In the general sense, a cult is a group of people who come together with a set of unified beliefs and practices. Most of the time, the common values are fanatical views of religion and culture that tend to isolate one particular ideal or standard and then place it above all else. But what separates cults from religions is the notion of complete reclusiveness and the apparent inability of members to leave under their own volition. These groups typically have dominating, charismatic leaders who use their personalities to attract new recruits, get members to do their bidding, and maintain a system of control. Many of the most infamous cults in history arose in the 1970s and ’80s during a time referred to as the “Satanic Panic,” when there was widespread fear that a battle between good and evil was raging just below the surface of American culture. Of those that the media were able to uncover and expose, here are eight of the most terrifying.
8. Children of God
The Children of God was a cult founded by David Berg in California. Berg claimed it to be an offshoot of Christianity and would often preach against Judaism, capitalism, and evolution. But the truly horrifying aspect of the cult’s practice was Berg’s opposition to laws prohibiting pedophilia. According to former members, Berg advocated that having sex with children was not only permissible, but a divine right. Although there were never any official reports of sexual abuse from former members, it was known that the cult used young female members as bait to lure in new members. After Berg’s death, the cult went through a number of transformations and today it’s known as the Family International. While it no longer supports sex with minors, many still classify the group as a cult and speak out against it, including celebrities Joaquin Phoenix and Rose McGowan.