American Cult: 5 Spiritual Groups That Went Too Far

From the Heaven's Gate tragedy to a sect that allegedly encouraged sex between kids and adults, a look into some utopian communities gone wrong

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Children of God – Family International (1968 - Present)
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Members of the peace haven of the Children of God movement at Bromley in Kent take part in communal worship. The movement claims over 170 communes in the USA and Europe. Hulton-Deutsch Collection/CORBIS/Corbis via Getty4/5

Children of God – Family International (1968 - Present)

David "Moses" Berg founded this communist Christian offshoot in California in 1968. For someone so concerned with moral decay and evolution, Berg had a very sex-centric perspective on how to spread the views of Jesus, including reported recruitment through "flirty fishing" (i.e. using young women to lure in new members by having sex with them) and apparently opposing anti-pedophilia laws – according to some former members, having sex with children was not only permitted, but also a divine right. Berg was a master of propaganda, writing, publishing and distributing pamphlets discussing his teachings. The group changed its name several times – most recently to "Family International" in 2004 – and still exists today, operating in 80 countries, although no longer permits sex between adults and children. Actors Joaquin Phoenix and Rose McGowan were born into the cult and have since left and spoken out against the group. 

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