You hear people call Scientology or other "minor" religions a cult. If you asked them the definition of the word, most couldn't answer it. Here is that question answered from the book: What is Scientology?
Is Scientology a cult?
No. It is a religion in the fullest sense of the word.
“Cult” is usually meant in a disparaging sense to imply a secret or closed group with limited membership and mysterious beliefs. Religious scholars point out that the term has become almost meaningless, since its modern use reflects a growing prejudice against all religions. For example, a government report in Belgium labeled the Hasidic Jews and even the YWCA as “cults.” The French Parliament included Baptists on their list.
Religions that grow and endure do so to the degree that they assist people in their spiritual lives. To fulfill this role, the scripture of Scientology is fully codified, broadly published and available to anyone, and its churches and missions are always open to the public.
Scientology is unique in that it does not require or tell anyone to “believe” anything. Rather, Scientology believes every individual should think for himself. In Scientology, what is true for the individual is only what he has observed personally and knows is true for him. Scientology is not authoritarian, but offers a technology one can use and then decide whether it works for him.