Feed your obsession with cults through these fiction and nonfiction reads, the perfect additions to your podcasts and documentaries. Infive members of a religious cult unleashed poison gas on the Tokyo subway system.

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In attempt to discover why, Haruki Murakmi talks to the people who lived through the catastrophe. Add to cart. Jerry Walker shares his story of growing up with blind, African-American parents in a segregated cult preaching the imminent end of the world. In this work of fiction, Evie is captivated by Suzanne, a mesmerizing older girl, and is drawn into the circle of a soon-to-be infamous cult and the man who is its charismatic leader.

InPatty Hearst, heiress to the Hearst Family fortune, was kidnapped by a ragtag group of self-styled revolutionaries calling itself the Symbonese Liberation Army. Carolyn Jessop manages a daring escape from a brutal environment and became the first woman ever granted full custody of her children in a contested suit involving the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. Lawrence Wright—armed with his investigative talents, years of archival research, and more than two hundred personal interviews with current and former Scientologists—uncovers the inner workings of Scientology.

In this novel, a young couple decides to join an exclusive and mysterious group known only as The Pact.

psychology of cults books

The young lovers are about to discover that The Pact will go to any lengths to enforce their rules. Share: Share on Facebook. Find other titles in Nonfiction. Related Lists:. LitFlash The eBooks you want at the lowest prices. Read it Forward Read it first. Pass it on! Stay in Touch Sign up. We are experiencing technical difficulties. Please try again later.Since cults make liberal use of many influence techniques, I find them fascinating and study them whenever the chance arises.


The following page discusses cult influence tactics, but I think it's important to first define what I mean when I use the word "cult," and examine some important issues surrounding the topic before diving in. A cult is a group of people who organize around a strong authority figure. Cults, like many other groups, attempt to expand their influence for the purposes of power or money. However, to achieve these ends, destructive cults employ a potent mixture of influence techniques and deception to attain psychological control over members and new recruits.

This fundamental level of control is known alternatively as 'brainwashing,' 'thought reform,' or 'mind control. That new identity may not be one that the person would have freely chosen under her own volition Hassan, There are over 3, destructive cults in the US, with approximately 4 million members. They fall into 4 basic types:. There are lots of differences, but the major difference is that of ultimate goal. Established religions and altruistic movements are focused outward--they attempt to better the lives of members and often, nonmembers.

They make altruistic contributions. Cults serve their own purposes, which are the purposes of the cult leader; their energies are focused inward rather than outward Singer, Also, religions and altruistic movements typically lack the distinguishing characteristics of overbearing authoritarian control, the use of deception in recruitment, the use of coercive influence techniques, and the replacement of one identity with another which would not have been freely chosen by the individual before joining the group Hassan, This sort of reasoning represents the logical fallacy called "affirming the consequent.

Here's the same type of argument using a different example. Fact 1: When it rains, the sidewalk gets wet. Fact 2: The sidewalk is wet.

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Conclusion: It must have rained. You can see that there are a myriad of other reasons that might have caused a wet sidewalk, including the neighbor's garden hose, your leaky can of soda, the neighbor's dog yuk!

psychology of cults books

Similarly, there are a number of other defining characteristics that make a cult a cult, aside from the influence tactics they use. What's wrong with them?

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The questions make me laugh, because they're a perfect example of how the wrong questions can frame and obscure an issue. Even when cult experts correctly point to the powerful environmental constraints generated by cults, rather than to the personalities and backgrounds of individual cult members, these media personalities single-mindedly press the question, "But what's wrong with cult members?Both terrifying and utterly fascinating, cults have a tendency to capture the attention of just about everyone.

Questions abound: Where do these people come from? What are they really doing inside those secluded compounds? Most interesting, perhaps, are the psychological components of cult life, questions such as: Who in the world would fall for that?

psychology of cults books

Humans desire comfort, and in a fearful and uncertain world many turn to cults because they tend to promote exactly that.

Jon-Patrik Pedersen, a psychologist at CalTech, has pointed out that cult leaders often make promises that are totally unattainable, but also offered by no other group in society. Such things might include financial security, total health, constant peace of mind, and eternal life — the things every human desires at the deepest level.

As Dr. Adrian Furnham describes in Psychology Todayhumans crave clarity. People are often surprised to learn that those who join cults are, for the most part, average people. They come from all backgrounds, all zip codes, and all tax brackets.

