I am Shannon. I am both an atheist and a former cult member. I wanted to see how many of us are former cult members.
I was a part of Teen Mania's Honor Academy in Garden Valley, TX. I was there from January 2001-December 2001. I would have stayed a second year, however, my parents wouldn't support me any additional time.
You can read my story, and many others, at www.recoveringalumni.com
My dad recently drove his church bus to Acquire the Fire. I explained to him and to his pastor that it was affiliated with a very abusive cult (Honor Academy). I never got a response from my dad's pastor. Instead, he just took an offering to buy next year's ATF tickets.
Do you feel like ATF can lead to kids joining Honor Academy? Is there any other part of Teen Mania that's also abusive?
ATF definitely leads kids to the HA. I haven't been to ATF in a few years, but when I did attend, there were commercials about the HA, GE Missions, Extreme Camps, etc. They pimp their ministry as much as possible.
It was during an ATF that I went to a breakout session to learn about the HA. There, I got the application and was allowed to ask a lot of questions and whatnot.
While the HA is definitely the most abusive, the teachings and some of the actions of every part of the ministry can be considered abusive and harmful.
I've been to ATF. It was my first ever time attending a gathering like that. I was with my youth group. I don't remember anything about HA. My memory isn't all to well when it comes to my past with my youth group. But since it was on the subject of cult I think I would like to add this to it.
I used to be part of a Youth Group for a non-denominational church in my town. It was great for a young christian who was ignorant like myself. It's been many years since I've associated myself with the group, but I am not kidding when I say they have formed a cult here in little Sparta. The youth pastors separated from the church when they weren't receiving (stealing) enough money to fund their little group. They have those teenagers convinced that if they leave the group then they will be devoured by the devil through people who aren't associated with them.
Those who do leave the group are talked bad about behind their backs. I know I've been put in a bad category by them from what few friends I have in that group. They think they have the power to control others. The tell the kids they have the spirits of biblical characters in their bodies and they have to purge themselves (I.E. starvation, hours of prayer, burning their belongings). I remember one of the pastors telling me she was coming to my house to burn all my Harry Potter books if I didn't get rid of them and repent for my sins of reading them.
We weren't allowed to sit with the boys and girls mixed together. We had to be separated. Even on a camping trip, the guys slept all the way on the other side of a LAKE! We rode in separate buses. Ate dinners in separate rooms.
There's so much more, but I don't want to take up much room. I think I'll do some research on HA and a few other groups like that.
Thanks for reading.
I hear you Casey. I can relate to your experiences.
Church youth groups are known for being pretty strict about the gender issue.
To some extent, I think that all religions can be considered cults.
I am sorry to hear about your experience in a cult.
I was only in a cult for a year, but the effects of being in a cult for even that long have been far reaching. I was in a cult in 2001. I dropped out of college after my freshman year to spend a year at Teen Mania's Honor Academy. I moved to Texas and paid Teen Mania $4500/month (with the help of sponsors) to work for them for 40+ hours a week and endure a year of torture and other things.
We actually have a community of ex-interns at www.recoveringalumni.com where our stories are posted as well as current deceptive practices and whatnot is reported on.
The most damaging time at the cult I was in was ESOAL. ESOAL stands of Emotional Stretching Opportunity of a Lifetime. This event last anywhere from 36-72 hours. During the event the interns are treated like dirt and made to go through obstacles similar to Navy Seals Hell Week. We were sleep deprived, food deprived, and emotionally abused during the event. It was a horrible event.