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10 Dangerous Cults You Might Not Know Still Exist

Throughout human history, various cults have emerged, and while not all cults are inherently harmful, many have inflicted devastating consequences upon their members and society as a whole. Some cult leaders have manipulated their followers, coercing them to surrender their free will, happiness, and even their lives in pursuit of personal gain. Although governments have intervened to dismantle dangerous cults, some have disbanded due to the death of their leaders or simply faded away from public attention.

However, it is deeply concerning when a dangerous cult remains active but has largely been forgotten by society. These cults continue to operate in the shadows, carrying out nefarious activities that pose a significant threat to innocent individuals. In this article, we bring to light ten such cults that are still active and disturbingly overlooked.

Rajneesh Movement

The Rajneesh Movement, inspired by the Indian mystic Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh (also known as “Osho”), is a controversial cult that was founded by Rajneesh himself in the late 1960s and early 1970s. As a philosophy scholar and professor, Rajneesh was forced to resign from lecturing at the University of Jabalpur in 1966 due to his controversial views, particularly on marriage, which he saw as a form of social bondage.

The movement gained notoriety for its controversial practices, such as relocating families to isolated areas where children were denied access to education. The group faced numerous legal challenges in India before eventually relocating to Oregon in the United States.

However, their presence in the United States was short-lived, as the group was embroiled in criminal activities ranging from wiretapping operations to immigration fraud. The Rajneesh Movement also perpetrated the largest bioterrorist attack in American history when they poisoned salad products with salmonella in 1984, resulting in several hospitalizations.

Following the arrest, prosecution, conviction, and deportation of Rajneesh, the movement experienced a steady decline. Nevertheless, small units of the cult still exist in the United States, United Kingdom, Germany, Italy, and the Netherlands.

Order of the Solar Temple

The Order of the Solar Temple, also known as the Solar Temple, the International Order of Chivalry Solar Tradition, or Hermetica Fraternitas Templi Universali, is a controversial modern religious cult founded by Luc Jouret and Joseph Di Mambro in Geneva, Switzerland in 1984. The group used manipulative tactics to control its members and blended New Age beliefs with Freemason rituals.

The cult gained notoriety for its association with a series of murders and mass suicides that occurred in France, Switzerland, and Canada in 1994 and 1995. At its height, the Order had a governing council and numerous lodges across the globe where they conducted initiation ceremonies and other rituals.

Central to the cult’s ideology was the belief in an impending apocalyptic event that was to occur in the mid-1990s. When the world did not end, the group’s credibility was irreparably damaged. Over time, many members began to see the Order for what it was: a group built on illusion and manipulation.

Despite this decline, the cult still exists today with an estimated membership of 140 to 500 individuals. The Order of the Solar Temple remains a stark reminder of the dangers of extremist beliefs and the power of manipulative leaders.

AUM Supreme Truth

Aleph is a doomsday cult founded by Shoko Asahara in 1987, initially named “AUM Shinrikyo” (AUM Supreme Truth). Asahara was dissatisfied with traditional Japanese Buddhism and preferred Tibetan and Theravada Buddhist teachings over the dominant forms of Japanese Buddhism. He created a form of Buddhism that emphasized non-Japanese themes and focused on attaining enlightenment through a spiritual path, using psychic-development exercises to aid followers’ growth. The group gained public attention when several of its top leaders carried out the Tokyo subway attack in 1995, resulting in the death of thirteen people and injuring thousands through the release of nerve gas into the city’s subway system. Asahara denied any involvement in a radio broadcast from Russia, but in 2000, new leaders of the group confirmed his role in several crimes, including the gas attacks, and renamed the group Aleph. Shoko Asahara and six other members of his cult were executed for their role in the attack in 2018, and in 2019, an AUM sympathizer admitted to carrying out a terrorist attack in retaliation for the execution of some Aleph cult members. Although the group has declined and is largely forgotten since Asahara’s death, it remains active in Japan.

Twelve Tribes

The Twelve Tribes is a religious group that has been the subject of controversy and allegations of abuse, kidnapping, and murder in the past. The group was established in Chattanooga in 1972 by Gene Spriggs, a former carnival barker and high school guidance counselor, who sought to restore what he believed was the purest form of Christianity. By the time of Spriggs’ death in 2021 at the age of 86, the group had grown to over 3,000 followers, but without a formal leader and facing an uncertain future. Despite its decline in popularity under Spriggs’ aging leadership, the group remains active today. While the Twelve Tribes may no longer be making headlines, it is still an organization that raises concerns among those who closely monitor the activities of religious groups.

The Family International

The Family International is a New Religious Movement founded in 1968 in Huntington Beach, California by David Berg under the name “Teens for Christ.” The group later became notorious under the name “The Children of God” (COG), but has since gone through several name changes, including “The Family of Love” and eventually “The Family.” The group has faced numerous accusations of child sexual abuse, physical abuse, exploitation, and the targeting of vulnerable individuals.

