Not so long ago I managed to escape from a large and very powerful cult. I was born into this cult so grew up not knowing any better but still the hold it had over me was strong and my parents and siblings are still part of it.
There were strict rules about who I should and shouldn’t marry, there were clear rules about what I should and shouldn’t do on any given day. We would attend ‘Prayer Meetings’ where one of the church leaders would share interpretations from the bible and implore us to ‘be better people’ (and give money of course). The church leader would be positioned as the one that understood ‘the word’ and would interpret it for us (only males were allowed to have this role).
There was a subtle code of hierarchy and power, with people vying to be part of administrative roles to have greater influence in the community. We weren’t a gated community, but many of us played sports and socialised together, convinced that the world was out to get us.
My break away started when I met my wife, who was not part of this cult. I was clearly told of the harm and shame I would bring to the family, and my wife was told by the church elders that she would be going to hell based on the cult she had grown up with.
At one point I had even convinced her to convert, until we realised we were only doing it for other people’s approval.
The cult I grew up in… is one of the four mainstream religions.