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Wittyusername

My cousin is joining a cult

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My cousin started going to this church a few years ago. They meet in a school gym. She is now at the stage of

- covering her head

- long clothes 

- no music except church CDs

- no pork

- no dancing

- all day church on Sunday plus mid week service plus small groups plus church outings.

 

My cousin is not married but sill in a relationship with the father of her children, who was also baptised a few months ago. I'm not sure how that adds up but cognitive dissonance is one hell of a thing.

 

I am not that close to my cousin but care about her and am not sure what to do. I come from a family where it is essential to never talk about anything that matters and to sweep all unpleasantness under the carpet which makes it even harder. Once I tried to talk about something else to her and she had a tantrum.

 

I saw myself going down this route before I landed up here but as many of us here have found reading the bible deeply is what leads to everything falling apart. I don't think she does read independently though. They are given verses to meditate on rather than free reading, I guess to keep them away from the sections about dashing babies against rocks, and God being the author of evil.

 

What to do?

 

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What is the group? Do they have a name?

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It's not even a mainstream thing. I went once, just a guy (without much charisma which makes it all the more surprising). It's probably less than 20 people. I don't want to be more specific as I may out myself which I am not ready to do.

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Fair enough. There are sites that have tips on how to deal with cults, but convincing someone they are in a cult is very difficult. 

 

http://www.cultwatch.com/how-to-leave-recover.html

 

The problem is that most of this advice is focused on what you can do if you realize you are in a cult - there isn't so much advice for getting a loved one out.

 

They have a list of cults as well that might have specific tips that may help. Read through the linked site - I hope it helps somewhat.

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There are tens of thousands of little no-name cults like this, some even arise within standard denominations. I knew a girl that found a spiritual teacher who gently wrapped his tentacles around her mind and would simply suggest that she would do better not being around others that weren't following his path. I watched, I listened, he got what he wanted from her and probably still is. It's very common and has been going on for millennia. Others aren't after sex, per se, but control. Some believe what they sell, others know that it is bullshit, but are excellent cons.

 

I have a friend who spent years with a cult in Montana, listening at length to a guy that calls himself Elijah. They are essentially Christian hippies, eschewing buildings-for-god (churches), and doing odd-jobs to make money. Some of the things they preached were more in line with Jesus than a lot of money-centered denominations, so they attract believers who are fed up with church. But this guy likes to get you thinking that he is a prophet. He won't push that, but gets off on people that believe and follow. He isn't as adept as some at getting wives to leave their husbands for him, but some ex-members say he tried.

 

Your cousin feels like these people have something special. The long hair and covered heads feels like a secret element of holiness that opens the door for God to bless her. After all, the women there seem to be holy and close to God, so she will try to emulate them. Along with that kind of strict cult come several other forms of control and accountability (they will track your finances and even your confessed sins, all to be pleasing to god and make sure you aren't holding secret sins that will keep god's presence from them).

 

Human minds are full of exploitable code, and con artists use these to great effect. Some cons are about money, but the vast majority are about control and stroking the ego (and more) of those in power, all the while claiming to be a closer walk with god.

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As someone who was in a baptist cult as well as someone who has watched nearly every cult documentary out there, there's not a lot you can do on your own. If you try to force her out she'll see it as an attack on her faith and go on the highly defensive. If you drag her out it will add to her conviction. It's even harder since you aren't that close to her, because it's less reason to trust you. The only way for people to get out of cults is for them to have their own doubt. If they open up to you about the doubt, you can work to further it, but other than that there isn't a lot you can do directly. There's not really a quick fix.

 

I think the best thing you can do is be there for her. If you see the cult getting (more) dangerous in the sense that it's going to physically harm her then you can take more drastic measures. But until then there's really not a lot. You can't force someone to not believe without creating a lot of trauma.

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Sadly, there is little in the way of hacking the mind back so far. If she is willing to look at the Bible lies, that could plant seeds. But typically, she'll see you as an agent of the devil because she is already entranced by the seeming holiness of the group. They are anything but holy, but act the part to woo the gullible (including themselves). Our own minds then fill in the missing god with creative imagination, sometimes voices, sometimes other experiences that seem to confirm the reality of it. Not sure why it does that, perhaps following the intense desire to experience god. Knightcore is right in that the person's own doubts are the strongest force in finding freedom. It took me 30 years to quit making excuses for a non-existent god, ask genuine questions and want real answers instead of "trust him", or "trust the love you've already felt" (more common with new believers high on the new found imaginary friendship with Jesus). If you told her straight-out that you are an ex-believer, would she be curious or simply reject you? If the latter, at least telling her would give her someone to talk to if she ever wants out.

 

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Do you feel there is something particularly malevolent about this group leader's intent? I'm not sure that this sounds particularly different from any other random overly religious church group. They have just chosen different arbitrary doctrines they are using for their virtue signalling.

 

If she is very indoctrinated, any attempt to get her to question her faith will likely be seen as a spiritual attack from the devil. If you actually manage to make her think, she will just ask her group leaders the same questions you asked her. They'll give her a charismatic answer and tell her not to talk to people who put doubts in her head because the devil is a silver tongued trickster trying to rob her of her salvation.

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Your description sounds pretty much like the Brethren.  I know people who behave just as you describe.  Some assemblies are stricter, some less so.  It is correct that you will not argue a person out of this - you'll just be seen as part of the satanic attack.  Those in such a situation must see the way out for themselves.

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