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The Mystery Behind Cult Followings

Updated on September 3, 2014

Warren Jeffs is a manipulative cult leader who runs the FLDS even from behind bars

Read Cult to Find Out More

What is a Cult?

A cult is a religious organization or group of followers that all share a certain set of beliefs and/or practices.

Cults are groups of followers often manipulated by a leader to perform certain actions, agree with certain beliefs and convert others into their organization.

Cults date back to before the 15th century and still exist today. They are often deemed to be dangerous, notorious, or just plain odd.

The History of Cults

Dating all the way back to the ancient pagans and even the early Christians, many religions have manipulated the minds of their followers through faith in order to transform into a "cult". Wiccans, Pagans, the Children of God, the Manson family, and the FLDS (the followers of Warren Jeffs) have all been classified as cults at one point in time.

The word cult originates around 1617, and has Latin origins that translate into care, tender and cultivation. Over time the word changed meanings over and over again. It wasn't until the 19th century that the term cult gained a strictly negative connotation - referring to dangerous groups of people often brainwashed by their leaders.

During the Romantic period, a large number of people became unhappy with the monotheistic faiths of the time. This caused them to drift of into smaller sects, such as modern day Freemasonry.

In 1875 cults became even more popular when Helena Blavatsky started the Theosophical Society, championing the era called "The Age of Aquarius."

In the 1930s, philosophers started to examine cults more closely - trying to figure out the sociological, religious and philosophical beliefs that drive cult followings. In the 1970s, a new movement called the Anti-Cult Movement surfaced - and even that was viewed as a cult by many people.

The Ku Klux Klan is one of the most notorious modern day cults

Watch 'The Following' - About Cult Leader Joe Carrol

A List of Popular Cults

A “cult” typically refers to a group of people who are devoted to a certain set of beliefs or practices that the majority of the population consider to be strange, mysterious and/or out of the norm.

Often, cult followings are lead by one or two people who expect a large amount of time and/or money to be devoted by their followers. Some cults are extremely dangerous and ask their followers to give up the ultimate sacrifice, their own lives, in honor of the cult.

Here is a list of ten cults deemed to be some of the most dangerous cults to have ever existed:

  • Scientology (Ron Hubbard)
  • Hare Krishna
  • The Unification Church (Sun Myong Moon)
  • The Children of God (David Berg)
  • The Ku Klux Klan
  • The Manson Family (Charles Manson)
  • Heaven's Gate (Marshall Applewhite)
  • The Solar Temple (Luc Joret)
  • Branch Davidions (David Koresh)
  • The People's Temple (Jim Jones)

Charles Manson is a famous cult leader known for motivating his followers to go on rampant murder sprees

Do you know anyone who has ever been or who is in a cult?

See results

Modern Day Cult Followings

Most cults that still exist today are extremely dangerous, unpredictable and unstable. Followers of such leaders as Jim Jones, Charlie Mason and Warren Jeffs, as well as groups like the Freemasons, the Fundamentalist Church of Later Day Saints, the KKK and Jehovah's Witnesses are all modern day cults that still exist today.

Jim Jones, Reverend and leader of the former Peoples Temple, started his following in Guyana and ended the following via a mass suicide of 913 people. In 1997, Marshell Applegate, leader of Heaven's Gate took his following in the same route by poisoning himself and 39 followers. In the 1960s leader Charles Manson convinced his followers to go on a rampant murder spree out of a fear of an impeding race war between black people and white people. Waco, Texas became famous in 1993 when a large raid occurred by the FBI on the Branch Davidians - which left 76 people dead. Luc Joret, leader of the Solar Temple cult sacrificed a child in the 1990s believed to be the Antichrist. Later that week he and his followers all committed suicide.

The Freemasons are a large, powerful group believed to be associated with some of the most reputable leaders in past and modern day society

Anti-Cult Movements

During the 1940s, author Walter Martin began the Anti-Cult movement - a group of followers who opposed heretical, pseudo-Christian sects throughout the United States. This Christian counter-cult movement believed that these cults aimed to praise their leader rather than the Lord God, their true savior.

