Top 10 Cults

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A “cult” typically refers to a  social group devoted to beliefs or practices that the surrounding population considers to be outside the mainstream. Cults usually expect a large amount of time and money to be devoted as well. And sometimes a cult will ask the ultimate price, your life. Here are 10 cults that have changed the way the world looks at cults.



10. Scientology

File:Church of Scientology building in Los Angeles, Fountain Avenue.jpg

Scientology may not be considered a true “doomsday” cult as most others on this list are, but it still has a stronghold all over the world, and its fair share of detractors who tell stories of mind control, financial devastation, and criminal activity leading to the deaths of those trying to escape the religion. Created by L. Ron Hubbard in 1947 in his first office on La Brea and Sunset in Los Angeles, Scientology is a religion based on the idea of clearing the “thetans” of outer space entities from the human psyche, with intense therapy sessions that rely on the use of a crude lie detector test, known as an E-Meter. Followers: Beck, Tom Cruise, Priscilla Presley. Scientology runs centers all over the world, but its best known is the Celebrity Center in Los Angeles, where many of its most renowned members come to “get clear”.

9. Hare Krishna

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Founded in 1966, the Hare Krishna cult was a fixture in the seventies, with yellow-robed disciples panhandling at every major airport and intersection. The epitome of hippie idealism, Krishna followers believed utterly in the God “Krishna” who was actually a character created for a novel, Mahabaratha. The distinctive, relentless chanting practiced by followers of this cult actually meant “the energy of the Lord”. Krishna followers lived a hardscrabble, Spartan existence, with the barest level of sustenance, and very little sleep: they suffered for their religion, believing that they would be rewarded by ascension to a spiritual paradise after many reincarnations. However, not every member of the Krishna organization suffered: the higher echelons were well fed, housed in luxury, and surrounded by women catering to their every need. Although the Hare Krishna’s may also escape “doomsday cult” status, there are dark tales of disciples willing to do anything for their religion, including robbery and murder. Famous Followers: The Beatles, for a time.

8. The Unification Church

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Better known by the mocking nickname, “Moonies”, the disciples of Sun Myung Moon believe that Moon himself is the divine being, or Messiah. His status as the second coming of Christ allows him to live in royal fashion, supported by his many followers all over the world. Moon was unwelcome in Germany, being banned from the country, along with his wife, as a potentially dangerous influence on German youth: they were not allowed to enter Germany until 2006. It is believed that the cult lures in young people and separates them from their loved ones by making them feel a part of a new and more loving family. Moon expects to be treated as God, because he believes he is God, or so he has led his many followers to believe. Other belief systems of the Moonie cult are that an actual kingdom of heaven exists on Earth, not solely in the afterlife, as Christians believe. Korea is the chosen realm of this kingdom, according to Moon, who has earned millions and millions of dollars from Koreans, his chosen people, while preaching that Christian churches are the devil’s instruments.

7. Children of God

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A seriously twisted cult that delivered an evil message that sex with children was natural and right, The Children of God cult was also known as the Family and was founded by David Berg. Known for turning female cult followers into prostitutes who used sex to entice men into the cult, they were the purveyors of “The System”, a doctrine that included belief in the Apocalypse. Actress Rose McGowan of Charmed was raised in the cult, and so was River Phoenix, who later died after an overdose in front of Johnny Depp’s Viper Room. The cult’s system of sexual abuse and “flirty fishing” (the use of sex to lure new members) makes it a particularly nasty addition to our list.

6. The Ku Klux Klan (or KKK)

File:Georgia KKK Rally 2006.jpg

Spawned from the intensely racist Christian Identity Movement, The KKK practiced cold-blooded acts of murder during their reign of terror, at its most potent during the time after the Civil War. But their activities, born out of a desire for white supremacy, did not stop there. Famous for the meetings they attended, fully hidden by white robes and hoods, and the burning crosses they would erect to frighten those they despised, the KKK membership swelled to almost four million at its peak in 1928. The KKK had many enemies, looking down not only on the entire black race, but also on Catholics, Jews, and other non-white races

5. The Manson Family

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One of the most notorious cults of the modern age, the Manson Family was small, but deadly. Led by charismatic leader Charles Manson, a juvenile delinquent who sodomized other boys while in detention, Family followers believed in Helter Skelter, a massive retaliation by the black race against, in their own words, “whitey”. They also shared Manson’s belief that the Beatles’ White Album was sending them messages about how to participate in Helter Skelter. Songs like Piggies”, from that album, inspired drug-addled murderers like Charles “Tex” Watson and Patricia Krenwinkel to go into the Hollywood Hills and commit the gruesome murders of successful, rich members of the upper classes. When Roman Polanksi’s pregnant fiancée, the stunning actress Sharon Tate, begged for the life of her unborn baby, she was told, “I have no mercy for you”.