But research done in the past two decades has found an interesting pattern: many people successfully recruited by cults are said to have low self-esteem. Cults generally do not look to recruit those with certain handicaps or clinical depression. Psychologists have different ideas about why more women than men join cults.

David Bromley of Virginia Commonwealth University points out that women simply attend more social gatherings, either religious or otherwise. This makes women statistically more likely to join groups that will ultimately victimize them.

Others suggest it has to do with the fact that women have been oppressed for much of human history. Still others write this off as total crock.

Stanley H. Cath, a psychoanalyst and psychology professor at Tufts University, has treated more than 60 former cult members over the course of his career. From this unique firsthand experience, Cath has noticed an interesting trend: many people who join cults have experienced religion at some point in their lives, and rejected it. Perhaps this is surprising, considering many cults tend to be religious — or at least claim to be.

But Dr. Cath asserts that this trend is a sign of something deeper. Many of those who join cults are intelligent young people from sheltered environments. Growing up in such an environment, says Dr.

Popular Cult Psychology Books

Cults prove powerful because they are able to successfully isolate members from their former, non-cult lives. One of the ways cult leaders achieve this is to convince their followers that they are superior to those not in the cult.

They replace those relationships with new ones inside the cult. Cult leaders convince their victims to separate themselves from society, give up personal possessions and sometimes huge sums of money.Insular movements are both frightening and intriguing.

psychology of cults books

From a distance, the beliefs and behaviors of members often sound completely unjustifiable — however when we look closer, it often becomes understandable why people fall under the spell, looking to find a sense of belonging vulnerable times under powerful leadership. I watched Alex Gibney's highly anticipated Scientology documentary Going Clear, based on Lawrence Wright's critically acclaimed book of the same name, the first weekend it premiered. Beyond what goes on inside, those who have escaped have equally fascinating stories to tell.

How does one gain the courage to defy everything they've been taught? What is it like to learn to think for yourself after years or a lifetime of having someone dictate your thoughts? How does it feel to transition to life in mainstream society? After a rare glimpse at life beyond the walls, Lyla questions Pioneer's leadership and begins to dream of escape.

The equally chilling sequel, Astrayfinds Lyla free from Pioneer and attempting to adjust to life post-Community.

Psychology of FIGHT CLUB: A Psychological Analysis of Cults and Mental Health

But the Community will go to violent lengths to lure her back behind their walls. Click here to buy. Under the Banner of Heaven opens with a scene that sounds more like a CSI episode than a true story: two brothers brutally murder a young mother and her baby, claiming they were acting on a commandment from God.

Krakauer delves into the history and evolution of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and explores how and why an estimated 40, Mormon fundamentalists reject the mainstream Church in favor of Polygamy, secrecy, and abuse.

Click hre to buy. Imagine growing up without a single visit to the pediatrician and no access to medication, even ibuprofen. In Lucia Greenhouse's Christian Scientist home, illnesses and injuries were met with prayer rather than visits to the doctor. After their mother fell gravely ill, Greenhouse and her siblings finally learned to navigate the medical system as they were forced to choose between family and faith.

Lauren Drain's memoir offers a rare insider's perspective into the notorious Westboro Baptist Church, best known for its rampant homophobia, hate speech, and organized protests at high-profile funerals including Matthew Shepard, Elizabeth Edwards, and victims of the Tucson shooting.

When Drain's once-liberal father began working on documentary critical of the WBC, the last thing she expected was for him to convert and move the family to the church's Kansas compound. Drain was ex-communicated at age 22 for challenging the church's doctrine and her entire family has since disowned her. Now a nurse and an active member of the NOH8 CampaignDrain in an inspiring example of forging your own identity and standing up for your beliefs despite paying the ultimate cost.

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What do you wear to court when you're testifying against the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints leaders who held you captive for years? Rebecca Musser chose red, a color that was forbidden on the compound. Musser's memoir details her experiences growing up in the FLDS church, her sexually abusive marriage to year-old Rulon Jeffs, and her role as the key witness who put Warren Jeffs behind bars for life.

Leave it to Palahniuk to write an unforgettable novel told from the perspective of a cult leader rather than a victim.I'll read about the cult of saints till I'm dead. Just about every aspect of modern life is reflected, kaleidoscopic, in stories of horrific suffering and devotion hundreds and thousands of years old. This short book is my favorite recommendation for both newcomers and experts.

