The seven signs you're in a cult

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Joined in 2013
June 19, 2014, 19:57

"November 2, 2012, was a beautiful Friday in Kansas City—clear and cool and sunny. I had spent the afternoon reading in the library at an unaccredited college affiliated with the International House of Prayer, an evangelical Christian organization commonly referred to as IHOP (no relation to the restaurant). Around 6 pm, I got a call from my friend Hannah*.

“I found out something that’s truly devastating. I didn’t want to tell you this way, but I want you to know,” she said. “Bethany Leidlein committed suicide on Tuesday.”…."

Thought I'd share this article. Note: The title is a bit misleading as its actually a much more in-depth article on the formation and disastrous consequences of an extreme Christian cult group and touches on homosexuality as part of its wider doctrine and background.

Note #2: The comments section appears to have a technical glitch as they are responses to a different article about the ocean.

Chapter Leader
Joined in 2008
June 29, 2014, 20:09

An interesting article. There are a number of articles available giving warning signs re cults. Usually with some common points. We can't afford to let down our guard. They tend to prey on needy / confused / lonely people.

Joined in 2011
July 3, 2014, 10:37

Thanks for this. I had a read to see if I could relate from my questionable church experience. Hard to recognise what's dangerous when you're living in the midst of it. I guess, just never stop seeking God & the truth.

Ann Maree
Joined in 2008
July 17, 2014, 16:46

Thanks for posting this article.

I could certainly relate to some of the things in it from previous cult involvement.

In my previous church, if you had any independent thought, you were considered to be speaking "against the leadership" or "outside the vision". They also expected a superhuman commitment and loyalty to church events that was imbalanced and didn't realistically sit with other life commitments. And if you didn't attend all events, you were considered not spiritual enough. The worst part was being isolated from others after being ex-communicated though, feeling shunned, devastated and confused, doubting my instincts and finding myself without a base because my whole world had been tied up in that church. It took a long time to recover but things are good now.

Joined in 2011
July 19, 2014, 18:52

That sounds very similar to my experience Ann Maree.

Glad you are feeling freer. I think I am too, after 4 and a half years. Just starting to feel like my own person. And ok about making my own decisions.

Can I ask you about what helped you the most? I guess for me it was time, mostly. And tasting other churches slowly. Including getting to know other Christians & spending social time with them.

Ann Maree
Joined in 2008
July 19, 2014, 23:43

Hi miss.muppet. Thanks for asking.

It was such a painful period of complex grieving, in a sense there was nothing that really touched that. No one I came into contact with understood spiritual abuse. Other church people and counsellors didn't know what this was. Friends and family didn't understand.

So in answer to your question of how I came to be alright now, I suppose it was a long process of finding myself through other life experiences that led to my recovery. I think learning of others' cult experiences helped me know I wasn't alone. Examining my beliefs and values, undertaking some university bible study, studying personal development and counselling courses and weighing my learning against my values, helped me build up my own philosophy of life. It took a long time though. I looked for a sense of community and tried a few churches but the fit was never right and I was fearful of being abused again. So I kept engaged in activities and hobbies that allowed me to grow and these really helped me. The pain was still there but I guess I acknowledged it and worked my way through it as best I could. I also met some good people along the way who were not part of churches and they helped me see there were other ways to view the world, including being more kind to myself and others, and because of my former cult experiences, I became better at discerning about people and their motives, and was able to avoid making the same mistakes again.


Ann Maree

Joined in 2011
July 20, 2014, 11:33

Thank you for sharing. It is helpful to know others have been through similar situations & being ok. I'm still learning about boundaries. But I know I have some good friends now who I can trust with my heart. And that comforts me. There is more than one way to view the world. And everyone has their own personal journey & choices.

Joined in 2013
July 23, 2014, 20:53

I'm glad that this is useful here.

I suspect I'm not as introspective as many others here and rarely reflect on my experiences in a very fundamentalist and cult-like church. In the light of the recent loss of Malaysian Airlines flight MH17 and the AIDS researchers onboard, I was suddenly reminded of a cell group leader telling me that AIDS was God's punishment for homosexuality and that people trying to cure or prevent AIDS/HIV were going against God's will.

