Experience leaving a cult

Is anyone willing to relate their experience spiritually and personally from being involved in and leaving a cult?

I married into a fringe Church of God, pentacostal-type church. Spiritually, both good and bad happened. The good, I met some very godly people who desperately tried to experience a closeness to God. They land in this church as I did because they are adrift and seeking God. I still have friends who are stuck there. The bad, when you realize some things are not from God and decide to stop going, you are formally ‘dismembered’. This was very damaging to my husband who was born and raised in this church. He turned away from God for 10yrs. He was vehemently anti-Catholic, he would not allow me to go to any church. Finally through experiencing a few other protestant churches, my husband is now considering Catholicism as God’s one, holy and apostolic church.

I’m glad your husband is considering Catholicism. Praise God!

No, but I had an acquaintance who left a cult, got another friend out of it, and became a “deprogrammer.”

I’m under short of time.
If you check my previous posts I think I did relate some of my experiences before.
I was briefly involved with the"International Christian Church"

If you need to know more I’ll try to get the computer on and type up more detail

It’d be interesting to hear…but if you’re short on time it can seriously wait till later. Thank you though :slight_smile:

When I was in my teens, my parents left the Catholic Church and started shopping around for a religion that would “save their marriage.” While hopping around from religion to religion, my family left me in the hands of the Jehovah’s Witnesses who basically looked after my religious upbringing as my parents went through a messy divorce.

Being a teen I knew little about my Catholic and Jewish roots. But the religious indoctrination techniques of the JWs–where you are rewarded and applauded if you study only their materials and learn to “parrot-off” your new convictions in styles they approve–well, it built up my ego to make me believe I really knew something.

My “spirituality” was all about learning from their books, their Watchtower and Awake! magazines, and practicing how to give presentations at doorways–as well as attempt to “stump” the public from a list of “Conversation Stoppers.” There is no actual spirituality involved, it’s just study of their books, exercise the mind to memorize answers and chains of proof texts to support their own unique doctrine.

As I grew into an adult I wanted to learn history and studying my own language of Hebrew better. But in order to do so I would have to go to college after high school. We were taught that the world was going to end well before the year 2000 came around, and that college would be a waste of time–even dangerous as it would open young minds to “ungodly” falsehoods.

So I tried to be a faithful Witness and I moved up the ranks to become a full-time minister with many privileges in their religion. Jealousy from elders in my congregation of Jehovah’s Witnesses due to my relative young age caused several problems, as well as an antisemitic bent toward my Jewish heritage. I was constantly told that my language was “odd” and “unnecessary,” and that “the Jews got what they deserved in the Nazi Holocaust because they rejected Christ.”

After literally suffering during an illness with a long recovery period in which those jealous elders kept other JWs from trying to help me under pain of losing their good standing in the group, I made attempts to officially fix the matter when I could by appealing to those controlling the religion in upstate NY if I had to.

This made matters worse, but I wasn’t going to give up. I really believed I was in the only true religion on the planet–it just needed some correction on matters, and very soon!

It was at that time that my grandfather, a faithful Catholic who reportedly had a gift for healing (the JWs told me that it was because he had a demon), passed away. Around the same time I had what I can only describe as a mystical experience–a very Catholic one.

I actually was puzzled and even confused because the experience was Catholic, was impossible to deny, and went against everything I believed as a Jehovah’s Witness. But the first experience led to others, all having the same theme: the Most Holy Eucharist.

I didn’t know enough about my Catholic upbringing to understand fully what I was seeing and experiencing, and I was still a Witness at the time too, but I knew enough that I was experiencing a call to return to the Church.

Eventually I had to acquiesce that God was calling me home–even though I was frightened and didn’t know who to turn to or who to speak with (there was no Internet then like today as AOL was just being introduced to the public). The Witnesses didn’t want to hear what I was going through–except to tell me that God doesn’t speak to people mystically anymore, and miracles no longer occur, unless a demon is making this happen.

But I knew it was God, and without much more to go on then a desire for the Eucharist, I left.

You cannot gracefully leave the Witnesses. They did a lot to my reputation afterward, spreading rumors like I had committed adultery with some woman and was a practicing homosexual and left the JW religion to live a gay life. Former friends were told not even to say HI or acknowledge me if they saw me in public under pain of their excommunication for doing so. I recall when the JW wife of a close friend saw me in a grocery store and went running away in terror!

