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Former Cult Members Talk About How They Escaped

©Unsplash,Alex Chernenko

I’ve never actually met a person who was ever part of a cult, but I have to say that I find the whole concept extremely fascinating and I’ve read a lot about it over the years.

How does a person end up in a cult?

And what do they do when it’s time to get the hell out?

People opened up to shed some light on this very interesting subject.

Here are some frightening true stories from folks on AskReddit.

1. Jehovah’s Witness.

“This is actually something I was just thinking about the other day. I was raised a Jehovah’s Witness, and I think it was less one big “aha!” moment and more a bunch of little “what the fuck”s.

For those unfamiliar with the group, witnesses believe that Armageddon is coming any day now, and the only way to survive is be a baptized JW. They also refuse to accept blood transfusions, celebrate holidays, toast, date without supervision, and practice yoga, just to name a few things.

A big one for me was watching a leader from the very top of the group describe unbelievers as “vessels fit for destruction” (wtf?) and pull out a malformed piece of glassware to illustrate, he then smashed it on the floor to illustrate what will happen to us. Another prominent leader of the group was recorded warning that tight pants are designed by perverted homosexuals.

On a more personal level, the last year I was a witness I left a large religious gathering and was met with protestors. I realized something questionable is likely happening if people are taking time to protest. The picket signs weren’t even aggressive, they said things like “there is support! You can leave!”

The reason this even needs to be said is because witnesses shun people who leave the religion. I hadn’t seen either of my 2 older siblings in about 10 years.

I hung out with school friends outside of school for the first time when I was in grade 12 and my mom cried because she was afraid she was a bad parent. I got out at 17 and haven’t looked back.”

2. Strange…

“My realization that I needed to get out came when I found it was easier to tell my parents that my girlfriend was pregnant rather than tell them I didn’t want to go on a Mormon mission as a 17 year old.

It’s been 10 years and looking back it makes no sense, but it lead me to a beautiful life and I’m immensely grateful. Now I’m the father of the two most incredible children and I haven’t looked back.

Fuck the Mormon cult.”

3. Whoa.

“I was in Amway/LTD for a year and a half. I realized I needed to get out when:

I found out about the killings of gays in Chechnya and began to suspect that I was unwittingly funding that or similar activities through my involvement in Amway due to the extreme conservatism of the environment (and how our top leader mentioned that Russia has more morality than us (USA) and we need to catch up).

(Out of curiosity, I later found out that one of the DeVos foundations donated to NOM which worked toward enacting severe legal punishments for homosexuality in Uganda.)

I couldn’t get out of my seat while a speaker was talking and couldn’t not donate $236 to Here Be Lions during Sunday morning service at conference because of expectations that had been subtly drilled into my head.”

4. Youth group.

“Cult may be a dramatic word for me, but I was part of an aggressive church/youth group, meaning they wanted to be the biggest and best in the area.

My city had a ton of churches but my ex church could only hear its own voice, so then would plant a church in an area with a lot of other churches and run the smaller churches out of money. Even made a smaller church change it’s name because it was too similar.

I made excuses for years for my church and the way people acted so shallow and abuse of funds- I was 17 and wasn’t willing to believe that maybe these aren’t the good people I think they are.

Anyway, I didn’t need the “I need to get out moment”. I volunteered with them for a year and helped run camps and then not one leader tried to keep in touch with me, and I even shortly later got a divorce at 20.

I had so many leaders and people I looked up to, and no one ever reached out. Instead a few kicked me out of their bible study and removed me on social media because of some of my marital issues. I realized what it felt like to be on the other side of the white door.

It broke my heart. That marriage broke my spirit. I’ve been putting myself back together and like myself a lot more now.”

5. Listen to the voices.

“My church tried to convince me the voices I was hearing telling me to kill other people were from God and not the beginning of a psychotic breakdown.

Needless to say, they were in fact the beginning of a psychotic breakdown.”

