It's human nature for us to feel like we belong. Individuals can't thrive without the influence of others who are part of various communities.


Thankfully, the advent of the internet made social networking easier for like-minded people to find each other.

But the convenience of finding your people also allowed for ominous groups with questionable intentions to flourish.

Curious to hear about the type of cliques people should avoid, Redditor FreshPrinceAV asked:

"What cults are on the rise that should be made aware of?"

These groups use the guise of religion to manipulate the impressionable.

Targeting Teens

"A personal experience of mine. Back in 2018 during my first year in the university, there is a Korean cult that tries to recruit teens and adults. During this time, they focus more in recruiting teens since they are 'easier to fool.'"

"They approached me outside school and asked me if I believe in 'God the Father.' So I said I heard about it but it is a little different from my religion. They proceeded in asking if I live alone and other personal stuff, until they asked me to come with them for a minute and they will explain how I can become a member of their church."

"The moment I heard the term 'God the Mother' as they call a chosen female member (mostly teens and minors) to lead their church with their pastor, I immediately refused. The thing is, it is very relevant in Korea and the 'God the Mother' is their term for the female candidate who is chosen to marry their pastor."

– facel_ess

Claiming "Bible Study"

"I was a well read Christian at some point, so when this group bumped into me they were unable to sway my opinion to their benefit. I even visited their offices in nyc to entertain myself (I wanted to understand a little better how this cult worked)."

"They do lots of 'Bible Studies' that really aren't bible Studies at all. It's simply them telling you their perspective of what the scriptures say. Nothing is up for negotiation. Their interpretation is stated as fact. They feed you the belief system with the Bible, and you're expected to simply believe it. That's the type of 'Bible Study' this group offers."

– -Asher-

Recruiting Them Young

"Youth With A Mission, or YWAM. Maybe it's better in other places, but my local chapter gets them YOUNG and keeps them entirely dependant on them. They get no practical experience, no money, no education. Tons of people there in their 30s with kids still relying on YWAM."

"If you have ever heard the story from FarCry 5, YWAM in the area it's based on is pretty close to that. We even have a pastor that gets worshipped as though he is God. Levi Lusko."

– KhaosElement

People Are Compared To Arrows In A Quiver

"In the U.S."

"Quiverful and IFB (Independent Fundamentalist Baptist). Hard to trace because there are a lot of home meetings and non-organization. A lot of IFBers have basically merged into and taken over regular old Southern Baptist churches as well."

– handle_ah_brah

The Survivor

"I escaped from the Quiverful/IFB "cult" about two years ago now. They've completely brainwashed my family. I can't even have a relationship with any of them now that I've left. I'm constantly having to de-program myself from the harmful messaging the IFB shoved down my throat my whole life. The programming was even worse for me and my siblings because we were also homeschooled. My whole life was church and my homeschool group. I wasn't allowed to have friends or beliefs outside of that protective bubble. It's a scary thing and I'm so glad more people are starting to realize it isn't an innocent movement."

– No_Lobster4141

Growing Up In A Cult

"I grew up Baptist in Tennessee and Georgia. I faced so much neglect and abuse. When my dad found out I was bisexual I was kicked out. I was harassed at my job by church members and at one point they stole my car. The police wouldn't do anything, they were church members as well. It got so bad i had to leave town. And thats not the worst of it. Nowadays my dad is heavily into conspiracy theories and shares a lot of harmful rhetoric and misinformation online as well as to his sunday school class. I definitely grew up in a cult."

– the__adelaide_parade

Deeply-Ingrained Toxicity

"My dad was a fundamentalist baptist pastor before he got sick. So much of what these people believe is toxic to women and minorities but if you call it out in the community you get 'but people who do that stuff aren’t real Christians.' (No true Scotsman irl)"

"It’s so deeply problematic and getting people out of the church is impossible, even to push them to a more liberal church."

– champagne_pants

Active Recruitment Underway

"Jehovah's Witnesses are the fastest-growing church body in the U.S. and Canada."

– Force_Choke_Slam

"Doomsday Cult" Overseas

"Haven't seen it yet here - Shincheonji. The sect that caused a major covid outbreak in South Korea. They have spread like wildfire to other countries via online classes during the pandemic."

