When I was twelve years old, my mother and I got involved in a religious cult. It seemed like a great idea at first – the members were all so nice and friendly. However, as I got older, I noticed strange things happening.
The leaders would isolate us from some of our family and friends, tell us that we were the chosen ones, and use fear tactics to keep us in line. I eventually realized that this was not a healthy or safe environment, but luckily, I got out.
But before everything, let me define what a cult means.
Cults are religious organizations with aberrant ideas and practices that are not accepted by the general public. As a result, they typically discourage their members from interacting with people who are not members of their institution.
Is being a member of a cult a good thing?
While it might offer a tight-knit community - no, it's not. And I will share with you the details why.
So, if you are concerned that you or someone you know might be in a similar situation, here are some warning signs to look out for.
Those in the cult will isolate you from EVERYTHING.
If you are familiar with the Bible verse, do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, then you have an idea of what I mean when I say, "they will isolate you from everything."
Honestly, that's one of my favorite Bible verses. But I do not see that as isolating myself from things that negatively affect me. I recall my church members reciting that Bible verse to us whenever we would listen to "worldly" music, implying that we should only listen to music for God.
Afterwards, they gave us lectures about what might happen if we continue singing songs that are not meant for God, continuously telling us that God might feel unhappy because we chose worldly music over Christian songs. Since then, I've been terrified to hear even my favorite love songs. Heck, I even deleted everything and just downloaded hundreds of Hillsongs.
It was hard for me to differentiate between bad and good at such a very young age. So, I listen to people older than me because, of course, it's common sense that our elders know better, right?
But as I got older, I realized that it's not always the case.
I even got to a point where I forced my friends to go with me to the church because they said we should bring more souls to heaven to exalt our spiritual levels.
It's like being in a pyramid networking where the more people you bring to your church, the more points you get, and the higher your level becomes in heaven. It sounds funny now that I'm writing about it.
But that's really what happened.
I think many things happened way back that I couldn't even process because I was just a dumb innocent teen.
But when I got to an age when I can now process whether what they're saying is true or crap, that's when I started to realize that a lot of things they've been saying are not from the Bible.
It was more like, "God said this," but there's no scripture to back it up. And even if there is, they will try to interpret it to suit their needs.
So, when you start to see these red flags, please do something about it before it's too late.
They use fear tactics to keep you in line.
I was 17 when my asthma got worse. My parents were struggling financially and couldn't afford to buy me my medications back then. It was a very hard time for me. Imagine being a 17-year-old with no money and being sick.
But what made it harder was that my church members knew about it and thought I was using it as an excuse to avoid attending church. Little did they know that even three steps away from bed makes me short of breath.
Anyway, the pastor came to our house one day. At first, I thought he would pray for my condition, so I pushed myself to get out of bed so that we could have a little talk and pray together. But instead, the conversation went like this:
"That's what will happen when you don't go to church consistently. The demons will take over your body and will make you sick. Do you want to be like that? Do you want to be possessed by demons? God is the greatest healer, so if you have faith and go to church, He will heal you."
And then he proceeds to pray for me.
After that moment, the intimidation I used to feel for so long was no longer there. Instead, it became a wake-up call for me. Since then, I began to have an open mind and eyes for what was happening around me. I started to question their words and actions, but I never doubted God.
What I realized back then was that they are not devoted to God. But they are dedicated to their organization.
They will control you.
Joining a cult feels like you no longer have a life to live. Instead, it became a life guided by a set of guidelines, and there's no way you deviate from it because if you do, your soul will go to hell.
I was brainwashed to think that if I did not attend church every Sunday, my soul would go to hell no matter how sick I was. And if I ever left the cult, my soul would go to hell. So, there was no way out for me but to stay and endure everything they would put me through.
One of the things I witnessed about this organization is how those leaders casually told the church members that if their work prohibits them from joining Bible study, activities, and other events, they should find another job elsewhere. A job position that would not hinder God's work.
It's like saying, "If you can't be with us, then you're not with us."
And when I got a boyfriend that was not a member of the organization, everyone told me that I was not allowed to be on the church’s stage because I would become a bad example for other teenagers. Because we should only date church members, and on top of that, we should let our leaders know for approval and recommendation.
That was the funniest one. And I was old enough at that time to know that that was no longer right, and I no longer felt free about my life.
In the end, I put on a brave face after knowing the truth.
I decided to leave the cult when I was 18. It was one of the hardest decisions I've ever made in my life, but it's all worth it. And there's no doubt it's the best thing I've ever done for myself.
My mother and I may have constant disagreements since she's still so devoted there, but it's all okay. We still talk and love each other.
But as of now, I'm living a happy and healthy life, and I would not have it any other way.
So, if you are ever in a situation where you feel like you are being controlled or manipulated, please don't be afraid to get out. You are not alone. And it's better than going out as early as you can rather than waiting until later in life.