But with the help of the local diocese I made the return to the Church. Catholics even helped me to revive and embrace my Jewish heritage!

The years passed–2000 came and went. All those elders who made trouble for me are now dead (though they believed they would never die because Armageddon was coming in their lifetime). I remember when I had my 40th birthday some years back–the Witnesses had told me when I was a teenager not to go to college or attempt a career because I would not grow up in this world. It would soon end, and I would never see my 40th birthday.

A handful of my friends who I made while I was a JW have also left, but the majority are still there. They believe the world is soon to end and that they will survive to see the end without ever experiencing death–the same hope their now dead parents had too.

That is truly an amazing story!

if i may go off topic for one second, this is actually a great way to get them off your doorstep. just tell them you’re a disfellowshipped witness and they’ll run like the wind. :stuck_out_tongue:

I was brought up in traditional witchcraft with some handfuls of romani lore thrown in but my grandmother was of romani descent and she possessed a divination spirit and it was passed on to me, so from a young age I first did simple palmistry and tarot cards then I moved onto more and more risky occult behavior quija boards, and being taught about lunar phases, animal spirits, and simple weather and knot spells. Then age 12 brought me to other paths of occult study such as ancient druidic religions and welsh “wise women” using flying ointments or hallucenogens in magical rites I even learned to render the fat of wild animals to make these salves. Then at 19 I met La Santa Muerte through a mexican neighbor I was obsessed I found a way to blend her worship with the traditional witchcraft of wales and the gray magick I was brought up in for years I was in my opinion demonically opressed I could meet someone and know things I didnt know
THe only normalcy in my life and I believe God speakign to my soul was my mother forcing me to occasisionally attend protestant services with my dads mother throughout childhood, I would even try to stop the occult practices but I would fall again quickly… It wasnt until I was 21 that I became catholic due to my husband being catholic but I still prayed to la muerte and used the salves to take spirit journeys, finally after hitting rock bottom moving to mexico and becoming involved with her “church” and tattooing the image when I tried to kill myself the Lord had better plans for me he grabbed my hand just in time he gave me the strentgh to heal and he came to dwell in my soul the first time holy communion meant something, the first time I felt I could see the sun,

It is a constant struggle in our heavily pagan society not to succumb to the darkness again even harder in mexico city where the Santa Muerte is everywhere or times when I see blatantly pagan movies or get the temptation to fall into the old ways

I have to constantly recieve deliverance and I have to almost sprint past the Santa Muerte shrine in our town

But I am sucessful finally I havent relapsed in 2 almost 3 yrs now by the Grace of God alone.
I do find myself being overly protective of my children, I dont allow any occultic practices in the home not even movies about witchcraft like hocus pocus and many disney movies I have banned from the house. I do deliverance prayers for them alot
To anyone struggling and feeling the guilt of falling I liken occult practices as something addictive with prayer and Gods Grace and our dear Ladys help you will conquer.

Praise God, and may he be lead to coming home to God’s True Church!

‘Dismembered’ you say? That sounds quite barbaric.:eek:

Part 1 of my experience in a cult (it’s long, but this is more for a journal that I can look back on, however please read and comment if you’d like)

I was involved with what I consider to be a pseudo cult still running on the fumes of its true cult years (around 1990-2004). The name of the denomination was “The International Churches of Christ (ICOC)”. It happened during my first year at university (a tough time for many people), My mother had just suddenly died, my high school sweetheart had just broken my heart, my father was going through some huge health problems, I’m an only child (so no siblings and really no family to count on), and most of my friends were far away. So I was in a pretty weird place.

I grew up in a town that was heavily religious, but mostly with protestant/evangelical churches. I always felt left out, growing up as an unchurched youth surrounded by so many young, vibrant Christians. So I had a desire to be a part of a group.

In comes a man who, when I was at a small league hockey game with a friend, talked to me when the friend had left to go to the bathroom and I was alone. I wonder if I had looked to be a good target, as I often appear very glum. He asked me if I was a student, said he was a part of a group that did bible studies on campus, and asked me to join. I thought he was very nice and I agreed.

