28 People Share Their Harrowing Experiences With A Cult

Django Unchained / Amazon.com
Django Unchained / Amazon.com
Found on AskReddit.

1. The Harold Camping apocalyptic cult.

Yea, I grew up in the Harold Camping apocalyptic cult. It was pretty horrible, especially since I was raised in it as opposed to being an adult deciding to join. I got out after the last prophecy failed. Glad to be out and getting my life together.

2. Finally got out of this cult that his parents are still unfortunately in.

I was raised in cult teachings in an isolated, homeschool environment, and then my family moved to the cult later.

Brainwashing was there. It wasn’t obviously rote and the same thing every time, as the pastor was very charismatic and convincing, but it actually was. We sang about only 20 songs, mostly hymns over the course of the time I was there.

It was run and controlled by a single pastor. There was a board, but there was no accountability. It was kind of a joke. Only the most supportive (i.e. the people who considered him always right) were elected to the board.

It was very abusive and controlling. Coffee was unspiritual. Missing meetings gained you a phone call from a board member telling you that you were breaking fellowship.

Everything was about the pastor. I mean, literally. Sin was thinking negative thoughts about the group and the pastor. He set himself up as the wisest man on earth. For the girls…they had it worse. He would convince each one they had a sex problem (i.e. idolatry), and he would proceed to sexually abuse them.

This cult is less than 30 people.

As for why he’s not in jail…settlements.

My experience was awful. I had some serious depersonalization, and the effects on me are awful. Living in fear, anxiety, intense emotional pain, constant flashbacks — it’s really bad. My parents are still in it, and relationships with them are probably impossible. Talking about anything will get me verbal abuse. Child abuse is really bad. I left this last year, so I’m still processing a lot.

3. This guy’s friend was in a protestant fundamentalist cult.

Currently directing a documentary about a friend of mine who grew up in a protestant fundamentalist cult. He was born into it and essentially the cult forbids technology, pop culture, books, etc. They believe everything outside of their community as evil and “of the devil.” When a member chooses to leave, they are confined, shut-up, and then ex-communicated. They will never be able to see their families again. Ex-members are left homeless and alone.

It’s harrowing. My friend still has trouble coping with those times. Anyways, film should be out in 2015.

4. He had the misfortune of being born into a cult.

I was born into a cult that started in the late 70’s. It is renown for its affiliation with sexual freedoms, drug manufacture, and sexual abuse against children.

I lived there till I was around 12 years old and myself, along with the other children I grew up with were all abused to different degrees by the adult members of the commune.

The cult leader was a man who believed that spirituality was closely tied to sexual freedom and that even young children should be having sexual experiences.
At its maximum the commune was around 200 strong, and during my time there, there were repeated attempts to shut it down and many raids on the property by police. It was eventually shut down after the allegations of sexual abuse surfaced and many of the dominant members were imprisoned for abuse and drug charges, including my father.

My family has been traumatized by the experience and don’t really speak to each other. My siblings are too angry to have a relationship with my Mother as they reasonably blame her for not protecting them. I’ve had years of therapy to try and move on and am fairly well adjusted these days, but I don’t have much to do with my father and the memories of that place gives me the creeps 20 years on.

5. An evangelical Christian cult in Chicago.

Yes. When I was 17 I moved out of my parents’ home and into an evangelical Christian cult in Chicago. I lived there for under a year. It was a strange place and it took me a few years to realize it was a cult. This place was founded during the 1970’s and bought a large hotel building on the north side of the city. They had extremely rigid rules about dating and talking to members of the opposite sex. There were also rules that states people could not leave the building without a “buddy.” The building itself was in terrible shape — infested with rats and cockroaches. I would wake up at night to find mouse droppings in my sheets. I ended up leaving because I developed a crush on a girl. The leadership found out and I was pretty much shunned by any other women my age (I am a chick). So needless to say they were not very gay friendly. The whole place was pretty messed up. I am lucky that I left when I did.

6. Looking back on it, his isolated childhood feels a lot like a cult.

I was raised in what feels like a cult when I look back on it. My parents were part of a tent revival missionary style organization. We lived in a school bus that we turned into an RV. It was just me and my parents 24/7. I was “home schooled” which consisted of me playing video games 18 hours a day for years on end. I was taught to never talk to strangers or the government would take me away for not being in school. I think I’ve been baptized over 20+ Times. Here’s a few pictures of the bus  and my dad and others from the ministry.

7. A prosperity gospel cult.

Yes. I spent close to $500k in the span of 7-8 years giving to my leader. I almost lost my wife and family in the process. Woke up and got out in time. It was a prosperity gospel cult. We rode with Benny and friends.

