There are plenty of cults all over the world; many we are aware of, and some we aren’t. The definition of a cult refers to a social group of people defined by unorthodox and often unusual religious or spiritual beliefs. Cults have played a large part in our society for some time, and they maintain influence over some segments of people.
Cults are a curious invention, and some people find them fascinating. However, there are a lot of different cults out there that can pose dangers to members and non-members. Some of these cults pass themselves off as “normal” religious or social groups, and their members aren’t even aware they’re in a cult until it’s too late. Are you sure that you’d recognize if you’d joined a cult?
Many celebrities were either raised in cults or are active members of groups commonly considered cults. Here, we are going to take a look at some of the world’s most dangerous cults and their beliefs. We’ll also find out more about some famous faces that are rumored to be a part of these organizations.
Scientology is well known to a lot of people generally due to its celebrity involvement. The Church of Scientology is one of the wealthiest and most powerful in the world. The idea of Scientology came from L. Ron Hubbard, who postulated that humans were outcasts of an alien race, banished to Earth. Scientologists believe in clearing the human psyche of negative energy and emotions.
There are many celebs who are active members of Scientology, including actors Tom Cruise and John Travolta. Other famous people who were formerly Scientologists have publicly shared terrifying details of the religion and the aftermath of leaving the Church. Scientologists have been rumored to sue anyone who has anything bad to say about them. And there has been talk of murky goings on to keep people quiet, including suggestions of killings; though this is unsubstantiated.
Children of God
One of the more disturbing cults on our list is the Doomsday cult Children of God. This is basically a cult that encourages incestuous relationships and have had some rather unpleasant claims as to what they do to children! The founder of the cult was David Berg, and the group is infamous for its long history of abuse and sometimes calls itself The Family.
This creepy and disturbing cult is still active today and is now called The Family International. A few famous personalities were raised in this cult, including actor River Phoenix, and actress Rose McGowan. Though not abused herself, McGowan has spoken candidly about some of the goings-on within this cult, and it’s all rather dark and dangerous.
If you are someone who is into aliens and UFOs, you might think Raëlism sounds pretty cool. It’s the sort of cult you could imagine Fox Mulder from The X-Files joining. The cult was formed in 1974 and holds strong beliefs in the existence of UFOs and a race of extraterrestrial lifeforms known as the Elohim.
The founder of Raëlism, Claude Vorilhon, teaches that life on Earth was created by the Elohim and that what Christianity believes to be angels or Gods was actually these aliens. The ethos of this religion is allegedly based on a foundation of peace, sharing, and complete carnal liberty – funny that. Human cloning also plays a big part in their belief systems, and they strive to achieve eternal life.
You have probably heard the word Illuminati used throughout popular culture. It often refers to mysterious cults or organizations entwined in mysterious activities. And this doesn’t come from nowhere. In fact, the Bavarian Illuminati are perhaps the biggest and most well-known of the Illuminati factions. They purport to oppose superstition, abuse of state power, and the influence of religion.
However, the cult is regarded among the biggest conspirators in the world. It’s unclear exactly who the members are; though it is considered that many powerful individuals are active within the cult. They use their power and influence to manipulate events around the world. It all seems very eerie to us!
This is another of the UFO-alien cults around, who believe that we arrived on Earth in UFOs. The cult was formed in the ‘70s and is likely the result of copious amounts of mind-altering drugs that were so popular in that decade. Bonnie Nettles and Marshall Applewhite are considered to be the founding members of this religious cult.
The principal belief is that one day the alien overlords will return in their UFOs and cleanse the Earth. So they focus on preparing and their bodies and souls for a return to enlightenment. The cult preached suicide as a way to achieve this and came to international attention in 1997 after Applewhite ordered a mass suicide and 38 members of the cult died.
The Unification Church
Members of this cult are sometimes referred to as Moonies, due to their being the followers of Sun Myung Moon. They believe him to be a supreme being worthy of worship and accolade. This cult seems rather innocent on the surface, but can actually be rather dangerous and has been accused of manipulating and preying on young and impressionable people.