The main cultish part of this group came through their bible studies, which did not change at all even when the group kicked out its head in 2001, a charismatic speaker named Kip Mckean, and supposedly stopped being a cult.

These bible studies serve as the catechism for this cult. They give support to how the cult isolates people in weird positions in life, love bombs them, manipulates them and makes them subservient to the church, encourages them to divorce themselves from and look down on their family and friends to serve the church (and only their church, for they believe they are the one true church at the expense of your social life, or even your career, despite not coming on the scene until the 1970s), and encourages a pyramid scheme in evangelization that is weak on knowledge and obsessed with numbers.

An in depth study of these manipulative bible studies is found here for those interested:
reveal.org/library/theology/dandersn2.html

Now I played along for a while with these studies, but honestly I wasn’t feeling 100% about this. Nevertheless I kept getting more and more involved and was making friends. However the love bombing soon stopped because I wasn’t really evangelizing much. I was getting increasingly separated from my family (which was really not present: my father was in the hospital for the most time, and I lived alone), and I had shunned most of my friends (not just because of the cult’s encouragement, since they had decided that drinking and drugs were the way they were going to spend their weekends so I wanted no part in that). So I knew that this group was important were I to have anybody to talk to on a regular basis in my life at college.

Eventually I agreed to be baptized (I had already been baptized as an infant in the Catholic Church). Now the study that comes the day before this is really an initiation into the cult, and had I been paying attention more (I have a problem with not being attentive to the world around me), I think I would have realized that this study was weird and just wrong.

They argued me into thinking that infant baptism wasn’t valid, and even though I wasn’t convinced about this, they were adamant that I couldn’t join the church unless I was re-baptized. I didn’t tell anyone about this (because I knew people in my family would have thought it was weird…especially since I was doing something against my conscience), and I still never have, and I allowed them to dunk me in a tub of water.

Part 2:

Now of course the love bombing was off the charts on that evening. The entire group was all about me for that night. I got a few books written by the publishing arm of that cult, and a new bible.

Now that I was a full member, I was expected to go all out on the evangelization. But I’m naturally timid and don’t keep many friends. Moreover, I didn’t really know the faith or love it. I’m not sure I would say I even had a “personal relationship with Jesus”. As I kept dithering on this, they friendliness became less and less apparent.

Around this time my first year of college was over, and I was invited to go to spend the summer in Portugal with family. The cult was very worried about this, they didn’t like the idea of me spending two months away from them without the weekly “discipling” meeting/bible study (i.e. pick verses that support our cult and nothing else) and church worship on sunday.

When I went to Portugal, I spent the time reading “Catholicism and Fundamentalism” by Karl Keating that pretty much convinced me that i wanted to go to the Catholic Church. But what was the worst, the real shocking experience of realizing that I had joined a cult, was when I looked up this denomination on the internet. (Before then I had just though it was a local church that had some kind of affiliation with other churches of the same sort, but I didn’t know what the name of this affiliation was) When I did this I spent tens of hours reading horror stories of this group in the 1990s in that link I posted above.

Now granted, when I had gotten involved in the church, it wasn’t as bad. The group wasn’t as zealous in their cultish tactics. Still, as I mentioned, their “bible studies” had not changed at all, nor their doctrine, and there was the whole sickening notion that I belonged to a church that had been a legitimate cult that had destroyed many families in the past, along with some notable financial indiscretions from the leadership. I could see nothing that would stop this group from reverting to how it operated in the 1990s should another charismatic preacher come around who wanted to take it there, so I knew I could have nothing to do with it.

However to be fair, as is often the case with cults, the lay people (not the high-up leadership) of this group, and even the pastor, were still very kind people who treated me nicely. Unfortunately they are committed to their erroneous and cult-like interpretation of the bible, and their jobs are often involved in this, so I can see why I couldn’t reason with them. Nevertheless I wanted to “break up” with them in person, out of respect for the kindness and generosity they had shown me, and not just send an email explaining things. So I set up a meeting with the pastor whom I had gotten to know the best, and gently explained to him why I wanted to leave the church. I knew this would probably hurt his feelings but it had to be done.

I didn’t expect it, (but this confirms why I still refer to this group as a cult) but everybody I had gotten to know over the past year through this group cut off all contact with me, and they barely acknowledged me when we ran into each other around town.

