From Rose McGowan to Tom Cruise to Joaquin Phoenix, some celebrities have been a part of some downright fucked up spiritual organizations. Or, as they’re more commonly called: cults. And while Scientology continues to remain the granddaddy of them all, there have been plenty of other doozies throughout the years.
As the great Frank Zappa once said, “the only difference between a cult and a religion is the amount of real estate they own.” And while I’m also not a fan of religion, I don’t think it’s just real estate that makes a cult a cult. There are certain qualities cults boast that just make them a bit weirder than your typical mainstream religion. What are those qualities? Well, manslaughter and sex with children, to start.
Let’s check out a few of these bizarre celebrity cults on a timeline, shall we?
Church of Christ, Scientist: 1900s
On the outside, Christian Science sounds just like any other wackadoodle religion, urging its followers to heal themselves through prayer and prayer alone. Silly, yes, but hey, at least there aren’t UFOs involved, right?
But here’s the thing. In the 90s, there was a shit ton of controversy surrounding this religion because a bunch of kids died after not getting the appropriate medical attention they needed. Apparently, prayer alone wasn’t enough, and their parents were charged with murder. Via Wikipedia:
“In a number of nationally publicized cases in the early 1990s, prosecutors charged parents belonging to the Christian Science church with murder or manslaughter after their children died of likely curable ailments without being medically treated. The best-known of these was the Twitchell Case in Massachusetts, in which parents David and Ginger Twitchell were convicted in 1990 of involuntary manslaughter in the death of their two-year-old son Robyn, who succumbed to a bowel obstruction.”
They probably left that part out of the brochure.
Early celebrity members included Mary Pickford, Bette Davis and Gene Autry, making Christian Science quite possibly one of the very first movie star cults ever! Exciting, huh?
As the years went by, other celebrity converts included Marilyn Monroe, Joan Crawford and Elizabeth Taylor. But both Monroe and Taylor later converted from Christian Science to Judaism. Ellen DeGeneres, Kelsey Grammer, and Audrey Hepburn were all raised Christian Scientist but later left the religion, undoubtedly realizing it was bat shit crazy.
Thanks to this whole Tom Cruise wife auditioning thing, Scientology seems to be having a moment. But it’s been around for quite some time. In the late 1940s, sci-fi writer L. Ron Hubbard famously said:
“Writing for a penny a word is ridiculous. If a man really wants to make a million dollars, the best way would be to start his own religion.”
Which is true, but you don’t get to work from home.
At any rate, Hubbs officially incorporated the Church of Scientology in 1953. In ’57, he began giving a series of lectures in London, and the CIA subsequently began keeping a file on him. Long story short, his history involves being banned from Britain, teaching medicine without a license and having his entire “religion” kicked out of Australia. Sounds like a great start.
In 1955, Hubbard started “Project Celebrity,” recognizing the fact that, like sheep, people will pretty much follow suit with celebrities no matter what stupid trend they latch onto (which explains parachute pants, by the way). Gloria Swanson, a silent film star, was one of the first celebrity scientologists. Today, Scientology boasts such celebrity members as: Jason Lee, John Travolta, Kirstie Alley and, of course, its mascot, Tom Cruise.
Children of God: 1968
This organization might have gone down in history as just another crazy hippie cult if not for their method of luring potential members. They called it “Flirty Fishing,” but basically, it was making female members fuck dudes in an effort to get them to join the cult. Probably pretty effective.
Actress Rose McGowan grew up in this cult and revealed quite a few sordid details about her fucked up childhood:
“You had no contact with the outside world,” McGowan told People. “Things that are completely unacceptable became normal. I remember watching how the [cult's] men were with the women, and at a very early age I decided I did not want to be like those women. They were basically there to serve the men sexually — you were allowed to have more than one wife.”
Also, many of the children were allegedly sexually molested:
“There’s a trail of some very damaged children that were in this group,” McGowan said. “As strong as I like to think I’ve always been, I’m sure I could have been broken. I know I got out by the skin of my teeth.”
Jaoquin and River Phoenix were also in this cult as children. It disbanded in 1978, reorganizing under the name “The Family of Love.” In 2004, the cult came to be known as “The Family International,” and yep, it’s still around today. New and improved, I guess. Now with less sexual molestation!
The Kabbalah Centre—2004
Okay, so Kabbalah itself is old as shit, but it went Hollywood in 2004. It was around this time that we started to see celebs wearing those little cultish red bracelets and attending the Kabbalah Centre in Los Angeles.
Those “Red String” bracelets cost around $26 and were meant to deflect “envious stares and looks of ill will,” according to USA Today.
Rabbi Immanuel Schochet, a scholar of Jewish philosophy and mysticism, told the paper that the Kabbalah Centre is “not just a cult, but a dangerous cult. They are distorting kabbalah … taking some of our sacred books and reducing it to mumbo jumbo, all kinds of hocus-pocus.”
What kind of hocus-pocus, you ask? Well, for starters, one of their rules is: guys can’t masturbate because unused jizz is actually abandoned souls that turn into demons.
So, as you can see, Tom Cruise isn’t the only one drinking the Kool-Aid. Over the years, plenty of celebs have involved themselves with some interesting organizations. Demon splooge, pedophilia, murder…if that’s not enough to deter people from organized religion, I don’t know what is.