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Former Cult Members Explain How They Knew They Were In Too Deep

Former Cult Members Explain How They Knew They Were In Too Deep

Have you ever looked around at your life and suddenly wondered "Holy crap, what did I get myself into?" Most of us had that moment about a friends-with-benefits situation that got a little too comfortable, or that math class you totally weren't ready to take ... then there are these people.

Reddit user jhossuah asked:

People who were part of a cult, when did guy realize "oh, I'm in a cult"?

These folks all came to the realization that were in WAY over their heads. For some it was a literal religious cult, for other people the "cult" took other forms. For at least one person the cult took some weird left turn and ended up with people "writhing" together to the Prince Of Egypt soundtrack.

No, we're not joking.

Things are about to get weird, real weird - the kind of weird that only happens when you start talking about cults. Essentially, we're telling you to brace for a hard-hitting awesome/awful combo pack.

Standing Ovation


When I went to some Scientology event was told I would really enjoy and there's a standing ovation for the founder literally every 5 minutes.

- IdPreferLegsOverBoth

The Evil Other

When they said,"Don't hangout with non-Jehova's Witness people, they are evil." I was in that organization for a long time I was clueless about everything.

I hope it falls down one day.

- Havok1717

Middle Aged Ladies In Tie Dye


When I was 17-18 my friends and I (guys and girls) were big hippie stoners, and we would go to this active meditation dance event with the hippie crowd in our city. Then this one time we attended a "private event" called an "intensive" where all these new-agers kind of broke us down and got us to talk a lot about our sexuality and everybody was crying and whatnot.

I left feeling like "that was weird" and then a few kids in my crew went to another one. They reported that it was different in that there were more adults, everybody wore all white, and that at one point they rolled out a TV with a video of Sri Bagavan Osho Rajneesh talking. They were long dead by then, and everyone started yelling, "we love you Osho!!! We love you!"

At that point I was like yeah, probably weird that I'd been spending so much time with middle age ladies in tie dye tights trying to bang me. Taught me how to like dancing, though.

- TerH2

No Photography

I was a part of Sogga Gokkai International, they never really followed Buddhist philosophy, and were quite materialistic. I realized it was a cult when we were to all watch a video from our "president " and we were not allowed to record it or film anything. That's when I realized I was in a cult. Look them up.

- Sunrider96

Amway Strikes Again

I accepted an invitation to a seminar at the local convention center to learn about how to add some financial stability to my life. It was an Amway recruitment meeting. And I was very ashamed because this was the second time in my life that I got tricked into attending an Amway recruitment meeting. There were obvious ringers in the crowd, even though everyone sitting were supposedly newcomers. I could identify the ringers by their irrationally enthusiastic clapping, and by their frequent use of Amway GlisterMint (tm) Refresher Spray.

- panzan

The Whole Shin-Dig


Grew up Mormon. Did the whole shin-dig:

-Mormon missionary

-Married in the HOLY temple

-Only dated members

-Went to BYU

-Had kids immediately to fulfill my holy gender and didn't finish my career at the behest of church leaders telling me that motherhood is the "holiest calling on earth."

Then when I was around 28 yrs old I found a video about polyandry (men marrying already married women) and I was taken aback. It got me to actually research my religion for the first time.

That was a bomb to my faith and I spent hours upon hours reading the history of the "Spaceballs of Christianity." Basically, I found out the church was founded on pedophilia and adultery.

Left the church. Took my kids out. Marriage suffered a lot and luckily my husband ended up doing his own research and he left as well.

We lost all our friends, community and it destroyed our business that was dependent on other members since we live in Utah. Where we live, it's 80% Mormon and we endured a lot of slander and harassment, even from our own families. It's been hell but it's heaven on the other side.