In the 1970s more anti-cult movements began to pop up, attempting to "deprogram" the brainwashed followers of mainstream cult groups. While many scholars rejected the philosophies and ideologies of anti-cult groups, these ACM groups quickly spread across the globe - popping up in Russia, China, England, the United States and more.

© 2014 Kathleen Odenthal Romano

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    • The0NatureBoy profile image

      Elijah A Alexander Jr 3 years ago from Washington DC

      I disagree, I think the northerners felt convicted that they were not following it. An example is Washington's saying "let us raise a standard only the wise and honest can repair" which suggests they knew it was beyond what they were able to implement because of their need to compromise to keep a military strong enough defeat England. Most like the southerners felt as you suggest but I don't believe the northerners did. This nation has never honored the words of it is why it is a cesspool of corruption exceeding Great Britain.

      The closure to what I presented is man need to go through the flaming sword {the flames purifies our minds of the belief in good and evil, which is the cause of cultivating, and the sword cuts us away from all attachments (Matthew 19:29)} and return to living in and as the self-reproducing environment (Daniel 4:33), which is what salvation is supposed to do for us. If we understood the Bible, we would see, per Matthew 24:13, everyone who is saved will survive civilization's termination and live in it up to 7 millennium without anything man produced.

      If we understood "the prophet like ufo Moses" (Deut. 18:15 & 18) must lead actual Israel (the endurers of civilization's end by definition) into Armageddon (Rev. 16:15-16) while the rest of the world kills themselves off in the Battle Of That Great Day Of God Almighty (Rev. 16:13-14 & 19:21) leaving a red "sea of blood" in the wake, which those in Armageddon does not touch until they begin replenishing the earth with the "discarnated in christ" for the first millennium and the rest of the discarnated over the remaining 6 (Rev. 20:4 & 5), we would know we must return to living as in the garden in Eden.

    • gregb4hope profile image

      gregb4hope 3 years ago from El Paso TX

      To be forthright, I do agree with the Constitution as written. It is also fact that those that wrote did follow it' s concepts to the fullest. It was written to benefit them but not so much for others outside of their race. Eventually our country had to honor it's wording or be considered a fraud and hypocrite for all it says for the pursuit of happiness. It cultivated a demand for excellence in human interaction based on the freedom of choice. Often we as humans come up short but we keep trying.

      I know what you are saying about the cultivation process among nations and in principle I agree. But it is so broad as you share it it doesn't seem to bring any closure to your point of emphasis. This board is talking about a more limited and defined aspect of cult activity and identifying them from a Christian viewpoint as it relates to the Bible.

    • The0NatureBoy profile image

      Elijah A Alexander Jr 3 years ago from Washington DC

      What you are saying about the constitution is what the cult of the United States want the citizens to believe, you have accepted their cultivating of you into Americanism is why you dis agree with what is written in the constitution. Just because the religious are the ones who wanted to down-play anyone who follow a belief in god other than what has come to be known as the norm doesn't eliminate a cult is a group of people cultivated by another person or group of people. Catholicism is what turned Christianity into the world's biggest group of cultivated people.

      Most Protestant churches, especially in these United States, are run like our so called democracy, people vote in pastors and some of the others, although many of the mega churches don't, yet they both operates by conventing their people.

      My original point is to show that cultivating is not limited to cults religions denounces even they ar cults themselves. It also show all systems where man are in control of other man is possible only because of cultivation. Parents' controlling their children is even cultivation, they expect our obedience to do and not do what was instruct into us.

      Things like this topic is why Jesus said in Matthew 7, 1 Judge not, that ye be not judged.

      2 For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again.

      Our judgments are usually without objectivity concerning what we are doing is why he made that statement. Most people judge based on a tradition rather that the "spirit" of the words such as cult, is my primary point.

    • gregb4hope profile image

      gregb4hope 3 years ago from El Paso TX

      Actually the Constitution has little to do with giving Americans their moral conscience. If that was the case, Native Americans bulldozing of their land along with slavery and treating women as second citizens would not have been so prevalent. The Constitution primary objective by the forefathers were to give the freedom of choice to all men. And they had plenty of exceptions to had freedom. Moral conscious was an after thought. Depending on who you ask corruption was from the very beginning.

