Doomsday Cult Questions

A few days ago a reader left the following questions for a research project they are working on about doomsday cults:

Hello all. I’m currently completing year 12, and as a compulsory part of our study, we have to undertake a research project. I’ve chosen to do mine on Religious Doomsday Cults, and was hoping that some of you could please answer a few questions that I have? My specific focus question is “Why do people join Doomsday Cults, and how can this impact on their lives?”
I have to let you know that by answering these questions, you are giving me permission to include the information given in my research, but rest assured that all information will remain confidential at all times.
1. How old were you when you initially joined a doomsday cult?
2. How were you approached/ invited to join?
3. What were your reasons for joining or leaving the cult?
4. How has being a part of a cult impacted on your life?
It would be much appreciated if you could respond to me, preferably via this blog!!!
Thanks!!

 

Please feel free to post your answers in the comments section.

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2 responses to “Doomsday Cult Questions

  1. 1. I grew up in the cult, as did most of the members from my generation. My parents made the decision for me and told me that I had no choice in the matter.

    2. If you look around the web, you should be able to find this info. It varied from person to person. Some people were members of the Lutheran churches before Jack Hickman became the minister of St. John’s and then highjacked them (he recruited from another church with the help of other ministers who became his followers also). The majority of the people that joined the cult through the Lutheran church left after the big scandal, the one where Jack admitted to ejaculating on teenage boys. There have been other minor scandals where the leadership attempts to hide what happened or at least get their members to not talk about it publicly. No one has the guts to openly ask the leaders hard questions in public, since they know that they would be ostracized privately (or perhaps treated like a pariah within the cult), and the leadership would not even directly answer the questions or outright lie. Jack was a master at not answering questions with circular responses and half-truths. A legitimate spiritual leader does not do that, but Jack was praised for it by his followers who believed that others just could not handle the information, that the people were not spiritually advanced enough to receive it.

    Many of the members were recruited from outside the Lutheran church. Jewish males were a favorite target. The Anti-Defamation League actually has an old file on the Hickman group. Family members would bring their siblings to church as well or to Coffee House. Sometimes pretty girls were used by the group to recruit young men (this is common with cults, see The Children of God [they also call themselves the Family]), and they also had special events on Saturday nights called Coffee House where they would play music and socialize outside of a church setting. Members were also told to evangelize their friends and acquaintances.

    * I will respond to questions three and four soon.

  2. 1. How old were you when you initially joined a doomsday cult?
    From birth, as the above responder stated, my parents made that decision for me when I was young, making it seem as though there were no other choice. As in, if I did leave, I would still be a part of it in some quasi-spiritual way. To be fair, there were two points where “youth” were asked to become a part of it on their own accord, separate from their parents. This occurred after weekend long “love” fests where we were given what every person wants: validation, love, a feeling of being more than yourself. Our cult has multiple ways that a person can be tied tighter to the dogma, including getting a new name, and making a marriage to the torah, similar to a bar mitzvah.

    2. How were you approached/ invited to join?
    The parent part made it pretty integral to my upbringing (ie-mind control). There were also retreats and services, get togethers, picnics, weekend say overs with involved families.
    In the inception of the cult, there was a lot of Woo-ing, coffee houses, enter token guitar player here. They used good looking people often to lure others in.

    3. What were your reasons for joining or leaving the cult?
    I left because I found out about the origins of the cult, which had previously been hidden from me. The cult leader, then dead, had been a pedophile. There is still some controversy over whether or not he really was, ie- the people out believe he was, the people in posit that he was not. No formal charges were made, but I had seen too much. More than one rape of friends and family members covered up. Victim blaming. Guilt. Shame. Manipulation. A tyrannical hierarchy. The execution of rules that did not fit with the supposed purpose of the group.

    4. How has being a part of a cult impacted on your life?
    In so many ways, I cannot even begin to explain, but I will try. The cult and my family’s involvement in it made it so pervasive in my life. From birth: it warps your world view, it defines your morality, it shapes your sense of self, it delineates your sense of justice, your sense of purpose. It attempts to answer the age-old existential question of: “why am I here” with a tyrannical doctrine that leaves no room for free-will or self. There is no self-exploration unless it is sanctioned and approved. There is constant doubt, worry, and guilt over the quest for perfection, to be what this cook-book cult leader wanted everyone to be. Inevitably, you know that you cannot become something you are not, and you hate yourself for it. Then you learn through conditioning, to hide it. To hide who you are, and pretend. Pretending is easier than fighting to be who you really are.
    This loss of self is the worst. They encourage you to do it through every means necessary, that indeed, some people do truly lose themselves. It’s like developing a pathological personality. You don’t even know you are doing it. You have wiped yourself clean to be used as a tool for the cult leaders. So that overtime, you can’t even see that you are not “yourself” anymore, because you’ve lost your identity, or worse, you’ve handed it over willingly.

    I have lost family and I have lost friends over the cult.
    Thankfully, I did not totally lose myself, or lose out on love. But I know other people have.

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