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cults

post #1 of 14
Thread Starter 
Have any of you ever been involved in a cult? Just wanted to hear your stories, and how you realized it was one, and how got out.

My dh and I were involved in a "soft" cult for 4 years (no illegal activties or sex manipulation or anything, just a lot of group mentality and rules and restrictions that were squashing my spirit). I'm on my way out but he's still pretty firmly in. We've worked through most of the issues as best we can and seem to be okay marriage-wise. I'm reading a really good book right now too, on how to help loved ones get out.

Thanks for going out on a limb to share. Maybe it can help others. I think cults are a lot more common than we think.
post #2 of 14
Cults are really fascinating. I'm sorry you had to deal with one, USAmma, as they sort of constitute spiritual abuse. Even without the glaringly objectionable practices, the mind manipulation and control are still there. Was it hard to get out?
One word of encouragement re your dh: most cults have "revolving doors" - people burn out after a couple of years and leave. *IF* they have a security net to run to. Your being out is a huge blessing b/c he will know that if he leaves he will still have the most important person in his life.

Well this is such an intetersting topic to me that I could write a book about my meager experiences but here's the short version: my rommate and I were targeted and love-bombed by a cult on campus; another friend went on a supposed "Spring Break ski retreat" only to find out it was a recruitment/brainwashing wekend for the Moonies; and and once I unwittingly went to a cult church and left knowing it was a cult but still reeling from spiritual abuse - and this after only one church service! After that experience I started researching this particular cult and found out some just unbelievable stuff. It's scary because anyone is vulnerabe.
post #3 of 14
fascinating subject.... while i was never in a cult, i was at a moonie dinner/recruitment one night (except they don't tell you they're the moonies - i found that out years later after talking to someone who'd been "trapped" in that group for a few years). it was a bizzar experience - in that these really sweet people invited me over to dinner (picture me, 18 yrs. old, naive in the belief that if you're a good person and nice then people will be nice to you, having a solo day in san fran., and striking up a conversation with these nice folks on the street who are handing out flowers), well long story short, i went over to their house, where they took my shoes upon entering (no big deal, lots of people don't want shoes on in their house), about 10 or so of us visitors helped the dozen or more residents (big sf victorian) cook a big veggie dinner, then afterwards there was a slide show about their camp up in oregon, and talk of spiritual things, love, peace, harmony.... all sounds good and i think, wow, neat! but it's getting late, i've a bus to catch, time to go...now one of the folks leading the talks comes up to me and i thank her for dinner and the talk and tell her i've got to go, may i have my shoes please. she gets about an inch from my face and tells me how special i am, how much they all love me and won't i please join them at their camp? they really need me, love me, ad infinitum ... i reply no, not now, i have other obligations, but it sounds cool, maybe later, and can i have my shoes, please? more love, you MUST join us, etc. etc. now i'm starting to get a strange feeling and i can feel my flight/fight reflexes starting to kick in. no thanks, not now, AND I WANT MY SHOES, NOW!!! so they bring me my shoes (thank you), and see me out the door, all the while affirming how much they want me to keep in touch (yes, i gave them my mailing address: ). at the bus stop i see two other guys who were guests too and we get to talking about how everything was cool, except that they got so weird at the end. we were all perplexed about that.... needless to say, i got letters from the two folks who originally invited me for dinner for a couple of months, then they stopped.

i find it so disturbing that people prey on people's (esp. young people) spiritual seeking. at a time when someone is in transition and looking for truth (or peace or love or answers). to me this is such a horrible form of abuse, because it hits at such a vulnerable place. i was fortunate to be pretty comfortable with myself and not feeling needy. my naivite and openess is what got me into trouble!
post #4 of 14
I joined a "soft cult" once - it was a group of Satanists. No animal sacrifice or anything, just a confused lonely guy who wanted a group of people to like him. I have no contact with them now. I react with extreme fear anytime I hear things like "Act as if" or "Be like the others" because they are cult-like to me. I'm also wary of joining any kind of group.
post #5 of 14
I think I missed something unless its a typo- the quote, USAmma, atthe bottom , I thinkits your signature, I dont get it-
post #6 of 14
Also never have myself, but have been approached by cult "missionaries" many times, and know people who have been.

USAmma, if you could tell us more about your experiences getting out, and how you saw your family/friends/others while you were in (meaning how you perceived them) ... if it's not too personal or intense or ... you know what I mean ...

- Amy
post #7 of 14
I haven't been involved in a cult, exactly, but I have been incredibly involved with a certain religion, went very, very far in it, together with my husband. Being so religious put great rifts between us and our families and old friends. My husband started seeing inconsistencies and wanted out, and it nearly ended in divorce. I did end up coming around to his way and leaving with him. I look back and see much good that those who are still involved are doing, but I know that I am no longer accepted by the people I was once so involved with because I no longer believe what they do.

I know, it sounds like a cult, but in reality it is an established religion, and I don't want to say its name here for fear of hurting anyone or getting into a debate. I know it is right for many, but it wasn't right for us, in our situation.

I was actually on the outskirts of a real, true cult when I was a child. I became friends with a daughter of the leaders in the playground. It was one of those things where members were forbidden from talking to outside family and where nuclear families within the cult were split up if the leaders sensed they were too close and children were passed back and forth between different parents. There was more, but that was what struck me as scary when I was a child. There was so little security for my friend. When my mother realized what was going on (after she read about the cult in Time magazine), she stopped letting me go over to this girl's home, and she slowly stopped coming to my home and eventually the cult moved out of the neighborhood and I have no idea what happened to them.

