“This would never happen to me. I’d never be dumb enough to fall for this. I’d have figured out they were trying to trick me ages ago.” These are just some of the things that people might think when they’re hearing about someone being exploited by a cult. However, many folks don’t take into account just how manipulative and insidious cult leaders can be, eroding a person’s confidence and making them entirely reliant on others over long periods of time. Some people might be more vulnerable, but nobody’s completely immune to cultist psychological warfare.
And if you happen to be born in a cult or raised in one as a kid… getting out can be hell. But there are always signs that something’s off, that there’s brainwashing afoot. Reddit users who were raised in cults opened up about the first time that they realized that something was very wrong with the community.
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Get ready for a deep dive into the dark side of humanity and scroll down for some very honest stories about growing up surrounded by cultists.
Bored Panda got in touch with Suzanne Degges-White to talk about how cult leaders target their victims and manipulate their followers, as well as how to get someone you care about out of a cult. She also detailed the character traits that cult leaders tend to have. Suzanne is a Licensed Counselor, Professor, and Chair at the Department of Counseling and Higher Education at Northern Illinois University.
“The worst thing about cult indoctrination is that people actually LOVE the feeling they get in being a part of something bigger than themselves. Folks who have the wisdom to recognize that they are being led into a cult are not the ones who are going to be totally indoctrinated and stuck inside it,” she explained to us.
“They recognize that the leader is likely a charlatan and they have enough of a support system beyond the cult that they don’t get totally sucked into it in the first place. The people who actually NEED to get out of it are going to have to have a support system or something better outside the cult if they are going to leave.” Read on for our full interview with Suzanne.
After watching The Day After in the 80s, I asked my mom if we knew the nukes were coming, who would she rather spend her last moments with me or the cult leader, she choose him. I came up with my own survival plan after that. I was going to skateboard to safety.
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Suzanne, from Northern Illinois University, explained to Bored Panda what makes cult leaders so dangerous. “Cult leaders are master manipulators who are also excellent readers of others—and they truly sense who is a more likely ‘follower’ aka ‘victim’ and tend to invest their energy wisely. They don’t waste too much time on people they don’t think will easily join their ranks,” she told Bored Panda that these individuals go for the most vulnerable.
“Cult leaders are narcissistic individuals who use their self-interest and charisma to prey on their followers. This, of course, requires that their followers, or marks, have certain traits that make them more likely to be preyed upon. Research suggests that some of the traits that make people vulnerable to joining a cult include suffering from anxiety or depression or addictions.”
Disorders like anxiety or depression can make a person more vulnerable to a cultist who offers them solutions to their problems. “People with addictions need to have something to fill the hole left when they stop using whatever substance/behavior that they are addicted to. Addiction reflects a hunger and cult leaders have an easy time using their powers of persuasion to convince the follower that they and their cult can fill that need,” Suzanne stressed that addicts are also potential prey for cult leaders.
When I realized that the doors to the 13 story former hotel building we were all living in was locked and you had to sign out to leave.
No one (from children to adults) could leave without an explanation to where they were going and when they’d be back.
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Former Jehovah’s witness too. The first time I realized something was wrong was when a huge core belief changed in 1995. ( The end will come before the generation that saw the events of 1914 died…changed to.. well it’s changed 7 times since then) I was confused and it didn’t compute that my entire life’s beliefs changed over night. I struggled on awhile until shortly after my then husband beat the s**t out of me and for some reason HE called the elders over to help and the elders told me ” Be a better wife so he doesn’t get angry” I was done then. DONE.
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“Cult leaders often use the powers of seduction to convince people to follow them—they use flattery of a potential member along with promises of ‘belonging’ and being ‘needed,’ so that can be extremely enticing to someone who feels that something important is missing in their life. When someone convinces us that they care more about us than anyone else in our world, we will do whatever they want us to do just to keep their light shining on us,” she drew attention to how cults exploit human psychology for their own benefit.
According to the psychology expert, people are brought into cults believing that the leader has all the answers they’re seeking. “You are treated like family and you have other cult members who make you feel welcome and work hard to develop that sense of belonging. When nothing else in your life is giving you what you need or satisfying you in important ways, a cult is the perfect setting to feel valued and that you matter,” she said that this entraps a person, convincing them to stay. However, that’s not to say that it’s impossible to get someone out.
When my parents told me they’d let me die rather than allow me to get certain medical procedures.
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I got punished for my own sexual assault. I was victim blamed. The abuser was twice my age (I was mid-teens). I was forced to repent. For what, I am not sure as they wouldn’t answer that question.
