There are currently 2,000 to 5,000 cults active in the United States and about 10 to 20 million Americans have been or are currently involved in cults today (Clark 1 of 20). The word cult is defined as follows: “faddish devotion; a group of persons showing such devotion” (Webster Dictionary, 192). Although some believe that cults were a thing in the past, many do not know is that cults are not Just a thing in the past; they are still being practiced and the effects are destructive.
Cults play a negative role in our society due to the infamous leaders who brainwash their followers and the anipulation of the naive victims; therefore, banishing cults will cause a decline in illegal activity, improper behavior, and immoral values. Cults were greatly exploited in the 1970s thru 1990s thanks to its infamous leaders. “… a vagrant wanderer, a frustrated singer-guitarist… who would refer himself as Jesus Christ… and was a killer who cleverly masqueraded behind the common image of a hippie, that of being peace loving… ut was a megalomaniac who coupled his insatiable thirst for power with an intense obsession for violent death,” is the way prosecutor Vincent Bugliosi escribed Charles Manson, leader of The Manson Family during the Tate-LaBianca murder trial where Manson, along with the members of his “family’ served as the accused (Pellowski 89-90). Charles Manson was born to a sixteen year old prostitute, Kathleen Maddox, on November 12, 1934 in Cincinnati, Ohio (Pellowski 15).
It was not until 1967 that Charles Manson devised The Manson Family, later to be renamed the Frigate Family and became the megalomaniac cult leader he is most recognized for. Manson started the cult at the age of thirty-two, spending more than half of those years in penal institutions for an array of different crimes. Although he had a criminal upbringing, Manson still managed to attract followers, convincing them he was Christ. Manson’s followers were confident that he had both the authority and power to not only eliminate their problems but also provide for them. A dog goes to somebody who loves it and takes care of it,” Lynette Fromme, one of Manson’s first followers said (Pellowski 22). This is how Manson attracted followers, not by his un- kept appearance or charm, but preying on the lost youth who were struggling to find themselves; in the late 1960s, the lost youth were not hard to find. After recruiting several members to his family in 1968, Manson moved his cult, now named the Frigate Family, from San Francisco to Death Valley, California.
This is where Manson concocted a plan he coined “Helter Skelter,” a term given to the civil war between African-Americans and whites ( Manson believed the world would eventually become racial mayhem where whites would kill African-Americans and vice versa. Manson felt it was crucial to begin early with Helter Skelter. On August 9, 1969 Manson ordered four of his followers: Susan Atkins, Charles Watson, Patricia Krenwinkel, and Linda Kasabian to dress in black and barge into the home of record company owner Terry Melcher and murder everyone they saw inside the home (Barden 25).
Melcher had previously denied recording a track, sung by Charles Manson which made her the primary target of Manson’s first plotted murder. This would be one of many. What Manson did not know was that Melcher had rented the home to movie actress Air home ranting “l am the Devil and I am here to do the Devil’s business” and as ordered by Manson, the four family members murdered all five people in the home. They were: Sharon Tate, Jay Sebring, Abigail Folger, WoJiciech Frykowski and Steven Parent (Zeinert 35).
Charles Manson proved that one person can influence a group of people to commit such a heinous crime. According to psychiatrist Louis West the power of mind control works and “under certain kinds of stress, individuals can be made to comply with the demands of those in power. The can also be induced to adapt beliefs and behaviors far different from those that were characteristic of them before” (Clark 3 of 20). Charles Manson had the power to ultimately brainwash his followers into believing the tasks he requested were imperative and must be done.
During the Charles Manson murder trial, he had this to say about the way he has lived, “l have ate [sic] out of your garbage cans to stay out of Jail. I have wore [sic] your second-hand clothes… ‘ have done my best to get along in your world and now you want to kill me… ha! I’m already dead, have [sic] been all my life. IVe spent twenty- three years in tombs that you built” (Pellowski 100). It was not until January 25, 1971, over a year after the first murder by Manson Family was committed, that Charles Manson, Susan Atkins, Patricia Krenwinkel and Leslie Van Houten were all found uilty of first-degree murder (Pellowski 101).
