10 of the World’s Most Infamous Cults


The Unification Church

The Unification Church, formally known as Holy Spirit Association for the Unification of World Christianity, was founded by Rev. Sun Myung Moon. Born in North Korea, Moon claims to have received a vision when he was 16 years old that told him he was called to complete Christ's mission on earth. According to Moon, Christ was crucified before he was able to fulfill his mission of marrying and having perfect children. Moon, then, saw himself as the Messiah.

At odds with the teachings of his Presbyterian Church, he was excommunicated and formed his own church in the 1950s. As the Messiah, Moon claimed that salvation was only possible through pledging obedience to him, and, after seven years of service, taking a spouse picked by him. The religion became known for its mass weddings, where he presides over the marriages of hundreds of people at one time.

Already a successful businessman, in the 1970s he moved his headquarters to New York, where he attracted new members to his movement as well as widespread suspicion. As a focus of the anti-cult movement gaining momentum at this time, parents of church members began kidnapping and "deprogramming" their children. They also filed lawsuits, and by 1982, Moon was convicted of tax evasion. Now known as the Family Federation for World Peace and Unification, the church is still active.