      Reading is a powerful tool and USA greatest legacy won't be the Constitution but more than many may dare to say. It will the Bible. Of all nations on the earth, the USA got it's moral basis of interaction among so many people..thru it's principles as epitomized by Jesus Christ. There are more readers now and yet far more illiteracy concerning biblical realities among among many in this country. In fact, right churches across America many carry a bible but fail to read it. Our freedom and personal quests are more important than a belief in a God. It is that lack of belief that is corrupting the land and it isn't over yet for it is also corrupting the world.

      Democracy with it's democratic vote by the people is a twin edge sword. It can work the people but it is the people who decide through the republic what direction they want to go. It isn't subject to your idea or mine, it's basic math…majority vote. The people can vote to change even the Constitution…now that is real democracy whether we like it or not!

    • The0NatureBoy profile image

      Elijah A Alexander Jr 3 years ago from Washington DC

      It's showing how nations are cults, otherwise, had US citizens not been cultivated to read and NOT comprehend the constitution we would never have allowed the "cold war" between USSR and US. It also shows how being cultivated to read without comprehending the Constitution has allow this nation to fall into a cesspool of corruption. Didn't you see that in the writing or did you only call the words?

    • gregb4hope profile image

      gregb4hope 3 years ago from El Paso TX

      You write a lot "TheoNatureBoy" but does any of it has to do with cult activity as defined by Christianity. Cult defined is a "religion or a system of religious or spiritual beliefs, especially an informal and transient belief system regarded by others as misguided, unorthodox, extremist, or false, and directed by a charismatic, authoritarian leader." Your description of the word is taking it far beyond the context of the thread intent. From a Christian view the use of the term cult is based on someone using the Bible to support an ideology that is not supported by the Bible. Clearly there are many nations and religions that are not thought of as cult because they don't front themselves with the Bible and then go boldly against it's precepts with theology not supported by scripture. Cult classification is based on misuse of scripture under the scrutiny of biblical scholars who bring out their error in practice and principle. The biblical scholars usually employ a literal interpretation of scripture. Islam attempts to call Christianity infidels because of unbelievers in Allah. Round and round we go!

    • The0NatureBoy profile image

      Elijah A Alexander Jr 3 years ago from Washington DC

      You began by telling us cult is a short form of cultivation when you said "The word cult originates around 1617, and has Latin origins that translate into care, tender and cultivation." What you didn't do was to explain cultivation is the process of allowing certain things to grow while disallowing others which would have revealed that even nations are cults. Nations provide school for their citizens and schools is the process of getting the masses to follow a certain and rejecting others, thus, anytime man teach anthers they are creating a cult.

      For example, the United States of America and the former USSR, If they were not cultures United Statesman would not reject the way of life called Communism for this so called Democracy which the government actually walks on the Constitution they are supposed to govern us by. Consider the following to see it's true.

      When what is now called the United States of America were preparing to become independent of Great Britain they published the Bill of Rights and Declaration of Independence to England and after the “Independence War” formed a government patterned after hers except there would not be a royal family governing it. After their independence they wrote the “Constitution” to change from the English pattern of government but it was never implemented, and because of it We The People have allowed this nation to become a cesspool of corruption. By that I means We The People are not using the documents which represent the intended nature of this nation and permitted its government to become worse than Great Britain was.

      The Bill of Rights, the Declaration of Independence and the Preamble of the Constitution, although mot seen in the behavior of their writers who were rich, only European and slave owners, intended for the United States to treat every man {our specie} as equals without recognition of their ethnic {race}, religion, nation of origin nor sexual orientation.

      However, in studying the Constitution I have found one error in the 13th Amendment. It reads "Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted" and goes contrary of the preamble’s intent. That exception has allowed a discrepancy in prison population, African descents are the majority, Hispanics its second and European descendants the last per thousand man. Therefore "Slavery" was NOT ABOLISHED by the 13th Amendment and the courts are exploiting it by providing "justified" slavery, the incarcerating records prove. When one is JUSTIFIABLY convicted "involuntary servitude" is permitted but not slavery, thus, Amendment 13 should be amended to remove "slavery" as a justifiable punishment to prohibit the wholesale incarcerations of United States' citizens in the recorded lopsided proportions.