The Benny I mention was indeed Benny Hinn. I was traveling with a guy who was climbing the ranks on being another “Headliner” (preacher). He landed a gig with Benny somehow and traveled with him for close to six months. Describing Benny in one word is too difficult, he lacks any humility and is overly superstitious (paranoid is a better term).

For instance, one day Benny wanted to go shopping on Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills (he lives near Beverly Hills) and had one store in particular in mind (forget the name). So what does this wonderful humanitarian do? He rents out the store for a couple of hours so he doesn’t have to be bothered by the public peasants who shop at those stores.

My favorite story is the time we had dinner with this pastor who told us his church was debt free ($17m). He went on telling us that he had sold his house and gave the proceeds to pay off the church, then moved into the churches cottage. Upon further investigation, he sold his $3M 6,000 square foot house to live in the churches $1.5M 3,000 square foot house in the same country club. Some sacrifice, he didn’t even have his own pool.

8. This guy’s experience with a former cult member is devastating.

“Involved.” I was never a part of a cult, but a friend of mine was. She was free from the cult (her parents rescued her) and she understood that it was bad, but she was still “programmed” (if that makes any sense). Her brain, her perceptions, her lack of willpower and skepticism were painfully obvious at times.

For instance, she understood when you were being sarcastic, she knew it was intended to be a joke, she was far from stupid, but you could see her struggling to accept that. A lot of things seemed to stress her out more than it would other people. She had problems with reality. Sometimes it made her very moody and unpredictable. There was something off about her. It was tragic.

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9. Jehovah’s Witness is definitely a cult.

Yes I was raised as a Jehovah’s Witness.

Biggest cult ever. My mom is still stuck in it.

You know it’s a cult when they demonize Googling the name of the religion for fear of “apostate material” “poisoning” your mind.

Seriously, apostasy, as they call it, is an unforgivable sin. Rape? Murder? Naw, you’re forgiven. Come back to Jehovah!

Googled the name of the religion and did critical thinking on the teachings? YOU ARE DEAD TO US! UNFORGIVABLE!

Trying to explain this to my mom and she goes “But Jehovah prophesied that Satan would get people like you to use convincing arguments against the religion! That proves its true because they predicted this!”

I told her:

“That’s like an abusive husband going “hey honey, you know how I beat the shit out of you every day? Well when you go to the grocery store later to buy the steak you’re gonna cook me the cashier might see your bruises and tell you I am a bad guy, but I am not. I am a spokesmen of god, as you can see I have super natural powers and I predict this will happen.”

And then when someone comments on her bruises, she will be like “oh he must really have supernatural powers and be gods spokesmen, he predicted this!”

Cognitive dissonance is a bitch.

10. He was born in Boston because his parents had joined a cult.

I was born in Boston because my parents were a part of the Boston movement, where thousands of Christians migrated to Boston. It was later considered a cult. At first, my parents thought it was great. A big supportive, God-loving group of people all helping each other out and trying to spread the word. Then, after about a year, the church became controlling and emotionally abusive. They would harass my parents if my mom (who was pregnant with me) and my dad would not go door knocking every night to try and convert people. Then, they wanted to see their finances and control those as well. They heard my parents were discussing moving back home, and threatened (not sure physically or what, parents wouldn’t tell me), so they literally packed up and moved overnight.

11. Yep, this “leader” guy was definitely running a cult.

When I was much younger, I’d say about 5 or 6, my parents were involved in somewhat of a cult. I didn’t know a lot about it at the time being so young but it was just called “Group” and they would meet about twice a month. It seemed regular to me at the time but looking back on it there were a few peculiarities, especially with the “leader.” For one thing, he would always press a bunch of keys on our security system when he was leaving our house but even I knew that thing didn’t work at all. Anyway my parents got out of it without any harm done. My mom always said a large part of it was the leader’s propensity to guns (my mom always hated guns). Fast forward about 10 years and my dad pulls out a local paper showing the old “leader” and his girlfriend who were having sex with and raping a 16-year-old girl (they were in their 40’s I believe). It was pretty crazy thinking they met with these people regularly at one point but I’m just thankful they got away from them when they did.

12. Landmark is also pretty cult-y too, for those of you who didn’t know.

A friend of mine and his girlfriend took a Landmark intro course, and I was allowed to sit and listen to the first half. It’s a sequel to EST. They tear you down through insults in order to build you back up newer and better. Then they pressure you to take more courses far away in private, which are really pricey.

I told my friends to save their money, but instead they fell for it and two weeks later wished they hadn’t been so gullible. But they were lucky — they didn’t have any more money anyway and didn’t have credit so Landmark lost interest.

What amazed me was how many people were in that initial workshop doing the exercises and saying how it was sure to help them and that it was all very legit. I got the impression half of them must have been employees pretending to be signups. But, a sucker is born every minute I guess.