4. Heaven’s Gate

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A true doomsday cult, Heaven’s Gate followers believed in UFOs and that the Earth (and everyone on it) was about to be “wiped clean” and “recycled”. The only chance of escape, preached leaders Marshall Applewhite and Bonnie Nettles, was to get off the planet – immediately. Such teachings were the harbingers of mass suicides, and the followers were prepared with instructional videos and teachings, to leave their “flesh bodies” behind, and ascend to a new level of being. When the Hale-Bopp comet appeared in 1997, Applewhite had the sign he needed. Convinced that a spaceship was waiting just beyond the comet, to rescue his followers, he ordered the suicides of 38 followers, who believed it all. The 38 followers, and Applewhite, were all found dead in a beautiful house in San Diego in 1997.

3. The Order of the Solar Temple

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Another cult with a charismatic leader, Luc Joret, the Order of the Solar Temple also preached the message of Apocalypse, claiming that it would come through natural disasters. Only Solar Temple converts would escape the fate of mankind: since they were the faithful, they would be spared. The Solar Temple devotees believed that suicide was actually salvation, and that they would be really be going on a journey to a star called Sirius. These beliefs were so strong that, in 1994, 53 members of the cult were found dead of suicide in a compound near Geneva, Switzerland. Joret, having earned more than 93 million dollars instilling this doctrine in his followers, was one of the dead in Switzerland, apparently also on a “death voyage” to a distant star. Joret started out as Gestapo officer during World War II.

*Editor’s note: Joret was not a member of the Gestapo, but was recruited to a French-based group called the Reformed Order of the Temple whose leader, Julien Origas, was a former Gestapo officer.

2. Branch Davidians

File:Branch Davidian Compound Near Waco.jpg

David Koresh was a charismatic leader who taught his followers that the United States Government was the enemy of God. Also preaching the now-familiar refrain of apocalyptic terror and destruction, Koresh installed all of his followers at a compound in Waco, Texas, with some serious weapons, and instructions to fear and fight the authorities that “threatened” their life at the cult. Koresh enjoyed the bodies of his young female followers, while painting himself as the Messiah. In February of 1994, the ATF went out to the compound, to investigate allegations of the sexual abuse of children as young as twelve, and the illegal hoarding of weapons. A famous standoff ended in tragedy as canisters of tear gas were tossed into the compound by the ATF, resulting (maybe?) in fires that caused the death of 76 members. There is much contention about whose fault the tragic fire was: the controversy continues to this day.

1. The People’s Temple

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Jim Jones, the leader of The People’s Temple, was an odd child who was intrigued, at a very young age, by religious zeal and a strong interest in “death”. From these abnormal beginnings, Jones rose to become a macabre symbol of mind control and brainwashing. Jones cloaked his darker interest in death beneath a veneer of Socialism, believing that true religious consciousness would lead to a socialist viewpoint. He felt that the Bible was ridiculous; a sort of joke or fairy tale, and his followers grew in numbers as he refined his own doctrine. Eventually, Jones and his disciples had to flee the United States, as they were pressured by the government regarding charges of violence, abuse of followers, and illegal cult activity. They escaped to a settlement in Guyana, which Jones named (naturally) Jonestown. This is where the largest mass suicide in cult history was played out, the result of Jones convincing his followers that they were being pursued by foreign governments who would torture them and hurt their children. Gripped with terror, 909 followers (including many children) drank the infamous Kool-Aid and gave their lives over to the cult, forever.

*Editor’s note: Flavor Aid, not Kool-Aid, was the drink used to poison cult members.

