Unsplash | Jonathan Larson

People Who Were Born Into Cults Tell Their Stories

Cults get a lot of coverage on TV shows, and are often portrayed as a load of people stood around in black robes painting pentagrams on the floor, however, the reality of cults can often be much more terrifying. A lot of cults put forward a deliberately normal facade, which is how they can trick and manipulate others into joining.

One person took to Reddit to find out some stories from people who were born into cults, by asking, "People who have been born into families who are part of a cult, what's your story?"

A lot of the stories that people posted detailed the horrific and just downright strange conditions that they endured during their childhood, a collection of which have been gathered here for you to read.


Unsplash | Akira Hojo

"My parents were Scientologist with my dad being a pretty high ranking guy (He 'ran' two major cities in the late 80s). They left when I was still young but they used to harass our family a lot when I was growing up. Made me very distrustful of organized religion in general." — ComeAbout

Nowadays, this person's mother is a strong atheist; however, their father still believes in some of the beliefs of Scientology even though he doesn't practice the religion.

Cult Slavery

Unsplash | niu niu

"I know I'm late, and I don't know how much you want to know, but my grandparent was the leader of a smallish cult. It was very religious-based and the main focus was pedophilia and slavery. My name growing up was Slave 2, and my role was to do all the chores on the farm, all the housework and to please my master. I got out, my body has some pretty horrible scars and I'm okay to talk about my past, though I've lost a lot of friends due to oversharing. I'm happy to answer most questions." — Flamingwingsoftime

This person went on to answer a lot of questions that people had to ask about their recovery. They currently suffer a wide arrange of mental conditions including PTSD. Their plan is to write a book about the experience.

4 Years Free

Unsplash | Joshua Ness

"I was born into a pretty big cult. Been out for 4 years but the damage never really goes away. It leaves you without a family, without any ability to make or maintain friendships, and with an almost paralyzing distrust of anyone and anything religious. I would argue that the last one isn't entirely undeserved but it's gotten in the way of a few conversations before." — EvilGingerSanta

Getting over the mental mind-games that cult leaders play on a person can take years of intense therapy.

The People Of Praise

Unsplash | Guillaume de Germain

"I was part of a group called 'The People of Praise' until I was 12 (my parents are technically still part of it, but when I turned 18 I was no longer bound by the Covenant). I met some nice people through it but the structure and beliefs are pretty messed up.

"Basically, the father is the 'head' of each family and is in charge of the wife and children, and then a higher up 'head' is assigned to 'advise' each family. We had to go to a 2-hour long meeting every Sunday (after our regular catholic mass) and they were really big on speaking in tongues and laying on of hands (got groped by several older male members as a kid). My brother and I were also babysat by a man who later got arrested for possessing hella child pornography and my dad & grandparents defended him!" — uberdonkey9

This person was encouraged to try and recruit their outside friends while growing up. They are also still distrustful of organized religion to this day and still do not like being touched.

Adapting The Skills They Learned

Unsplash | Nastya Kvokka

"My grandparents basically run a cult. I grew up in isolation and didn't get out until I was 18. It took some time to understand how to 'fit in' with normal people. Losing the 'foundation' I was raised on was really hard and made me very unstable during my late teens early 20's. We were raised to do nothing but work (physical labor), which has actually come in very handy. I'm still a major loner, which is difficult because I think I'm slightly more extroverted than introverted, but I just have a hard time trusting and opening up to people. I have scars that make people uncomfortable.

"Navigating my family's weird demands and emotional abuse made me quite aware, so I've adapted quickly. Also, knowing all the psychological tricks that they used on us and others has made me really good at persuasion and marketing. I'm weary of being manipulative though, so I try to be as straight forward as possible bc it makes me feel gross. I'm basically 25 now and have a degree and a job and a spouse."

They expressed a fear that some of their family who have also escaped may be tempted to go back. There are still a lot of people in their grandparent's cult, and there is a lot of incestuous behavior apparently.

