Advanced search

At what point does religious observance become cult-like?

(19 Posts)
schrutefarmbeets Fri 28-Apr-17 12:56:52

I have an incredibly devout younger DB. He is religious to the point that his children don't go to school, they live in London but don't speak a word of English and they aren't allowed to know about the existance their non-religious family members.

My DM wants to see her DGC and is planning on making a visit this coming weekend. She hasn't been allowed to see them in about two years. However, my DB has told her that the only way she is allowed to come is if she doesn't tell her grandchildren that she is their grandmother because she is not religious enough and they don't want them to have any outside influences. She has to pretend that she's an "old family friend".

I am really angry that my DM is going to have to pretend to be a stranger to her own DGC. It got me thinking - the children are all under 5 and only speak what is essentially a dead language, they aren't allowed to go to school and aren't aware of the existence of their family. How is that different to a cult?

specialsubject Fri 28-Apr-17 18:41:59

That is child abuse. They are being denied an education - I doubt he is going to homeschool them in anything useful!

skerrywind Fri 28-Apr-17 22:43:46

All religion is a cult.

KingJoffreysRestingCuntface Fri 28-Apr-17 22:48:28

Agree with skerry.

AgainstTheOddsNo2 Fri 28-Apr-17 22:53:24

I agree that social services would have real concern over the mental health and wellbeing of those children.

In answer to your question it becomes a cult when there is a lack of independent thought

annandale Fri 28-Apr-17 22:54:54

IMO usually when the money kicks in.

Where does their money end up? If they are suffering to support the community/great leader in some form, it is definitely a cult . Even if they are not, the insistence on separation from the mainstream of society sounds fairly cult-like. [ponders nuns]

skerrywind Fri 28-Apr-17 22:58:21

Why SS?

Some of ,my family are very devout, christians, don't mix with anyone outside their church ( including some family members). Their kids go to a church school, and have no awareness of life outside their church community.

Many christian families in parts of the USA are like this, and often homeschool their kids- I don't agree with it but is it really a case for social services?

It's just what happens in religion.

skerrywind Fri 28-Apr-17 23:00:25


Like the pope you mean? And all the well fed and oiled cardinals? High life at the Vatican.

FrostyPopThePenguinLord Fri 28-Apr-17 23:05:42

I have nothing useful to contribute except I really like saying the word 'cult'.
'Cult'......ahhh so good
(Hormonal and bored, I'm so so sorry people)

annandale Fri 28-Apr-17 23:09:04

Well, social services in this country are required to have some kind of approach to ensuring that home educated children are getting an education according to their statutory right.

MollyMugwump Fri 28-Apr-17 23:10:23

Watching with interest. Not sure if I was brought up in a sect or a cult.

Frosty, have you tried "lilt"? Or there's another word beginning with c which I can't quite recall atm but I'm sure other MNers will remember it.

Goldfishjane Fri 28-Apr-17 23:12:46

How do they manage speaking only whatever language they speak? If that's really true I'd see if social services will get involved.

The cult thing - well I don't know where the line is officially but if they are not educated I think it's been crossed in terms of authorities taking an interest.

HeyRoly Fri 28-Apr-17 23:13:45

Love your username grin

I'm guessing your brother is ultra orthodox Jewish?

Anyway, I think there's a VERY fine line between extremely religious and cult like behaviour. I've known evangelical Christians join these new-tangled, wealthy churches and essentially disown their non-religious family members. I also had to unfriend an old friend of DH's on FB because he was so deep into Hare Krishna stuff I couldn't bear his hateful anti-Muslim rants and paranoid conspiracy theory bollocks.

But I digress. Religion taken to extremes is quite universally poisonous, in my opinion.

ErrolTheDragon Fri 28-Apr-17 23:29:55

The first thing that sprang to mind was 'separating you from family and friends'.sad

Is this genuine devotion to religion or is it a form of extreme controlling behaviour? If the effects are the same, does it matter? Those poor children - what on earth is his plan for them as they grow up, with limited education and unable to speak the language of their country?

OutwiththeOutCrowd Sat 29-Apr-17 09:26:03

It has been said that a religion is just a cult that got lucky. All religions start small scale and, in the early days, have particularly zealous adherents who shun mainstream society. A religion wouldn't be able to take root and establish itself if the instigators were half-hearted and tolerant of the status quo.

Mature religions that have become the majority worldview in a particular place and time can often afford to be more moderate and open.

Not all cults become fully-fledged religions but some religions revert to cult-like behavior when numbers dwindle and the group mores and practices are significantly different to those of the wider community.

The case described in the OP seems to fall into this category.

Religions have evolved along with humanity to act as a sort of glue holding families and communities together. But this can go wrong when the survival and integrity of the religion itself becomes the most important consideration.

The DB in the OP does sound like he is putting his religion before the wellbeing of his children and other family members. If his religious community supports this behavior, then, yes, I would say he's in a cult.

Niminy Sun 30-Apr-17 07:52:45

It's very easy to agree that this situation 'must be a cult' when all we have is one side of the story, told by a stranger on the internet. It is all too easy to cry 'child abuse' when we are not involved in the situation and don't have the full facts.

If the children are all under five then they are not yet at the age at which they must go to school. MN Is full of stories of people who have gone 'no contact' with their families for one reason or another. A language that is spoken by a community that is passing it into new members is not, technically, a dead language. And so on.

The situation as the OP has described it sounds distressing. But the sweeping judgements about this story, and about religions in general that have been made on the back of it, are only as true as the partial viewpoints of the OP's account of the situation.

exexpat Sun 30-Apr-17 18:45:50

I would guess the OP is referring to children in some ultra-orthodox Jewish communities, particularly in London. The boys tend to go missing from the state school system and go to illegal, unregistered schools where they learn no English, science etc.

Not being able to speak English makes them dangerously isolated from the world outside their narrow communities - at one such school, not even the teachers could read enough English to understand warning signs and their pupils almost drowned on a day trip. There are lots of schools like it:

I would describe that kind of set-up as cult like, and think the children are being failed by the wider community if they are not allowed to get a decent education and learn English.

schrutefarmbeets Mon 01-May-17 00:11:29

Sorry for my slow reply - yes, he's part of a Chasidic community like the one in exepat's article above. They are under 5 so not at school yet but will be going to one of the underground schools when they do, and are in a similar nursery.

I am all for people following whatever faith/religion they at drawn to, and bring their children up within that faith. However, these children can't speak their country's language and are kept so protected from the outside world that they don't get the chance to decide what they want for their own futures.

I wonder why Hackney council can't do anything about those schools?

annandale Mon 01-May-17 00:20:53

I agree schrute - when i google, there are often articles about 'illegal schools' - well, if they are illegal, can't they be closed down?

Other articles seem to use 'illegal' and 'unregistered' interchangeably, apparently because private schools have to be registered by law.

They say that there aren't many rules governing home study clubs e.g. for home educated children, and that these 'schools' use these as a shield to hide behind.

I would imagine that if the schools were closed, the children would disappear in some other form, but that's not an excuse not to do it. If the children count as home educated, they have to be receiving an appropriate education, which these schools patently aren't providing.

Join the discussion

Registering is free, easy, and means you can join in the discussion, watch threads, get discounts, win prizes and lots more.

Register now »

Already registered? Log in with: