John Dobbins, Staff Writer

The original meaning of the word cult is “excessive devotions.” A cult is typically a group of people devoted to person or god or something they feel deserves the utmost respect. Cults have long been an enormous interest to the public, many times, making headlines due to some of their extreme abnormal behaviors. Cult leaders are almost expertise in their craft of gaining followers. Many times by making the cult seem like a haven from the darkness of the real world. But how can they do this so successfully? How are cult leaders able to get followers to do horrible acts? Some of these questions will go unanswered, but it’s still very entertaining to look and explore the insane world that is cults. times, Charles Manson, first made headlines when his cult the “Manson Family” killed actress Sharon Tate and four others on August 9, 1969. This lead to a mass media craze, with every media outlet wanting to get their scoop on who Charles Manson was, and how his murderous cult came into existence. His group was established in the late 1960s’ when he first started gaining a following in San Francisco, California. During the late 60s,’ Manson presented himself as a “Guru” or simply a spiritual teacher during the Hippie movement of the time. He taught his followers that they were reincarnates of the original Christians and he taught as if he was Jesus himself. Manson was a white supremacist who wanted to start a “race war” in the United States as he believed that African-Americans were to dumb to be able to govern themselves. On the night of August 8th, 1969, Manson instructed his followers to into Terry Melcher’s’ (a Californian music producer who had worked with The Beach Boys) and to kill everyone there. They killed six people, including actress Sharon Tate who was eight months pregnant. This showed to people just how influential Manson was, as he did not commit any of the murders himself. This, however, is only one example of hundreds of other and different kinds of cults around the world.

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The first kind of cult is a “destructive cult.” A destructive cult is a group that physically hurts others to promote their cause. Psychologist Michael Langone defines people of a destructive cult to have qualities like “behavioral and personality changes, loss of personal identity, cessation of scholastic activities, estrangement from family, disinterest in society and pronounced mental control and enslavement by cult leaders.” Some of these cults have been very successful in their craft. On prime example is the group known as the “Peoples Temple” were in one night, 918 people died in a mass murder/suicide. The mass suicide killings were the greatest deliberate loss of American lives leading up to the September 11th attacks. Another type of cult that has become popular in later years is a “Doomsday cult.” This is a group of people who believe that world is coming to an end. Sometimes even a group in hiding who believe the world has already ended. Another is a “Racist Cult,” most notably the Ku Klux Klan in the U.S after the civil war. This was a group of Christians the believed in the persecution of African-Americans, most often in the form of sacrifice. The last type of cult and maybe the most relevant to today is a “Terrorist Cult.” Many do not realize that Osama Bin Laden acted very much like a Cult Leader. According to a “Times” report on Al-Qaida, “Al-Qaida fits all the official definitions of a cult. It indoctrinates its members; it forms a closed, totalitarian society; it has a self-appointed, messianic and charismatic leader; and it believes that the ends justify the means.”
The way cult leaders get followers is almost an art form. Cult leaders typically go after people in need or people who are desperately looking for a purpose in life. Cult leaders practically never force people into their cult but merely offer an invitation. Many times to a very loving and non-threatening event. When people come to the cult for the first time, they are often showered with love and praise; something many of them have never received in their life. Next, a lot of time some prize is offered to them, whether it be an insight into the world’s mysteries or massive amounts of wealth. The cult leaders make it seem though as if this prize is the answer to your life, and convinced you that it was what you need. The cult then convinced the recruits that this is the only option for them, and anything else wouldn’t even be able to compare to the power of the cult. Many studies have gone into a cult and the power it has on manipulating people mentally.

One of the most popular known cults is the Branch Davidians, or most commonly referred to as “The Ranch.” The Ranch was a religious cult founded in 1955 by Benjamin Roden in Texas. From its beginning, the group’s main belief was that they are living in a time when the Bible’s prophecies for Christ second return are near. The group gained most of its notoriety in the early 90s’ known as the “Waco Siege.” On February 28, 1993, at 9:45 am the ATF (Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives) attempted to execute a search warrant against The Branch compound in Waco, Texas. The warrant detailed reports of sexual abuse charges and illegal weapon violations. The ATF attempted to breach the compound for nearly 4 hours. Four ATF agents were killed along with 16 injured. Five members of The Branch were killed during this raid. After the attempted raid, the FBI took over after the early morning raid. The FBI was able to facilitate the release of 19 children who were interviewed by the FBI claimed to have been physically and sexually abused. On April 19, 1993, the FBI went to the compound to attempt a final siege of the compound. Shots were constantly fired back and forth. 76 members of “The Branch” died that day.
Today, cults are still active and a widespread interest of the public. One big cult is the “Advanced Training Institute.” This is an extreme religious cult still live and active today. The cult believes that men are the head of the household and woman should have no power other than to bear children. Recently, one the most popular tv shows “American Horror Story” has aired a whole season with the main focus being a cult leader named Kai Anderson. The show has shown the very inner-workings of a cult, how they recruit members, and how it can create mass hysteria. Another modern day cult is known as “Happy Science.” The group has over 12 million followers from around the world. Ryuho Okawa started the Cult in 1986. He believed that he was man reincarnated of Christ, Buddha, Mohammed, and every other prophetic deity known to man. The group’s main focus is that it “advocates a violent Japanese nationalism devoted to denying historical atrocities, advocating violent war with China and North Korea, and rebuilding Japan’s infrastructure.” One of the most famous cults of modern times goes by the name of “Raëlism.” Beginning in in 1974 by leader Claude Vorilhon. He believed that he had a vision of an alien spacecraft that told him humans are the future and handed him a Bible. He claims that the aliens told him that the old testament was a telling of the early days of human civilization and that he must prepare the world for when the aliens return to earth. The group opposed violence and tended to be naked and promoted having regular sexual relations. The group even claimed to have cloned the first ever human, which also lead to the involvement of the U.S government investigating the matter.
I could never imagine being an in a cult and devoting my life to someone who thinks they have insight into the future. I guess simply because I already have something I believe. I, personally, am a Methodist-Christian, and I go to church an hour a week and then just live my life going to school, working, and hanging out with my friends. Cults are still able to get members to this day which honestly surprises me that people can so quickly find truth in the nonsense that someone is claiming to be the truth. When you look into cults like I have done, you see that almost every single time, they result in death. Someone dying for a cause that another has just made up and has told them is the truth. Also, the fact the cult leaders can get their followers to kill innocent lives still blows my mind. I couldn’t even imagine the life of a cult follower, and how it has mentally affected them and on top of it all, they were willing.