An excellent, informative article by Kelsey Weekman for In The Know discusses a group on TikTok known as The Garden and it’s concerning potential for evolution from bucolic off grid cooperative to cult.
Weekman’s piece also addresses what cults are and what often motivates people to become involved. It repeats the fact that no one sets out to join a cult, “‘Nobody joins a cult,’ Kriesten ( Elizabeth Kriesten, an extremism expert) said. ‘You join an organization you think is gonna change the world because you like what they’re doing … it’s possible to get involved in a group that slowly changes over time. That’s the history of almost every cult.’”
For now the group seems to be hovering on the dividing line between commune and cult. Their actions are raising concerns as more and more people appear to be drawn to the idyllic back to nature lifestyle shown on TikTok.
According to experts The Garden is not a cult.
The Garden has generated real concern however as to the direction it is heading in. Just the idea that this group MAY evolve into a full fledged cult is enough to spur some detractors into active work to have it disbanded.
But what about Scientology?
Describing one of the key similarities cults share, Kriesten explains “…cults tend to create ‘catastrophes,’ like NXIVM’s core belief that people are deeply broken, then embed a black-and-white solution. ‘You are the only one that can fix it and there are no shades of gray,’… ‘Solutions are often internal so you don’t have to rely on any external forces.”
Scientology is notably missing from this article.
Just as this dangerous cult is notably missing from the majority of serious, mainstream media attention.
Certainly there appear articles about Scientology celebrities. There are the occasional pieces that appear such as when Scientology released thousands of latex balloons in defiance of Ventura, California’s environmental restrictions.
But where are the hardcore serious pieces filled with experts like Weekman’s article covering The Garden? Only a small handful of journalists, Tampa Bay Times’ Tracey McManus and Australia’s The Age’s Ben Schneiders, BBC’s John Sweeney and Australian Bryan Seymour, for example dare to publicly challenge Scientology.
Scientology IS a cult.
It preys on people’s need for belonging, on their need to make a difference.
Scientology fulfills every definition and description of “Cult” the experts all agree on, yet the concern, moral outrage and activism stays confined to the fringes and the few.
Another cult, Love Has Won, made the news in a recent article by Carol McKinley over the strange behaviors of the members after the death of their leader. McKinley refers to Love Has Won as a “bizarre spiritual group”, citing the cult leader, Amy Carlson’s, belief that “…she had been trying to save humanity for 19 billion years and said she believed that everything society teaches is a lie.”
Meanwhile Scientology regularly engages in egregious criminal and psychological abuses with barely any notice. Former members’ claims of human trafficking, child abuse and financial fraud fall on deaf ears.
This cult has had tales of dead bodies aboard Freewinds, kidnapping of members who desperately want to escape and vicious physical abuse by leader David Miscavige.
At the time of this writing there are members of Scientology unaccounted for. Allegations of elderly Scientologists having credit cards and/or loans fraudulently taken out in their names go unchecked.
Of Amy Carlson’s death, “Saguache County Coroner Tom Perrin told The Daily Beast there was nothing to indicate her death was caused by foul play, describing the body as extremely thin. ‘It’s possible that this woman was taking colloidal silver,’ he said.”
A former member of Love Has Won speculated that Carlson’s body had been left unburied and moved for worship purposes. Law enforcement however, filed charges against several members for abuse of a corpse and tampering with deceased remains.
Where are the activists who so vehemently defend Scientology’s rights to religious freedom and thus their rights to commit abuse in the name of belief?
If it is a protected religious right for Scientology to violate labor laws, non-discrimination laws, immigration laws and more then is it not Love Has Won’s right to worship their leader’s corpse as they see fit?
What tragedy will it ultimately take for the U. S. Government and law enforcement to finally take the dangers of Scientology seriously?
NXIVM leaders have been brought to justice, Warren Jeffs sits in prison for life, The Kingston Group was raided and some Love Has Won members sit in cells.
Scientology stands unchallenged.
Given the enormity of the allegations against Scientology by so many over the past fifty plus years verses the few legal cases filed, Scientology is The Teflon Cult.
No cult is a religion.
The distinction is in the abuses.
While no religion is free from bad members and terrible things happen, the difference is that cults like Scientology teach and embrace abuse systemically.
In real religion bad seeds are outside the teachings of the faith. Their actions and choices are individual and aberrations.
Scientology doctrine is abuse, revenge and hate.
No matter whether a religion or a cult, the First Amendment was never intended to protect anyone from facing justice. Somehow this fact has been lost when Scientology is involved.
Of course, as Mike Rinder has said, “The difference between a cult and a religion is what happens when you try to leave.” If one cannot freely walk away without punishment one needs to rethink their involvement.
As cults like Love Has Won, a group most people have never heard of, make the news and the attention of law enforcement, one cannot help but ask;
When is it Scientology’s turn?