20 Groups That People Say Pretend Not To Be Cults But Are Definitely Cults

Ashley Hunte
People standing in some kind of spiritual congregation.
Unsplash | Luan Cabral

We all like to think we won't fall for cults, but let's be real here. There are a lot of "groups" out there that are basically cults, and we oftentimes don't even notice.

But a bunch of Redditors got together to discuss the groups that they think are cults but try to pass themselves off as not cults. Did they really think they could fool us that easily?

"The Herbalife company."

A man wearing a green "Herbalife" tee shirt.

"Despite being accused of being a pyramid scheme, they continue to function similarly. There are some people from my childhood who became addicted to it, and they act very much like members of a cult."

- u/Flimsy_Breadfruit86

"Yesterday, I actually observed a job posting that stated 'Don't bother applying if receiving money is your main motivation. Here, we live like a family.'"

Rows of computer desks with workers using them.
Unsplash | Israel Andrade

"One of the most degrading things I've ever read was that. Just to be clear, this job was compensated. They simply stated that they wouldn't be paying you much, I presume."

- u/No_Raspberry71

Some companies totally come across as soulless cults.

"MLMs, particularly Mary Kay."

A Mary Kay product with honey flowing on the wall behind it.
Giphy | Mary Kay, Inc.

"I once attended a convention as a consultant's guest in an effort to persuade me to go. Very Stepford-like. She also failed to inform me that you were supposed to dress up, so I arrived in jeans and a hoodie."

- u/Previous_Proof21


Two guys fist bumping over a barbell
Unsplash | Victor Freitas

That's according to user CreepyRip6887.

Another user joked, "The first rule of CrossFit is that you must talk about CrossFit."

If you've ever met a CrossFit person, you know they're... pretty intense. So yeah, definitely gives off those culty vibes.

"Texas A&M."

So says user Magija214.

Another user shared their story: "My mom likes to tell the story about when I visited there as a high school senior. It was a one night sleepover tour. I hated it.

"When she came to pick me up the following day I was waiting at the curb, sitting on my packed suitcase. I hopped immediately into the car and the first thing I said was, 'It's a cult. Let's get out of here.'"


A ballerina standing on her pointe shoes.
Unsplash | Nihal Demirci Erenay

"You are basically at their whim. You are expected to pay tuition, costumes, dance wear, dance shoes, travel fees, competition fees, production fees, tickets, and do volunteer work and give up your entire schedule.

"If you complain at all about anything valid or not- they shun you by not giving your kid a good role or not moving them up a level."

"And they withhold attention to your child."

A group of ballerinas practicing for a performance.

"You literally must schedule all life around ballet. And pay thousands and thousands of dollars so your kid can be in the back.

If you quit all the former dance parents and friends will shun you."

- u/glitterbomb222

"Same goes with gymnastics."

A gymnast jumping over a vault during a competition.
Unsplash | Andre Ouellet

"I had a friend who missed 1 single day because she was sick and got yelled at for it in front of everyone. She literally practiced on the team every single day."

- u/Typical-Associate347

"Jehovah's Witnesses."

A single cross on a field at sunset.
Unsplash | Aaron Burden

That's what user DyzioSenior thought.

Another user shared, "As someone who comes from a family of Jehovah's and has actively practiced this faith in past times. It is 100% a cult."

I feel like this can be said about a lot of religions (but not all of them, obviously).

"Don’t see anywhere where someone’s said Fraternities/Sororities."

A group of young men playing bean bag toss on a terrace.
Unsplash | Austin Distel

"Wildly a cult. Was in one. Now I’m mid-thirties and it’s ridiculous what they make you do and how they make you feel. Especially at such a vulnerable age."

- u/ziggyzaggyziggyzaggy

"High end raiding guilds in World of Warcraft. I'm not sure how much anymore, I haven't played in a couple years, but especially back in Vanilla-WotLK days."

A cat sitting next to a WoW character handbook.
Unsplash | WTFast

"Being in a raiding guild really felt like being in a cult. Like, you were pretty much expected to give up everything outside of raiding. It would take hours upon hours a week of scheduled time with the guild, then many more hours outside the raiding to work up your professions, grind dailies."