I can't fathom now how I could have believed all that bullshit; and at the same time realising how such attitudes have shaped me to where I am now. The least I can do is try and make amends for the lack of compassion I had for years.

Ann Maree
Joined in 2008
July 28, 2014, 15:13

Hi Dragunov

Yes very helpful, thanks for posting.

I too have also looked at my previous beliefs and have developed as a result of those mistakes, now more compassionate, open minded, inclusive and discerning as a result of my experiences. So I can thank the church for the ex communication as I like the person I am more than who I was.


Ann Maree

Joined in 2014
August 31, 2014, 09:33

This is huge message of warning for Christians. The early Christian writings (which is the New Testament) were all about guiding the new Christians and keeping them from the many various cults and occults that existed in those times…well, actually, nothing has really changed has it! When I lived in California for a few years back in the 1980's I did a great deal of research on cults and cult behaviours within the Churches which espoused Christian beliefs. I sat in various seminars and studied cultism and have been blessed by this experience. It certainly has protected me over the years. However, I had the personal experience of having been led into one before finding my way out and into the study thereof. Here is a good list on cult behaviours:

Characteristics Associated with Cultic Groups – Revised

Janja Lalich, Ph.D. & Michael D. Langone, Ph.D.

Concerted efforts at influence and control lie at the core of cultic groups, programs, and relationships. Many members, former members, and supporters of cults are not fully aware of the extent to which members may have been manipulated, exploited, even abused. The following list of social-structural, social-psychological, and interpersonal behavioral patterns commonly found in cultic environments may be helpful in assessing a particular group or relationship.

Compare these patterns to the situation you were in (or in which you, a family member, or friend is currently involved). This list may help you determine if there is cause for concern. Bear in mind that this list is not meant to be a “cult scale” or a definitive checklist to determine if a specific group is a cult. This is not so much a diagnostic instrument as it is an analytical tool.

‪ The group displays excessively zealous and unquestioning commitment to its leader and (whether he is alive or dead) regards his belief system, ideology, and practices as the Truth, as law.

‪ Questioning, doubt, and dissent are discouraged or even punished.

‪ Mind-altering practices (such as meditation, chanting, speaking in tongues, denunciation sessions, and debilitating work routines) are used in excess and serve to suppress doubts about the group and its leader(s).

‪ The leadership dictates, sometimes in great detail, how members should think, act, and feel (for example, members must get permission to date, change jobs, marry—or leaders prescribe what types of clothes to wear, where to live, whether or not to have children, how to discipline children, and so forth).

‪ The group is elitist, claiming a special, exalted status for itself, its leader(s) and members (for example, the leader is considered the Messiah, a special being, an avatar—or the group and/or the leader is on a special mission to save humanity).

‪ The group has a polarized us-versus-them mentality, which may cause conflict with the wider society.

‪ The leader is not accountable to any authorities (unlike, for example, teachers, military commanders or ministers, priests, monks, and rabbis of mainstream religious denominations).

‪ The group teaches or implies that its supposedly exalted ends justify whatever means it deems necessary. This may result in members' participating in behaviors or activities they would have considered reprehensible or unethical before joining the group (for example, lying to family or friends, or collecting money for bogus charities).

‪ The leadership induces feelings of shame and/or guilt iin order to influence and/or control members. Often, this is done through peer pressure and subtle forms of persuasion.

‪ Subservience to the leader or group requires members to cut ties with family and friends, and radically alter the personal goals and activities they had before joining the group.

‪ The group is preoccupied with bringing in new members.

‪ The group is preoccupied with making money.

‪ Members are expected to devote inordinate amounts of time to the group and group-related activities.

Members are encouraged or required to live and/or socialize only with other group members.

The most loyal members (the “true believers”) feel there can be no life outside the context of the group. They believe there is no other way to be, and often fear reprisals to themselves or others if they leave (or even consider leaving) the group.

This checklist will be published in the new book, Take Back Your Life: Recovering from Cults and Abusive Relationships by Janja Lalich and Madeleine Tobias (Berkeley: Bay Tree Publishing, 2006). It was adapted from a checklist originally developed by Michael Langone

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