This might sound like a question inspired by current events, but I've actually been thinking of this for a while and can give pointers to a few times I had asked this or talked about it.
The people who the masses look up to seem to have a strange way of dishing out their opinions/approval/disapproval of the groups of the world. Some groups can get away with being considered good no matter how negative their actions are while other groups are stuck with a high disapproval rating no matter how much good they might do, and a discussion on whether "culture" or a "cult" is involved almost always comes up.
An example of this is the relationship between Islam and Scientology, in fact this is the most infamous one I can link to having spoken about. People on a certain side of the thinktank spectrum (the same side Lemmy seems to lean towards at times) are quick to criticize Scientology even though they consider
"classic Islamic philosophy", for a lack of a better way to put it without generalizing, as not inspiring a call for critique to see how one may change it. And I've always wondered, why? One at times leads people to trying [to exterminate innocent groups](https://masto.ai/@Fizzymus/111209226230438251), the other one is just "Space Gnosticism" that has a few toxic aspects but hasn't actually eliminated anyone. Of course, I'm not defending either one, but certainly I'd rather live in a stressful environment than one that actively targets me.
This question has been asked a few times, [sometimes](https://www.reddit.com/r/samharris/comments/6uxalf/why_do_liberals_have_no_qualms_about_criticizing/) without me but [sometimes](https://www.tumblr.com/deviantartdramahub/730118017112031232/so-in-case-people-didnt-know-what-was-going-on?source=share) when I'm around to be involved, and they always say (and it's [in my dumb voice](https://lemm.ee/post/10862834) that I quote them) "well Scientology is a cult, of course we can criticize them" and then a bit about how whatever other thing is being talked about is a part of culture. This doesn't sit well with my way of thinking. I was taught to judge people by the content of their character, in other words their virtues, so in my mind, a good X is better than a bad Y, in this case a good cult should be better than a good culture, right? Right?
In fact, as what many might call a mild misanthrope, I'd flip it around and point out how, over the course of human history, alongside seemingly objectively questionable quirks people just brush off (like Japan for a while has been genociding dolphins for their meat value just above extinction "because it's culture" or how there are people in China who still think dinosaur bones are a form of medicine waiting to be ground up), no group/culture has kept their innocence intact, every country having had genocides or unnecessary wars or something of the like, things they ALLOW to happen by design. Then they turn around and tell so-called "cults", even the ones that have their priorities on straight compared to cultures, that they are pariahs and shouldn't count on thriving, even though their status is one that doesn't necessitate gaining any kind of guilt. I was a pariah growing up, almost everyone else revolved around a select few people that seemed in-tune to the culture, and they would say anyone who revolved around people outside the group (me for example) was "following a cult", and this hurt at the time, but now seeing all the wars going on right now, I might consider this a compliment.
My question, even though it by definition might make affirming answerers question whether they are pariahs or a part of the cultural arena, is why does nobody agree? Why are cultures "always precious" while cults are "always suspicious"?