Ranking cults in order of their bizarreness is entirely subjective, and to be fair, it’s hard to beat the fantastical eccentricities of more prominent cults like Mormonism or Scientology. These whackadoodle religious sects are basically out of science fiction novels, tied to outer space and intrinsically connected to a belief in aliens, and exercise scary control over their members. But, humanity has gotten used to the bizarreness of Mormonism and Scientology, and there are some equally-as-strange cults that are flying under the radar of our scorn and derision. Here are ten of the most bizarre cults. We avoided religions made for the point of mocking religion, like Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster and Jediism. These are all religions that take themselves very, very seriously.
05. The Universe People
The Universe People, also known as the Cosmic People of Light Powers, is a cult founded in Czechoslovakia and – like Mormonism and Scientology – is a “UFO Religion” that is based upon events in Outer Space. They believe in extraterrestrial civilizations and claim to have been in contact with them telepathically since 1997. It’s chief prophet, named Benda, teaches people how to communicate with these aliens. According to Benda, extraterrestrial civilizations operate a fleet of spaceships, led by Ashtar Galactic Command, orbiting the Earth. They closely watch and help the good and are waiting to transport their followers into another dimension. The Universe People’s teachings incorporate various elements from ufology (some foreign contactees are credited, though often also renounced after a time as misguided or deceptive), Christianity (Jesus was a “fine-vibrations” being) and conspiracy theories (forces of evil are supposed to plan compulsory chipping of the population). You can see their crazy website here.
04. The Aghori
Aghori is a fringe cult belonging to the Hindu family of religions. Their main schtick is doing ceremonies with the dead; you know, corpses and stuff. It’s pretty gross. They smear cremation ashes all over their body, make skull-caps out of corpses, and use body parts from the dead to create jewelry. The reason for these disgusting habits (along with many more) is because of their philosophy that teaches soul transcendence comes from abolishing social norms and societal taboos. Dabbling with a dose of gnosticism, the Aghori also try to transcend physical desire by an odd strategy – giving in to it. They believe sexual immorality helps them shed sexual desire, nakedness helps them avoid shame, and drug use helps them overcome addiction. They pretty much scream, “demonic.”
03. The Prince Phillip Movement
Proving that literally anything (or anyone) can be turned into an idol, the Kastom people around Yaohnanen village on the southern island of Tanna in Vanuatu believe that Prince Phillip is a god. According to ancient Yaohnanen tales, the son of a mountain spirit traveled over the seas to a distant land. There, he married a powerful woman and in time would return to them. They believe that Prince Phillip is that man, who happens to also be a god. They have held this belief since the 1950s, and when he visited the area in 1974, it solidified their conviction that he was the god they were waiting for. They exchanged a sacrificed pig in exchange for a signed portrait and sealed the deal. They worship him to this day. You can read about them here.
02. The Church of Euthanasia
This church has a pretty simple doctrine; kill yourself. It was founded by “Reverend” Chris Korda and Robert Kimburk in Boston in 1992. According to its founders, it’s the only “anti-human religion” and seeks to save the planet by having people (voluntarily) kill themselves to restore balance. They’re best known for appearing on an episode of Jerry Springer and for clashing with pro-life protestors. Their website gives detailed instructions on how to kill yourself (we’re not going to link this one). Their religous belief is steeped in environmentalism.
01. Happy Science
Formerly known as “The Institute for Research in Human Happiness” (sounds like Joel Osteen, we know), this cult also has its own political party in Japan. It was founded in 1986 and its aim is to spread happiness, as the name would suggest.They claim to channel the spirits Muhammad, Christ, Buddha and Confucious and other others. Its leader claims to be the incarnation of the chief deity called El Cantare. Happy Science claims that El Cantare is the true hidden name of God in the Old Testament, Elohim, and in other ancient cultures of the world as the Cosmic Tree of Life and the World Tree. Happy, Happy, Happy. Several prominent Japanese actors and models have absconded to Happy Science, and it’s known as the Scientology of Japan. You can see their website here.
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