Anyway, Darshani, I can imagine how tough it is for you. I know there are a number of websites that can be helpful.
post #8 of 14
hydrangea, what you wrote reminded me of an old joke:

Q. What's the difference between a cult and a religion?

A. Oh, about a thousand years.

- Amy
post #9 of 14
Amy-

Darshani- good topic and I have a great deal of both sympathy for your situation and admiration for the way you got yourself out. I deeply hope that your DH will have the same strength you have had and that your marriage remains happy and strong. Also, I love your latest sig- this verse really speaks to what spirituality (and Hinduism) is really all about for me.

My family was involved in a kind of "soft cult" for a few years when I was an adolescent. It was a group of 4 families and it had all the potential to be a really dangerous and scary situation but the leader of the group lacked the kind of charisma and manipulative communication skills that really make a cult a cult, kwim? Not that there wasn't a lot of manipulation going on in the group overall, but not the right kind on the leader's part. Anyway, this group met several times a week in the basement of the leader's house for fundamentalist Christian discussion, worship and so on. The group dynamic was very controlling, very judgemental and there was NO privacy. I remember sexual things always discussed; there was a married man who was gay in the group and struggled to suppress who he was because he beleived it was sin. Everyone, children included, knew about this. STDs, masturbation, everything was out there. As I said, nothing was private; a lot of shaming was going on and even at the age of 11 or so I knew that this was very, very, very wrong, even if it was done under the guise of loving in a Christ-like way. I also knew that the constant spanking that was going on, and rabidly encouraged, was wrong, at times downright horrific. We would often spend weekends as a group in one house and I remember hearing a 2 yr old boy with down's syndrome being whipped repeatedly by his father because he was having trouble going to sleep. I am feeling sick just thinking about it now, 17 years later.
How did we "get out?" Well, in actuality, we were more or less made the group pariahs and asked to leave. See, the group was really really big into "exorcisms" and believed that just about anything anyone did that was undesirable was the consequence of demonic possession. The belief was that there was a scale of relativity concerning how "bad" these demons were: they ranged anywhere from the demon of clumsiness (who was cast out after a child spilled a glass of milk) to the demon of rape, murder and so on. The "exorcisms" involved seating the "possessed" group member in the center of the room. The whole group would pray over her, she would ask Christ to forgive her for her weakness in allowing this demon to enter her and the demon would be cast out. (I was exorcised at the age of 11 after I allowed the demon of witchcraft to enter me when I read Madeline L'Engle's A Wrinkle in Time. : ).
Anyway, to try to wrap this up, the big problem w/ the exorcisms was that they didn't always "take." My stepfather was an abusive man; the group attempted to eradicate his violent behavior via exorcism. Well, after 3 strikes, he was out, and as his family, so were we.
End of my "cult" story. Gotta run. We are super late for our 1st playdate and Natasha just woke up!
post #10 of 14
Thread Starter 
Wow thanks so much for the support! It's good to talk about this. It's really scary how people can be controlled in such a way so gradually they don't even reallize it. I heard the example of the frog in frying pan. Put it in and turn the heat up fast and it will hop out, but turn the heat up very slowly and it will cook. I know that's a nasty image but it's so true. looking back I can see how gradually we (esp. dh) were sucked into this in a systematic way.

If you want to read my situation in detail it's in the June section of www.journal.darshani.com Things are getting better. I'm reading a good book called Releasing the Bonds by Steven Hassan. It makes a lot of sense and I'm trying some of the things on dh.

Since I've been out for about 2 months now dh is slowly not doing many of the cult things he used to. I think he's losing motivation. Still has his blinders on about certain things, but they are things I can live with. Of all the things I thought life might throw our way (disease, death, hardship) that one of the greatest challenges for our marriage was a cult.

Darshani
post #11 of 14
It was either a cult or a church using almost all of those cultish practices to attract and keep members.

Big long story but we were kicked out

Dang...I just couldn't stop *thinking* and *questioning* and seeking G-d for *myself* (as opposed to following good wise men, ha)

Very oppressive.

Condecending toward women.

Abusive toward children.

Elitist.

Lots of nice people there, though. We were encouraged to make really close friendships with others in the church. They go and use these friendships when you're "out of line".

Being kicked out was like an Amish shunning.

I'll elaborate if anyone is curious.

Off to read Darshani's story.

Debra Baker
post #12 of 14
Debra-sounds like the one I was in for 5 months.

Twelve Tribes.

Had a friend leave recently after 7 years or so! They refused to let her seek proper medical treatment and she nearly died.

I left because I didn't feel "connected to the Messiah" anymore. Felt like a liar, a fake. Started to see that people were treated VERY differently. Some unmarried members of the opposite sex were allowed to be alone together, some were chastized for doing so. Some were allowed their own $, some weren't. Some could leave without permission, some couldn't. Some were allowed to seek medical treatment, some weren't.....

It had a wonderful begining, but things got more and more controlling as time went on....too bad, I would have stayed if it wasn't so scarey.
post #13 of 14
Mine was Covenant Fellowship of Philadelphia (located in the 'burbs)

Part of People of Destiny.

Very controlling of women.

I was kicked out because I wouldn't keep silent over parenting issues (they are very draconian in their practices/teachings)

Debra Baker
post #14 of 14
very nice story Darshani
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