"I've known people to neglect their health, kids, jobs, school, family, everything because their guild was determined to be the best on their server."

A laptop screen on a purchase page for a WoW expansion.
Unsplash | Oberon Copeland @veryinformed.com

"You listen to the guild leader for your schedule and you live by it. You follow orders.

"And of course you /can/ technically leave at any time, and you'll be kicked out if you don't perform well, but, it's such an addiction that quitting it is like quitting a drug. It was easier for me to quit smoking than to quit raiding."

- u/spacelordmthrfkr

"Mommy groups."

Multiple women posing with a fussy toddler.
Unsplash | Alexander Grey

That's according to user ArkadyKirilenko.

Another user added, "Along those same lines…military wives. Or any [insert occupation of their husband] wives. Basically anyone that bases their entire identity on either being a mom or the occupation of their husband."

"Masons! My husband joined and was in it for a long time. "

Burns from the Simpsons telling Lisa that he's part of the Freemasons.

"I used to joke with him that it was a cult and he’d defend the masons. He tried for a while to have me join the Order of the Eastern Star and I declined."

"Then one day I noticed he didn’t go to his meeting, then his missed another and another."

A building with the Mason symbol on its roof.
Unsplash | Vlad Kutepov

"When I asked he just said he no longer had the time. I jokingly said oh did you finally realize that you joined a cult? He turned 3 shades lighter and walked away."

- u/BamaInFlorida

"Any successful televangelist."

A Kesha music video in which the singer imitates televangelists.
Giphy | Kesha

"The only difference between Joel Olsteen and Jim Jones is that Joel seems to understand that if you keep the sheep alive, you can carry on fleecing them repeatedly."

- u/Exciting_Pop_1252

That's honestly pretty terrifying to think about.

"Elon Musk fans."

A white Tesla car parked in a mountainous area.
Unsplash | Charlie Deets

"He could literally murder somebody and they would still be like 'he is so innovative! A tech genius! My IDOL!' and would come up with an excuse as to why the murder was justified."

- u/FailedTheTuringTest1


A statue of Mickey Mouse and Walt Disney at a Disney park.
Unsplash | Travis Gergen

That's what user SuvenPan wrote.

Another user commented, "My wife is a Disney adult, but she’s at least thinks critically about the company. We’ve both worked for the mouse, so she understands that it’s an absolutely evil company, but boy if a new Remy doll comes out you better believe that we’re going to have to go to the parks to get it."

"MAGAS. Very culty."

The infamous red "Make America Great Again" hat.
Unsplash | Natilyn Hicks (Natilyn Photography)

"They basically worship one man who is supposed to be a public servant. They pay him money, go to his events, let him decide their healthcare (antivax, hydroxychloroquine, etc..), they have 'secret phrases' ('let’s go Branden,' they make it their whole personality (flags, stickers, hats, shirts, their cars), they have conspiracy theories, and they’re willing to get violent for him (Jan 6)."

- u/StressedEMT

"The Mormon church."

The top of a temple to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.
Unsplash | Aubrey Odom-Mabey

"I realized it was a cult when I was a kid and started asking questions. Figured I’d be met with optimism and willingness to answer those questions. Instead I was met with aggression and shut down."

- u/Orcas_are_badass

"The troubled teen industry (youth residential 'therapy' programs that are underregulated and rampant with abuse, SA, and children’s deaths)."

A group of young people at a memorial.
Unsplash | Ismael Paramo

"Edit: the earlier programs were closely based off the teachings of a cult called Synanon. Not every program open right now is a cult itself but their history is abusive and most programs do significantly more harm than good."

- u/ThrowAwayy05401

"A lot of my friends and family tell me I’m unknowingly in the cult of jeep owners…"

Are Jeep owners really in a cult? Who can tell...
Unsplash | Kenny Eliason

"I mean it’s a jeep thing they wouldn’t understand."

- u/DDoggDizzle

Another commenter wrote, "That's funny. This morning I was parked next to two jeeps in a parking lot frequently used for car club meetings. I wondered if something was getting started. When I drove by an hour later, the rest of the coven was in full presence, about 25 Jeeps."