The sadistic works of Charles Manson were very similar to that of Reverend Jim Jones, a minister from Indianapolis. In 1965, Jones decided that Indiana was too intolerant for his views, so he decided to move to California and start his own church where blacks and whites could live in harmony (Barden 28). After recruiting 100 followers, Jones started to exercise his power by convincing spectaters that he could perform medical miracles like cure cancer and raise people from the dead. After he fooled his supporters, Jones moved his cult to San Francisco and established The
People’s Temple. Jim Jones often compared himself to Jesus Christ to his Christian followers. He eventually went to the extreme by saying he was God’s one and only representative on Earth and they needed him to be saved. After being accused of stealing money from his followers, he, along with some of his followers moved to Guyana, away from the “evils of the world”. It was in Guyana that Jim Jones created Jonestown, a 3,852 acre land where the members of the temple lived and worked (Hatfield 3 of 7).
According to published reports, Jones was cruel and abusive to his followers, depriving them of sleep, food and forcing them to ttend five hour religious services (Barden 30). On November 18, 1978, Jones ordered 900 of his followers to drink poisoned Kool- Aid and forced young children to consume the deadly liquid as well. The next day, 911 corpses were found in Jonestown, including Jim Jones, the man guilty of murdering 900 people who worshiped and praised him over seven years; he was found with a bullet in his head (Hatfield 1 of 7). According to the witnesses, more than one member was physically restrained while being poisoned. A little girl kept spitting out the poison until they held her mouth closed and forced her to swallow it… A woman was found with nearly every joint in her body yanked apart from trying to pull away from the people who were holding her down and poisoning her. All 912 People’s Temple members did no die An attribute that both cult leaders Charles Manson and Jim Jones possessed is that both men often referred to themselves as God or a higher power.
They wanted absolute devotion from their followers and both expected for them to leave their families like Jesus. “Those who love their father or mother more than me are not fit to be my disciples; those who love their son or daughter more than me are not fit to be my isciples. Matt 10:37 (Good News Translation Holy Bible 1079-1080). So was Jesus a cult leader or are cult leaders like Jesus? Some Christians believe that the existence of cults is a taboo topic and turn the other cheek at the thought of cults in America. “Christians find the existence of cults disturbing.
Leaders are said to be self-centered and egotistical. They require obedience and try hard to separate children from their parents” (Cult Leader Jesus 1 of7). This question has many people wondering who Jesus was, what he stood for, and what proof we have that he even existed. Many uestions can be asked regarding Jesus Christ, God, Moses, Mohammed, etc. , and though we may not have the resources to answer all questions about religion there is no denying that cult leaders present themselves as higher powers in religion did. Students of comparative religions and anthropologists have suggested that Just as every religion is founded by a leader??”whether Moses, Jesus Christ, Mohammed, Buddha or Krishna, so every religion begins as a cult” (Barden 27). However, some ex-cult members found that being a part of a cult is not beneficial at all. In a 1991 survey conducted by the American Family Foundation, 308 former cult embers were asked whether or not their cult was beneficial and the purpose of their departure. 60% answered that they left on their own without the aid of outside assistance.
The answers varied from assistance from a mental health professional to being asked to leave by the other cult members. When asked how the cult affected them, 51% of the ex-members said that their cult was actually very harmful, while 1% said their experience was very beneficial (Clark 13 of 20). Members of cults who are parents of younger children have asked courts to allow special permission allowing hem to make all decisions for their children, even if their child has reached the age of eighteen (Zeinert 116). Parents have asked for this right to perform illegal behavior.
If their children are not willing to agree on their own free will, one can only assume why. “Even though the courts have tried to protect both society [sic] and cult members, history teaches us that more tragedies are likely to occur. As a result, critics of cults continue to argue that cults should somehow be controlled” (Zeinert 117). Cult members should not be requesting special permission from the courts allowing them to partake in illegal activity. What right does cult leaders and members have to freely do what they want if the acts being done are illegal.
If this was the case, what is the purpose of our legislative system? Government officials have not learned from history that cults are notorious for three things: illegal activity, manipulation and inhuman behavior. Officials should learn from previous mistakes so that cults can be modified prior to its creation. Cults should be first investigated by the government before they are created, reframing from lawsuits and bad reputations. This will cause cults to be more accepted in lot harm humanity.