Difference Between Cult and Religion

Main Difference – Cult vs Religion

Religion is the set of beliefs, feelings, doctrine and practices that define the relations between human being and sacred or divinity. A cult is a small religious group that is not part of a larger and more accepted religion, which is believed to have socially deviant practices and beliefs. The main difference between cult and religion is that a cult is smaller, less organized and newer than a religion.

Difference Between Cult and Religion - infographic                                                                          

What is Religion

Religion is a specific system of belief and/or worship, often involving a code of ethics and philosophy. It also consists of specific morals, principles, rules, beliefs, and rituals that guide people. Although religion is often defined as a belief in a god or a group of gods or the belief in and worship of divinity, not all religions in believe in gods. Buddhism, for example, does not believe in the supremacy of God. Some other widespread religions in the world include Christianity, Islam, and Hinduism. These four religions are the most prevalent religions in the world.

Religion is composed of various elements such as faith, belief, rituals, sacred objects, and divinity. Different religions practice different practices such as  rituals, sermons, prayer, meditation, ceremonies, initiations, sacrifices, trances, etc.

More importantly, religion is an established organization. There is a hierarchy of priests who act as the guardians of the religion. Religion also has a set of principles that guide the lives of the devouts.Difference Between Cult and Religion

What is a Cult

A cult is a small religious group, which is not part of a larger and more accepted religion, with socially deviant or new beliefs and practices. A newly established religion may also be called by the name cult. Cult is also used to refer to a system of religious veneration and devotion directed towards a particular figure or object. For example, Christian Church allowed the worship of a particular saint.

However, in contemporary usage, cult is often used as a pejorative and negative term. Cults are often viewed as strange, abusive or dominating. These are often viewed in this negative light because their teachings and beliefs are different from those of established religions.

Main Difference - Cult vs Religion

Ceremonies of the cult of Isis, Egypt

Difference Between Cult and Religion


Cult is a small and relatively new religious group that is not part of a larger and more accepted religion, with socially deviant or unique beliefs and practices.

Religion is a specific system of belief and/or worship, often involving a code of ethics and philosophy.


Cult is often associated with pejorative and negative connotations.

Religion is not associated with pejorative or negative connotations.


Cult generally has fewer followers than a religion.

Religion generally has more followers than a cult.


Cult is newer, less organized and not established.

Religion is organized, established and has a longer history.


Cult may be viewed as abnormal, abusive, and wicked.

Religions are often more accepted.

Image Courtesy:

“Various Religious Symbols” By User:Rursus – File:Religious syms.png by Manop (Public Domain) via

By  Welcome Images (CC BY 4.0) via

About the Author: Hasa

Hasa has a BA degree in English, French and Translation studies. She is currently reading for a Masters degree in English. Her areas of interests include literature, language, linguistics and also food.

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