What Are Some of the Biggest Cults in the United States?


Quick Answer

While there is often controversy about whether a group is a cult, some commonly accepted cults in United States history include the Branch Davidians, the Manson Family, Heaven's Gate, Peoples Temple and the Unification Church. Other cults in America include the Unification Church, Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh and Children of God. Perhaps the most contentious groups to identify as cults are Scientology and the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.

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Expelled from the Church of the Seventh Day Adventists for his extremist views, David Koresh formed the Branch Davidians. Convinced that he was a messiah and that all women were his spiritual wives, Koresh preached that the end of the world was near. Fearful of death, the group collected weapons and eventually barricaded themselves in a compound for 51 days, as the federal government raided their compound. Eventually, 77 Branch Davidians died in a fire ignited by the government. While the group was largely disbanded during the raid, those that survived still consider themselves Branch Davidians and are continuing to wait for Koresh's resurrection.

While many people involved in Scientology argue that it is not a cult, others strongly disagree. It lacks some hallmarks typical of cults yet also harbors inordinate control over members, which is a sign of a cult. Common accusations against the church include fraud, extortion and harassment, though some claim the church has ordered kidnappings and is responsible for negligent homicide. Some members cite financial pressures as a reason for wanting to commit suicide or leave the religion.

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