It's unique because Colin Dickey is not a theologian but a writer of true stories about ghosts and conspiracy theories, so his broad macabre history is written with the detached, agnostic bemusement anyone will appreciate. Just lots of sobbing and stabbing and people standing for years on flagpoles. The "scientific family" at the heart of this novel isn't a cult, but it's definitely not not a cult, either.

The story follows Izzy, a single mom with a newborn baby and a lack of plans for the future, who signs up to live with nine other couples and their babies in a self-contained child rearing experiment. The 10 families raise each other up under the guidance and staff of Dr. Preston Grind, a genius with his own family baggage and complicated corporate ties.

A big mess ensues! Jon Krakauer's very Jon-Krakauery story about a few very bad Mormon Fundamentalists wildly spread out into a story about how bad any old religion is and can be, full of heinous murders and equally insane smaller-scale injustices.

For that latter point, the well-documented and easily disproven Mormonism, not yet years old, makes for a tidy too tidy? No one ever says you can't judge a book by its opening line, because truthfully you can.

And The Girls starts with a great one: "I looked up because of the laughter, and kept looking because of the girls.

During my senior year of high school, I worked at a local library, stacking and organizing books. I am aware that this is how most people end up joining cults. In college, I would sometimes smoke a lot of weed and watch OSHO videos because he talked really slow about shit like "finding your light.

The moral of this story is: research your authors before you get dangerously close to joining a cult. The two books, Parable of the Sower and Parable of the Talentsrespectively, chronicle the near-future collapse of American society as we know it.

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But there is also a glimmer of hope in a community founded by the protagonist, whose central belief revolves around the concept of God as nature and the afrofuturist notion that for humanity to survive, it must leave Earth.Festinger's theory of cognitive dissonance can account for the psychological consequences of disconfirmed expectations.

One of the first published cases of dissonance was reported in this book.

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Festinger and his associates read a story in their local newspaper headlined "Prophecy from planet Clarion call to city: flee that flood. The prophecy came from Dorothy Martin —a Chicago housewife who experimented with automatic writing.

In order to protect her privacy, the study gave her the alias of "Marian Keech" and fictively relocated her group to Michigan.

She had previously been involved with L. Ron Hubbard 's Dianetics movement, and she incorporated ideas from what later became Scientology. The group of believers, headed by Keech, had taken strong actions to indicate their degree of commitment to the belief. They had left jobs, college, and spouses, and had given away money and possessions to prepare for their departure on a flying saucer which was to rescue the group of true believers.

She claimed to have received a message from a planet named Clarion. These messages revealed that the world would end in a great flood before dawn on December 21, After the failure of the prediction, she left Chicago after being threatened with arrest and involuntary commitment.

She later founded the Association of Sananda and Sanat Kumara. Under the name Sister Thedra, she continued to practice channeling and to participate in contactee groups until her death in The Association is active to this day. Festinger and his colleagues saw this as a case that would lead to the arousal of dissonance when the prophecy failed.

Altering the belief would be difficult, as Keech and her group were committed at considerable expense to maintain it. Another option would be to enlist social support for their belief. As Festinger wrote, "If more and more people can be persuaded that the system of belief is correct, then clearly it must after all be correct.

12 Fascinating Books About Cults

In this case, if Keech could add consonant elements by converting others to the basic premise, then the magnitude of her dissonance following disconfirmation would be reduced.

Festinger and his colleagues predicted that the inevitable disconfirmation would be followed by an enthusiastic effort at proselytizing to seek social support and lessen the pain of disconfirmation. Festinger and his colleagues infiltrated Keech's group and reported the following sequence of events:.

Festinger stated that five conditions must be present if someone is to become a more fervent believer after a failure or disconfirmation:.These are some of the best books and publications about cults, thought reform, and related topics. Some of these titles may be out of print or difficult to find, but many are well worth the search.

Additional reading suggestions can always be found in the Notes or Bibliography sections of good books on this subject. Please understand that this reading list was compiled inand therefore does not include any books published since that time.

Schneier and C. Barker New York: Norton, Do They Work? Deikman Berkeley: Bay Tree Publishing, Zablocki New York: Free Press, The Authoritarian Personalityeds.

Levinson, and R. From Max Weber: Essays in Sociologyed. Gerth and C. Tipton Berkeley: University of California Press, Coser New York: Free Press, Cialdini New York: Perennial Currents, The New Religious Consciousnesseds.

Charles Y. Glock and Robert N. Bellah Berkeley: University of California Press, Eisenstadt Chicago: University of Chicago Press, Zimbardo and Michael R.