As I got older and looked back, I realized that everything they’d told me was a lie. If you do everything you’re supposed to, you’re supposed to be blessed. If you break the rules, you have challenges/obstacles/lessons and must repent.
But if Jesus dies for my sins why do I have to repent? And what am I repenting for? I didn’t consent I any of that. Nor could I from a legal standpoint.
The only obvious answer was that it was all bulls**t. Then years later, a widely publicized case with similar circumstances became international news. And the victim’s clergy person stood up on CNN and said she was forgiven. Forgiven. For being raped.
I had noped out years before but when I saw that particular press conference I had to get therapy to deal with all that rage. Guh
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When the ‘Elders’ told me that I could no longer speak to my younger sister anymore because she was in ‘bad standing’ with the organization. She’s the only family I have left. They made her out to be this monster just because she wasn’t actively going to church. That’s when the glass shattered for me
I was one of Jehovah’s Witnesses and my sister and I are still close. She’s doing great things for herself and I do not regret my decision at all. Dont let someone else make decisions for your life, you’ll be much happier!
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“To get someone you care about out of the cult, you have to work hard and be available to help them see reason. You have to encourage them to stay involved in activities beyond the cult, to engage in connections with people who are ‘outsiders,'” Suzanne explained.
“For some people, the sense of belonging within a cult is worth more than autonomy, wealth, or connections to family or those beyond the cult. That’s when interventions by caring others are needed to help that person recognize the truth of their situation.”
When I met with my mother about difficulty coping with my arranged marriage. I explained to her the abusive aspects of the relationship and how much it was breaking me down, and her response was that it was my job to be quiet and if God wanted to change my husband, he would.
I suddenly realized, sitting across from her and looking her in the eyes, that she had let my father take my childhood innocence and had zero qualms about my mistreatment now at the hands of my husband.
I knew when I hugged her goodbye and cried all the way home that I would never see her again. It’s been four years since I ran away.
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I wasn’t supposed to make friends with any other kids unless they went to our church.
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When we were told that we couldn’t go to college. I was about 15 when I realized that we weren’t allowed to. The elders said it was because of the end time coming and wasting time, and worry about fellowship in the world. It is because they want to keep us stupid. That was the year I left. That was compounded because the same year my cousin tried to kill herself, and they told us not to visit. I hadn’t been baptized yet (you wait until you are old enough to study and consent) so I told the elders that if we weren’t allowed to talk to her in her greatest time of need, they could shove it.
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According to the BBC, there are as many as 2k suspected cults operating in the United Kingdom at this point in time. Some of them target students to swell their ranks. “Just absolute mind control,” is how Jess, a former student, described her time at the Shincheonji Church of Jesus.
She was recruited on the campus of the University of Salford and said she couldn’t recognize herself anymore while she was with the cult.
Meanwhile, CBS states that there are up to 10k cults in the United States. International cult expert Steve Eichel stressed that most cults are small and deliberately try to stay under the radar.
When my mom said that I was so bad at housekeeping that if I got abused by my future husband, “he would be within his rights as head of the household”.
Fundie cults are the worst
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This happened to my classmate in the fifth grade. Her family were Jehovah Witnessers. She needed a blood transfusion but the family refused and she died. I don’t remember the specifics of her condition but WTF. The whole class cried for weeks. Try wrapping your little 11 year old brain around that.
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It started when I was a kid when I asked my mother why the important people in the church have such so many big houses. All she told me was people donate them… As I grew up and understood real estate value they had like $500k houses in almost all major cities in the US. Most churches solely on tithing and donations but they were doing what the catholic church was doing way back when. Asking for thousands upon thousands of dollars for “spiritual revolutions” and “ancestor liberations”. But I will never tell my parents especially my mother what they are doing is wrong because it has revolved around their lives for so long. I do not want to take that away from them. I think they probably know that I do not want to do anything with the “church” at this point but won’t outright call me out.
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“Unless they commit a crime, unless they do something that draws attention to them—negative attention and criticism to them—we generally don’t know about them,” the expert suggested that these groups could be living right under our very noses without anyone realizing that something’s very wrong.
Eichel listed some of the things that make a cult, well, a cult. From deception to being overly secretive, here are the ways to recognize one of these groups.
“Beware of any kind of pressure. That’s probably the single most important advice I can give anyone. Any kind of pressure to make a quick decision about becoming involved in any intensive kind of activity or organization,” the cult expert stressed that being rushed to make decisions can be an indication that you’ve been approached by cultists.
Every women needed to bear a child with the cult leader. We were given drugged sweets, such as cookies, for food.