6. The evils of music.

“I grew up in a sort of fringe protestant religion and went to boarding school for high school.

One Wednesday night they herded all of us students into the chapel where they showed us a very long documentary on the evils of music like the Beatles, Led Zeppelin, etc.

You know the drill, playing everything backwards, sacrifices to Satan, etc. I was kind used to eyerolling this tbh, since I had always loved rock music and my mom kinda programmed to me to be skeptical of the church anyways.

I just remember my friend Jake sitting in front of me starting to look around at all the other students who seemed to be kind of hypnotized by the whole thing.

He caught my eye and said something like, “Whitewolf! What is this? Isn’t this weird? This is wrong!” – and just for that something we had accepted as normal behavior became the launching point for seeing everything else they did from another perspective.

Just to have another person in there with me that confirmed my eye-rolling and even alerted me that we actually were sitting in a Wednesday night brainwashing session.”

7. Cast out.

“My church decided to fully disown and evict a young girl that got pregnant before marriage. I grab her hand and left along with her.

Fuck those cultish bitches. This is an innocent child of god like everyone else. Just cause you disapprove of her sin more than other sins gives you no right to say she no longer has christ.”

8. Acid cult!

“I was born into a cult.

In the ’70s my parents met a guy named Ross who is apparently the reincarnation of Jesus Christ. Through the power of LSD my parents especially my mum were completely convinced of this.

My mum to this day still thinks she legitimately floated off the ground and met god who is a female mind like a literal brain. Throughout my childhood I was told that religion is bullshit and that I should always follow my mind.

This led me to the conclusion in my teens that well this cult is a religion and what they spew sounds an awful lot like bullshit so through their own teachings I learned that science is right there is no god and drugs are bad.”

9. “For my own survival.”

“I honestly wanted out of my cult when other members made fun of my friend for “always acting gay” (he was actually in the closet) and he killed himself because he couldn’t take the pressure anymore.

At his funeral, everyone blamed the kid for ruining/traumatizing his parents and overall acted like they wasted their time mourning him. I was 16/17 at the time, also depressed and suicidal, and having my own realizations that I wasn’t totally straight. I also realized how people would treat my death if I committed suicide.

I didn’t leave until 9 years later, but that was when I knew I had to get out for my own survival.”

10. Church of God.

“Raised as a part of the “Church of God” side of Christianity.

Nothing really stood out to make me leave until I was about 12ish? I lived with my grandparents and my mom. My dad was in prison at the time. Now that I look back at it, the church itself was weird enough. Children’s plays with holiday people who we weren’t supposed to believe in.

I personally played Mother Nature in one of them. The moment I realized I needed to get out and leave was the moment I realized I wasn’t straight.

My mother acted like she accepted me but has since proven otherwise. My grandmother still doesn’t know and I don’t plan on telling her.”

11. Holy shit.

“I got in deep into That Religion Tom Cruise is Part Of But I Can’t Name It For Fear Of Death, mostly because I wanted to see how far the rabbit hole goes. So technically like being brainwashed of your own free will. But I had to flee the state I was living in at the time.

I got so far in I paid them about $500,000, a painful amount of money, but I managed to get into the inner circle of the leader of my region’s branch. And I was also very good with a gun, so they entrusted me to drive a car filled with about 3 duffle bags of money.

I asked out of curiosity how much was in it, and it was to the tune of $6 million (how they managed to fit $2 million in each I’ll never know). Of course, I had to deliver it all to a helicopter 100 miles away in the middle of bumfuck nowhere to be taken to the Cayman Islands for some reason.

I then decided “Alright, enough is enough, I gotta get out”. Part of the route, about 52 miles in, was a twisty road in a forested area, where there was a large drop with nobody around for miles.

So I thought “Alright, do I run off with the cash and get the fuck out of the country or should I deliver the cash and run?” I chose the former option. Checked for tracking devices, planted the ones I found in the bags all over the car, took two of the duffel bags, left the third opened in the also opened trunk, put my phone in the car, tossed everything but my driver’s license and some other personal info in my wallet all through the car, found a heavy rock, turned the car on, dropped the rock on the gas and got out of the way before running the hell away.

