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World Religion
Cults - Religion Gone Wrong

Cults - Religion Gone Wrong
Reading Level
     edHelper's suggested reading level:   grades 7 to 10
     Flesch-Kincaid grade level:   8

     challenging words:    butter-caramel, commune, entity, mentality, mothership, paranoia, unquestionable, charismatic, obsession, cult, reincarnation, suicide, uncommonly, better, deprivation, banned
     content words:    Jim Jones, David Koresh, Vernon Wayne Howell, Branch Davidians, Marshall Applewhite, Called Aum Shinrikyo, World War III

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Cults - Religion Gone Wrong
By Brenda B. Covert

1     Almost any good thing can be misused. Take ice cream, for instance. A cone with chocolate- peanut butter-caramel ice cream satisfies my sweet tooth and makes me feel good! However, if I downed a whole carton, my health would suffer. Ice cream was meant to be a dessert, not a meal. In the same way, sports are good for enjoyment and physical fitness, but overdoing it can cause physical injury. Obsession could lead to use of banned substances and ultimately to an early death.
2     Religion is sometimes misused as well. Many good things have come from religion, such as art, education, and charities. Religion has answered people's questions about the meaning of life, given them a purpose, and given them hope for the future. However, there have been people who have misused religion. Sometimes people use it to gain power; it can become a tool for controlling others. Some religious groups are really cults.
3     For our purposes, the definition of cult is any group having a pyramid style of leadership in which the leader(s) at the peak have complete authority over the rest of the members, and they clearly abuse that authority. Thought reform or mind control techniques (a.k.a. "brainwashing"), sleep deprivation, and/or low protein diets are used to control members. Some cults are not based on religion but on business, education, or new age philosophies. However, most cults are considered to be religious in nature.
4     Not only can cults be controlling and difficult to leave, but some lead to death. In the 50's, the People's Temple was formed in Indiana to promote freedom, equality, and love. By the 70's, it had transformed into an isolated, fearful group whose followers ended up committing mass suicide/murder. Around 640 adults (including the leader, Jim Jones) and 275 children perished in the dense jungle of Guyana, where they had created a settlement after leaving the U.S. Survivors who escaped from the settlement claimed it was run like a concentration camp. Jones' wife said that though he had presented himself as a Christian, he was actually a Marxist.
5     David Koresh was the name chosen by Vernon Wayne Howell after he joined the Branch Davidians in 1981. By 1990, he had taken over as the group's new leader. Koresh claimed to be an angel and an agent of God. He annulled the marriages of his followers and told them that only he could be married. He fathered children with several female followers. There were allegations of child abuse. He began stockpiling food and ammunition. His followers were told to prepare for the end of the world. The end for them came in 1993, after 51 days of negotiations with the FBI. Koresh, believed to be involved in criminal activities, refused to cooperate with authorities. A siege followed, ending in a fire that it seems the Branch Davidians set themselves. By the time it was over, Koresh and 76 followers -20 of them children - were dead in the compound they had called home.

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