Religious Cults, from Life in the USA: The Complete Guide for Immigrants and Americans

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Life in the USA
Religion in America
Religious Cults

Religious Cults
Religious cults are still a frightening aspect of modern American life. They usually prey on confused young people, separating them from their families at a time when their judgment is weakest. The cults provide support networks for young people with adjustment problems or low self esteem.

The most famous cult group for many years was the Unification Church run by the Korean Dr. Sung Myung Moon. Thousands of young “Moonies” would go door to door selling flowers and soliciting money for the church, sleeping in vans or communal dormitories and preaching the sect's teachings on the street. In controversial cases, parents had to kidnap and “de-program” their own children to save them from the cult.

Other cults and millennial movements have from time to time caused shocking events such as mass suicides. In 1997, for example, 39 members of the “Heavens Gate” organization committed suicide together in an event designed to coincide with the arrival of the Hale-Bopp comet, which they interpreted as their signal to leave the earthly existence. Cults do run the gamut from benign to frightening, but they also highlight two key facts about religion in America: it is intense, and it is highly varied.


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