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Each year, hundreds of North Americans join one of the increasing,

estimated 3000 unorthodox religions that exist across North America. The

increasing number of cults, to date in North America, is due to the fact

that cults are a social movement that attempts to help people cope with

their perceived problems with social interaction. Cult recruiters target

those who perceive themselves as different from the rest of society, and

give these individuals the sense of belonging that they crave. Cult

literature lures potential cult members by appealing to their desperate

need to socially fit in. Cults provide a controlled family environment

that appeals to potential cult members because it is a removal from the

exterior society.

Cult recruiters prey on those who see themselves as alienated from the

rest of society, and give these people the sense of conformity that they

desire. A common method of recruiters, to obtain new members, is through

chat lines on the internet. A recorded conversation between a member of the

Divine Light Mission, Fire-Shade, and an 18-year old boy, Jay 18, was

obtained off of the site, IRC Teen Chat.

Jay18: I am a really great poet, but all of the kids in my

class are pretty warped about it. I basically hide it from them

because I don't need that hassle.

Fire-Shade: My family has a great respect for the artist inside

us all. I know you live in Michigan, and our family could

always use new operatives all over the world. You have to

understand what our family is about, it is about always fitting

in and never hiding the truth to be liked or cool. Are you


Jay18: Well maybe

Fire-Shade: Give me your phone number we really shouldn't

talk about this here.

Jay18: I would rather not give my phone number out. You give

me yours, I won't be able to talk for long though.

Fire-Shade: Trust is very important in our group. Do you trust

me? You can't call us, unfortunately because we are not in a

position to be accepting phone calls.

Jay18: Well then you can just e-mail me. OK.

Fire-Shade: [disconnects]1

The cult member makes the young boy feel as though he does care about

his problems, and wants to make this boy's life better. Fire-Shade

conveys his family as an entity not as many different individuals. After

feeling alone for many years the only persuasion some individuals need

is the assurance that they will be part of a society and accepted

unconditionally. Cult members know what type of individuals feel most

alienated and alone, says Dr. Lorna Goldberg, a New Jersey


No one plans to join a cult unless they see that cult as a possibility

for a family, or a better society. Cults target people in transition--

college students away from home for the first time, people who have moved

to new cities for jobs, those who have just been divorced or widowed.

Usually individuals 16 to 25 or 35 to 40. The vast majority of members

are merely looking for a sense of community and belonging, during a

difficult time in their lives.2

Cults provide an ersatz social unit, which takes them in, nurtures them

and reinforces the cult's worldview. By the time that most cult members

realize that this cult isn't what they had expected, it is too late,

because they are already too afraid to leave. Recruiters are not the

only way that potential members are enticed into cults, often their

literature is powerful enough.

Cult novels, pamphlets and websites draw in potential cult members by

appealing to their desperate need to socially fit in. Often if a piece

of cult literature is written correctly it convinces the most logical

mind of the most absurd reasoning, like this pamphlet by the Heavens

Gate cult.

The generally accepted "norms" of today's societies - world over - are

designed, established, and maintained by the individuals who were at one

time "students" of the Kingdom of Heaven- "angels" in the making- who

flunked out" of the classroom. Legends and scriptures refer to them as

fallen angels. The current civilization's records use the name Satan

or Lucifer to describe a single fallen angel and also to "nickname" any

"evil presence". If you have experienced some of what our "classroom"

requires of us, you would know that these "presences" are real and that

the Kingdom of God even permits them to "attack" us in order for us to

learn their tricks and how to stay above them or conquer them.3

This particular piece of heavens gate literature can be found printed in

not only their pamphlets and novels, but also on their website. In this

single passage this cult has enabled the alienated individual to feel

accepted and feel that they are not the only person who feels helpless,

alone and disliked by society. It not only reassures the potential cult

member that they are welcome somewhere, but it makes them feel superior

to the society that they feel has betrayed them their entire life.

