism there are a number of groups within the ultra-orthodox sector that match the definition almost exactly.
So how do we define a “cult”?
The strict dictionary definition is: “a relatively small group of people having religious beliefs or practices regarded by others as strange or sinister.” Various commentators have extended this to include such elements as:
- An ideological organisation held together by charismatic relationships and the demand of total commitment. (1)
- A group exhibiting excessive devotion or dedication to some person, idea or thing. (2)
- A group encompassing all that is involved in worship, ritual, emotion and attitude.
These sects utilise social and psychological pressure to restrict normal human rights and freedoms. They place great emphasis on loyalty to the manner of living within the group and strict adherence to its customs and traditions. Internal dissent is actively discouraged. Obedience to the teachings of its leader is mandatory. Criticism of the group or its actions is regarded as persecution.
If all the above sounds familiar, it should, since it applies to many of the “Super Religious.”
And none more so than the sect known as the Gur Hassidim, according to a recent study carried out by Nava Wasserman. According to press reports, much of what she found matches the criteria above almost exactly. Being religious herself, she does not interpret all of her findings in a negative light. On the contrary, she finds much of the life style to be even empowering for women. But the sacrifice they make is beyond the comprehension of mere mortals.
The sect operates on the basis that love for the Lord and love for a women do not go together. She reports that in the conflict between spirituality and sexuality, sexuality has to be abolished. She defines the marital relationship as “the art of drawing apart.” The exact antithesis of the secular concept of marriage being an experience to be shared on all levels.
How does this come about?
My interpretation is that it arises through a constant process of “brain washing” and manipulation.Children born into this society are taught from a very early age the required roles of men and women. This confinement within the group and its philosophy leaves no chance for individual free thought. Considering the lives they are destined to live, I think that the teaching they receive could reasonably be regarded as child abuse.
If this view seems too extreme, consider some of the examples given in the study about their way of life as they grow to adulthood. Considering that the sect seeks to abolish sexuality, they appear to be very preoccupied with the subject on a day to day basis. Here are few examples:
- They are obliged to prevent themselves from seeing images that could lead to sexual arousal. A Gur Hassid will only direct his gaze downwards. On a bus, for example, he might remove his glasses to prevent awareness of his surroundings.
- Men do not kiss or embrace.
- A man may not sit on his friend’s bed
- A young man is forbidden to hold a conversation unless he is wearing his overcoat
- Gur Hassidim must walk around in their overcoats at all times
- Separation between the sexes even applies to weddings. Young men do not attend in order to reduce their consciousness of the marital state, and to prevent the possibility of meeting young women.
- In many families, men and women eat at separate tables.
- Young men will speak only to women of their immediate nuclear family ( not with his sisters-in law).
- A man will not call his wife by name. If there are children, she is referred to as “mother.” In order to attract her attention, he will knock on the table, or make some other noise.
- Men and women do not walk on the street together.
- A married couple act as if the woman is permanently in a state of niddah (impure) and thus will not pass objects from hand to hand.
In spite of living within such constrictions, Wasserman insists that most of the women are not embittered and regard their role with resignation and, even, acceptance. They have agreed to forgo earthly pleasures for God knows what. Well, maybe He (or She) does know. Personally, I think the sacrifice is too great.
But, as the saying goes, “what you’ve never had, you’ve never missed.”
For me, cults, such as the Gur Hassidim, are simply a conglomeration of victims. All of them, men, women and children alike, doomed to a lifetime of insularity, sacrifice and obedience.
And what if there is no God?
Andyboy – Telling it as it is
- Benjamin Zablacki – Professor of Sociology at Rutgers University.
- Louis Jolyn West – renowned psychiatrist USA.
- Facebook is Disturbing God’s Messengers (andyboy1.com)