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226 Comments

  1. The KKK is not a Cult, it’s just a hate group. That’s like calling Nazism a form of Cult belief system…

  2. good article but I have one problem with it. Listing the KKK I felt was a mistake, they aren’t a cult. They’re a hate group. And you made an error when talking about the origins of the Klan. Originally they weren’t a group against blacks, they were opposed to northern carpetbaggers (war profiteers) who came south to make a profit. Only later did they turn to hatred of minorities and certain religions.

  3. Philip Arlington on

    The Mahabaratha isn’t a novel it is one of the two main ancient Hindu epics, and Krishna is one of the main Hindu gods, he’s been around for thousands of years.

  4. Scientology isn’t a cult. It’s a parody of a religion. If Scientology is a cult, so is Pastafarianism. Nobody really believes in Scientology. It’s a satirical parody. It’s also not that dangerous, except for the suing everybody which, even if it’s making fun of other religions, is still way overboard.

    Now, I would say the big religions are the most dangerous cults. They’re the ones that affect the most people, but those are alarmingly absent from what is supposed to be a list of the most dangerous cults.

  5. ScoooobbbbyyyDooozer on

    I think everyone is going to believe what they believe no matter what… After we die and find out what happens after death is where we see any truth. So I say to heck with any “cult “, “religion”, or “belief”, just do you. Because I’ve come to realize that beliefs are the most difficult thing to change. The mind is a crazy body organ…

  6. Are you mentally handicapped or are you just ignorant to the rest of the world??
    Hare Krishna is kind of a part of Hinduism, it’s been around for centuries, it’s not just a bunch of hippys made a cult in the 60’s you idiot.

    • well hare krishna is a cult BECAUSE it was introduced in 1966 IN CALIFORNIA! it is a fake religion/cult because the belief is not from its original country (India). It is a fake religion! same as Mormons, Jehovah Witness ETC. Thommo I suggest you read up on your history before calling someone else an idiot.

      • *Sigh*…In America, to be considered a non-profit organization/church, you have to register with the government..This is why the Hare Krishna Movement was registered as ISKCON, which was actually done in New York I believe…However, this does not mean that the philosophy didn’t exist prior to registration…If you read up on history (practice what you preach), you will know that the founder of ISKCON is connected to a long lineage of authorities regarding Krishna Consciousness…Their teachings make up the Hare Krishna Movement (ISKCON)…If you want a factual history of the Hare Krishna Movement, please visit http://www.krishna.com/history-hare-krishna-movement….Thank you and Hare Krishna!

  7. …no more debate just read the scripture carefully,and understand well,..

    JESUS CHRIST, the God of Israel is our long last father that millions of people were blinded,….they never know him…trust JESUS because he is our only one Savior.no one more no one els.

    • I agree with unknown please everyone read your scripture but don’t cherry pick just the good bits read the entire book from cover to cover. Once you do this you will come out of it being an atheist guaranteed,

  8. If this website mentions something inaccurate and offensive about Lord Krishna then maybe it should be in the list of top ten ‘Not-so-great websites’.

    ISKCON (like any organisation) has improvements to make. But then every individual reading this has improvements to make. The United States government, any company you can think of, any charity you can think of, the city council of the main city in Fiji – any group you can think of has (1) Has people associated with it who have made mistakes, (2) could do better as an organisation. So nothing new there.

    Why don’t you spend more time glorifying the good, rather than frivolously fault-finding?

    Hare Krishna!

    p.s. listing ISKCON along with certain other groups on this page is a sad reflection on your lack of information and wisdom. Why don’t you look into it, even a little tiny bit?

    Sincerely, Tim McEvitt (from Ireland) – Have a nice day…

  9. Gospel Halls is a huge organized cult spread across the world, with tons of “halls” in the US, Canada, and Great Britain. They are able to get by and entice so many people into their cult because on the outside they don’t break any laws and just look like conservatives, but once you pledge your loyalty to them things change. Your expected to change your whole life around, isolate yourself from your family, and face humiliation and isolation is do disobey them at all. Girls are married as young as legally possible, sometimes before 18, often to people who they are related to, but far enough away that it’s considered legal. Behind closed doors there is shame and abuse.

