Some organized religion is as old as recorded history. Men have felt the need to be part of a group which worships their God in the same manner, and shares beliefs unsupported by physical proof, but are unanimously accepted as fact. This single minded approach becomes religion. However, religion becomes a cult when reason is entirely removed and individual freedom is denied.
Whether or not a person chooses to be part of a religious organization or not, the freedom to practice a religion of their choice is the foundation for the existence of our nation, and is the cornerstone of many others. For millions of American citizens seeking spiritual guidance is a part of their daily lives.
For 23-year-old Dan Shrock a serious buggy accident changed his life and the way he looked at the religious life he had known since birth.
Shrock and more than 100 others lived in Northeast Ohio. They are an Amish community led by Bishop Sam Mullet. Shrock left the community after his four-month stay in a Pittsburgh hospital. He said ‘his eyes were opened’ during that time. He realized that he and his cousins had been living a life where violence, sexual misconduct and brainwashing were common, even daily occurrences.
When Shrock left the community in 2013, Bishop Mullet was in prison. He and 15 others were convicted of ‘disfigurement,’ which is considered a hate crime. Mullet received the harshest penalty of 15 year’s incarceration. Shrock claims Mullet continues to control his ‘flock’ from a jail cell.
Mullet and his followers were known as the ‘Bergholz Barbers.’ In the middle of the night they went to the homes of other Amish communities, cutting off the beards of the men, and occasionally shearing the heads of both the man and the woman. Hair and beards are of great importance to followers of the Amish religion.
Violence in any form is abhorrent to the Amish community. Why did it begin?
Martha Mullet, Sam Mullet’s wife and Matriarch of the clan, says it began in 2009. She believes that the police targeted their extremely conservative community with the aid of other Amish clans. Her two granddaughters were removed from their mother’s home and given to their father outside of the Bergholz community. Martha claims her daughter, Wilma, was sexually abused by her former husband.
Shrock says that his grandmother is lying about the conditions in Bergholz. He is one of only a few to escape from the community. He tells of physical punishment for offenses against Mullet’s rules. If the ‘sin’ is severe enough, some are forced to live in animal pens. He says he was placed in one for seven days.
Shrock said that Mullet believes he is a prophet; maybe even a God, and had professed to have power over all action within the community. He remains in complete control today.
By definition a religion becomes a cult when members are denied their right to leave the community. Shrock says that if Mullet and the 15 others had not been sentenced to prison, it may have been impossible for him to escape. Two of those persons are his parents.
In an unofficial list of the world’s most dangerous religions, absolute control by their leader is the central factor. Every action is made possible by the decision of whatever that person may call himself. Among those considered most dangerous are Scientology, The Unification Church, led by Reverend Sun Myung Moon, The Ku Klux Klan, The Children of God, David Koresh’s The Branch Dividians, Jim Jones’ The People’s Temple, and Heaven’s Gate. The last sounds innocuous, but you may remember the incident which exposed it.
Under the direction of Marshall Applewhite and Bonnie Nettles, 38 people committed suicide in 1997. They had been convinced that the only way to heaven was to leave your earthly body behind. As Haley’s Comet came into relative proximity to the earth, Applewhite told them a spaceship was trailing the comet’s tail, and if they left their earthly bonds they would all be on the craft and saved for all time.
All of these so called religions have a great many similarities within their beliefs. The one they all shared or share, is the fact that once an individual or family joins, they cannot leave. Religion and cults have some similarities. Members of both must blindly believe the rules and beliefs of their community’s leaders, but when they are restricted from leaving the organization and exercising their free will, proof that a cult exists is undeniable.
By James Turnage