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FALUN GONG & FALUN DAFA

Is the movement a cult?

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Is Falun Dafa a cult?

The question is unanswerable, because there are so many different meanings to the word "cult." Some are positive; some neutral. Most are negative:

bulletThe counter-cult movement (CCM) is composed almost entirely of conservative Protestant individuals and groups. They define as a cult any Christian faith group which holds one or more beliefs that conflict with historical Protestant doctrine. This generally includes such groups as the Jehovah's Witnesses, Mormons, and sometimes even Roman Catholics. But the Falun Dafa is not a Christian group, and thus does not meet this definition of a cult.
bulletSome Christian Fundamentalists regard all non-Christian faith groups to be a cult. Since the Falun Dafa does have some spiritual teachings, some fundamentalists would classify it as a cult, along with Buddhism, Hinduism, Taoism, etc.
bulletThe anti-cult movement (ACM) targets new religious movements that engage in psychological manipulation, deceptive recruiting practices, or simply expect a high level of commitment from their membership. 
bulletProbably the largest ACM group is the AFF. They have some brief notes on the Falun Dafa. But they top their list with a disclaimer: "A listing on AFF's web site does not mean that AFF perceives any group to be a cult, practices coercive or destructive tactics, or is in violation of any law." They have a brief review of the book "The Guru Papers: Masks of Authoritarian Power." They also have  excerpts from the Cult Observer magazine: "Coping with trance states" and "Understanding Eastern Groups." None mention the Falun Dafa. All three appear to be totally unrelated to the movement. The only information that appears to be related to the Falun Dafa on the AFF site are five news items about the Chinese government oppression of the group. 1
bulletRick Ross, an "expert consultant and intervention specialist" with new religious movements. 2 He has an extensive collection of Falun Gong information derived from worldwide news reports of varying objectivity. 3
bulletThe Chinese government has relentlessly suppressed religious groups since achieving power in 1949. The rest of the world is most familiar with its oppression of non-registered Christian groups. However, the government has also persecuted many types of new religious and spiritual groups, including the Falun Gong. In fact, its suppression extends beyond such groups to include organizations that teach only simple meditation and gymnastic techniques. The government appears to fear any national group that is capable of organizing its followers into direct action.

In suppressing the Falun Dafa, the Chinese government has adopted much of the terminology of the Western anti-cult movement. The official Xinhua News Agency issued a report on "cults" in the United States. 4 It quoted Berkley psychology professor Margaret Singer, who was one of the few psychologists who supported the claims of the anti-cult movement until her death in 2003. The report discusses "spiritual poisoning." Cults are said to "not obey the law, they upset social order, and they create a menace to freedom of religion and social stability. Under the pretense of religion, kindness, and being non-political, they participate in political activities. Some of them even practice criminal activities such as tax evasion, fraud, drug dealing, smuggling, assassination, and kidnapping."

The Chinese government has described the Falun Dafa as a dangerous "cult." Some of their claims sound quite improbable:
bulletThe group brainwashes its members.
bulletMembers, called practitioners, worship Mr. Li.
bulletThey had turned Communist officials into cult members in order to learn state secrets. 
bulletThey suggest that their followers should not take any medication.
bulletSome members have become paranoid, suffered from hallucination, committed suicide, or killed relatives and friends. The government has only been able to find a handful of such cases from among the tens of millions of practitioners in the country. 

The government appears to regard the Falun Dafa as the most serious threat to the government since the 1989 student pro-democracy uprising. The government has historical reasons for their fear. China has had a history of religious and spiritual uprisings that had catastrophic effects on the country. "In the late 1770s, the White Lotus rebellion against the Qing dynasty was led by Wang Lun, a master of martial arts and herbal medicine." 5 Perhaps the most serious was the Taiping rebellion of 1845-1864 which was led by a leader who viewed himself as the Son of God. Some 20 million died in that revolt. 5

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References used:

  1. AFF's web site is at: http://www.csj.org/ 
  2. Rick Ross' web site is at: http://www.rickross.com/
  3. "The Fa Lun Gong movement," http://www.rickross.com/
  4. Hu Xiaomin, "Xinhua reports on cults in the United States," Beijing Xinhua Domestic Service.
  5. "Banned sect joins long Chinese history of religious repression," Associated Press, 1999-JUL-22.

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Site navigation: Home page > Faith groups > Falun Gong > here

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Copyright 1999, 2001 & 2004, by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Originally written: 1999-NOV-26
Latest update: 2004-JAN-28
Author: B.A. Robinson

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