  10. Personally I think it’s nice for people to have a faith to get them through living on earth, but when you look at what a faith really is its a set of rules for people to live by in the name of someone who either lived and died as far back as the start of time or has no proof of existence. What I think is wrong whether a cult or religion is brainwashing their followers, the harm they cause and the profit they make for unknown reason. Everybody has their right to criticise a religion especially if they do not see the logic of it, if they criticise your religion and it makes you question your faith that certainly is not the religion for you. It is nice that people defend their faith but understand that there are hundreds of different faiths and ‘sub-faiths’ so why should people not question or critique them?
    Faith can be a dangerous thing because it can sometimes blind you and forget who you, the individual really is.
    I think it’s also important to look at what the definition a cult actually is! How they target people! And why they do what they do.

  11. So the definition of ‘cult’ (sic) according to most of the posters is any group that you do not agree with. I believe “Abe” Lincoln followers (lovers) are a cult. obama followers (lovers) are definitely a blind cult.
    Besides, most people do not even know that there is not necessarily any connection between ‘cult,’ and “occult.”

  12. You can download the jonestown death recording, recovered by the FBI, at

    http://archive.org/details/ptc1978-11-18.flac16

    Pick your format. It’s about 30 minutes long and has Jim Jones ranting about the coming apocalypse, communism, socialism and other such nonsense. You even get to hear from a few of the followers.

    Pretty interesting stuff.

  13. Divinchi Dillardo on

    The whole world you come from,has no clue what is like for my race to have to put up with this country and its hatred,you hate black people,you cant help it,that why you are so afraid of the end of your world,this country destroys black families with aristocratical fathers and children supported by superwomen of color,to become a first family,to look up to,but you are correct when you worry about the so-called end of the world,because it will be the end,for all of you and all white people on earth.

  14. Can’t understand how someone can add “atheism” there as a cult. Cults are a system of beliefs which atheists don’t have… An atheist can see, can touch, can compare, can approve, can dissprove, can be right, can be wrong, he changes his ideas upon evidences. They don’t “believe” in the Big Band, they research, they are testing, they are approving and dissproving facts and they admit it as being right upon further research BUT NEVER the absolute TRUTH. That’s how it works. Atheism is about researching, constant evolving, putting everything in doubt upon further research.

    • Atheism is considered a religion because the ‘big Bang”, evolution, and the various other standards of atheism and humanism can’t be proven any more than the existence of God or the literal, six-day creation.
      Science must be testable, measurable and able to be reproduced reliably. Dating systems are completly subjective, and are based on an automatic assumption of great age-that’s not science, its assumption as much as assuming ‘God Created”.
      In fact, atheism, which must generally depend upon evolution, can allow NO doubt in evolution-to offer any question of the officially-accepted version is to be reject and cast away by the scientific community: there can be NO question. That’s not science-its religion. There is no proof for evolution, no proof that anything ever produced something not of its own kind-no evidence that life came from, non-life, no evidence for a big bang. In fact, the fact that some moons, plantes and even galaxies rotate the ‘wrong way’, is proof against a big bang.
      Accept atheism is a religion.

      • How can you prove the non-existence of something that never existed ? It’s your job to prove the existence, not mine to disprove it. I can disprove the existence unless you bring over the evidence. As I said, I have the absolute truth of the non-existence until you prove it.
        That’s how Science works. What you’re trying to say now is exactly how manipulation works, that’s what you’re doing right now, that’s what religion is doing. Atheism is not a religion … I don’t believe in the non-existence of a thing, I reject it unless it’s proven. There’s no dogma around it whatsoever.

        • Jim Rasmussen on

          “I can disprove the existence unless you bring over the evidence.” Unless you meant to say “can’t” instead of “can”, your statement would be incorrect.

          “I have the absolute truth of the non-existence until you prove it.” So, if you had lived at different times in human history … you would have the “absolute truth” that the earth was flat? … you would have the “absolute truth” that the sun revolved around the earth? … you would have the “absolute truth” that flies were created by spontaneous generation from rotting meat? So much for your “absolute truth”.

          What, by the way, would constitute sufficient proof of the existence of God for you? Anything?

          Finally, you say, “I don’t believe in the non-existence of a thing”. The belief in the non-existence of God is the very definition of atheist.