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When the leader kept my mom up for 2 days straight. He was making her cook, clean, be on him hand and foot all while berating her. yelled at her she was an evil woman going to hell, he was too godly for her, etc. 3 am and I hear him screaming at her, all biblical bs, and she’s crying. she broke down and he drove my mom, my sister and I to the ER and said she had to check herself into mental health because she’s psychotic. We are there for 3 hours. They turn her away and she comes out with abuse pamphlets.
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When I was told doing independent research on the doctrine would lead to being shunned by my friends and family. i.e. fall in line bitch. Jehovah’s Witness.
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“Be wary of any leader who proclaims him or herself as having special powers or special insight. And, of course, divinity,” he said. “The group is closed, so in other words, although there may be outside followers, there’s usually an inner circle that follows the leader without question, and that maintains a tremendous amount of secrecy.”
According to Eichel, cults use deceptive means to recruit new members. Then, they use an “organized program of through reform” (aka brainwashing) to change how these fresh recruits think and operate.
When my brother started asking (politely) how our religion was founded and how our family got involved and generally just questions about life: they don’t believe in evolution or kissing before marriage.
And they would bite his head off about it at age 11. It made me realise they were being defensive because they had no answers. If you can’t explain why you’re in a religion, you get the f**k out.
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It’s hard to pick a first time but I knew I needed to run when I was taken shopping for a wedding dress at 12 years old.
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Ex-Jehovah’s Witness here.
My first hint that something was wrong was the amount of control exerted in our day to day lives. No beards, no long hair for men, no tattoos or piercings, no shirts with “edgy” artwork like band shirts or shirts with skulls, no entertainment they don’t approve of, etc. Other witnesses are trained to report you to the elders if you’re not following their guidelines, such as if you have a position of respect in the congregation but someone sees that you have a rated R movie, they’ll report you to the elders and you could lose your position and good standing, which will change the way the congregation treats you.
What really tipped it over the edge for me though was their doctrine that all non-witnesses deserve to die at Armageddon by gods hand, simply for not being witnesses. Armageddon is supposed to be urgently imminent, and over 99.9% of the world will die just because they’re not witnesses. That didn’t sit right with me. I had been working in retail for some time, and the people I worked with were every bit as intelligent, compassionate and loving as any witness I knew.
Eventually, these issues became too great for me to bear, and I committed the ultimate sin, researching information that criticizes the religion. We were taught to be terrified of anything that remotely criticizes the religion and it’s leaders. I finally pushed against that fear and did the research. Woke up instantly. Realized why they taught us to fear “apostate” information so much, it’s because they know it’s all true and they don’t want us to see it
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“Typically, cults also exploit their members… mostly financially. Within the group, they’ll exploit members financially, psychologically, emotionally and, all too often, sexually,” the expert warned.
“A very important aspect of cult is the idea that if you leave the cult, horrible things will happen to you. This is important, and it’s important to realize. That people outside of a cult are potential members, so they’re not looked upon as negatively as people inside the cult who then leave the cult.”
Scientology. When they took our second house.
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Not in a cult per say, but was in one of those evangelical megachurches. Started as a nice corner church; the piety was genuine.
I dont think that the pastor planned the whole thing – he seemed a genuine preacher until the church grew exponentially. Like went from a few hundred members to 15,000 in less than 2 years. Then his main focus was maintaining (entertaining) the masses, which drove him to do stupid things.
Many weird things started happening. Especially, one day he “had a revelation” that the congregation needs to expand further and members have to, I am serious, give out all the GOLD they were wearing. I know a lady that got into serious trouble with her husband because she gave away her gold wedding band.
My last straw was when he promoted himself to Apostle and renamed himself “Paul”. Apostle Paul. Okay.
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Nothing is wrong. Our Supreme leader knows all and loves us all equally. Sure, he only has sex with the cute teenage girls, but that is his right and responsibility as the one true representative of God. May his seed be strong and plentiful.
When I was pulled out of Sunday school and scolded for asking legit questions about our so called prophet. I was 8 years old and couldn’t wrap my head around how some guy could translate a lost language using a hat and a stone. I used to be a Mormon lmao.
When I was five and the leader, who claimed to receive messages directly from God, accused me of doing something I knew I had not done.
When I started attending a school run by my cult after years in public school and it wasn’t just the rules that were different, but the social norms.
Example: only allowed to sleep 5 hours a night. Intense bullying for talking to boys after breaking up with my boyfriend. Odd forms of physical/psychological punishment when students broke rules. Being taught that masturbation is unhealthy, that getting piercings put holes in your aura (that can only be filled with diamonds lol), and that sleeping with men puts holes in a woman’s arc line (which impacts her ability to bond with her infant).
