I well understand your feelings about various faiths comunities, and would say that fanaticism is a danger that religionists face, and excessive liberalism is a danger many religionists and non religionists also face.
But as Nick said, the difference is 'choice.'
In all but a couple of the ones you mention, and Jehovah's Witnesses are one,terrorists( whether mebers of any faith, really or purportedly or not) are another,choice is there.
You can join, leave, go to a service or not go to a service as you please, and while at most someone may try to make you feel guilty about not going:-), that is the most they will ever do.
In my own Faith community we have retreats, summer schools, and training institutes.You can show up late, or leave early, or not go at all, and no one will say or do anything about it.
Smae with karae dojo I experience.I have been recently nvited to attend a Black Belt testing, across the state line, of another style.The head instructor invited me and I have every intenton of going.
I know I'll be able to go there, and leave, or not, with no consequences,and no fear of being harassed. A friend of mine is going for Shodan, and some others as well.
But it isn't a cut. It's definitely an organizational function, but no cult.
If I want to attend a Mass at a catholic Church in town, I can, thoughI am not a member.
If I want to go down the steet and listen to the Apostolics rock and roll, I can enter or leave or not go as I wish.
If I enter a Busddhist Temple or a Mosque, to observe, as long as I conduct myself with respect for the Insttution, I ave no fear of terrorist attacks or of being locked in a closet and starved on noodles until I come around to Revered Sun's point of view.
Abuses of religion ad of peoples rights have occurred in the past under so called legitimate religious institutions and they will no doubt, at times, in future,in some places, because people are people and will sometimes abuse positions of great respect or of moral authority. Karate teachers can and will also do this,but most will not, and this is the point I am trying to make.
MOST Ministers of religion will not tell you they just had a Revelation from God that You must obey or you are going to Hell, and those who do will usually not try to stop you from getting out the door when they say that( a course I highly recommend:-).
The actual Founders of the World's great religions usually received imprisonment, beatings, and death , as well as ridicule, and responded with gentleness.They didn't have money, at least not by the time they were done, and they didn't take advantage of Their followers.
Big differece between that and a cult.
Most chigong teachers, and I have met a number from China, teach it as a certified skill they learned and can pass on to you or anyone else.Taiji and Karate teachers are or should be the same.
You pays your money and you takes your CHOICE.
Same with Religion. You ultimately have free choice, even among ones who think you're gonna burn if you don't join, they won't try to make you.In any sense of the term.:-)
So what I mean by proof, what do falungong followers have to show as moral victories whereby we can say, 'Wow! Those people really ARE pure!"
That people not joining could not also do?
And what does the Leader have even as a claim, whereby he can say, "This is the True Way, and none other?'
Is the Leader riding around in a Caddilac, living in a Mansion surrounded by Luxury and with his choice of many women companions, eating pheasant under glass while his followers ****** down pasta with no sauce,or is he living simply and sincere, inthe same way or less so, that his followers do? Where is the moral superiority is what I am saying?
You mention Muslims, ,most of whom are fine and hospitable people.Most Muslims are no more terrorists than most Christians are IRA Bombers.
Or than most atheists blow up people's houses for Anarchy or Communism.
Muhammad, at the last, was in debt, his belongings had to be sold to pay the bills after life on earth had ceased.HIs successor, the Imam 'Ali, lived in a castle but slept on a mat, ate ard bread and wore the poorest clothes. Asked by a companion if he wouldn't want better, he said he would use better when the poorest person in Islam had better, not until then.
Same kind of stories could be told of all.Buddha, too, who had royal patronage but slept on the ground.
Man, I don't sleep on the ground!:-)
Point being, karate teachers and chigong teachers can and should charge money for their instruction, and should also expect, if they have an organization, that students may join, pay dues and whatever
loyalty they may show by choice,but they can leave at any time.
When you can't, its a cult.
See my far above post on the differences beteeen an actual religion and a cult, an actual dojo and a cult.
We should keep on topic to this extent:I know that in society today there is a lot of resentment of religions, which sneaks into a topic about cults, and then people say, 'yeah, but real religions do this or that', and I would say that is a man made distortion of the real thing, and then someone else says, yeah, but, who's stupid enough to believe in God anyway, and Bam, we're off!:-)
But that wasn't the point.Bottom line: I have already defined what Is a cult, and left only the question on falungong:'Cult? What do you think, and you told me.:-)
What I would say is this:If you can't leave, it for sure Is a cult.
A dangerous one too.
If you can leave , it MAY be a cult, but not as dangerous a one.
Think Jim Jones, Aum Shinrikyo, and Koresh.
Think nazis, and Terrorists, and what not.
Think fanatic sects of churches of you will.
Think of some sales organizations we all know and do not love.:-)
All different levels of cult.
Most things, though, may be guilty of overenthsiasm but that is about it.
There is a real and big difference between a cult and a religion, between a cult dojo and a real dojo.
Real chigong:'I uya book or video, or pay for some lessons, and learn it, and its mine.
Falungong, you get into a politically oriented group on the outs with the government of China?Even if you have nothing previously to do with China, and you are an American in Florida like this Pansey guy?you follow a leader who claims What?He's the Messiah?You, what, give upyour possessions or all your money or all your extra money for them, not because you want to but because you Have to?Doyou?
That would fit my definition of a cult.
Being a member of any relion on earth, even one you may get killed for being because someone hates you, that is another thing.That's a matter of personal moral conviction unsubverted by being held prisoner in a compound and surrounded by basically brainwashing techniques.
When I joined my faith community, I decided I wanted nothing to do with any of it for eight and a half years, and no one bugged me. When I came back to it, no one hassled me.
When I give any money to it it's because I feel like it and no one comments on it. If I don't want to attend a service, that's my business.
Yet, because it( I will not name it because that ain't where I want to go on this or any thread on this Forum) is not a 'Western' Religion ( as if Jesus came from Pittsburgh:-) and somwe say, 'Is that a Cult?'
Some ask, Karate- isn't that an Oriental Cult, where you wear white pajamas and bow to someone other than God?Isn't that a Pagan activity?
What's good for the goose is good for the gander, and what is bad for one is bad for the other. Normally karate and religion have nothing whatever to do with each other except perhaps in both stressing similar morals, but when either becomes a cult,or a multi level maketing sales schem does, or when some self help movement does,that is bad for everyone.
You join something that you can also leave of your own free will, fine. Find out you don't like it, leave. But as Nick said, if there's a camp from which you don't come back, notify the authorities and stay away or run away from it as fast as you can.
But don't dump the properties of a cult on something that isn't, that's not accurate.