In fact, the cult has caused so much furor that Moon and his followers have actually been banned from some countries. For instance, Germany banned him from their country because he was considered a danger to its people. The collective has weird beliefs, like the fact that heaven can be formed on Earth, as well as mass wedding ceremonies.
Aum Shinrikyo is another Doomsday cult to make our list. Founded by Shoko Asahara, this cult believes in the coming of the apocalypse and attempts to incorporate elements of Indian and Tibetan Buddhism. Over the decades the members of this cult have been embroiled in allegations of fraud and murder.
In fact, many people view it as a terrorist cult, and one of their main agendas is thought to be to get rid of sin. Aum Shinrikyo was responsible for the 1995 sarin gas attack on the Tokyo subway, that killed 12 people. After being arrested by police Asahara was found to have stockpiled weapons and explosives. Luckily he was arrested, and the cult was disbanded.
The People’s Temple
One of the most famous cults of all time is The People’s Temple. You may not have heard of them, but you probably have heard of the Jonestown Massacre, right? Well, this is the largest mass-suicide in history and was carried out by over 900 members of The People’s Temple. Leader Jim Jones ordered the suicide with poisoned Kool-Aid in Guyana in 1978.
Jones was thought to be a dark individual, believing that the Bible was empowering for white people and that he was a faith healer. Many people believe the Jonestown Massacre should be classed as mass murder, rather than suicide, as many people were forced to drink the Kool-Aid. The cult was also responsible for the murder of US Congressman Leo Ryan in the build-up to the massacre. Chilling.
Church of Euthanasia
The name of this cult should raise alarm bells immediately. It’s a pretty new cult that was formed in Boston by Chris Korda. It seems as though the cult places animal life as more significant than human life, and the orders of the cult expressly forbid breeding and procreation. This is one of the more strange and extreme cults to have been formed in recent years.
And, to give you an idea of what they are like, let’s examine some of the dogmas related to the cult. They believe in suicide, abortion, and cannibalism of dead people. Not to mention the deviant beliefs they hold. This is often cited as one of the more dangerous cults out there, and certainly, one that should be avoided at all costs.
The Rajneesh Movement
During the 1960’s a man by many names, including Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh, and Osho, traveled across India teaching spirituality. His ‘neo-sannyasin’ followers embraced sexual freedom and release of emotional tension and stress.
He developed ‘Dynamic Meditation’ which taught followers to use their breath to take them into a somewhat hallucinogenic state before moving through the other phases, which included screaming, yelling, and thrashing about, just after sunrise. Rajneesh was eventually deported from 21 countries, including the U.S. after he clashed with Oregon state government and was part of an assassination plot to murder a U.S. Attorney. He blamed the assassination plot on his followers.
Branch Davidians are an obscure and little-known cult founded in the mid-1950s by David Koresh. David believed himself to be the final prophet and preached that those who didn’t follow him were enemies of God. It isn’t an issue to merely say things like this, but when thousands of people start believing you it can become a problem!
The cult was, predictably, built on lies, intimidation, terror, and blind faith. And, yes, you guessed it, adult activities were a big part of it too. There were even allegations of abuse against children levied at the cult. This led to a standoff with the FBI in 1993, at the cult compound in Texas. In the ensuing chaos, almost 100 cult members died, including Koresh himself.
Order of the Solar Temple
The Order of the Solar Temple is another dangerous addition to our list, and the cult is built on their belief in the Knights Templar. It was a cult founded in the mid-1980s by Joseph Di Mambro and Luc Jouret. They believe in humanity transitioning, and in converted worshipers ascending to heaven.
All sounds silly but harmless so far, right? Well, what if we told you that the cult was involved in the brutal murder of an infant they believed to be the Antichrist in 1994. This action set in motion a series of murder and suicides all across the cult. Over 100 people died in an array of disturbing ways, and it seems that the cult has disbanded. Though they are a secret society, so it’s unclear whether the cult still operates or exists.
The Ku Klux Klan is seen to be one of the more unpleasant and overtly dangerous cults in the world. They are the archetypal racist cult, believing completely in white supremacy and spreading racist vitriol. The group is known for its acts of extreme violence and bloodshed against those of different racial groups.