Often, to fully convince a potential recruit of their ideals, cult

literature will diverge on continuously about how society's ideas and

morals are deranged and that the cults are reasonable.

In other words, they (these space aliens) don't want themselves "found out,"

so they condemn any exploration. They want you to be a perfect servant to

society (THEIR society -- of THEIR world) -- to the "acceptable

establishment," to humanity, and to false religious concepts. Part of

that "stay blinded" formula goes like this: "Above all, be married, a

good parent, a reasonable church goer, buy a house, pay your mortgage,

pay your insurance, have a good line of credit, be socially committed,

and graciously accept death with the hope that 'through His shed blood,'

or some other equally worthless religious precept, you will go to Heaven

after your death.4 It is at this point that, through their literature,

unbeknown to the reader the cult begins to strip away at everything the

individual believes in. The cult starts to present the individual with

the words that they want to hear, which are; that they are normal, and

that there is a place where they are wanted. Although there are few

distinct similarities shared between cults, the use of communes is a

remarkably common trait.

Cults provide a separate society that appeals to potential cult members

because it is a removal from the exterior world. Usually when guests

visit for the first time to a commune they witness displays of

unconditional affection and kindness.

In major cities across throughout the world, The Unified Family, sometimes

called the Unification Church, has houses which are typically both

communal living places for young, single members, and meeting places for

a Sunday afternoon or weekday evening meeting. A pleasant, lively circle

of perhaps twenty or twenty-five people, mostly young, will make the

guest feel at home. He will be given a hymn book containing religious songs

in folk and popular style. Someone will play a guitar, and the circle will

sing for some thirty minutes.5 This tranquil, peaceful setting, purposely

contrasts with that of the world outside of the compound. In order for a

cult member to be adequately convinced of a cults merits they must see how

much more pleasant life will be inside the compound. Cults, like the Hare

Krishna, remind members how chaotic the outside world is, and maintain

impeccable order inside their compounds to maintain purity.

The details of life are closely regulated by the Spiritual Master.

He insists that each devotee take two showers daily, and take a

cup of warm milk before retiring; these customs are scrupulously

followed. Devotees live an idyllic rural, communal, devotional,

and vegetarian life.6

In cults an individuals daily routine is decided for them, their entire

life-style is chosen for them, this appeals to individuals because they

can't make mistakes if they just do as the leader instructs. In the

society outside of the cult decisions must be constantly made, and

society's expectations are that those who can not succeed in their

decision making are failures. The complexity and ambiguity of life is

something that cult members do not want to endure. Different doctors have

varying opinions on why people join cults. Dr. J.Gordon Melton is

attempting to prove that cult members have not chosen to join cults, they

have an actual medical disorder. Melton has found that cult members are

emotionally vulnerable and suffering from significant emotional distress.

...the average cult member has been in three or four other groups,

a sign of what he calls the "seeker syndrome," a spiritual quest

among young people free to experiment. These "seekers" generally move on

as soon as they become bored or disenchanted. Melton suggests cults serve

as "holding tanks" for young people rebelling against overprotective

parents.7 Other experts believe that certain classes, races, and ages are

particularly susceptible to the allure of cults. A survey performed at

the Bethany Hills School found that when asked 'Would you join a cult

if it would offer you what you believed to be a better life?', 7 out of

24 respondents said that they would. Of these 7 respondents, 5 were

between the ages of 16 and 19"8 This age group has been established as

susceptible to cults because of the pressure placed upon adolescents by

their peers. "3 of the 7 respondents were members of a single, employed,

parent houshold."9 Stress on a single income family can potentially be

greater than that of a dual income family because of the potential for a

higher net family income, and possibly less financial difficulties. This

family stress could inherently cause an individual to search for a more

stable home environment, and find refuge in a cult. These are the lesser

known, and not as accepted theories on why people join cults.

The idea that any specific social-class is more susceptible to cult

membership is false. As history has shown cult members' social class can

not be generalized.

