I’ve seen this claim floating around social media for some time now, but is it just another ignorant copy and paste claim, or does it have any legitimacy? Oxford dictionary defines a cult as a ‘system of religious veneration and devotion directed towards a particular figure or object; or, a person or thing that is popular or fashionable among a particular group or section of society‘. A cult is more often that not a sect of a religious, philosophical or political group, that’s outlandish by appearance, and unusual in its beliefs, and displays an excessive devotion.
The word cult’s origin comes from the Latin ‘cultus‘, which essentially means ‘worship‘, but in modern times it’s become a derogatory ad hominem attack to imply some belief that’s considered beyond the norm. A cult is often related to some form of ritualistic practise involving a deity, a monument and/or sacrificial offerings, which perfectly sums up early Judaism. Whilst not exclusive, cults can lead to studying the occult, which is the study and practise of the supernatural, witchcraft, alchemy, which all attempt to manipulate natural law, and studying the occult can lead to the creation of cults.
Cults are often groups which centre around extreme ideologies, and brain controlling leaders like Charles Manson, or David Koresh. Atheism lacks a direction, a purpose, a criteria, an agenda or a doctrine. Most cult members are drawn in because they are vulnerable, but atheists tend to reach their conclusion of disbelief due to insufficient evidence, and very often leave a religion that has a cult like mentality that they needed to break free from.
Cults, like most religions, trap people through indoctrination, and the tactic of shaming if someone dares to leave. Atheism isn’t a organisation, a sect or a cult, it’s just people who used reason and scepticism to reach a conclusion independently. There are no cult leaders, no communes or dogma. When theists claim that atheism is a cult, or more frequently a religion it’s a failed attempt to drag it down to their level, as in how can we make a claim that religion is ignorant, when atheism is just another religion. But this is a miserable attempt to accuse atheists of being hypocrites, and I know first hand from speaking to many atheists that most lack belief as the evidence doesn’t match their sceptical scrutiny, and until it does they’ll take the stand that gods probably don’t exist, whereas religious people have faith, and are confident that their gods exist, and usually aren’t prepared to consider otherwise. Atheism is as much of a cult, or a religion as not believing in fairies is a political ideology.