Most of the things were relatively benign at the beginning. Rumours floating around over the years were always dismissed as people trying to disparage the image of our teacher, or profit financially, or they were ‘crazy’. It wasn’t until the beginning of last year when the truth about the abuse and corruption in the community started to surface!
My mum was a Jehovah’s Witness. She raised me alone, without my father. I was just a kid (around 6-9 yo) and I was not comfortable with everything and everyone. I felt something was wrong, the way they talked, the way they smiled. When she got cancer, at the very beginning she refused some treatments, she even went to a “brother” doctor who claimed he could treat cancer with herbs. When she became very ill, they begin to “let her go” and focus on me. At that time she was at home, with my aunt and my nana with her. When my aunt and my grandma gone crazy about them and forbidden to came at home for me, they just disappeared. The sad side of the story was that she lived in the community for years, so she didn’t have other friends than them. Who just dissolved, leaving her alone. She died in 1992.
To answer the question, I think the first time I realized something was wrong was when THEY realized that I realized (sorry for the game of words), the whole community start acting strange, too many attentions, too many smiles, very creepy.
I approached an Elder about wanting to be baptized. In short, my “eternal life on Paradise Earth” was thrown into jeopardy and I was denied the opportunity to “progress” toward having a saving relationship with God because my hair was too long. This group preaches imminent Armageddon, like any day now, for context. A cosmetic divergence was enough to condemn 14 year old me to destruction until I conformed to their arbitrary grooming standard. Something kind of broke in me right there. I left the Kingdom Hall and never returned.
When my youth group leader said that telling poor people about Jesus was more important than feeding them or housing them.
When they kept telling me that only men could be leaders, and women were supposed to be silent, demure, secondary, and subservient. I looked around and saw so many dumb asses I wouldn’t trust to lead me out of a burning building without copping a feel and claiming it was something I did that caused them to stumble, such as wear a tank top or pants.
Jehovahs witnesses. When my sister got pregnant out of wedlock, went to the elders (group of old men residing over congregation) to confess and repent. They decided to disfellowship her, meaning all other Jehovahs witnesses had to shun her, even immediate family. When asked why this was the decision, they reinforced to us how they basically communicated with god by spirit and this is what god intended. I knew it was bs. Left very soon after and never had anything else to do with them. All of my immediate family eventually did, one by one and last year I celebrated Christmas with all of them together for the first time since 1999.
The lawsuit-after-lawsuit and Australian Royal Commission into Child Sex Abuse and seeing one of the ‘leaders’ lying on camera. Made me squirm in my seat watching.
Not to mention the ‘no blood transfusions’ policy + shunning former members.
I was raised with the belief that if I followed all the rules and was a good person, I’d feel a confirmation of everything. 7 year old me was well aware that I had yet to feel it, and that was one of the many things that led to becoming depressed at the age of 12. I kept having questions that I had no answer for other than “God works in mysterious ways.” Eventually, I found a YouTube channel where the person told about how they left the religion and I realized my whole life was a lie and that I no longer had to try and believe in something that never worked for me.
When my step bro only had to pray for forgiveness after molesting me, no other actions were taken.
Fifth grade when i saw them cutting of camel heads in the street. The were “blessing” their bodies with the blood. They also hit themselves on the head with a sword and i was asking my father about it and the answer of “this is gods orders” didn’t convince me. That’s when I started looking for answers. I lived many years in fear and confusion but it’s all good now, I’m no longer part of that group, I’ve never been.
My church made me throw away all of my first edition hard cover Harry Potter books because they were “evil”
I wasn’t even allowed to sell them, so that I wouldn’t cause others to “stumble”
I think about it probably once a week…
When they said people would try to convince us the cult was wrong. But to not even listen because we would end up believing them. Which…is really quite an admission when you think about it. But the consequences would be shunning by everyone you knew and death at Armageddon. So you shove questions like that aside for as long as you can.
When I found out I was gay and because of that, I would forever burn in hell, regardless the fact I didn’t choose to be gay.
I realized it when I was told in order for me to reach the highest level of heaven I would have to participate in “The Blood Atonement” inside of The Mormon temple and that my husband would be required to have multiple wives to reach that same heaven.
I YEETED THE F**KITY F**K OUT!
I was raised as one of Jehovah’s witnesses. One of my earlier memories was probably around the age of 6 7-8. I remember thinking that the things I’m learning might not be true, but it’s still a better life then outside of the religion.
