Ex-Cult Members Explain How They Escaped


Cult's are serious business, so we're not here to poke any fun at these tales. When people take advantage of others, wielding their influence for personal gain, only the followers lose. Sometimes the best way to fix things is to get out, like these stories from people who recognized it's better to be on the run than to be sitting in the pew.

Reddit user, u/danbreen09, wanted to hear the whole tale when they asked:

Ex-cult members, what is your story?

Worship Only Me

I used to be a part of a cult, it was called Syzikian (not actual name). I was born into it. We lived in a state in its rural part far away from anyone else. The leader was Jacob Syziki (not actual name). We worshiped him as our diety. He promised eternal happiness for all those who followed him. When I turned 18, my family got me engaged with a girl. We both wanted to leave, so we eloped together to South Dakota. We are married, have 3 kids and a big house. Last I heard Syziki was arrested for money laundering.


So... is not writing the actual name some part of your username? Or are you afraid they'll find you, or something?


no, my parents were part of the cult and were arrested as a part of it. Any searches of the articles will reveal my parents names


You Only Have One Purpose

Was born into the unification church, aka "moonies" . My dad was abusive towards my mom. "church" members told my mom to pray and that she would sin if she left him. Family didn't want to have anything to do with her due to the cult. In the end she spent her twenties on missionary work and "fundraising"/moonlighting, created two children with a crazy person and then ended up as a single mom with no recources.

After some time she forced us to rejoin with the cult, basically I learned that my sense in life was to create children with a designated partner by my parents or the "messiah"/leader of the cult and that I was worthless if I would have romantic/sexual relations with other people before marriage or that were not in the cult. Not to mention that (mental) illness and homosexuality were thought to be deseases caused by demons/evil ancestors clinging to the living.

My mom still believes in some of their ideologies, but is not involved anymore. The whole thing is less strict now, but I would still never step a foot in one of their buildings anymore.



I was part of this nondenominational church when I was in high school. I didn't have a choice in the matter so I went with my parents 3-4 times every week. Wednesday service, Saturday rehearsal and service, and the two services on Sunday. The church was all about money. The ten percent tithe was never enough and always asked that you donate more. They preached the more you donate the more God would bless you, like blessings were just a transaction.

My parents were very involved in the church and once we left, they claimed to have given 10,000 dollars to the church over the course of 4 years. We only left when my parents finally realized they were being used. The church banished us and we lost a lot of people we thought were our friends and my long term boyfriend at the time. I haven't set foot in another 'Christian' church since.


It's A Religious Pyramid Scheme

About 7 or 8 months into it, after I was baptized and they said I needed to bring another person to be baptized and "saved," and everyone there was required to bring at least one person after joining. It was like a MLM Christian cult. I was brought in by a friend, and then she left and I was still there for a few months without her before I left too. They also told me I had to cut off contact with my family and friends that weren't in their church because they weren't "real Christians." Said I could move into one of their houses if my family started to "persecute" me by calling out the cultish ways of that church.

And I also couldn't date a Christian from a different church. It had to be a man from THEIR church that they set me up with. Preferably interracial. Engagement no longer than six months. Once married we would've moved away together for his job and I would've lost all contact with my family and friends from before the cult. Oof. Glad I got out of there. They harassed me for months after I left. I blocked so many numbers.

Turns out they are banned from visiting most college campuses because that's where they recruit from. That's also where my friend (who brought me there) met them.


After A While, It All Starts To Add Up

Would you consider Hillsong a cult ??? I don't know but that sh-t was weird.

It's not like your normal church services, they scare you into becoming a Christian. always talking about eternal hell, always contradicting them selves. Being told getting tattoos is a sin yet the main preacher is covered in tattoos. Being told Hillsong is accepting of the lgbtq yet they banned a gay couple from being church leaders when they came out. So many expensive conferences that happen 5 times a year. So unnecessarily expensive. $200-$600 a ticket depending on what conference. Oh yeah and the guy who started it all, his dad went to jail for sexual assault.

I was brainwashed for a while, for sure. Still got mental scares from that whole experience.


Nothing Is Allowed

I was raised as a Jehovah's Witness. Yes. Absolutely a cult. I wasn't allowed to celebrate any holidays (as a child, when they would have holiday parties at school, I was pulled out of class to sit in the library). Saying the pledge was forbidden, as was standing for the national anthem. I was not allowed to play on any sports team, or join any after-school clubs. Any contact with non-witness kids was extremely limited, because they all are a bad influence. I wasn't allowed to read Harry Potter books or watch the movies. I HAD to wear a dress or skirt to services, but they had to be extremely modest. I wasn't allowed to watch anything rated R or play most video games, because they portrayed violence.

I was not allowed to listen to rap or anything that sounded remotely like rap. I was not allowed to date until I was at least 18, and even then it had to be chaperoned at all times, and it had to be within the religion, dating and marrying someone who was not a witness was strictly forbidden. If you disobeyed any rules you would be punished by being "disfellowshipped", and no one in the religion is ever allowed to speak to you again, including your own family.

I downloaded Bumble, started dating a normal dude, moved in with him 2 months later, and now we're engaged and planning our wedding.


What Do You Know...Scientology...

Ex-Scientologist. My story is nowhere near as bad as a lot of what you hear about Scientology as I didn't get very deep into it. I only really dealt with the Dianetics portion of Hubbard's fiction. I was a trained Dianetics auditor at 15 or 16, which can probably tell you all you need to know about how ridiculous the whole thing is.

When I was 14 I was talked into joining what they call Sea Org, which would have involved moving to their headquarters in Clearwater. The Sea Org is made up of the most fanatical members of the church. They have a contract that you sign when you join that is quite literally for a billion years. Once you join them you arent allowed to have premarital sex, work absurd hours (if I remember correctly it's upwards on 90-100 hours a week), live in communal housing, and even though you are allowed to marry you have to give up your membership if you want to have kids, giving up all of the "benefits" of being part of the organization. I signed the contract not thinking that the billion years thing was actually legitimate, not knowing that joining meant I would no longer be able to see my family unless they could afford to come to see me or if I was lucky enough to get stationed back in my home church.

I was 14 years old and I was lied to and talked into joining this elite and exclusive organization with honeyed words from an adult who I liked and trusted.

Thankfully I was able to get that undone, but that was the beginning of the end for me with Scientology. I started to doubt everything about the church but stayed with it because my mother was and still is part of it.

Eventually I was just completely done with everything to do with Scientology and decided to get out.

Thankfully, I didnt have any trouble leaving the church like you hear in all the horror stories. That may be due in part to the fact that our church was quite small and that my mother was one of the higher placed church staff members there. All I had to do was sign a contract saying that I would never speak ill of the church or Scientology and not to lie about the church's beliefs or teachings.

I'm still close with my mother but she knows not to bring up Scientology with me, and I know I'll never convince her to leave. I have had no contact with anyone else involved with the church in close to 10 years.


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