But let me tell you that it was a learning curve to see how to navigate life outside the cult. I had to learn to order coffee. I had to spend a few hours shopping for clothes since I didn't know my own style out of "Holy underwear." My political views changed 180 and we are now fully tattooed, raising our kids to be unique individuals and made friends with those that love us for us. Marriage was suffering and dying when in the church and we managed to recover and start anew. I'd like to renew our vows since we were robbed of a real ceremony.

You follow a strict list of rules your entire life and then you leave. You discover yourself outside the cult propaganda of who they tell you to be. Living life now is a deep breathe of fresh air.

- Imreallytryingdis

100 Rounds With Rocky

I was at the Rocky Horror Picture Show, and they told everyone to stand up like usual at the beginning of a show, and they said "anyone who has seen the show 100 times, sit down," and I did, and that's when I knew I was in a cult.

- The_Ineffable_Sage

Owned By The School

I recently enrolled at a "private school" which ended up being more of an elitist cult than a school. We were given an orientation lecture and had to listen to the dean speak. I knew it was a cult or cult-like when the dean said to us,

"When someone asks you who you are, say to them... I come from (school name), I am (school name), (School name) is me."

and then he said "say it with me,"

And then we had to repeat his words saying that our school was our identity. When utilizing career services, we also were required to include the school's logo on the top of our resumé, as if they owned us or something.

- nbailey73

Wow, They Really Liked That Soundtrack


I didn't realize I was in a cult until years after I left. I was heavily involved for about a year from ages 15 to 16. The group claimed to be an offshoot of a local Assemblies of God church, but they had no oversight from the church as far as I could tell. The offshoot itself was called "Revive", which sounded innocent enough to me, and there was no literal attempt to raise the dead.

I'm almost certain the group disbanded after a few years, especially since the AoG church vacated town too.

My parents stopped me from attending their cult meetings when they realized that one of our practices was akin to a clothed orgy, not even knowing that weirder things were afoot.

Practices of the cult:

  • The aforementioned "clothed orgy" - where we would stand or crouch together, sometimes in a "human furniture" type position, and writhe against each other to the Prince of Egypt soundtrack
  • A "new bible", that didn't include too much blasphemous content, but contained such gems as "why God never intended for us to have fun"
  • To prove our collective devotion to God, some members would voluntarily "sacrifice" their comfort in the form of setting their clothes on fire or making themselves vomit
  • Glossolalia, hypnotism, and the occasional bit of physical violence (i.e. wrestling someone to the ground) when the hypnotism didn't work
  • Exhortation from the adults involved that we were not to tell our parents about what was happening

Why I stayed in the cult:

  • Peer pressure, mostly
  • A huge crush on one of the auxiliary youth pastors, a man who now runs a polyamorous "intentional community"
  • It honestly didn't feel too different from the various fundie churches I'd been carted around to as a kid
- shockingpomegranate

The Cult Of AA

AA can be pretty culty depending on the meetings you go to.

I went to one meeting regularly where they didn't want me to interact with anyone outside the program. They also wanted me to devote all my free time to AA by doing service commitments and going to multiple meetings a day. They also told me to use the program as my higher power if I couldn't find my own conception of a higher power.

I thought it was weird to think of the program as basically being God.

Everyone also wanted to know my life story down to the nitty gritty details, and I would get criticized if I didn't want to share something. I ended up feeling worse about myself as a person because I constantly had to re-live all the bad stuff I had done.

I ended up leaving AA and going to different recovery group that was a lot more relaxed. I have nothing against AA as a whole, it has helped millions of people. Also like I said, it depends on the meeting, but the one I was going to seemed a lot like a cult and it made me not want any part of the program.

- Deezax19

When Jesus Buys A Jet

I was briefly in a "prosperity gospel" cult.

I was at a really low place in my life, gnarly alcoholism, and everyone was SO kind! Everyone was my brother, sister, aunt; they always bought me lunch after church!