"They are a super secretive doomsday cult. They try to recruit already practicing Christians and people who are searching for something spiritual, offering them counseling and later Bible classes. They are super friendly at the beginning and the classes are very biblically sound at the start."

"Over the time they come upwith more and more weird stuff, guilt tripping people into sacrificing insane amount of their time and even resources, brainwashing them unto thinking their leader Lee Man Hee is the personifies Second Coming of Jesus and everyone with a different opinion is a spawn of the devil doomed to hell."

"The sect is very well organized and they straight up lie about where the teaching comes from until they feel the person is ready to know (brainwashed enough)."

"Steer clear of them people! And for any Christian out there, don't believe anyone who says that the Gospel is not enough"

– kpopcrab

Not all cults exploit religion to go about their manipulative missions.

MLMs

"Agreed. A cult does not need to be overtly religious to be a cult. MLMs often prey on religious beliefs and religious networks, though."

– Kangaroodle

So-Called "Coaching" Groups

“'Coaching' groups. ✋🏻"

"Those organizations will get deep into your skin if you let them, bring you a false sense of security and fellowship, and get sensible information that could be used against you.

"Mostly made out of sensitive people with a lot of issues and insecurities that these 'professionals' will exploit to get money in exchange of 'experiences.'"

"EDIT: by coaching I meant 'Life Coaching' and they go around this 'neuroscience' abstract concept. Allow me to elaborate, for those who had never been in one of those."

"My personal experience was in 2018-2019. I was in a really bad place: low self esteem, unaddressed depression, school burnout, and a recent breakup. The last one was the reason I was lured into one of these groups, when she said that this could be 'a great opportunity to make our relationship work.' I went to her level 2 graduation and she seemed genuinely happy. We had a talk and I decided to take the Life Coach program."

"Level 1: they 'deconstruct' everything for you. Make you 'realize' that all of the things you’ve done are because you’ve never payed attention to your life, and promise you that you’ll be able to fix it. With their help. For a price. Hours range from 6-8 daily. They encourage you to take the 2nd level, where you will 'explore your potential' and break your 'idea box' (this being all the things you’ve been taught and make your persona)."

"Level 2: this was the hardest for me. They will put you in a position of compromise such that your failure is everyone’s failure, making peer pressure heavy. Strict hours that will open the door to demolarize practices in order to align you with the group’s main goal (which is to succeed this course). Hours get heavier: 8 AM to 3 AM next day. They tire you down, which allow the coach to manipulate your feelings. This is also the part where they will make you confess your darkest secrets (mine was heavy, so I couldn’t say it) and will make the group to pressure you to give in. I had a mental breakdown at this point, feeling like a hostage. By the end of the level, they will 'elevate' you with the help of previous members (literally, once you beat the final test, every single one of the members in the 3 programs will come and congratulate you; it was so relieving). This sets Level 3 in motion."

"Level 3: you will set goals for personal improvement for yourself. Pressure at this point was unbearable for me. I’d get calls every single hour to let know my progress, even followed around the city to 'bring reliable evidence.' It was at this point where my partner told me that she was worried about things that I did in the 2nd Level (coaches would tell her that I was unstable, and the things I confided to one of them in my vulnerable state, after they sworn to me that everything was private). I felt betrayed, and at this point I saw the thing for what it was, a scheme where vulnerable people would get comfort. For a price (which was getting more expensive each week). After that, I went home, had another breakdown. My psychiatrist recommended to call the thing off and start therapy, which I knew I needed and took the first step forward (I’d say that was the only positive thing about all this)."

"After all this, I decided to quit: they made me pay for the rest of the program and, after the swipe, I was banned from the premises. No one was allowed to look at me, call me, or other sort of contact. Even my partner decided to call the thing off 3 months after and started dating one of the guys she met there. Those were difficult times, but therapy and my nuclear family support was there for me."

"I’m in a better place now, learned from that experience and decided to get my mental health in my own hands from then on. I don’t know if it will work for other kind of people, but I’d recommend to go to a certified mental health professional instead of this."

– Abundiz93

While having a sense of belonging is human nature, be careful of the communities desperate to expand their membership.

Research, find out their intentions, and consult your friends.

When you're at a low point in life and feel lonely, your vulnerability is what makes you a target.

So be cautious when you set out to find your people. And don't ever feel obligated to pay money for your "friendships."

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