13. She joined a cult when she was a teen, raised a family in it, and finally escaped.

I joined one when I was a teen. I raised a large family in it. It was one of those traps that once you’re in you just can’t get out without chewing your leg off. After a lifetime in it, as in most cults, my family began to be attacked. As a mother I couldn’t stand by and watch. I researched and of course the whole thing (the truth) collapsed the minute I looked beyond the information I was limited to. However I couldn’t just get out or else I faced losing my marriage, and children. It took a couple years of patience and research and an enormous amount of pain, but eventually all my children got out, but my marriage ended. We all have issues to deal with, but we’re a loving family and we’re sticking together. We’ve lost all our friends and some extended family, but we’ve made new friends and formed new relationships. It’s still very painful for all of us. Sometimes the guilt overwhelms me. The worst thing about being in the cult was not being able to speak what was in our hearts. The freedom to act and speak in the way we personally feel is important and has been a beautiful experience. How wonderful to finally be allowed to search for real truth. Some people say there is no real truth, but there are times when just getting close feels amazing. Don’t assume the little old ladies at your door handing out the Watchtower are harmless. I was only 15 the first time they visited me.

14. His dad was in the KKK.

I personally am not in a cult but my father was. We live in Kentucky and he was a member of the KKK. I still remember him coming home completely in those white robes. Also, he practically didn’t even let us see a black person let alone talk to one. One time, my brother befriended a black person at school and my dad physically assaulted the parent of the black kid. He was charged with assault and battery and now he has left the Klan. Well, that’s what he tells me, I haven’t seen him in 2 years.

15. He dated someone who was in Two by Twos.

I once dated someone whose family was part of the Two by Twos. Her mom ran away from home as a teenager, while her aunt remained in the cult and married a dude who’s an architect — which means he had to go through all kinds of nonsense to be allowed to use a computer. (Otherwise, Two by Twos are encouraged not to use any technology at all.)

The short of it: a churchless offshoot of Christianity that has quite a population (proportionally, anyway) in the Pacific Northwest, and the teachings are largely anti-woman — lots of stuff about paying subservience and obedience to whomever you marry. Nothing much in the way of crazy ritual, weird outfits or otherwise showy practices; just the anti-woman brainwashing that starts at a young age.

16. Don’t underestimate the power of a cult; the psychological effects can be lifelong.

Yes. To this day it is still difficult to convince myself that it is OK to have a firm opinion without asking someone else whether it is alright for me to do that. I left when I was fifteen, and I am now thirty-five.

Cults destroy self-worth. Cults destroy families. Get out while you can.

17. His estranged father eventually joined a cult in which he called himself God.

I was raised in a Christian home with a father who was an honest, humble pastor. After a few years he began to be more eccentric; I remember my mom and dad arguing (mostly my dad) and I would stay downstairs and watch TV to ignore all the yelling. There was a woman at the church who constantly praised my dad and persuaded him to leave my mom. Eventually my dad filed for divorce and the church completely kicked us out and the entire community shunned us. Years later in high school I met a childhood church friend who told me that the church became a cult and my dad pretty much claimed that he was God. Even though at the time it sucked having no dad while growing up, I’m so thankful I had a strong and loving mother who raised me right and avoided a potentially violent and isolated life.

18. He’s tried looking for the cult in his area.

There is a cult in my area. My girlfriend is a hairdresser and has done a girl’s hair who has escaped. The experiences she describes are surreal. As far as she knew there was little to no outside world, let alone technology & things like super markets blew her mind when she got out. She does her best to live like a normal person, but I think she got out around 17 so she is still adjusting.

My band went to record years ago in the area where the cult is meant to be near. The studio was in the middle of nowhere, just a big house in rural Australia. The road in and out for about 10 minutes was dirt with no streetlights. It was freaky as fuck. It backed onto the bush so there were miles of nothing that no one knew what was there. The engineers said they knew of the cult, they would hear the odd gunshot or something but that could be anything from anywhere, as I said the studio was in the middle of nowhere so it was hauntingly quiet. One day we took the quad bikes and went into the bush to try and find them. We went off the path a couple of kilometers and looked until it was dark but all we found were odd symbols carved in trees and small, geometrical stick shrines. We took photos of them because they were weird enough and when it got dark we freaked out went home.

19. Alcoholics Anonymous can also be kind of cult-y too.

Mine was with the cult known as Alcoholics Anonymous. They tell you repeatedly that you are an inherently flawed person who cannot trust your own brain. They turn addiction into a “spiritual disease”, whatever the hell that is. I’d like to meet a doctor that can diagnose that. They love bomb you and make you feel welcome, then tell you that you have no way out of addiction except for them. And judges across the United States still give people this bullshit as terms of their probation for DUIs. It’s sickening. It’s also dangerous, because it’s so socially accepted.

Look up AA’s success rate.