Born Into Scientology

Unsplash | Luma Pimentel

"We would go to church often and while I was technically never forced to do courses everyone, family and staff are very pushy on you to attend and do services. Our family disconnected from others when they got SP declares so I would lose friends randomly throughout childhood. Most of it is reading books written by Hubbard and attending events where people beg/demand money to save the world from psychiatry. They really push on people that the world is evil and falling apart but thankfully you’re a Scientologist and this group is going to save the world.

"I stopped believing when I realized how much Scientology operates like a business. “Free stress test!” On every f*cking window. The other event is called the Golden Age Of Knowledge. Every test and bridge level was rebranded and re-edited and they had members purchase s**t they already owned [...] They've stolen tens of thousands of dollars from people and there isn’t a goddamn shred of remorse. They just want more money." — introvertedbassist

This person went on to write that they are extremely thankful for their friends for getting them out of this cult.

"New Age Cult"

Unsplash | Craig Whitehead

"A distant family member of mine headed a 'new age' cult that I got roped into when I left home and went to college closeby. It started out as a group of friends of theirs that I became close to, cause they were the only family around, but then things escalated quickly. The cult's beliefs were that the love and the connections that we all had with one another were the hope for the future. And the family member who formed this cult was the original creator of everything, and then was supposed to turn everything over to us, the 'group' whose love could take things over.

"[We] would have to give away our money and time to very hard, manual labor until we were exhausted. We were so exhausted that anything you told us we would believe. After a death in my immediate family, I stopped showing to the events and meetings of the cult that I normally would. During that break, I reflected and realized I needed to get out. I lived on-site with that family member so it wasn't easy and I was in limbo for a while... still doing manual labor but not fully committed like I was before. I met my current partner who eventually realized what was going on and helped me out." — dev315

"My Ex-Boyfriend And His Sister Were Born Into A Cult."

Unsplash | Shahar Ezra

"Their cult wasn't 'insane' or 'interesting' like how you see other cults in movies or magazines. Don't get me wrong, it was f**ked up in its own way, but it wasn't the type of cult where they do horrendous, despicable acts with children or anything. This cult's whole foundation was built on control. Just like you'd see some Christians preach about literalism and strictness, that's what they did. You could only wear certain fabrics, colors, styles. Everything they ate was in accordance with biblical law, like, no eating animals with hooves?

"You couldn't listen to music (except for hymns at church), so when I tell you that I was constantly putting my ex on to music I grew up with... it was just crazy to me, but understandable all the same. At one point we were listening to Bohemian Rhapsody and he looked me in the eyes and said, 'This song is actually really good, who sings this again?'" — chickennugtits

According to the person who wrote this, their ex still suffers from PTSD and has nightmares about their upbringing. However, they will only discuss the basics of what happened to them.

Grandparent's Cult

Unsplash | hossein gholami

"My Mom's parents joined a church when the moved to Columbus Ohio like 50 years ago not knowing they were a cult. By the time they realized it, [they] were too afraid to leave because all their friends were apart of this cult now. As a result, my mom and her siblings were raised in this cult which my mom still won't tell me all the details. My Mom was adopted and never 'swore in'. The moment she turned 18 she joined the Army and hit the road.

"Her siblings, however, are still involved (hitting 50+ years now) and they raised their children in the cult as well. My Mom was excommunicated, and thus I was never exposed to the abuse and horrors of the cult." — Ske7ch234

This person explained that when their cousin finally got out also, they told this person that they had been sexually abused by their brother and threatened not to tell anyone outside of the cult.


Unsplash | Jonathan Larson

"I'm another ex-Mormon. I left the cult over two years ago but the things I was brainwashed into will probably always affect me. It DAMAGED me in huge ways and I hate that I was raised in it. They stole 25 years and thousands of dollars from me and led me to believe that marriage and childbearing were all I was intended for. I had three kids by the age of 25 because of them- then I realized that I had been raised in a cult and brainwashed! Family thinks that I've been 'led astray by Satan' and that I won't be able to be with my kids in the next life because I drink coffee now.

