Thursday, July 28, 2011

Cults in our Society- by Allyson New

    On November 18, 1978 the need to escape society, that consumed the minds of more than nine-hundred people, quickly became a reason for mass suicide. A reason the world would never quite understand. Millions of shocked people around the world would forever question as to how the power of one man convinced a village of mothers and fathers to kill themselves along with their innocent children. The mixing of cyanide in fruit punch brought the dreadful end to this small community and raised awareness around the world about cults and their deadly effects on society. Cult leaders will search for the weak and lost souls and soon a plan of control and power will start to play out. When the desire to fit in and the need for control over society are combined, dangerous cults and their leaders appear out of nowhere, hungry for power and preying on the young and old who are lost in a society where happiness feels out of reach.
            “An estimated three-thousand destructive cults now operate in the United States, involving as many as three million people” (Hassan, Steven). Cults are a society built by a city of small, powerless people with the exception of their leader of course, such as Jim Jones and the ever-so famous “Jonestown”. “In this type of society most people behave like little children who do not dare express their feelings because of their fear of a terribly punitive father”, says University of Miami Psychologist, Jose L. Lasaga. His cult members never became powerless or fearful of their leader because they never had power to begin with. Their biggest fear was ending up alone in a world they could not understand so listening to a so-called leader such as Jim Jones, was a part of their everyday lives. Jones would constantly air long speeches over an intercom as a form of brainwashing to his people, making sure they would never leave his cult, as this was the only way to assure this pathetic and sick man still remained in control. The brainwashing that was inflicted upon the minds of these cult members “caused in many cases a problem of cognitive dissonance ( a state of tension caused by conflict between one’s attitudes and behaviors”, says Jose Lasaga. Sooner or later followers would be converted into full blown believers as a result of this. Ways to join cults have been the same for years. No one goes seeking to join a cult, instead the members go searching for the innocent minds and youthful faces hoping to bring back a fresh pack of members before the day is over. “One type of cult recruits members and exposes them to psychological and social processes that cause major shifts in perception, attitudes and beliefs”, cults are the new way of kidnapping and holding hostage the minds of willing and able-bodied participants.
            Any intellectual and seriously committed cult leader knows the way to seduce the minds and hearts of potential followers is to separate them from the pack. Cult leaders must be the only influential person in the lives of their followers and it is impossible to be such a leader when family and friends are a constant threat in the capturing of their next victim. It becomes impossible not to ask how one person can leave everything behind and “no single theory could possibly explain the many complex and related issues that led the members of the People’s Temple to leave family, friends and church communities to take residence in the jungle of Jonestown” , says Archie Smith Jr. (Hatfield, Larry). The word “cult” is not appealing to the ears because of the negative publicity it carries with it, so it is only normal for destructive and even satanic like cults to use their creative thinking a produce a more attractive word. This creative idea has more appeal to the adolescents of today’s society. Teenagers are constantly searching for a place to fit in, going from one group to the next until they find people that won’t reject them. They easily become susceptible to the deadly arms of cult leaders for the simple fact that their undeveloped brains connect with the falsely caring elder and buy into their every word about feelings and being forgotten and angry. Not only must cults form a type of bond with their recruits but a cult also “has to have original revelations, a new twist on reality that no one else has”, Tal Brook, a former follower of the Indian Guru cult (Charles, S. Clark). These outrageous ideas do not come out of nowhere; they come from the minds of sick individuals who are desperate for attention and power. As individuals leave their lives to join these unknowingly dangerous cults the “friends and families of people who join cults have watched many of them abandon their jobs and turn over their savings to a newfound family” (Charles S. Clark). One popular example of this type of manipulative and dangerous cult is Marshall Applewhite whom convinced his followers to turn over all their money in order to use it to pay for their housing and also for internet sites the infamous cult had created that told the world aliens were coming.
            From extra-terrestrials among the human race to the satanic cults who commit crimes such as killing their family dog, the extent of unhealthy teachings and practices of cults comes to no end. When comparing the unhealthy teachings and practices of different cults, not many can stand up to Jim Jones. The activities that would ensue at the Guyana campground were humiliating and dangerous to say the least. Although it shouldn’t come as any surprise knowing the mastermind behind these rituals just happened to be a drug-addicted, mentally unstable man. According to members from Jim Jones’s cult, he would have members remove their clothes and proceed to have them compete in boxing matches. Another ritual that is the most haunting of all, were the frequent suicide rehearsals Jim Jones would have members practice. Sirens would blare as all the members would gather and they were told to expect death at any minute. Jim Jones kept his cult members on their toes at all times, as a sure way he would never lose the power of instilling fear into brain-washed human beings. “Destructive religious cult members claim special exalted status or powers, manipulate and exploit their members, do harm to others and use mind-controlling techniques”, this was exactly how Jim Jones and Marshall Applewhite ran their dangerous cult for years. When members of cults disobeyed, severe and sometimes deadly punishments were put into effect one such “case involving the beating to death of a thirteen-year old boy” (Charles, S. Clark). “Corporal punishment within cults has been reported regularly by former members for years” (Charles, S. Clark). As well as controlling all aspects of an individual’s daily activities and lifestyle, Applewhite took a more personal and evasive path when he forcefully “made all the male members (including himself) go through castration to suppress their sexual desires after they had all decided to become celibate”(Hewitt, Bill). 

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