      ["Justifiably convicted" is defined as "the evidence of a committed crime almost eliminates all 'reasonable doubt' and the evidences were not in anyway tampered with to achieve it." That means the attorneys, defense nor prosecution, CAN NOT present false information for defendants or the accusers.]

      According to the United States Constitution the elected government officials, presidents and vices, per Amendment 12, and representatives and senators per Article 1, are to be “chosen by the people” making all data concerning the operation of the government and data government ordered entities obtains concerning the operation of this nations are be open to the inspection of We The People. Because the Constitution’ Amendment 4 reads “The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized” no data will be collected by any governmental nor none governmental entity from any United States citizen except by order of authorized Warrants.

      Also, We The People need to read Article 1, section 2, paragraph 2 of the Constitution [No Person shall be a Representative who shall not have attained to the Age of twenty five Years, and been seven Years a Citizen of the United States, and who shall not, when elected, be an Inhabitant of that State in which he shall be chosen.] and section 3, paragraph 3 [No Person shall be a Senator who shall not have attained to the Age of thirty Years, and been nine Years a Citizen of the United States, and who shall not, when elected, be an Inhabitant of that State for which he shall be chosen.] to notice they both has the phrase "and who shall not, when elected, be an Inhabitant of that State in which he shall be chosen" making every senator and representative to be unconstitutionally elected which nullifies every bill passed by congress contrary to the Preamble. Since the presidents don't ensure the constitution is followed to the letter, per Article 2 section 3, all of their decisions must be overturned when contrary to the Constitution per Article 6.

      In conclusion, because implementing the Constitution will achieve the peace its Preamble intended, I suggest the change.org petitions to eliminate-capitalistic-military-regime be followed and allow this nation to become the peaceful nation the Constitution intended.

    • WiccanSage profile image

      Mackenzie Sage Wright 3 years ago

      Interesting, and funny because I recently wrote a hub with regards to accusations of Wicca being a cult. Have you heard about the guy in Australia who claims to be Jesus who is developing a following and building a compound? I can't help but wonder how that might be heading for tragedy.

    • JesseH profile image

      Jesse Helton 3 years ago from San Francisco

      Very interesting hub, it seems we write about similar stuff. Thanks for the share!

    • theomajor profile image

      theomajor 3 years ago from New Zealand

      I must say I have to agree with the gist of your first paragraph. Of course National Geographic, as I recall, in December 2011 or thereabouts did a front-page feature on the KJV. I own a Gideon's, NWT, and LDS Edition KJV, yet I find myself consistently going back to the Hebrew & Aramaic OT and Hebrew & Greek NT texts for information that is garbled in translation.

      Jesus ministry was one of a Jew, just consider his observance of Hannukah. If you have some biblical proof that he changed the Law Of Moses in regard to the 10 Commandments then you should step up and claim your million dollar (NZ$) prize. It is awaiting you in a place called Ngatea, near Thames in New Zealand. The funny thing is the highway billboard still stands so I guess no one has been able to prove that one. Of course Roman-Catholic bibles don't count for that church freely admits they altered the 10 Commandments.

      I'm a big believer in bible prophecy too. Sadly there isn't a lot of prophecy in the BOM. The key things missing there were revealed in what is called the Doctrine & Covenants. These pertain to the coming fulfillment of the Mosaic Law. Also there are some amazing latter-day events that were prophesised in the Qur'an and these have been fulfilled in my lifetime. The Qur'an also focuses heavily on the fulfillment of the Mosaic Law. I will try to check out your work in the foreseeable future so thanks for the invitation above.

    • gregb4hope profile image

      gregb4hope 3 years ago from El Paso TX

      While the KJV may have some errors, page for page it is far more accurate than any version of it's day and continues to stand as a worthy translation of the Hebrew and Greek originally written letters. I am convinced that the maintenance of the scriptures is not the responsibility of men but of God. The KJV has served it's purpose and is sufficiently authoritative enough to be what God wanted men to have at that time. Now we have far more "versions' of the KJV that is rewording and reinterpreting based on personal choice. Clearly this means rewriting the english version to feed one's own preference. The King James Version and a few others were not based on that faulty concept.