In the 1970s, Berg introduced a recruitment strategy called “flirty fishing,” which involved using attractive female members to seduce men into the group through sexual means. Berg also discouraged members from working and sending their children to school, instead making them live in large communes in preparation for an “impending” apocalypse.

Since the death of David Berg, the movement has declined in popularity, but it still remains active under the name “The Family International.” The group is now governed by a document called “The Love Charter,” which outlines the rights and responsibilities of its members. Despite its decline in public visibility, concerns about The Family International persist among those who monitor the activities of religious groups.

The Nation of Yahweh

Yahweh Ben Yahweh, formerly known as Hulon Mitchell Jr., left the Nation of Islam in 1978 because he believed it was not extreme enough. In 1979, he founded the “Nation of Yahweh,” which aimed to relocate African Americans, whom the group believes are the original Israelites, to Israel. The movement recognizes Yahweh Ben Yahweh as the “Son of God.” At its peak, the Nation of Yahweh had satellite temples nationwide, a prosperous business empire with apartments, hotels, shops, and a fleet of Greyhound buses and Rolls Royce cars. However, the founder’s federal racketeering and extortion charges and his conviction of conspiracy to commit murder led to the group’s decline. Yahweh Ben Yahweh’s conviction in 2001 and his death in 2007 pushed the group to near-obscurity. Despite this, the movement still exists, and its followers consider Yahweh Ben Yahweh as their Messiah.

The LaRouche Movement

The LaRouche Movement is a political and cultural organization that champions the ideas and legacy of Lyndon LaRouche, who unsuccessfully ran for U.S. president eight times before his death in 2019. The group emerged in the late 1960s as a spin-off of the radical left, but shifted to far-right views and positions in the mid-1970s. LaRouche wielded considerable control over his followers, who were part of the National Caucus of Labor Committees (NCLC), engaging them in a constant, intense seven-day-a-week and 24-hour-a-day immersion. The group was characterized by a perpetual atmosphere of tension. LaRouche was known for changing his ideology to suit his personal agenda, and is often considered the father of political conspiracy theory. He also endorsed violence and criticized his own supporters for being too lenient with political opponents. In April 1973, LaRouche directed NCLC members to physically attack members of the Communist Party and others in a high-risk plan dubbed “Operation Mop-up.” In the ensuing months, there were about 40 brawls at Communist gatherings, and many of LaRouche’s followers were arrested. Though the LaRouche Movement has faded from public consciousness, it still exists, and its members remain active in American politics.

The Remnant Fellowship

The Remnant Fellowship is a religious group based in Brentwood, Tennessee that promotes weight loss as a spiritual duty. The movement’s founder, Gwen Shamblin Lara, who was known for her svelte appearance, encouraged members to pray instead of giving in to their food cravings. She linked diet culture with holiness and urged followers to prioritize their devotion to God over their attachment to food. Despite these teachings, however, Lara used her position of authority to manipulate her followers’ finances, marriages, child custody arrangements, and parenting practices. She also encouraged members to isolate themselves from the outside world, dressing them up in beautiful clothes to mask their internal struggles while projecting an image of happiness and perfection to the public.On May 29, 2021, Lara, her husband Joe, and five other leaders of The Remnant Fellowship died in a plane crash near Smyrna, Tennessee. Since Lara was the main leader of the church, her death nearly wiped out the movement. Nevertheless, some of its members remain committed to upholding her teachings and the group continues to exist to this day.

Heaven’s Gate

Heaven’s Gate is a religious organization founded in 1974 by Bonnie Nettles and Marshall Applewhite, who referred to themselves as “Ti” and “Do.” They believed they were the two witnesses of the book of Revelation and gathered a few hundred followers in the 70s. After ceasing recruitment, the group embraced a monastic lifestyle based on the belief that they could transcend their human nature and become immortal extraterrestrial beings, ascending to the “Next Level” or “The Evolutionary Level Above Human.”

Tragically, the cult’s doctrine ultimately led to the largest mass suicide on American soil, with 39 followers taking their own lives in 1997. Although the group is largely forgotten, there are still “two people” who maintain its online presence and spread its teachings.

Branch Davidian

The Branch Davidians, a new religious movement with apocalyptic beliefs, was founded in 1955 by Benjamin Roden as a continuation of the General Association of Davidian Seventh-Day Adventists established by Victor Houteff in 1935. However, in 1983, the movement was taken over by a man named David Koresh (formerly known as Vernon Howell), who was a different kind of cult leader – a criminal mastermind.

In 1993, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms suspected that the Branch Davidians were illegally converting semi-automatic rifles into fully automatic weapons. As a result, they sent in a group of undercover agents disguised as college students to investigate the movement. However, Koresh was always one step ahead of the authorities and was aware of the investigation.

The situation escalated into a fifty-one-day siege that involved heavy shooting between the FBI and ATF agents and the Branch Davidians. Ultimately, the siege resulted in the death of seventy-six Branch Davidians, and four ATF agents were killed, with 16 wounded. Despite the tragic events, the movement still exists, and it continues to have a presence in Waco, Texas, to this day.

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