"I'm embarrassed that I used to believe the things I did, but it was all I knew! Leaving was terrifying. Taking off the sacred underwear was scary- even though I had realized that it was based on lies and manipulation, the brainwashing runs so, so deep. Sometimes I still get waves of terror where I wonder if what if it is true and I've thrown away everything by leaving. Needless to say, I have a lot of animosity toward religion because of my experiences." — MaliciousMelissa27

There were a considerable amount of ex-Mormons who described the aspects of the religion which they saw as being more akin to a cult.

Apocalyptic Cult

Unsplash | Alessandro Cerino

"I was raised in the Family Radio apocalyptic Christian cult. I guess the biggest "Oh SH*T" moment was when the world didn't end on May 21, 2011. My whole life was building up to that day and I had no other purpose.

"...and then May 22 came and I figure out how to live in a world that I was taught to reject."

Imagine being taught one specific truth for your entire life, only for you to discover it was lying over the course of one 24 hour period. Your whole life would be rocked.

Jehovah's Witnesses

Unsplash | Carolyn V

"Former Jehovah's Witness here. It's definitely a doomsday cult. They are waiting for Armageddon to come any day now for god to destroy anyone who is not a JW. They highly discourage contact with non-JWs. They also highly discourage getting a college education since it causes people to come to their senses and leave the church. It's highly misogynistic and women are taught to be in subjection to their husbands and are not allowed any sort of authority. They would rather let their child die than receive a blood transfusion.

"It you leave the church you are shunned and disowned as a form of emotional blackmail. They are at the center of many lawsuits for protecting pedophiles. If someone accused someone else of sexual abuse they would not hear the complaint unless there was a second person to have witnessed the act. If someone was proven to do it or confessed, they would keep the matter quite as long as this person 'repented,' and they were free to go off and do it again." — Foco_cholo

There are so many people wanting to find a support network after leaving the Jehovah's Witnesses that there is now an entire support community on Reddit called r/exjw where people can ask for advice and try to move forward with their life.

"Ex-Mormon Here, In Case That Counts..."

Unsplash | NeONBRAND

"I was raised from birth to be a mom. That was my Divine role and the teachings were structured around that message: your job is to birth children. Every decision must revolve around making that work. Even if you're broke college students, you must not delay a family for anything.

"The verbage in lessons involves an us vs them mentality. Non-members, anti-Mormon literature, etc. You are taught so repeatedly that the world is out to get you and that you cannot look at those sources of information that it creates a persecution complex. Any time anyone mentions anything negative about the church, the walls go up and that naysayer is treated like they're making a personal, ugly attack on everything that member ever is.

"If you try to leave you are expected to meet with leadership and possibly also missionaries several times to try and get you to change your mind. At church, you are taught that people only leave because someone offended them because you want to sin without the guilt [...] None of that talk is about discovering Ole Joe was a career con man. These meetings are framed around that mentality and you have to go through several of them. If you want to avoid all that, you need a notarized letter explicitly stating you want to leave. A. Notarized. Letter. To. Stop. Attending. Church." — Zalikiya

"Both My Parents Were Part Of The Children Of God."

Unsplash | Artem Maltsev

"My dad's side of the family had been part of it for a long time, but I've never met any of them. My mom convinced my dad to leave when I was very young, so I don't have many stories about it but I do remember being shown a ton of bible story stuff and going to services that barely made any sense to me [...] We had this big trunk that we kept all our family photos and documents in. Some of the members caught up to us at some point, I don't remember when or where but I do remember being told to hide. They somehow ended up with our trunk, so my family doesn't have any baby pictures of me or my big brother as a result.

"Pretty soon after we made it to the states my dad left us to go back to his family and rejoin them, but I think the CoG were kind of falling apart at that point due to exposure from the media and scandals and stuff, so I don't think he did. I didn't see him again for several years." — Dextkiller

It is horrific how cults can affect people so greatly that they are willing to put their family at risk, or even abandon their family in order to be accepted by their "leaders".

