Thursday, 1 November 2012

Top Five Christian Cults

Within religious circles, one man's cult seems to be another man's mainstream religion, but a few things seem to characterise modern 'New Age Religion' cults, apart from mysticism and rituals:
  • Autocratic rule. Often claimed by 'divine right'. Usually dominated by one charismatic man regarded as the font of all 'wisdom' and frequently claiming direct divine guidance and instructions.
  • Women play a subordinate role. Women are expected to be at the disposal of the senior men.
  • Many cults are apocalyptic, believing some great disaster is about to befall the world, or the Second Coming of Jesus is imminent, and their leader is a prophet sent to prepare the world for it or to provide an elite who are to survive the apocalypse.
  • Fundraising is a major preoccupation, with members either required to raise money by begging or selling the cult's produce, or to donate a large proportion, even all, of their income.
  • Extremely rich leaders.

In fact, in many ways, the social structure of religious cults closely resembles the social structure of gorillas and the common chimpanzee.

  1. Elijah

    Church of Bible Understanding.

    This cult was started in New York in 1971 as 'The Forever Family' by a fundamentalist Pentecostal Christian and vacuum cleaner repair man, Stewart Traill, who had been expelled from the Pentecostal Church. He claims to be a reincarnation of Elijah, to know the exact date of the 'Second Coming' and to possess a unique ability to understand the true meaning of the word of God. Members were required to live in a commune and donate 90% of their earnings to the cult. All aspects of members lives are carefully controlled by a process of harsh criticism and public humiliation.

    The cult branched out into the carpet cleaning business, with "Christian Brothers Carpet Cleaning", and used van sales. As part of President Bush's 'Faith Based Initiatives' the cult is reported to receive US Federal Government funding for a 'mission' in Haiti where it indoctrinates Haitian children in return for food and clothing.

    Stewart Traill is reputed to have amassed a considerable fortune.
  2. Shoko Asahara

    Aum Shinrikyo (Supreme Truth).

    A Japanese cult drawing partly on aspects of Christianity, particularly the Bible Book of Revelations. The cult was started by Shoko Asahara in 1984 in his one-bedroom Tokyo apartment, initially as yoga and meditation school.

    From this the cult diversified into publishing and, following an intense advertising campaign in which it claimed to offer a cure for physical illness and the realisation of life goals through positive thinking, it became one of the fastest growing religions in Japanese history. It's teachings were a mixture of Christianity, ancient Japanese teachings and the science fiction books of Isaac Azimov. Secretive religious practices involved the use of hallucinogenic substances like LSD, electric shocks and being hung upside down for prolonged periods.

    From this, the cult moved into extortion, holding cult members against their will and murder of opponents. Following a failed bid for election to political office as the 'Supreme Truth Party' the cult effectively declared war on society and began to amass weapons and manufacture sarin gas. This was used in a deadly attack on the Tokyo underground on 20 March 1995 in which 13 commuters were killed and up to 5,000 more were affected. On 5 May 1995 the cult attempted to detonate several hydrogen cyanide devices on the Tokyo underground, each of which was capable of killing up to 20,000 people. Asahara and several senior cult leaders were convicted and sentenced to death for the killings but to date, the sentences have not been carried out. [Update: Asahara and six followers were executed in 1918 as a punishment for the 1995 attacks and other crimes and the remaining six on death row were executed on 26 July that year. On New Year's Day 2019, a cult member drove a car into a crowd in Tokyo, to protest the executions, injuring at least 9 people, 1 seriously]

    The cult is still in existence, maintained by donations and has officially apologised for the attacks and claimed to have changed its ways. Its existence is guaranteed under Japan's constitutional freedom of religion.
  3. God

    The Unification Church (Moonies).

    Invented by South Korean Presbyterian Christian Sunday school teacher and electrical engineer, Sun Myung Moon, who declared himself to be the Christian Messiah, the 'Moonies' believe God has chosen South Korea to create Heaven on earth. One of Moon's practices was to hold mass ceremonies in which tens of thousands of followers were married to partners randomly allocated by Moon.