The biggest thing I found that woke me up was how kind people outside the cult were. I was always raised to believe that they were being influenced by the devil and that you couldn’t really trust anyone else. But here I was in high school, and being around the most fantastic and accepting people I had ever known. Completely against what I had been told they were.
When they told members to park behind the church to hide their cars so they wouldn’t get reported for gathering during the height of the pandemic.
Then they made the choir sign NDA’s over hymns.
Then got really control-y during online services. They made you angle your camera a specific ways, wear certain clothes, not sit so close to your spouse etc
In a prayer, said they loved the leader of the church more than anyone else.
The pandemic really helped my family and I to step back and really examine the organization we dedicated our lives to
When I realised that medication and painkillers existed, that other people gave them to their children when they were sick, and that my parents could have helped me when I was suffering but chose not to.
And that watching television doesn’t make someone a bad person haha.
When I went to college and finally explored my faith personally, and discovered how blatantly, clearly false it was. I didn’t realize it was cult even then. That came later, with the social and family ostracism and other inappropriate interference and pressure from the faith, all in the name of truth and righteousness.
When I was 12 years old, my classmate from school died in a car accident. We were as close of friends as I was allowed to be with someone who wasn’t in the cult. I asked my mom if I would see my friend in paradise (afterlife) and she said no because her parents weren’t Jehovah’s Witnesses. Then and now, I couldn’t believe that an innocent 12-year-old wouldn’t get a shot at everlasting life because of her parents. It was definitely the biggest crack in my ideology that only grew as I got into my teen years.
When my other friends came to my church for the first time. Most of my friendships were isolated to church members until middle school.
I started going with my other christian friends to their churches which were all similar to each other. When they came to mine they were uncomfortable and they all started telling me my church was weird.
Around 13 years old a friend’s mother asked me a few questions about my church and I had recently gotten the internet so I started asking questions at my church, and the questions were not welcome.
My church was an offshoot, home based, from what is known as “The Way” ministries.
Recently a coworker told me a long story about almost getting indoctrinated to a cult while he was in college. I mentioned how it sounded like “The Way” and his eyes lit up.
When my mother ignored my molestation by a member because they were a member, and they would never do anything like that, and even if they did it, they were a member.
When I heard myself saying, “I’m so lucky I was born into the right religion.”
Raised in a cult in ireland knows as dippers ( cooneyites)
It was absolutely crazy and my family are all members and had to disown me and shone me when i came out as gay. The other members within the family discussed it and decided it was necessary to strip me of any inheritance and any relationship with my family and other members of our religion.
When I was the one who got shunned for defending a child from a pedophile.
When they told me to doubt my doubts before doubting my faith.
When I realized I had been running two versions of “truth” in my head my whole life. One was the empirical, fact-based reality we actually live in – the other was my church’s version of that reality. One day, it clicked that both can’t be true and I was living a lie.
I left and had to reevaluate how I wanted to live my life, and I found my genuine life.
I was fortunate to have a spouse who was not a member of my church to support me. My family, not so much.
I’m 41 years old and kind of had the blindfold pulled that a lot of the “evangelical” organizations I’ve worked with in my life have been cults.
In my teens we went to a church that told you who you could hang out with, what you could watch on TV, what movies you could see, and picked who within the church you could be friends with. 99% of the leaders told you how to run your family but had kids who were either teenage pregnancies or a baby daddy, illiterate homeschoolers, high school drop-outs or drug addicts. There were stretches where we went to church two times a day – even during the week. They encouraged people to get their kids out of school for revival meetings, home schoolers postponed their classes – it was consuming. They started arranged marriages, with several families petitioning my parents for me to marry their daughters – they almost went for it but stopped because it seemed “weird”.
As I moved off to college they recommended a mega-church they got a lot of their messages and such from. This church did more of the same. They encouraged high school seniors to put off college a year and PAY THE CHURCH $3,000 for an opportunity to work there for year for an internship program that guaranteed ministry work experience. This program micro-managed your life to the hour, included intense hazing for new members that routinely sent students to the hospital and stacked them all into student housing so that you could focus more on the program.
Raised in a very culty Church of Christ congregation. At 13 I realized how judgmental everybody was and that nothing anybody did ever seemed like enough. I began suffering from depression because I realized nothing I do will ever be enough. I tried to be perfect but it was never good enough for the church or for “God.” I noticed the gossip and negative attitudes toward one another when backs were turned, but when speaking to each other everybody pretended they weren’t just talking s**t about them. I noticed it was unusual that we were not allowed to hang out with anyone other than people who were in our church. Was weirded out when people from church starting arriving at my house unannounced and inviting themselves in to talk about my church attendance recently. Noticing the s**tty attitude and weird social rules of the church was eventually followed by realized none of it made logical sense, either, as I slowly became a lover of science.