      There was a lot of spirited debate during the the book of Acts. For it doesn't surprise me because men still do it! The apostle Paul was honoring his Jewish tradition to a certain degree concerning the Sabbath as well as others. But to impose his Jewish traditions on people of different nationality was the question and when all was said and done….He clearly said such was not a requirement in the faith of the New Covenant, even if he himself wanted to continue his own traditions in some areas!

      My area of expertise is in the study of biblical prophecy. I invite you to examine this press release for my book. Let me know if any of you have an interest and I have no problem sending you a free pdf. copy by email instead of feeling obligated to purchase. I also have some reviews on Amazon and Barnes & Noble online where the book is advertised that will give you some additional info of it's subject. The link is http://www.prweb.com/releases/2012/2/prweb9173531.... Thanks for hearing me out!

    • Kathleen Odenthal profile image
      Author

      Kathleen Odenthal Romano 3 years ago from Bayonne, New Jersey

      Interesting dialogue. I can tell you guys know a lot about that which you speak of, and I am glad an open discussion has started here between such intelligent minds. I look forward to your post on the gospels, please tell me when it is published. Thanks.

    • theomajor profile image

      theomajor 3 years ago from New Zealand

      I don't want to stray too far here from the topic matter of cults. The BOM was heavily influenced by the christianity of its day. It contains contradictions, as does every bible. Sadly the plates are taken and no comparisons can be made to proof-check the attested translation. This is not the case for NT works which are called into question every time a pre-fourth century manuscript is rediscovered. I am currently working on gospel articles which cover some of the critical variations. A work colleague commented to me recently on the KJV. He was part of the Apostolic Church in South Africa. He considered the KJV to be Word. I said no way, what we read today is radically different from the Olde English, Apocrypha-containing genuine article KJV. Not that the genuine KJV wasn't erroneous. It is riddled with serious errors. Watch for my series on gospels and you may be surprised what breakthrough research has been done on the NT in recent years. As for Paul, try reading Acts and you will find an ex-Rabbianite who still observed all the Mosaic Law including the 7th Day and Temple worship. Without the Law (nomia - Greek, anomia being translated iniquity in the KJV) there is no atonement and Jesus is not the Messiah (see my article THE CUP WILL NOT PASS - How It Is By Biblical & Other Text).

    • gregb4hope profile image

      gregb4hope 3 years ago from El Paso TX

      Approximately 1800 years later the BOM comes into the picture when the Apostles and in particularly Paul declared for Christians what the context of Sabbath was to be. To me the BOM just seems like a copycat book which also introduces "other ideas" that are not aligned with scripture and in some cases contradicts what has already been established by the Holy Spirit. Jehovah's Witnesses have their WatchTower which have conclusions that differ from scripture. Their bible I have studied because of attending their services as a young man. They have done some serious 'rewording" from the King James version. There are also other"versions" that are not based on sound translation out there as well.

    • theomajor profile image

      theomajor 3 years ago from New Zealand

      To gregb4hope the BOM reads "But the seventh day, the Sabbath of the Lord thy God, thou shalt not do any work..." - Mosiah 13:18. The Messiah shall judge every Christian by the criterion of the 613 Commandments of the Mosaic Law as it is written in Matthew's gospel and the BOM which happens to replicate some interesting parts of bibles. There are a number of Mormon groups in the USA but only the RLDS and The Church Of Jesus Christ Of Latter-Day Saints have significant membership. The RLDS is, I believe a little smaller than the Jehovah's Witness church. Jehovah's Witnesses should be noted for one of the better bibles around.

    • Kathleen Odenthal profile image
      Author

      Kathleen Odenthal Romano 3 years ago from Bayonne, New Jersey

      Yes, Jehovahs Witness is a cult. Speak to anyone who was one and isn't now and they will confirm that. I don't define what a cult is, the people do. And different people consider different things to be cults. Not only that, but time changes the definition and changes people and groups, so it is constantly evolving, but yes, religion is very much at the root of many cults.