The "bishop" who was in charge was not actually a bishop, he just called himself that. he started his own church after the old one asked him to leave when he got his side chick pregnant. There was all the theatrics of a black church- people fainting from the holy ghost, him anointing/healing people, etc. all of the services were recorded and streamed on his subscription website. he briefly had a show on Oxygen.

There came a point where I was going to Bible study Tuesday & Wednesday night and two (4 hr each) services on Sunday.

The church was in an unfinished warehouse in South Central LA, bathrooms were Porta potties outside. Everyone I saw was putting at least $20-50 in the envelope every time AND most were tithing. I started putting $1 in envelopes beforehand so they didn't guilt me. A lot of them didn't even have money to take the bus (he very kindly gave out tokens). He has 5 bodyguards, a Jaguar, and a Maserati.

I thought there was something really fishy about that! A woman told me I had to get rid of a Buddha keychain or God wouldn't love me. The absolute last straw for me was when the "bishop" got a private jet for his birthday. I asked who it was from and they were adamant that Jesus Christ bought it for him. No one could grasp the concept that it is all a HUGE scam!


Gaudy Ads Plastered Everywhere


I kind of realized it operated like a business. You can't advance if you don't shell out cash. We constant meet so the clergy can beg for money. We have gaudy ads plastered everywhere. Most churches don't operate like this. I slowly dissociated myself from the cult after that.

- introvertedbassist

Yoga, Anorexia and Piercings - Oh My...

I was really into yoga during the summer of 8th grade. I tried a bunch of classes but none of them were a good fit, so instead I started going to this very weird yoga studio sort of far into the suburbs, because I was very weird. There was always just one big group class going on and everyone knew each other. Everyone was older than me but they treated me like an adult so that was cool. I started going to class every single day and eventually they were inviting me to these after-hours (like 7pm) parties they'd have. There was no alcohol or dancing or anything, we'd just sit around listening to the guy that owned the studio talking. He just read passages from different new-agey faux Buddhist books and go off on long tangents in the middle of sentences. Sometimes he'd pick out a word that he thought "resonated with the room" and had us repeat it over and over, or pass it around the circle. So we'd be saying, "Green, green, green," or "health, health, health," or "awesome, awesome, awesome," over and over again.

They also had really shitty food. It reminded me of the oily food my family would make for Hanukkah, but really gross and "healthy". The leader's girlfriend told me that when she first joined she always made an effort only to eat food when she was with the leader. That got into my head, so I stopped eating at home and only ever ate the awful food at the studio when he was around. At one point I was there almost eight hours a day. (My parents thought that I was just with friends or swimming at the YWCA, probably because that's what I told them I was doing.) I watched the group turn more and more cult-like before my eyes. No one ever tried to touch me or anything, but some of the other members would do these "couples yoga" things in front of me, and when I told the leader I was uncomfortable, he got super mad and threatened to kick me out. I was scared because I thought that the studio was the only place I had friends, so I apologized and never said another word against him. We started wearing matching necklaces and earrings, and one of the other members pierced my tongue so I could wear her old ring while she was on vacation. (Gross.)

I came home and my mom saw it and she was like, "What in the hell have you been doing?" And I tried lying to her because I was embarrassed at how creepy the yoga classes had gotten and how stupid I had been for staying that long. That's actually when I realized I was in a kinda-cult, when I saw how disturbed she was by the things I told her. Obviously she made sure I never went back there. My parents were actually really compassionate and nice, but I still ended up with an eating disorder and mild agoraphobia, which I can partly attribute to my time at the yoga studio.

But I can also do a hand-stand and I'm hella flexible, so at least something good came out of it all.

In the end, I was only going there for a couple months. I'm not sure if it even qualified as a cult. I don't think they were doing anything illegal. It's not as if I was brainwashed, I was just immersed in a really weird, unnerving environment for a brief period during those formative years.

Soooo that's my cult story. Not very interesting. I think I'm gonna start telling more people about it though, because it felt pretty good getting it out.

- reallarrydavid