Social Status is no indicator of susceptibility and no defense against

it. For instance, while many of the dead a Jonestown were poor, the

Solar Temple favors the carriage trade. Its disciples have included the

wife and son of the founder of Vuarnet sunglass company. The Branch

Davidians at Waco came from many walks of life. And at Rancho Santa Fe

they were paragons of the entrepreneurial class, so well organized

they died in shifts.10 The reason for cult membership is obviously not

entirely due to social class. Different people are drawn to different

cults, just as different cults prey on different individuals. The

research done at the Bethany Hills School is also not entirely accurate

because the population is so small that 24 surveys cannot accurately

represent most cult members.

Although Dr. Melton's research provides an interesting viewpoint, his

claims are still being experimented and have never been fully

substantiated. His claim that cult members are young people rebelling

against their parents is statistically inaccurate since 35 to

40-year-olds are one of the most common groups of cult members, and make

up a large portion of the hundreds of men and women who join cults each


Cult enlisteers target those who view themselves as a deviant from the

rest of society, and give these individuals a false sense of family.

Cult literature lures potential cult members by convincing them that

society is an anomalous entity and that they are healthy and sound. The

controlled family environment of cults appeals to potential cult members

because they have all of their decisions made for them, and do not risk

failure. No one is beyond the possibility of joining a cult, applicants

require only a hopeless feeling of social inadequacy, a condition apt to

strike anyone at some point in life. Undoutably, many cults are

malicious and violent, but they do send a clear message that something

is very wrong when sane, healthy people would rather burn, poison, and

shoot themselves to death rather than live another moment in society.


1. Lacay, Richard. Macleans: The Lure of the Cult (March 22 1997)

2. Graebrener, William. The American Record. Alfred A. Knoph, Inc.

New York. 1982.

3. Applewhite, Marshall Herff. Heaven's Gate, The Novel. Received off

of their internet site(

4. Applewhite, Marshall Herff. Heaven's Gate The Novel. Received off

of their internet site(

5. Bright-Paul, Anthony. Stairway to Subud. Dharma Book Company, Inc.

NewYork. 1965.

6. Swami, Bhaktivedanta A.C. Krsna Consciousness: The Topmost Yoga

System. Iskcon Press. Boston. 1970.

7. Fennell, Tom. Time: Doom Sects [False Prophets Attract the

Vulnerable]. (April 7, 1997)

8. Lamaadar, Alia. Cults:Questionair. January 12, 1998.

9. Lamaadar, Alia. Cults:Questionair. January 12, 1998.

10. Muller, Bill. The Edmonton Journal: The Lure of Cults [Why Ordinary

People Join Cults]. (April 1, 1997)


1. Applewhite, Marshall Herff Heaven's Gate, The Novel. Received off of

their internet site(

2. Bright-Paul, Anthony. Stairway to Subud. Dharma Book Company, Inc.

NewYork. 1965.

3. Bugliosi, Vincent. Helter Skelter. Bantam Books. New York. 1975.

4. Fennell, Tom. Time: Doom Sects [False Prophets Attract the

Vulnerable]. (April 7, 1997)

5. Graebner, William. The American Record. Alfred A. Knoph, Inc. New

York. 1982.

6. Lacay, Richard. Macleans: The Lure of the Cult (March 22 1997)

7. Lamaadar, Alia. Cults:Questionair. January 12, 1998.

8. Muller, Bill. The Edmonton Journal:The Lure of Cults [Why Ordinary

People Join Cults]. (April 1, 1997)

9. Porter, Anne. Farewell to the Seventies. Thomas Nelson and Sons.

Don Mills. 1979.

10. Smith, Michelle. Michelle Remembers. Pocket Books. New York.


11. Swami, Bhaktivedanta A.C. Krsna Consciousness: The Topmost Yoga

System. Iskcon Press. Boston. 1970.

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