In Part I (here), I suggested that Judaism may have cult-like elements, in that questions on certain topics are deemed to be beyond consideration. I also noted a key difference from a cult, in that the boundaries in Judaism are set not by “This is dangerous to the religion,” but by logical views about what Judaism is meant to address, and what it is not.
The post led to several insightful comments, including this from Fruma:
I think there's another difference with the limits of questioning: Jewish children (and adults) are encouraged to ask questions as they learn. Perhaps it's the way the questions are handled that makes a difference
And this from R’ Joshua Maroof:
Throughout my experience of Jewish education, questioning - even of fundamentals - was encouraged, provided that it was motivated by a sincere desire to understand.
But I would mention that there is a real difference between asking "what is above and what is below", which is moving beyond the limits of the human intellect, and asking whether or not we have reason to believe the Torah is true, which is a legitimate question to raise (even if you may choose to simply accept the truth of Torah as an axiom based on tradition).
These comments, and others I received, have led me to a better understanding of my own question, Is Judaism a Cult?:
My comparison to a cult is not really about whether we may ask questions on certain issues, or not. Rather, it’s about the way we manage/answer those questions.
Certainly, Judaism does encourage questions, even on the thorniest issues. It is legitimate to ask, “If Gd is benevolent and protective, how could Gd allow/enable the Holocaust?” and, “Why are babies born into suffering?”
But we answer those questions in a restrictive manner. They are not true questions; they are subjects for discussion, but the answer must fall within a pre-determined zone.
When it comes to, “How can Gd be omniscient and omnipotent, and yet allow Free Will,” or the abovementioned problems of theodicy, we are confined to either shrugging and accepting R' Maroof's axiomatic principles, or offering the half-answers of a mind that cannot grasp the infinite.
Therefore: For me to answer, “I don’t know,” “Teiku,” “If I understood Gd, I would be Gd,” is considered not only legitimate but admirable. But for me to answer, “This religious system is inconsistent, I reject it,” is off-limits. Judaism does not accept its own rejection as a legitimate answer.
An open philosophy accepts the possibility of its own rejection. A cult rules that rejection is out of bounds. And it seems to me that Judaism, by placing rejection out of bounds, does resemble a cult in that way.