The Moment They Realised They Were In A Cult

Unsplash | Matthieu Pétel

"Born and raised Calvary Chapel. [My 'Oh Sh*t' moment was] when I realized my rapist was using the Bible to justify him, the man, having control over me, as a woman because of his interpretation of a Bible verse. And then when my family member, a Calvary pastor had to 'exorcise' their own home from their child who is bi and apparently bringing demons home." — TheFireSwamp

Growing Up In The Scientology Capital

Unsplash | Edwin Andrade

"I lived near the main hub or church of Scientology. I grew up riding my bike and skateboard around the city they call their capital. I met a kid who ran away when I was 12-14 at a local skatepark. I met him on his first day out, he had left his family and the church at just 16yrs old... he slept at this local skatepark for a few nights before he started sleeping on my older buddies couch. Times passed (2-3yrs) and the church eventually found where this dude lived. He’s found cameras in his yard, and a tracking device on his tail exhaust pipe. He called the FBI apparently and they stepped in.

"I was also told by many adults in my youth to stay away from the church of Scientology. I was told that if anyone from the church approached you to you should: 'yell and defend yourself.' Apparently, a few people have joined the church and never been heard from again." — yourfuturepres

It's hard to imagine what it must have been like growing up in an environment where you have to be warned of cult members trying to recruit you.

The Age Of Enlightenment

Unsplash | Aaron Burden

"Mine was pretty relaxed as well at around 13 I was able to stop practicing with no resistance. I've notice recently (40 now) in the age of enlightenment that as their numbers in practicing members drop each year they literally have changed their narrative multiple times over the years to try and keep people believing the lies they teach.

"It's crazy to think how someone can create such bulls**t stories all in an effort to gain control, power, and money. It's rather unsettling to think this type of stuff has been used for as long as it has. Can't help but wonder where man might be without these delusions stunting are mental development. The cult I was born into in particular has a rich history of f*ckery..." — Lossnphound

Church In The Backyard

Diana Simumpande | Unsplash

"My ex step dad had a church in our backyard and he turned one of our bedrooms into a prayer room. 4 days a week a group of about 40 would come to the house. They would burn incense through the house, make me "read" candles and say things like I see angels and I see the virgin mary's hands. 4 people would sit in chairs, wearing white robes and they would embody certain individuals. My mom would be the virgin mary for example and speak in a monotone voice, 'how can I help you, my child?'

"It lasted about 5 years and then my mom became normal and she tries to forget that part of her life. She was very weak and vulnerable after divorcing my dad and my ex stepdad was a manipulator. He left her for a younger woman and started another new family and moved his church somewhere else" — Spicyfrijoles

Homophobic Cult

Unsplash | Delia Giandeini

"My family broke off from the main LDS Church in the 60's or 70's because it wasn't conservative enough for them. I don't know if I'd fully categorize it as a cult, but it was... bad. Really, really bad. Most Mormons I know now and have talked to about it are flabbergasted by it. They cherry-picked rules and ideas from a bunch of various conservative movements, but most of our religious ideology was based around Mormonism.

"I knew I had to get out when Matthew Shepard got murdered, and my parents considered his killers to be doing the Lord's work. As a very young boy who already knew he was gay, It was a rude awakening that they considered Murderers in the right over a gay guy who hadn't done anything wrong. I waited it out until college, somehow. I managed to convince my parents to let me go to a secular school states away. I came out and was told I needed to quit school and come home for an ex-gay program or be kicked out of the family and chose the latter." — bnmq98

This person hasn't spoken to their family for years except for their uncle who also escaped. They also wrote that their mother died and they weren't allowed to go to the funeral, how tragic.

"I Am A Warrior!"

Amy Flak | Unsplash

"My ex was raised in a cult by his mum. They convinced him he was a warrior of God, he could fight Demons... All this kind of stuff. One of my first interactions with him was his blessing of a ring I wore regularly so I could keep Demons at bay, and us discussing making armored clothing. It was his whole life till he was 16, and he left when he moved home; he still hasn't recovered fully a decade later. I don't know if that's changed in the last 3 months, but I hope he gets past this 'I must be a warrior' thing soon; it was tearing him apart, mentally and physically." — Hazie144

It is deceptively easy for people to fall prey to cults; and, while there is always a way to bring them back to reality, it can be a long and arduous road.