While one person’s cult is another’s religion, there are some over-zealous groups that use questionable beliefs and practices to bend the law and encourage users to stay against their better judgement. Previously, The Ghost Diaries posted about UFO cults, some of which are disturbing in their own right. We’ve all heard about Scientology ad nauseum. Here are five of the more obscure, totally weird cults you can still join today:
1. Apostles of Infinite Love
This harmless-sounding group may have had just a little too much love. Between 1978 and 2001, the reclusive congregation was tangled in legal battles over alleged rape, extortion, and sexual abuse.
Michael Collin, a French priest, announced in 1936 that he had been directly ordained a bishop by Christ. He followed that up in 1950 by announcing he had been crowned Pope Clement XV (he was excommunicated by Pope Pius XII in 1951). Separately, Canadian Jean-Gaston Tremblay founded his own community in 1952, the Congregation of Jesus and Mary. When the two religious leaders met in 1961, they agreed to merge their communities.
It seems that an internal struggle followed. Collin announced in 1967 that he had divine instructions to skip Tremblay as his successor – but in 1968 Tremblay was back in favor, and Collin made him Pope Gregory XVII.
After Collin’s death in 1974, the French side of the movement splintered. Charges against the group were finally dropped in 2001. Although Tremblay passed away in 2011, the Apostles of Infinite Love are still together in Quebec’s Laurentian Mountains.
2. Twelve Tribes
This fundamentalist religious group from Chattanooga, Tennessee believes that all other denominations have fallen from grace, and their approach to the Christian bible is the only salvation. Whatever you do, though, don’t call them Christian – they call Christianity the “Whore of Babylon”.
While the Twelve Tribes movement is open to members of Caucasian, African, and Asian descent, they’ve stated that “Multiculturalism increases murder, crime and prejudice,” and the group’s founder has described Martin Luther King Jr. as “filled with every evil spirit there is.” Twelve Tribes groups can be found around the globe, with branches from Argentina to France. In several locations, the sect has come under investigation for child abuse and violating child labor laws, and police raids in the US and Germany led to legal actions and fines. One undercover investigation in Germany filmed children being beaten daily with a cane for even the most minor offences. The group admits it believes in spanking children with a “reed-like rod” to “drive out the Devil.”
3. The Church Universal and Triumphant
Started by the appropriately-named Mark Prophet and his wife Elizabeth, The Church Universal and Triumphant holds that their leaders have the special ability to communicate with “Ascended Masters.” Messages sent directly from the Masters to the group’s leaders were published in a weekly pamphlet titled Pearls of Wisdom.
Mark Prophet claimed he first heard from the Ascended Masters when he was 18. After spending time with several sects, he founded his own organization – complete with its own school, health food store, and organic restaurant. After his death in 1973, Mark’s wife Elizabeth took over.
In the late 1980s, the church predicted that nuclear war was imminent. Followers built fallout shelters and stockpiled weapons using false names, which got the FBI’s attention. When nuclear war didn’t occur, Prophet explained that the group’s prayers had, of course, prevented it.
Believers attend quarterly gatherings at Summit University on a Montana ranch, where they receive rigorous instruction regarding their activities, social life, and diet. Eating carrots is highly encouraged (they’re the “Food of the Masters”), while followers are reportedly discouraged from using aluminum foil because it attracts evil aliens. I guess they’re not ‘tin foil hat’ conspiracy theorists.
4. Eastern Lightning
According to devotees of the Chinese sect Eastern Lightning, God is back on earth as a woman named Yang Xiangbin. She was born to an ordinary family in northern China, and is here to judge and purify humanity while defeating Satan. Those who do not accept her prophecy will be punished severely.
According to a former member the group reportedly lures potential new followers with free gifts of smartphones. If that offer fails, beatings, coercion, fake exorcisms, and Taiwanese pop music looped over and over are used to brainwash new followers into joining.
Eastern Lightning was founded in 1990 by Zhao Weishan, who has since fled to the United States where he continues to act as the church’s leader. The group has been hugely controversial in China, and members are reported to have committed a number of terrible crimes. From 2010-2013, the sect was found to have caused more than 40 riots, stabbed a woman and 23 students as they arrived at school, and reportedly killed or maimed children when their family members tried to quit the religion. In May 2014, a group of followers killed a woman at a McDonald’s restaurant, reporting that the woman was a “devil” who needed to be eliminated.
The Nuwabian Nation is a unique combination of Christianity, ancient Egyptian religion, and a few aliens thrown in for good measure.
Founded by leader Dwight D. York in the ‘70s, the group has fallen on hard times since their leader was sentenced to 135 years in prison for sexually molesting children, in the largest prosecution for child molestation ever directed at a single person in the US.
The group has added bizarre beliefs to its collection throughout the years. They believe we all start out as twins, but one twin almost always dies. A few aborted twins survived and are living in the sewers, where they are being organized to take over the world. Further, all people should be loyal to their own race. Mixed-race individuals are being exploited by evil forces that are against “right racism.” And, in fact, Nubians are only brown-skinned by accident. They were originally green, but magnesium in their skin has transformed into iron.
The sect’s main religious compound in Georgia was demolished in 2005, but adherents still eagerly await the release of York.