There has been an awful lot of excitement this last week in the political arena for the comments made by Robert Jeffress about Mitt Romney and Mormonism. Would you expect the leader of an evangelical mega-church to say anything other than what he did about it by calling it a cult and suggesting that voters would be supporting a cult by voting for Romney over Rick Perry, the evangelicals number one candidate at the moment? It is a pastor's job to reject all other doctrines as false and evil when compared to their own doctrines. This really is no surprise. I guess most people would have thought he would have kept those comments to himself or at least to his sermons on sundays rather than throw it out into the media storm like he did, but he is a man of conviction I guess, whether or not you agree with his rhetoric. He was not afraid to back down on his views and that makes this race all the more interesting as we see how the various parts of the republican party try to sort out their religious/cultural/economic views. The evangelicals, the tea partiers and the republican establishment have some competing philosophies to hash out.
I hate to break it to you though, Mr. Jeffress, but it is a vicious circle of theology. The very reasons you reject Joseph Smith and Muhammad are the same reasons the jews rejected Jesus and Joseph Smith and Muhammad, and the same reasons muslims reject Joseph Smith and Jesus, and the same reasons hindus and all non-theists reject them all. All religions are cults, it is in the very definition of cult that you see religion being played out.
Cult, as per Merriam-Webb Dictionary:
Definition of CULT
1: formal religious veneration : worship
2: a system of religious beliefs and ritual; also : its body of adherents
3: a religion regarded as unorthodox or spurious; also : its body of adherents
4: a system for the cure of disease based on dogma set forth by its promulgator <health cults>
5 a: great devotion to a person, idea, object, movement, or work (as a film or book); especially : such devotion regarded as a literary or intellectual fad
b : the object of such devotion
c : a usually small group of people characterized by such devotion
Even wikipedia checks in with an interesting definition. While it also speaks of cultural relevance of minority infamous cults such as Heavens Gate or Branch Davidians, it very much speaks to a group of people whose practices or rituals seem bizarre or out of mainstream, but generally applies to any religious group that is authoritarian and exploitative and uses various forms of mind-control or psychological abuse to convert and keep its members. Sounds like every religion fits nicely into that cult definition, doesn't it?
Wikipedia - Cult
When I was growing up, my family made us attend an evangelical-style church after my mother converted from catholicism. It was many years later that I had a conversation with someone and the church that I attended was brought up. As soon as I mentioned where I went for services as a kid, the person immediately responded "oh, that place is a cult". I was mystified and immediately dumbstruck because it was all that i knew and hadn't really thought about it from another perspective at that point. Now I can see how churches like that really are cults. They control their flocks by keeping them afraid and ignorant of others and use such devotion in their beliefs and faith that they are no longer able to decipher reality from fantasy. Fact from fiction. Evidence from guise. They guilt people into joining by offering eternal life and salvation from the most heinous of sins if they just give themselves up to the group. They indoctrinate their children with little or no exposure to the outside world philosophically, theologically, scientifically and even historically. Don't try to question anything, or you will be ostracized and told that you are just hearing the devil.
Religions are cults. No way around it. We would all be better off without this systematic form of mind control that's been going on for thousands of years. At the very least, we had better get it out of our political debate though and leave the theology debates for the pulpits.
Interesting article here of an evangelical calling out Jeffress (seems like one of the few though):
The Evangelical Case for Mitt Romney, And Against Robert Jeffress - Washington Post 10/10/11