20. Oh, y’know, just a quick run with Spiritual Satanism.

I briefly dabbled in Spiritual Satanism because a friend pushed some papers onto me. I was open-minded but never really believed it. Honestly, it didn’t sound too dangerous, just a lot of meditation, some astral-projection shit, and a few creepy “summoning spells” that involved blood. She told me that I would “see the world differently” after reading stuff about it, but it sounded like a bunch of new-age crap. Didn’t get far into it either, I failed the first step which was astral projection and the building of a demonic temple in the astral plane. I just kept falling asleep trying to astrally project and said fuck it.

21. This person lost a close friend to Impact Training.

Has anyone mentioned Impact Training yet?

That Landmark-type cult brainwashed my friend and turned the once caring person I knew into a selfish sociopath. I was highly pressured to go for a little while after they went, said it would totally change my life, yet was refused any details of what would happen if I went or what had happened when my friend went. I looked the organization up myself to see what they were all about and the only info I could find on them was on cult watching websites. I was pretty horrified by the accounts I read. After it became obvious that I wasn’t going to go, my friend cut me out of their life not too long after.

22. Scientology, born and bred.

I was born and raised in Scientology. My experience definitely wasn’t as bad as some stories I’ve heard about, but when we started getting 40+ phone calls a day asking for donations and when they started showing up at the door because we didn’t attend as often as they wished, I decided to become an atheist. I kept going later on because my parents wanted me to but that only lasted a couple months. I completely stopped going when I was 16.

My parents still believe in it but are now banned by the church and they only participate with other people who still want to study the teachings without being pushed around by the church’s organization.

23. He lost years worth of time with his family because his mom joined a cult.

My mom joined this one when I was a child. My parents were divorced but my dad quickly realized her new friends were a little off and extremely controlling. They were going through a custody hearing at the time but the cult had a history of kidnapping children so he chose to flee with me across the country in the middle of the hearing.

Unfortunately my brother is only my half brother so my dad had even less of a legal ground to take him. Because we were trying to hide from them I didn’t have contact with my mom or brother for seven years. When my brother and I did speak about that time much later on he told me that he wasn’t even allowed to live with our mom — and he was just 3 years old when we separated! I can’t even imagine how sad he must have felt to be taken from his entire family at such a young age. He told me that when my dad took me but left him he felt like the people left behind in the Saigon airlift.

The cult assigned my mom a husband even though they didn’t share a common language. She left the cult when the leader went to jail. But she never seemed to lose her loyalty to “The Church” as she called it.

24. A former Pentecostal preacher who now realizes God doesn’t exist.

I was a Pentecostal elder, preacher, and worship leader, convinced that non Christians had a God shaped hole inside them and they needed saving. Then I realized God wasn’t real and found the freedom I’d been singing about for the last 30 years. Freedom is awesome, and believing nutty things about a magic sky wizard is nutty.

25. Decades later, the Lord Our Righteousness cult still haunts him.

Yes, I was raised in the Lord Our Righteousness (LOR) cult, an offshoot of fundamental Seventh Day Adventism. The leader was named Wayne Bent (currently serving prison time for sexual abuse of minors). The experience was absolutely horrific. I got out in my early teens and I’m late 30’s now, but I’ve been irreparably damaged psychologically from the early childhood trauma and am unable to maintain a relationship.

26. His sister was in a violent and abusive Rastafarian cult in South Africa for 20+ years.

My sister was part of a weird Rastafarian offshoot for 20+ years in South Africa; they were so extreme that regular Rastas kicked them out. Their leader genuinely believes that he is Jesus, so he is spreading his seed (having kids with as many women as possible). Their belief is that women are nothing but wombs, so my sister and the other wives and daughters were beaten and abused constantly. Even the young sons beat their mothers and sisters. After 2 of the leader’s children died from diarrhea (the parents wouldn’t take them to the hospital because they would test positive for weed) my sister finally got out. She acts as though she has changed, but it is tough to forget all those years that she treated our entire family like shit.

27. The horrific Advanced Training Institute of America.

Two words: Bill Gothard. I grew up in a Christianity-based cult called ATIA, or Advanced Training Institute of America. Females and children were regarded as property, and they advocated child and wife abuse. I know in the city I lived in, they were investigated and were on the news multiple times for child abuse. It was horrific. I’ve blocked most of it out and don’t think of it very often. I didn’t get out until I was 16.

28. Being raised Mormon has ruined her.

I was born and raised Mormon. While current members will tell you otherwise, it is a cult environment. It didn’t affect me as much when I was in it. I allowed a lot of emotional abuse from my father because I was told it was acceptable because he is the father.

The hardest part has been getting out. I can’t tell my family. I am in counseling. I am constantly learning what is “normal” in the “real world” and what is unacceptable or different. Thought Catalog Logo Mark

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