The KKK had its heyday in many areas of the Deep South, and the Midwest, during the 1920s. They had a penchant for torturing and murdering black and Jewish people. The Klan is much less powerful and pervasive than it used to be. However, many feel that the rise of the far right, and Trump’s election, may pave the way for the KKK to return.
The Movement for the Restoration of the Ten Commandments of God
Wow, try saying this name 10 times fast. We defy you! Anyhow, this is a cult based in Uganda (not America like almost all the rest). This cult was formed as a breakaway from the Roman Catholic Church and was founded by Credonia Mwerinde. She was a brewer of banana beer who claimed to have had visions of the Virgin Mary. So this had nothing to do with the beer then Credonia?!
The cult was predicated on the belief that the end of the world was imminent. Their specific date for this to happen was the turn of the millennium – the year 2000. Of course, the world didn’t end (duh), so a new date was set for the Apocalypse: March 17, 2000. To be sure, many members committed mass suicide, and those who didn’t want to were murdered. Charming.
Hare Krishnas seem like an odd addition to this list. Hey, you ask, “Didn’t George Harrison write a song about Hare Krishna?” Well, yes. But, there is a little more to this cult than we might realize. Plus, it’s unclear how much George Harrison was involved in the inner workings. Maybe he just like the name, and thought it would go well with a song!
The cult was created in the ‘60s and concerned with worshiping Krishna. The followers undergo chanting rituals and are widely encouraged to break off contact with the outside world. They don’t eat or sleep much, and many have been involved in criminal activity. Russell Brand and Steve Jobs were also allegedly followers; though the scale of their involvement is unclear.
The Manson Family
It’s amazing how much people will go along with extremes and disturbing ideas if presented with a charismatic leader. This was the case with cult leader Charles Manson. He believed that the world would become embroiled in a race war, and ordered his followers to commit murders in the name of this war.
One of the most notable victims of the Manson Family was actress Sharon Tate. Manson is currently serving nine consecutive life sentences for the murders he ordered. It is unclear how many of his followers remain, and whether any of them are active. But it’s clear that the cult has ceased operation on a large or extreme scale since Manson has been in prison.
The Freemasons are an organization that have been going for centuries. Are they a cult? Well, officially, no, but many people think they are. A lot of people feel the organization does good work, but many are wary of the secrecy. One of the theories surrounding Jack the Ripper is that he was actually a Freemason as well, and carried out murders in their name.
Many people think that there are a lot of elite and important people who are members. And it’s often postulated that the Freemasons are a secret, powerful organization who run the world. Think of them in the same vein as the Illuminati. Everything is very secret and mysterious with these guys.
Our Lady of Endor Coven
Our Lady of Endor Coven was a cult preoccupied with Satanism and founded in 1948. This cult of Satan worshipers found itself heavily influenced by Gnosticism. The name of the cult is a reference to The Witch of Endor, a medium said to have summoned the spirit of prophet Samuel.
In 1960, The Church of Satan was formed, and it seems as though this group merged with Anton LaVey’s cult. LaVeyan Satanism is practiced across the world but has struggled to find acceptance as a recognized religion. That is due to the dark undertones associated with it, and the questionable dealing and teachings of members.
Let’s move away from the US again, and check out an Indian cult this time! Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh was a Hindi guru and some-time mystic who developed a global following after an appearance in the USA. He developed a strong following based on the teachings and values he espoused. However, many of these proved controversial as they went against traditional beliefs.
It’s when religious teachings take on a more sinister turn that cults become dangerous. And so it was here when followers of Rajneesh tried to poison the people of The Dallas, Oregon in order to influence a local election in their favor. This ended with arrests, and Rajneesh was deported from the United States back to India.
Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints
Many of us have heard of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, but we may not know much about their teachings. The cult was led by Warren Jeffs, as a denomination of Mormonism, until his arrest and incarceration for crimes against both adults and children. The cult actively encourages and practices polygamy, and there were also allegations of incest.
While Mormonism in and of itself is a perfectly legitimate religion, the Church of Latter-Day Saints displays many cultist tendencies. Members have displayed signs of being brainwashed, as well as forced marriages, racial hatred, and carnal deviance. It’s unclear just how much of an influence the cult continues to have since Jeffs was incarcerated.