Born Into And Married In The Moon Cult With Elgen Strait

Elgen Strait was not only born into the Moonies but participated in an arranged mass marriage ceremony (the so-called “blessing”). His parents were active members when I was in the cult in the 1970s.  He’s a fellow survivor. Strait hosts Falling Out with Elgen Strait, a podcast focused on the experiences of second-generation survivors of the Moonies. Strait’s work on the podcast aims to expose the abuse, manipulation, and hypocrisy of the Moon cult. He provides a forum for ex-second-generation members to share resources that can aid them in their journeys out of the cult and through the transition into living in the “outside world.” Listening to Falling Out has been a catalyst for many members to wake up and exit the cult. Many who left the cult continue to have difficulty staying connected and accepted by their parents, who remain in the cult. 

Mormonism, Mental Health, And Whistleblowing With Dr. John Dehlin 

Whistleblowers often suffer consequences for speaking out, and our guest Dr. John Dehlin knows that first-hand. A 6th generation member, he was excommunicated from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS) for speaking up about gay rights and the suicide problem within the LDS church and for hosting a podcast that discussed problems with LDS Church history, truth claims, etc. They didn’t like him raising those issues, but he persevered and is now helping provide support for Mormons experiencing religious faith crises.   

The Perils Of Extreme Religious Liberty And Protecting Children With Marci Hamilton 

Religious liberty is one of the founding fathers’ ideals, but the idea of religious liberty and its practice produces results that can cause great harm. Marci A. Hamilton is the founder and CEO of CHILD USA, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit academic think tank dedicated to interdisciplinary, evidence-based research to improve laws and public policy to end child abuse and neglect. She is a leading expert on clergy sex abuse and child sex abuse statutes of limitation (SOL). She is also a leading religious liberty scholar and Professor of Practice in Political Science at the University of Pennsylvania, where she teaches Constitutional Law and Law, Religion, and Politics. 

Unveiled: Discovering the Truth Behind Islamic Extremism with Yasmine Mohammed

We all hear the words Al-Qaeda, and certain thoughts and images come to mind, but we are removed from what it means to be entrenched in a world of religious extremism. We’re talking with Yasmine Mohammed, whose book Unveiled: How Western Liberals Empower Radical Islam recounts her experiences of being raised in a fundamentalist Islamic household and entering an arranged marriage with a man who, unbeknownst to Yasmine, turned out to be an Al-Qaeda operative. 

From Growing Up in the Jehovah’s Witnesses to Counseling People Who Wish to Exit it with Frances Peters

When we think of cults, we think of being recruited into them. It’s easy to forget some people are born into them like my guest today, Frances Peters, who was born and raised in the Jehovah’s Witnesses before leaving in 2004 with her husband and two children. As soon as she realized how controlling and harmful the group was, she decided to leave. Since then, she’s been researching the workings of undue influence and what people can do to (re)gain their identity.  She experienced how challenging it is to become a thriver instead of remaining a victim of institutionalized undue influence. 

Former Cult of Trump member and Congressman Joe Walsh on the Political Scene in the United States

When asked about their idea of a cult, most people will conjure up the image of a group of religious devotees following an alternative doctrine and worshiping an authoritarian leader. Many cults fit into this category, but destructive cults take many forms, and mind control and undue influence are also present in political groups. In …

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Evangelical Christians’ Move Towards Right-Wing Politics with Frank Schaeffer

In my book The Cult of Trump, I present a thesis that Donald Trump was a symptom of decades of right-wing maneuvering to gain power and institute a theocracy by eliminating the separation between Church and State, which the Founders of the Constitution tried to ensure would not happen. White evangelical Christians, among other powerful groups like The Family, Opus Dei, and the New Apostolic Reformation, appear to support this movement and, indeed, are the driving force behind it because they believe Trump is being used to do ‘God’s work.’

Someone very experienced in talking about this issue is Frank Schaeffer. He was born and bred into an evangelical fundamentalist life and went on to play an active role in helping to politicize evangelical leaders. He has now bravely written and spoken about his regret at the part he played in this process and is an active religious reform activist.

Rewired: Protecting Your Brain in the Digital Age with Carl D. Marci, M.D.

We live in the digital age, where everything is always on and there are more ways to connect with people than ever before, yet we feel more disconnected than ever. Why? Social bonding is a deep need for all humans--we are wired to want to belong, to connect emotionally with individuals, and to be a …

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The Game Is Up: Disillusioned Trump Voters Tell Their Stories

In my book, The Cult of Trump, I explored the parallels between Trump and cult leaders, arguing that his presidency was much like a destructive cult. The indoctrination techniques Trump used to build fanatical devotion in his supporters is akin to those of Jim Jones, David Koresh, Ron Hubbard, and Sun Myung Moon. Trump’s lies, lack of conscience, inability to admit when he is wrong, and projecting his shortcomings onto others can be seen in many cult leaders. With his rise to the presidency, he became more authoritarian and though he lost the election in 2020, he continues the lie that it was stolen and his supporters continue to believe him. 

Daniella Mestyanek Young, survivor of notorious sex cult Children of God

Growing up in a Sex Cult with Former Army Captain Daniella Mestyanek Young

Have you heard the term “cult baby?” This refers to someone born or raised in a mind control religious human trafficking cult. Daniella Mestyanek Young is a third-generation survivor of the notorious sex cult Children of God (COG), later rebranded as “The Family of Love.” The cult group’s influence even extended so far that members …

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NXIVM survivors Sarah Edmondson and Nippy Ames talk to Dr. Steven Hassan

Leaving NXIVM, an Authoritarian Cult, Was Not the End: A Conversation with Sarah Edmondson and Nippy Ames

Two years ago, in May of 2020, I had the pleasure of interviewing Sarah Edmondson for my blog. Sarah, and her husband Anthony (Nippy) Ames, met while both were high-ranking members of NXIVM, a cult founded by Keith Raniere. At the time of that interview, Raniere had been convicted of federal crimes that included sex trafficking and conspiracy. In October 2020, Raniere was sentenced to 120 years in prison.