When I realized that God does not use flaming swords to force little girls to shag old dudes.
When I realized that any of those old dudes could still technically ask for me or my daughter as a “spiritual wife” and we’d have no choice.
When a devout member very seriously told her son that she’d rather have him graduate from the Church’s education program than from high school. (Seminary gives neither credit, nor real world experience—It’s just brainwashing.)
When the same member told me that—though it might be hard—she’d offer her children up like Abraham did with Isaac, in a heartbeat, if the Prophet commanded it.
Well, where to start. There were always so many things I couldn’t grasp about what I was taught growing up. How was the world supposed to be so young? How did they fit so many animals on such a small boat? How come this “faith” stuff never seemed to really work? Why didn’t I have autonomy over my own decisions? How come my parent’s and the head minister didn’t appear to have to follow some of the rules that I did? How was everyone so sure that THIS was the correct theology to be so invested into?
I think the exact moments that really did it for me was when my abusive father-in-law to be as well as my abusive grandfather were both using their book to justify their abusive and manipulative behavior. And then the time my grandfather “prophesied” that I used my brain to much and needed to shut it off.
Those were the catalysts I needed to abandon ship completely and seek actual truth rather than just “believe” and “trust” whatever their book said without answers or proper, convincing evidence and proof. I could not be more happy to finally be out of that terrible time and place.
When I realized my cult/religion does not treat women with respect. A man can live in heaven with up to 7 wives (or i forget the specific number), does not allow abortion even if it is rape or will endanger the life of the wife, no premarital sex, no coffee (because of caffeine) but chocolate and soda is ok, does not accept homosexual, forced you to serve the church for two years and prioritize marriage over career and lastly, does not consider black guys as people (this changed tho)
When I read the Bible for myself .
My first time going through an endowment session at the local Mormon temple, and there are parts of the ceremony where you add basically add robes and an apron to what your already wearing. During the second time of everyone in the room standing and adjust robes according to the part of the ritual we were at (aka doing what we’re told to an extreme degree) I paused, looked around, and thought, “O! This us why people think we are a cult”. I brushed the thought off because I saw the ceremony as an individual spiritual event, ignoring the fact that we were all dressing and sharing secret hand shakes as a group.
It’s been 19 years since then, I’ve had to examine and break down a lot of my life, but I’ve finally written my resignation letter so as to finally leave the church.
I was born and raised into a not so known buddhist cult (although whether its a cult or not is contested by a lot of people, still) called “SGI”. My mum was practicing it when she was still preggos with me. Thus I was considered to be a “fortune baby” as they say lmao. I didnt think too much about it as a kid. We went to our meetings every week and met people but at some point I learnt the religion had a whole political thing going on in Japan and I was so confused. Also, ive had extensive mental health issues and over the last couple of years I realised my mum who has been practicing this religion for 20+ years is still a narcissist who has never shown an inch of wisdom or any kind of forgiveness as our religious text said. Ive slowly moved myself away but its hard because anywhere I move to my mum will always try to “get me connected” to a local member and its a lot
My aunt and uncle joined a radical sect of the 7th Day Adventists. Seventh Day Adventists don’t allow dancing, cards, chess, checkers and most board games. They can’t go to plays, or partake in anything that isn’t “harmless” but it isn’t clear what is holy and what is profane. That means that sports and even watching TV are really unacceptable unless somehow religiously-aligned.
My cousins were fascinating. Their parents joined the Global Mission arm and became Missionaries (professional) and lived in Argentina, Thailand and Africa. My cousins would come to North America every so often to see family but were so bizarre because they had no cultural references. They were raised in a cloistered community with little-to-no outside influence, so they didn’t know music, arts, or pop-culture. They had never heard most music or even seen a Gilbert & Sullivan play. They would come to us and talk about the Church but there was no way me or my other cousins would give up our lives to live in some quasi-monastic world.
Their parents abandoned the Church after a number of years and became Mainliners, but for a good 7 years, my cousins were like people who had been unfrozen from a glacier and trying to navigate life as interlopers.
Besides the obvious doctrinal problems of my former religion, the other thing that woke me up was constantly reading about how happy Jehovah’s people are and feeling that I didn’t empathise with the feelings they were basically ordering me to feel. I was sad and depressed.
When they declared that CHILDREN of gay people couldn’t be baptized. Not just gay people themselves, but their children too.
The cult is Mormonism.
