6 'Path'-Like Cults On Anti-Cult Watch Status

Accused of brainwashing and child abuse, these are the real-life U.S. cults that make 'The Path' look relatively harmless. 

by Christine Jun

In the last episodes of Hulu series The Path, the Meyerist cult compound is credibly infiltrated by “Sam,” the FBI agent formally known as Agent Fredericks (Frank Hart), who investigates its dangerous social behavior. If The Path actually existed in real life, it would definitely be considered a destructive cult by an anti-cult movement (abbreviated ACM and sometimes called the countercult movement) such as Cultwatch.

According to Cultwatch, the two main components of a cult involve manipulative psychological mind-control techniques to recruit and control members, including love bombing, instant friendships, or emotional blackmail. At extremes, it might also include keeping individuals away from their friends and family in order to isolate them, both physically and emotionally. The second cult component is the teaching of any tenet that is not primarily a Christian belief by any group which claims to be Christian.

Here are 6 Path-like real-life cults that are guilty of the above criteria and are currently being watched by ACM:

Church of Scientology

Scientologists are not your typical doomsday cult grabbing headlines with graphic or shocking religious doctrines and actions. Those who’ve escaped from this cult speak of brainwashing, fraud, and financial ruin. They talk of open threats and other dangerous methods which cult leaders use to ensure loyalty.

The basis of the cult is a confusing mess of alien influence and psychological duress — and at times, even violence. But at the core, Scientology seems to be about a lot of money; they sue anyone who speaks ill of them, and seem to act at times like a massive global corporation rather than a religious organization. And then, inexplicably, there are the several highly-paid actors who’ve become key members, like, gulp, Tom Cruise.

The International Christian Church (ICC)

Leader of the International Church of Christ (ICOC) Kip McKean founded this cult in 1979 in Boston. When his moral authority came into question, he left and started a new movement, which he named International Christian Church (ICC).

A Christianity-based mind control cult, the ICC uses a pyramid control structure similar to that in The Path called “discipling.” Just as Cal (Hugh Darcy) is one hierarchical level above Eddie (Aaron Paul), who is encouraged to imitate Cal, so each person in the ICC has a “discipler” – someone who has authority over them with the right to tell his or her disciple what to do, including what to wear, where to work, and who to marry. Those in the cult are also instructed to imitate their leader, even in voice inflection and facial hair. Ultimately, everyone is being discipled by McKean.

Destiny Church

Brian Tamaki’s Destiny Church is even pissing Christians off by preaching that the bodily resurrection of Jesus did not occur. On national TV in 2004, Cultwatch designated Destiny Church as an “emerging mind control cult.” In October 2009, about 700 male members of the church attended a conference in which Tamaki likened himself to King David, and were instructed to swear a “covenant oath” of loyalty and obedience to Tamaki. Weirdly, like male brides, they were even given a “covenant ring” to wear on their right hands.

In late March 2010, controversy arose over allegations against two adult children of Destiny Church, Taranaki Pastors Robyn and Lee Edmonds. It was alleged that their son had assaulted a 13-year-old girl, and that their daughter had been sexually involved with a 16-year-old boy in foster care.

Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints

Warren Steed Jeffs, the infamous former President of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (FLDS Church) is currently serving a sentence of life plus 20 years for two separate cases of incest and child sexual assault in connection with a raid of the FLDS Church’s Yearning For Zion Ranch headquarters. In 2006, Jeffs was even placed on the FBI’s Ten Most Wanted List for unlawful flight to avoid prosecution on Utah state charges related to his alleged arrangement of illegal marriages between his adult male followers and underage girls.

As if that weren’t enough, Jeffs also claimed that “the black race is the people through which the devil has always been able to bring evil unto the earth.” Jeffs also believes in blood atonement. Former FLDS Church member Robert Richter reported to the Phoenix New Times that Warren Jeffs has repeatedly alluded to the 19th-century teaching in church sermons. Under the doctrine of blood atonement, certain serious sins, such as murder, can only be atoned for by the sinner’s death.

Unification Church

Followers of Sun Myung Moon, called “Moonies,” believe Moon to be a divine being worthy of worship. Moon’s cult was so damning that Germany banned him from the country, as he was considered a danger to easily influenced youth.

The cult has been accused of luring young members into the fold and actively working to separate them from their families or support systems. Moon constantly speaks out against the Christian church, claiming that Korea is the chosen realm, and openly expects to be treated as a deity by his followers. In other words, he has a lot in common with North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un, but without the legal rights to land.

The Family International

Originally named Children of God and then renamed Family of Love, The Family International is a religious cult that was founded by creepy end-times leader David Berg in 1968 in Huntington Beach, California. The primary belief practiced by followers of this organization is that sex with children is not only permitted, but a divine right. Needless to add, there was an extensive history of sexual abuse within this cult. Young women were even turned towards prostitution and used to lure new members into the fold — somewhat like Mary’s (Emma Greenwell) newly designated role as a recruiter in The Path.

Meanwhile, TFI members argue that not all of Berg’s writings reflect the group’s fundamental beliefs (contained in the “Statement of Faith”) or policies (contained in the 1995 “Love Charter”). They also reject judging the entire group for the wrongdoing of individuals, even when those individuals are at the highest leadership levels. TFI, like other “Christian cults”, attempts to identify itself with fundamentalist Christianity, but their beliefs and practices are regarded as heretical by virtually all Christians.

Berg proclaimed himself to be the last and most anointed prophet of the end times, predicted in the Old and New Testaments. The group believes Berg’s spiritual “mantle” passed to his wife, Karen Zerby, at his death. The couple’s officially published writings are regarded as part of the “Word of God,” nearly equal in weight and importance to the Bible as divine revelations. These beliefs have been re-addressed in recent publications issued in 2010, which say they are no longer requirements of membership. However, neither Berg’s nor Zerby’s prophetic status has been retracted. TFI followers also reject judging the entire group for the wrongdoing of certain individuals, even when those individuals are at the highest leadership levels.

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