When you imagine a cult, you probably think of a pretty radical group of people. Even the word “cult” has a negative connotation to it — it’s been known to describe isolated people who hurt others. The mindset behind cults is what makes them dangerous and lands them on the evening news. Even in today’s modern culture, many cults take on older or ancient views that end up harming their members.
And who ends up getting hurt the most? Oftentimes, it’s the females within the cult communities. History has shown that women have been made to endure the most at the expense of the men in charge, and it continues today in the isolated groups that people often prefer to look away from.
There’s a strategy behind each cult’s system of beliefs as to why they treat women badly. Brainwashing helps them achieve this, as they prey on women who were either born into the cult and don’t know any better or who have been hurt by others throughout their lives and get drawn in by the promise of safety. Read on to learn about some groups that may surprise you — not every cult presents itself in the same way.
The Twelve Tribes cult began in 1972 as a group of people wanting to recreate the 12 ancient tribes of Israel. Their ultimate goal is to prepare the way for Christ’s second coming. One of the key ways cults keep so many members in line is by creating a reasoning or ultimatum that will affect more than just each member on their own. Preparing the way for the second coming of God is perhaps reason enough for some to stay in line even when feelings of doubt or danger arise.
The women in this cult are expected to marry around age 18 and get pregnant immediately after the wedding. With no contact to the outside world, they’re instructed to give birth without painkillers to atone for the original sin committed by Eve, the first woman on Earth. Studies have shown that home births triple the death rate of babies and mothers, and given that these women lack the up-to-date technologies that can prevent and fix complications related to pregnancy, their likelihood of survival is often minimal at best.
Quiverfull and ATI
Almost everyone has heard about the 19 Kids and Counting show on TLC. It’s shocked millions of viewers because of how different the featured family is. They have a rigid belief system about how a family should be run, but a lot of attention is paid to how the women in the family are treated. The mother, Michelle Duggar, has had nearly 20 children, all because they believe it’s a woman’s duty to have as many children as God wills.
The family’s lifestyle reflects much of what the philosophy of the Quiverfull cult pushes. In Quiverfull families, women are incredibly submissive and are convinced to believe that the only point of their existence is to provide their husbands with children.
Everyone is entitled to their own personal beliefs, but it’s scary how completely cut off the family is from modern society — with the exception of their television crew. Viewers will note that the Duggar kids don’t get out of the house much and don’t have many friends outside of their siblings. This is, in part, because they can’t go anywhere outside the house without a chaperone, and they’re also all homeschooled.
This family also follows similar teaching methods as ATI, a “Biblically based” homeschooling program that was founded by Bill Gothard. It teaches children to always do what your parents say and never question them, although not all of the people orbiting this religious program do what they’re told. In recent years, women have come forward with claims of sexual harassment against Gothard. The system he created protected him, but that doesn’t mean cults can get away with their secrets forever.
Arguably, the belief that women have to have endless children until they physically can’t anymore endangers women, but the issue of this cult extends greater than that. Similar to how the teachings and expectations of Gothard’s program allowed women to be sexually harassed, it came out in 2015 that the oldest Duggar son molested four of his younger sisters.
Ultimately, the sisters weren’t given help and the son came back to the family and was put in the exact same predatory position. In a family where physical purity is supposed to be everything, sexual assault got swept under the rug. Their daughters won’t be able to access professional help with any of the lasting PTSD symptoms of sexual assault like memory problems, self-destructive behavior, and angry outbursts.
Nothing in the Duggar cult’s belief system changed, even after national humiliation. They only stuck to their beliefs even harder when questioned and accused. This makes it even more likely that the problem of sexual assault, because of their religious beliefs, will find a way to repeat itself in the family and in the lives of viewers inspired by the show.
Congregation for the Light
In New York, there’s a cult called Congregation for the Light. They meet in a member’s home for a bit each week and then go their separate ways. Most groups do this, which can fool people into thinking they’re harmless.
One way people in Congregation for the Light groups have attempted to remain in control is by limiting a woman’s ability to become educated and denying women access to reading materials — not even about the cult’s own religion.
Groups don’t have to meet in scary places or require bizarre rituals to be considered a cult. They’re often so well interwoven in society that they’re hard to pick out. They may even be put on a pedestal, like the Duggars, to make a profitable show. One thing many of them have in common, though, is the way they use religion to abuse and manipulate women. Sound familiar?
Political Writer and Blogger
Women v. Religion: The Case Against Faith – and for Freedom
The Forgotten Nones: The High Cost of Fleeing Fundamentalist Religion
Speaking my Mind
What if You’re Wrong?
The Problem With Faith: 11 Ways Religion Is Destroying Humanity