When it dawned on me that I wont be going to hell for playing on Saturday (the sabbath)or celebrating xmas, painting my nails or loving my gay uncle. I heard it all my life but primarily after my parents divorced (which is a whole other story) and my father side of the family continued with the teachings with a heavy load of guilt. I felt so guilty and cried a lot out of confusion as to why my family made me feel so unsafe now that I didnt follow exactly what the leader of the church said. I was 8 and it continued on for way to long before I said “yall nuts”. F**k the world wide church of God.
When our religion teacher was out sick and the substitute teacher told us the same Bible story from the week before, but with a completely different ending.
When I learned that, if a women was going to be raped, it would be better for her to kill herself than risk having her “blood lineage” tainted.
So many red flags.
Speaking in tongues, hellfire nonsense. I felt like the only sane person in the room.
Saying Pokemon came from Satan-this is when I stopped believing.
No non Christian media, which became a big fight with my parents. Caused a lot of resentment.
The church did regular book burnings. This was traumatizing, as a nerdy kid who loves to read. This made me hate them.
Saying it was bad to research other religions or what they teach (6k year old earth etc). I realized they had something to hide.
Thank f**k my mom is a hypocrite and had 2 other kids out of wedlock and was excommunicated.
I was raised in a very strict manner by Church of Christ parents in an extremely legalistic Southern Baptist church. I was extremely sheltered, allowed only one movie (maybe) and one hour of TV a week, ONLY Christian movies, books, TV shows, radio, etc. I never interacted with kids outside of the church bubble, as my parents started a Christian school so that I “wouldn’t have to go to the evil public school and be brainwashed.”
For me it was when my pastor and my youth pastor took me aside during a church camp and said they were worried about my salvation as I hadn’t led anyone in the sinners prayer and didn’t go on “visitation,” which was door knocking on Sunday afternoons to talk about Jesus. Instead, I played harp as part of the instrumental group every Sunday and Wednesday and sang in the choir when I wasn’t playing, which practiced during the same time as visitation.
They basically told me that since I showed most of the other fruits of the spirit like love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, etc., they thought I was Christian but since I openly boycotted visitation and hadn’t borne any of the “bringing new sheep into the flock” fruit by leading anyone in the sinners prayer, I couldn’t possibly be a full Christian and they wanted me to work on that. I was 15! I never interacted with non-christians and was part of the instrumental group and choir which practiced during visitation! How could I do that if everyone I knew was already Christian??
It led to some serious questions, but I couldn’t really do anything until I escaped to college 3 years later.
My entire childhood was spent in a holiness separatist cult. My dad inadvertently became the whistleblower and the cult imploded as I was going into 7th grade. I knew we were different, as I wasn’t allowed to participate in holiday plays or crafts in the classroom, and I wasn’t really allowed to have toys per se, but once we emerged out of it into the real world, I saw what I’d been missing out on. As a kid, I didn’t really know how to self regulate without the heavy handed structure, so once I got into middle school I really floundered academically and otherwise. It takes a long time to learn the life skills that get thwarted or interrupted in childhood.
When it came time for me to leave for my own mental health. I became the villain and when confiding in my college tutor she was horrified to learn even a fraction of what I had grown up with. She was the main encouragement I needed to gtfo when I did
When I saw the adults “speaking in tongues” while waiving their hands to the sky and falling to the floor when the pastor touched them I knew something was wrong, even as a child. It also felt weird when they would march all the kids in front of the congregation to one by one say we accept the teaching of Christ while eating his body and drinking his blood for communion.
I still have the damn pledge to the “Christian flag” memorized 30 years later.
In high school, I had some school friends that I would debate religion with. One day they said we should take turns and go to each other’s church. I told them I wasn’t allowed to do that.
It felt odd that I would ask something of them that I wouldn’t do myself.
Anyway, one of them did come and I was so excited. Afterward she said it was nice but that the “Watchtower study” (a group read of a magazine produced by the religion where the congregation volunteers to answer questions about what was read) was very basic where everyone answered the questions by just repeating the words from the magazine. I had never noticed how rote and mechanical it all was. There was no critical thinking. It was literally like asking a 3rd grader about a book he read.
This led me to realize something wasn’t right. I left the Jehovahs Witnesses shortly after. It’s a cult, a very very boring cult.
My mom being like “we are NOT a cult! I mean sure ex members got hitmen sent after them a couple times but that does NOT define us!” Yeahhh Also the fact that even though me and my siblings repeatedly asked what our religion was, our parents refused to tell us until we were all 16-19 because they didn’t trust us to not look it up or tell other people.