    • gregb4hope profile image

      gregb4hope 3 years ago from El Paso TX

      I agree with your article about the cults listed. But who defines what a cult is? In the most defining terms I would think a cult is defined as a religious group which identifies itself as a user of the Bible to formulate their ideology without following it's mandates and practices. The most basic of commandments is to repent, to love the Lord with all your mind, heart and soul. Also to love your neighbor as you love yourself. Clearly, there is no room for exclusivity and prejudicial preference. JW & KKK and plenty of other "good" looking groups but clearly not following fully biblical mandates. The Latter Day Saints carry the Bible but use the Book of Mormons as the latest inspired book superseding the Bible.

      Are they "born again" in Christ that they might receive the gift of the Holy Spirit? Many of the cults are just walking blind of the True Light in Christ. They will refute any alignment as a satanic cult. And the only group which classifies them as such are True Christians walking in the guidance of the Spirit Truth which the Holy Spirit leads us in. The rest of the world just sees another christian based church and lumps us all together.

    • theomajor profile image

      theomajor 3 years ago from New Zealand

      You are saying Jehovah's Witnesses are a cult? Also are the KKK and the various groups of Freemasons not secret societies? I guess the higher levels of Freemasons could be classified as a Satanic cult.

    • gregb4hope profile image

      gregb4hope 3 years ago from El Paso TX

      You are welcome Kathleen. I have come to the conclusion that it really doesn't matter what our fore fathers thought when initially drafting the constitution. They believed in a democratic society and that is what we still are. Our governance is based on the majority of the people and the changes are reflecting what the majority believes even if it's different than the forefathers intent. From a christian view however, we are beginning to see our influence decline as a moral compass for our nation. But it is still democracy! The challenge for us as the faithful few (remnant) is to endure for surely Jesus must be coming for the Bride. Democracy, as good as it has been, also has an inherent weakness. It can become what the people want it to be and God knows it.

    • Kathleen Odenthal profile image
      Author

      Kathleen Odenthal Romano 3 years ago from Bayonne, New Jersey

      You raised many points that really made me think Greg. The things you listed, I completely agree are foul sins that hurt the soul. Interesting to think about it that way. Thanks!

    • Kathleen Odenthal profile image
      Author

      Kathleen Odenthal Romano 3 years ago from Bayonne, New Jersey

      Thanks Eddy! Hope you enjoy your day! :)

    • gregb4hope profile image

      gregb4hope 3 years ago from El Paso TX

      A democratic society we are but now it seems , and the trend has been going on for over 20 years, we are fully legalizing "sins" (gambling, same-sex marriage, adult pornograhy…etc) which the word of God takes clear exception to. As if we as Americans have the right in defying God with pride and intellect. Unfortunately, even many christians are too weak and indifferent to do anything about it!. They are more concerned about their blessings than defending the gospel truth. The growth of the cults will continue due to the demise of the Christian faith with each passing day!

    • Eiddwen profile image

      Eiddwen 3 years ago from Wales

      This is a hub so needed to be read by many to save them becoming obsessed with these cults. Very interesting, well written and you put your points across wonderfully. Here's to so many more hubs for us both to share on here.

      Eddy.

    • Kathleen Odenthal profile image
      Author

      Kathleen Odenthal Romano 3 years ago from Bayonne, New Jersey

      I do have some details for you Greg, but I want to fact check them first. I will get back to you!

    • gregb4hope profile image

      gregb4hope 3 years ago from El Paso TX

      False "angel of lights" in some many forms with the audacity to consider themselves doing a good deed for society under the wings of Christianity. Appreciate the reminder which seem so silent within churches concerning these fringe groups. Our society now accepts fully practically all these as recognized such as the Wiccans. Perhaps extending tax exemption and other privileges as Christianity. You got any more details on that?

    • MsDora profile image

      Dora Isaac Weithers 3 years ago from The Caribbean

      Very important information and insights about cults. Some cult members become hooked, not knowing what they're getting into. Thanks for making us aware.

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