We have a fascination with cults, but they are really no laughing matter.

These strange phenomena, in which people fall into a practice of life that is highly controlled by a central figure and exerts abuse and pressure on its members, are actually quite traumatizing for its members.


u/Havok1717 asked:

"Redditors who were raised in cults, when was the first time you realized something was wrong?"

Here were some of those stories.

When The Church Is A Cult

"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."~moldylemming

Gaslighting

"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" -Broken-Sushi

Watching

"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."

"Group operated under two names. IBLP (Institute for Basic Life Principals) this was their 'outreach' label where they would go to churches and show this seminar to bring new gullible people into the fold."

"ATI (Advanced Training Institute) was for the people that actually wanted in deep and consisted of an entire homeschool curriculum to make sure your kids got brainwashed correctly."

"Pretty in-depth interesting article written about the whole thing."

"They masqueraded as just another Baptist sect but it went way deeper. My family was highly involved for years but the year we lived at their training center was actually horrifying."

"Strictly controlled what was allowed in/out, surveillance for everything. Sad part is most of the families that lived there were essentially slave labor that worked for the ministry and were given free room and board."

"Many of them had nowhere else to go and were trapped even if they wanted to leave."-g1ngerguitarist

It is such a difficult thing to really identify the situation you are growing up in as traumatic.

Connected Even When I Don't Want To Be

"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."-zhdlfrufghs

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Be Warned

"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 the information that criticizes the religion."

"We were taught to be terrified of anything that remotely criticizes the religion and its 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."-excusetheblood

It's Jehovah Again

"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!"-BananasAnd69

Oh If It Isn't A False Idol

"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."-jetiro_now

The signs are varied but just as frightening across the board.

It's Always When You Get The Google

"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."-kruxader

The Simple Answer

"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."-PurelyAmy

Well It Most Certainly Was A Cult

"Okay so I wasn't raised into a 'cult,' but from age 5-8 I lived with my mom, her 3rd husband, and her parents who were all a part of a 100+ member sex group in the late 90's early 2000's."

"It was a lot like a cult though, they had to sign waivers to join, recruited (and had recruitment expectations), wore specific outfits, encouraged family members to join, encouraged not having friends outside the group as it endangered their lifestyles..."

"Anyway I first knew something was wrong when mom brought me on a yacht and when it started pouring rain she forbid me to enter the lower deck to escape the rain."

"I was like 6 and they couldn't stop the uhh meeting going on so I could stay dry."

"Of the people who were at the home and who I met during meetings 6 of them within the last 20 years have served time for sex crimes and every time one of them was arrested they had meetings about it to help destroy computers and stuff. I'm not sure if it fits the exact def of a cult tho."-breezzii


These people were all lucky, and escaped mostly unscathed.

But cults can leave mental and physical scars on people. Remember that you never know the battles that people are fighting, and that any of those people could be fighting a past that took advantage of them.

Photo by UX Gun on Unsplash

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