Social Mores Editor
 He also wrote a couple other interesting pieces on Rama earlier in the week. Rama sounds a little like Marjo Gortner, Jimmy Swaggart, or any other charlatan with a good rap. He was prodigiously good at extracting cash from the flock. Interestingly, he hooked in a lot of software developers just at the moment when many software businesses were cranking up their acts and starting to make boatloads of money.
Thinking about cults reminded me of my Baptist roots. We were American Baptists. I'm not sure about the other Protestant sects, but our church had definite opinions on the other churches. The Jewish faith was well-regarded, since it was the cornerstone of the Protestant religions. I didn't hear much about the Lutherans, Methodists, Presbyterians, Churches of Christ, Grace Fellowship, Reformed Protestant, United Brethren, First Christian Church, Church of the Nazarene, Pentecostal, or even the Menonite, Quaker, Episcopal, Amish, Shaker, or Evangelical Covenant churches.
The Catholic Church was regularly and savagely excoriated. I remember preachers railing against "The Cult of Mary." "THEY FORSAKE OUR LORD JESUS CHRIST FOR HIS VIRGIN MOTHER AND CONDEMN THEMSELVES TO PERISH IN THE FIRES OF THE GREAT DECEIVER!" In our church, the crucifix was empty, but in the Catholic Church, Jesus eternally suffered, nailed to the cross. "THEY CELEBRATE THE AGONY AND MURDER OF OUR LORD IN THEIR STATIONS OF THE CROSS!! THIS CHURCH CELEBRATES THE RESURRECTION OF THE CHRIST TO HEAVEN."
"THEY DO NOT EVEN READ THE BIBLE! THEY IGNORE THE GOOD BOOK! THE NEW TESTAMENT OF CHRIST OUR LORD IS IGNORED!" Confession was an excuse to sin even more--a free pass to perdition! Our ministers ranted against The Priests, The Nuns, The Brothers, The Bishops, and Cardinals. Most of all, they railed about the devil incarnate: His Holiness, The Pope, in his gilded palace, The Vatican.
The Reverend bemoaned "THE ABOMINATION OF THE EUCHARIST," the foul and damning Catholic doctrine of transubstantiation and its perversion of what was clearly intended by Our Lord to be symbolic.
"THE CATHOLICS WERE RESPONSIBLE FOR THE OUTRAGES OF THE SAINT BARTHOLOMEW'S DAY MASSACRE IN WHICH FIFTY THOUSAND OF GOD'S PRECIOUS CHILDREN WERE MURDERED! THE CATHOLICS RAN THE INQUISITION!"
There were, of course, also degrees of weirdness within our own denomination. The Southern Baptists with their prohibitions against makeup and dancing among other things, were considered a hopeless bunch of joyless prunes (even in our church, which went so far as to use Welch's Grape Juice for communion). Looked even further down upon were the Immersion Baptists--who took you to the river for baptisms, even in January. We did that only in the summer, but it was more ceremonial that doctrinaire. Still further down the line were the Foot Washing Baptists. At last you come to the Snake Handling Baptists, who were so out there that they did indeed feel like a cult. There is probably another splinter sect of Baptists somewhere, performing even wackier acts in the name of religion.
When does a cult become mainstream? When does a cult jump on the rail and become a church, or religion? I'm not really sure. Clearly, the Church of Latter Day Saints has transcended cult status and gone on to become the fastest growing church in the world (I think Orthodox Judaism is the second fastest growing).
 check out the links in the articles there--one to Wired and one to a whole (free) book on the Project Gutenberg site).