Managed to find some guy who was going the same way I was who was going to go fishing, and asked if he could give me a ride to the nearest city,

I think it was Montpelier, where I caught a flight up to Winnipeg. Found some guys who could launder the cash for me in exchange for $670,000. Accepted and got to work canceling my old bank account and cutting off my ties to them.

A week later I called up and told my friends that I won a month long getaway to Canada, and said that I ended up losing my phone and had to get a new one, and that I intended to tell them sooner, but I forgot about the trip at the last minute and had to run fast.

He told me that he heard the news of the incident, but while the authorities had no idea who did it (I gave the fisherman $5,000 to lie and say he offered a ride, but was rebuffed and went on his merry way), the cult knew, and that I was marked kill on sight for them.

Thank god he said that it would last for a couple more months, because they would make back the losses and more in a couple weeks, and my experiences never pointed to the contrary being an option, and that this was a couple decades ago.”

12. Satanic Panic.

“My friend was in a satanic cult and I remembered running into her at the store and she was..different, she didn’t have anything of her own to say, it looked like she was a kidnapped girl asking for help in front of a kidnapper.

I immediately called the police and so she was taken out of the group and placed in the protective whiteness program. Everything she had was delete showing no trace of her and she stayed for about maybe a year. The cult was broken up as there leader was killed in attempt murder of a three year old boy to “bring the lords down to us”

It was fucking crazy man, I think my friend got into because her younger brother got caught in a pyramid scheme and she suffered the consequences.”

13. Scamming and lying.

“I was involved in a niche community group that stayed fairly small (around 30 women) and we all met through a woman who organized retreats.

This woman was famous in the niche community. This was all very based around social justice/feminism and ‘finding our true selves.’ The retreats ran in the thousands for normal locations where nothing special was happening. We literally shared beds to make more money for the organizer.

My GTFO moment was when I was in a group chat with the entire group and the ‘leader’ started being honest that she didn’t really believe in the social justice agenda she was preaching constantly. The rest of the group was so far gone that they told her it was okay. There were also one-on-one exchanges where her personality and beliefs would change constantly. Something was very off.

I started to distance myself. About five months later, the niche community as a whole (not just the small group of 30-ish women) decided to call her out for not only scamming, theft, lies, but even grooming and sexual assault of people who attended the retreats. I’d witnessed some of this but was told to brush it off and that it was normal at the time.

The ‘cult’ banded together and refused to believe the hundred or so women who came forward. I was the ONLY one who noped out of it. They disowned me lol. It was very hard. They were very close to me at this point and it had been years. They were the reason that I became strong enough to leave my abusive marriage. I considered some my sisters.

They don’t talk to me now and the cult continues the sermons and retreats and general scamming and lying.”
I grew up in a sort of fringe protestant religion and went to boarding school for high school. One Wednesday night they herded all of us students into the chapel where they showed us a very long documentary on the evils of music like the Beatles, Led Zeppelin, etc. You know the drill, playing everything backwards, sacrifices to Satan, etc. I was kind used to eyerolling this tbh, since I had always loved rock music and my mom kinda programmed to me to be skeptical of the church anyways.

I just remember my friend Jake sitting in front of me starting to look around at all the other students who seemed to be kind of hypnotized by the whole thing. He caught my eye and said something like, “Whitewolf! What is this? Isn’t this weird? This is wrong!” – and just for that something we had accepted as normal behavior became the launching point for seeing everything else they did from another perspective. Just to have another person in there with me that confirmed my eye-rolling and even alerted me that we actually were sitting in a Wednesday night brainwashing session.

Wow, that stuff is truly creepy…

How about you?

Do you know anyone who was in a cult? Or maybe you were?

If so, please tell us about it in the comments.