I joined in my early 20’s but I was a recovering drug addict and emotionally a child. I essentially grew up in a Japanese Buddhist cult, the Soka Gakkai (SGI). I realised something was up when i couldn’t trace the money. It seemed like every centre was marble floored and worth millions. I couldn’t understand where the money came from and begun asking questions. I found out that I was in a financial cult that had its own political party. Then while travelling I encountered Buddhist ideas as they were taught outside of SGI. These made sense and helped me so much that I left immediately upon returning home.
I’m not in any group now and have a spiritual connection to nature alone.
When I realized that the real reason why they don’t let us do outside research on the church(basically a quick Google search) is to hide the church’s shady history and that beginning at a young age, girls are trained to be submissive and quiet, with the expectation that they’ll get married and have many kids that will repeat the cycle. Also, a lot of hypocrisy going on.
After my parents announced their pending divorce, I was suddenly taboo to virtually all my church friends. It occurred to me then that every one of my secular friends were of higher quality than my religious ones. This struck me as strange, considering those of my friends who had “the holy spirit in their hearts” were also all pretty much douchebags. That was when I started re-examining my religious beliefs.
Probably when I was fairly young, maybe 6-8 years old. We’d wake up early on Sundays and bow to a picture of the founder. I was pretty sure my “outside” friends never had to do that, but since most of my friends were inside the “church” and did it too, I didn’t think too much on it.
Every year at baptism in my Mennonite church, it’s always a bunch of 14-year-olds getting baptized and they each have to give their testimony. 90 percent of them list fear of going to hell as a major reason for their decision to convert. They talk about how wonderful God is for “saving them” from their fear, but they don’t realize that their indoctrination into the belief in God is the entire reason they ever had that fear to begin with.
When I was 13 and at a Mennonite-run boys camp for “troubled boys” I was openly not a Christian, and one of the only people in my group to be that way. A guy claims he saw the angel of death look at me at night. The dumbass that I was, I almost converted because of that after breaking down crying. Thankfully, I didn’t.
TL;DR Christianity’s method of keeping itself alive is indoctrinating young people into believing that they will go to hell if they don’t follow the church’s beliefs, and without the use of emotional manipulation to gain converts, it would cease to function.
Exactly 1 year after I was “Disfellowshipped” as a Jehovah Witness.
Having friends outside the cult really helped me out, and my brother also left with me too.
We both do not speak to my parents anymore. Its been approx 5 years now.
When my mom told me about her childhood with it. We split off from it when I was 8 and my parents got divorced, but my grandparents are apart of it.
My mom couldn’t have friends who weren’t apart of it. She couldn’t have sleepovers at all, period. No holidays at all. Her life was helicoptered.
Jehovah’s Witnesses. Scary group of people. I will never go back to that again.
sitting in shelter at 16 years old, couldn’t stay at the shelter because I wasn’t an adult, no youth shelter in the county, called the youth pastor at my church trying to find some sort of help. found out that they had all known and encouraged my mother to make me homeless because I was a “blight on her house” because I didn’t attend church regularly because of work and cadets obligations.
I was already out and living on my own when one of my brothers told me to look up my dad’s organization on wikipedia. The moment I saw the word cult it was like, “of course it is! How could I not have put it together sooner??!”
It just never occurred to me that it could be a cult, even though all the reasons I hated growing up in that environment were basically a high-control group checklist.
I went to the front of my church for help drinking water because as a kid, I hated water but loved soda. Cue pastor putting his hand on my head and pushed me backwards.
Out of shock and not wanting to make a scene, I laid still on the ground, fully aware, and still not wanting to drink water.
I realized at that point everyone was faking it and no one dared challenge the pastor on his bulls**t. I’m an atheist now, go figure.
When a congregation member pointed to a young girl after a service and said “it’s dangerous for girls that age to think for themselves”
When I read a bedtime story about a little boy who was hit by a car and in the hospital. The boy in the room with him asked if he was Christian. The injured boy says no. The other boy tells him he won’t go to heaven unless he’s a Christian. So he advises the injured boy to keep his right hand raised to show Jesus that he wanted to be a Christian. The injured boy died during the night but his right arm was propped up by a pillow and ‘Jesus understood’ and let him into heaven.
When I asked them how they all can speak in tongues. And one guy was like “Well, you just babble like this…” From then on I hid in the woods every time they came to pick up my family.
When I was passing the mic down the isle at the watchtower study and the elder at the row seat started rubbing my thigh and trying to go higher. When I moved away he held my leg there and gave me a stare like ” Dont you move boy”.