David Frum, National Review Online:
To be blunt, Romney is saying:
It is legitimate to ask a candidate, "Is Jesus the son of God?"
But it is illegitimate to ask a candidate, "Is Jesus the brother of Lucifer?"
Look, although I'm an ethnic Jew, I was raised a Christian. Most people I know, most people I like and respect, are religious to one degree or another. I don't have a problem with Christians, Jews, Muslims, Mormons, mystics, new agers, Buddhists, Hindus . . . Let me make this perfectly clear: all you people are nuts as far as I'm concerned. But then again, I assume you all feel the same way about me and my ilk, so no harm/no foul.
But if you're going to have a faith, and assert that your faith is central to your thinking, you cannot then place the details out-of-bounds.
And the simple fact is, if you happen to belong to a religion that is obsessively secret about its beliefs and practices, your "faith" probably qualifies as a cult. You can't have a cult without secrecy.
Secrecy. And one other vital element: aliens.
These are, from my purely non-theological position, the two elements that define a cult:
The Jews, my people, have a number of crazy beliefs. They think God wants you to wear a beanie and cut off the end of your dick. This is, by any reasonable standard, insane. But because they're quite open about all this, and because they don't import space monsters to do the dick-cutting, they are a religion, not a cult.
Catholics believe that a never-married priest should give marital advice to married couples. And they believe that in certain circumstances, a person can become possessed by an ancient demonic spirit who will flee when sprayed by holy water. Further, thy think when they eat blessed bread it becomes the flesh of a dead Jew. Again: loony tunes. But they make no bones about it: it's all right out in the open. And again, the demons are domestic, not imported from outer space.
Muslims believe they have the stamina to handle 72 virgins. 'Nuff said. And yet, none of the virgins is from another planet. (None is from New York, either. Badumpah!)
Secrecy and aliens. Secrecy alone isn't enough, otherwise Opus Dei, Skull and Bones and Hillary's health care task force, would be cults.
Aliens alone isn't enough, otherwise Trekkies and Galactica freaks would qualify.
No, it takes both. And from where I sit, Mormonism has both in spades.