    Being God of course meant that Moon needed as much money as possible, so no donation was ever too large. In later life, he concentrated more on material things like running his multi billion dollar business empire than on the spiritual needs of his followers.

    Bizarrely for a god, Moon died on 3 September 2012.
  4. David Brandt Berg

    Children of God (now known as the Family of Love and Family International).

    Children of God for formed by 'Christian and Missionary Alliance' pastor, David Brandt Berg amongst the Californian Hippy communities in 1968. It taught that sex, even with children, was natural and right. Female members of the cult were sent out to sell sexual favours to men to show God's love, and to solicit donations to the cult in a practice called 'Flirty Fishing' or 'FFing'. A refinement of this technique was to work through escort agencies ('ESing'). In effect, the cult was an organised prostitution and child abuse ring.

    I am quite satisfied that most of the women who engaged in this activity and the subsequent refinement of ESing, (which was finding men through escort agencies), did so in the belief that they were spreading God's word. But I am also totally satisfied that that was not Berg's only purpose. He and his organization had another and more sordid reason. They were procuring women to become common prostitutes. They were knowingly living in part on the earnings of prostitution. That was criminal activity. Their attempts to deny this must be dismissed as cant and hypocrisy. To deny that the girls were acting as prostitutes because 'we are not charging but we expect people to show their thanks and their appreciation and they ought to give more for love than if we charged them' is an unacceptable form of special pleading. The 'FFers handbook' told the girls that fishing could be fun but fun did not pay the bills. 'You've got to catch a few to make the fun pay for itself. So don't do it for nothing'. - Rt. Hon. Lord Justice Ward – 1995[11]

  5. Jesus' Relative, An Evolutionary Kingdom Above Human

    Heaven's Gate

    Based on the Christian Bible Book of Revelations, Heaven's Gate was the last in a series or renamed and reinvented cults invented by Marshall Applewhite and Bonnie Nettles. Following a heart attack during which Applewhite claimed to have had a NDE he decided that he and his nurse, Bonnie Nettles, were the 'two witnesses'.

    And I will give power unto my two witnesses, and they shall prophesy a thousand two hundred and threescore days, clothed in sackcloth.

    Revelations 11:3

    The cult taught a mixture of apocalyptic Christianity, science fiction inspired partly by the TV Series 'Star Trek', and a bastardized version of evolution. Marshall claimed to be directly related to Jesus and so to be a member of an "Evolutionary Kingdom Level Above Human". Apparently, their mission was to warn that earth was about to be cleansed, renewed and refurbished prior to recycling.

    In three batches over the three days 24, 25 & 26 March 1997, Marshall and 38 Heaven's Gate cultists committed suicide so they could be taken to the 'Next Level' aboard the spaceship Marshall had told them was behind the Hale-Bop comet. Only one member survived, having left the commune a few days before so he could continue the cult's work.

Of course, as we can see from this small sample of Christian cults (weren't all Christian sects, and indeed Christianity itself, once cults?) one essential ingredient for cult formation is a supply of gullible and credulous or otherwise vulnerable individuals ready and willing to suspend their own rational thought processes and so be exploited by the cult leaders, often in return for nothing more than a sense of belonging to a group. For an understanding of how this works, see 'Whatever Possesses Religious People?'.

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1 comment :

  1. I was in the Church of Bible Understanding in 1975 - 1977 or so. I must say I did learn alot about the Bible while I was there. Stuart Traill did not have sex, as far I knew or ever heard, with anyone but his wife. That said, the church about 1977, began taking 90% of checks, they did discourage members from spending time with their families; and while the members were fairly poor, Stuart Traill had his own small plane which he, of course, needed to get around to all fellowships. After being sent to Hell's Kitchen in NYC, I packed up and left one day, but based on what I learned, spent the next few years thinking God was going to kill me for leaving. So, not as bad as some.


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