10 of the World’s Most Infamous Cults


Children of God

In the 1960s, after hearing of the large hippie population in Huntington Beach, Calif., a Christian minister, David Berg, moved there to recruit the young people. It wasn't hard for him, and the hippies were quickly attracted to his anti-establishment attitude. Many gave up their jobs and donated their savings to the group to live communally in Berg's house. The group moved to Arizona when Berg claimed to receive a revelation that California would be struck by an earthquake. Members began to call Berg, "Moses" and their group "the Children of God."

In the early 1970s, the Children of God recruited all over the country and even set up international centers. By 1974, it had more than 4000 members in 70 countries [source: Sreenivasan]. Berg wrote a series of letters to all his communities to relate his teachings. In 1978, he reorganized the group, renaming it "The Family."

However, the U.S. anti-cult movement targeted the Children of God, and many parents of members kidnapped and deprogrammed their children. Most controversial was Berg's progressive attitude towards sex. He encouraged open sexual relationships and experimentation. The group has also been accused of encouraging child sex abuse. In what was called "flirty fishing," he encouraged his members to engage in sexual relationships to attract new members. By the late 1980s, after dealing with the problem of sexually transmitted diseases, the group formally ended this practice.

Now called "The Family International," this group is still very active, despite Berg's death in 1994.