Recently, there have been a few shows featuring people who have turned their back on the religion they were raised in. They expose the secrets within, even at risk to their own safety. I give them all the credit in the world. Everyone needs a voice to speak up for them when no one else will. Thousands feel stuck inside the confines of their religion due to fear and the policy of getting shunned. On the other hand, some may wonder why they’re so unhappy even when they’ve devoted their entire lives to their religion. Instead of being in a healthy religion, they’ve unknowingly been involved with a cult.
Here are some characteristics of a cult:
- The leaders give themselves an important title and are overly charismatic. They profess to be God’s spokesmen and claim to receive direction from him. They say they’re the only true religion, make empty promises of perfection, and proclaim doomsday on mankind.
- There are thousands of mandates to follow. Unquestioning loyalty is their motto. Women are to be in subjection to husbands under all circumstances, even abusive.
- Recruitment is a main goal. Spending many hours each month preaching is required. Members are kept extremely busy with church meetings and studying. Life and people outside of the group are viewed as ungodly, immoral, and altogether bad association. Newly converted ones have to cut ties with family members and old friends. If someone leaves the group or are expelled, they must be shunned.
For children raised in a religious cult, the only reality they know is cult-related. They trust that their parents, family, and friends have led them down the right path. Because of this, many get baptized as a child.
How do people who weren’t raised in a cult or were never religious get sucked in? People who are at a low point in their life, have low self-esteem, or have a bad home-life are most vulnerable. They are drawn in by a promise of peace, perfection, and having answers to all of life’s difficult questions. As soon as they’re introduced to the congregation, they are “love-bombed” by everyone in the group. It is attractive to suddenly have many friends who all seem to be taking care of each other, even if their love is conditional.
Why do members willingly stay in a religion that dictates every aspect of their life? Simply put, they don’t know, because they’re being brainwashed and mind controlled. Leaders will do anything to keep their members in, including lying by omission, inducing fear, and keeping them very busy. There may be incentives for listening faithfully, like gaining a position and being looked up to. In turn, you may be excommunicated for not listening.
Even when a member realizes that their religion is teaching false doctrine or is corrupt in some way, it can be very difficult and intimidating to leave. Strict shunning may be one of the consequences. For a person who was raised in a cult, they may have no other family or friendships outside of it. Leaving would mean losing everyone you’ve always known and loved, and starting completely over- many times without a good job or college degree. For members that joined as an adult, it can be difficult or humbling to admit that a religion you left your family and friends for was actually wrong.
So, are you in a cult? Only if you are honest with yourself can you answer that question. No one should be emotionally manipulated into staying in a group they don’t like or agree with. In the outside world, no one secludes themselves with one group, but they have friends with different opinions and lifestyles. Above all, parents should always show unconditional love to their kids. Kids should never feel that at any point their parents will shun them. Yes, it takes courage to free yourself and your family, but from my own experience, it is the best decision you’ll ever make.
Featured image by Luis Mariano González and Getty Images
BITE Model image by Steven Hassan