I guess the lessons I’ve taken from this experience have been:

  1. Do not be so credulous, but pay attention to what people are trying to do or get from you
  2. Do not just go with the flow out of fear or timidity
  3. Trust, but verify
  4. Spiritually: this was a big setback in my walk in faith. I find it hard to trust myself, I doubt myself too much, and I wasn’t getting sound doctrine. Also, I had a problem with being too prideful with what I know and perhaps a little too harsh when thinking and dealing with protestants and atheists (not these heresies themselves, but the people who hold them, whom I need to respect more). I think that they’re just “wrong! wrong! wrong!” and I de-humanize them a little.

Luckily I have now found the fulness of the truth in the Catholic church, good spiritual advice through a confessor, and have been welcomed into the church founded by God himself. I will be confirmed this Easter.

hey me too, sort of. I was involved with the ICOC, after Kip McKean was kicked out and went on to found the group you were involved with. Good to see you’ve found the Catholic Church! God bless you!

That is truly a remarkable story. The youth of this day and age need to hear stories like this to know the danger of the occult. Have you ever written anything (like a book)?

no Ive only shared this with my husband and family members, and some other members here on catholic answers forum. I have talked in mexico and helped get people out of the santa muerte cult but I also put myself in danger doing it. But maybe I should and or maybe I could make a blog or a webpage for youth in the occult thankyou for suggesting that I share the stroy with a broader group of people.

I left my cult completely a decade ago. I’ve tried slowly leaving it even longer. My dad one day had enough if their controlling and moved us away where none of them were. I started having my doubts a little later - they had said such evil things. These people promoted violence against homosexuals (only laws held them back), abortion (because if you didn’t have kids you could pay them more money), the tithe was a mandatory 15% of your income even if it took food out of your kids mouths, wearing a cross was asking for evil spirits to enter your life, if you left you would die… I could go on and on. I don’t understand why my parents stayed with them so long - they certainly didn’t live the life our church promoted.

My biggest turning point was when my dad died.

One of our beliefs was sort of treating God like a vending machine. If we believed hard enough God will give us what we want. BUT if we worry for even a second then it cancels out our prayers.

I prayed and prayed and tried not to worry about my dying father - but it’s kind of hard when he was dying.

I blamed myself for him dying at first.

I told my cousin I had left later (she left years before) and she mentioned our old religion being a cult. Suddenly I started researching like crazy. Things were even more horrific than I imagined.

All the horrible things I had been taught had to be unlearned.

I stopped believing in God for a long time because of their lies. It was a relief to know I wasn’t responsible for my dad’s death by ‘worrying.’ It was a relief not to believe in a god that thought killing babies was something to be applauded. I thank God everyday my parents loved us enough to have us.

That religion destroyed my faith in God for so long.

I went into Wicca for a while - because I did want a religion but I couldn’t believe in the Christian god anymore (because of what I had been taught). I dabbled for about two years… It didn’t feel right so I spent another year as an atheist.

I love reading about religion - it is my favorite subject actually. I read about all sorts of Christian and non Christian religions. I started reading about Catholism because all churches seemed to break away from it. Also my old religion hated Catholics the absolute most so that was also interesting.

The more I read the more sense it made. After year of reading websites I bought a catechism and have been going through it slowly. I want to say almost two years now… I’ve not gotten through it yet unfortunately. I like to skip around and read different parts.

So after about a decade or so I started believing in God again because I found out he isn’t evil after all.

I just recently started going to mass. I’m a little shy still but maybe I’ll work up the courage to go to RICA later.

No problem. Pray about doing it though, because if it does more help than harm I wouldn’t want you to be in harms way.

Keep reading up on it. Sometimes its hard to see through what the Church teaches but I feel when I dig deep and persevere I am rewarded with an answer often. What was the name of the cult?

After my last deployment I stayed with some friends in Michigan. Rent was a mandatory donation (first clue was that oxymoron) and they really treated me like a child with curfews and deciding which job I would take. After they insisted there was no reason to go to Mass since I was supposed to go to their church, and the more I answered their twisted scripture interpretations with CAL/CAF information, the more they insisted I was abandoning Jesus and what He wanted for my life. I turned out of there so quickly after six long weeks and came back East and never looked back.

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