Signs someone is in a cult

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A Christian cult practising starvation and operating in Malindi town has claimed over 80 lives and stunned the world. It has been dubbed “the Shakahola massacre.”

The deadly cult has also sparked debate about mental health awareness and the regulation of religion in the country.

More details continue to unfold and as police continue to make gruesome discoveries of a rising death toll, we explore some red-flags and warning signs that someone you know might have joined a cult.

“No longer simply religious extremist groups, cults can also be secular, identity-based, or political groups that aim or claim to do good,” Psychology Today reports, noting that a cult is typically led by a charismatic leader who love-bombs members and promises to solve all their problems with one “big idea.”

The religious leader at the center of the deadly Shakahola cult is one Pastor Paul Mackenzie, who is being accused of radicalizing Kilifi residents to starve themselves to death.


Psychology Today reports that cult leaders often resort to isolating members from the public to maintain control and prevent outside forces from interfering.

“The leaders ban acts of individual free will. The cult isolates its members from the world beyond, depicting the outside as corrupt, evil, and violent. This increases bonding as members see themselves as ‘threatened victims’.”

Extreme obsession with a group or leader

It is a red flag when all a person can talk about is their new religious leader, mentor or group.

More so if they are obsessive about the group or person and if they are unreasonably protective and defensive.

“If someone you know is becoming increasingly overwhelmed with a group or leader, it could be time to intervene. Especially if that obsession is ‘to the exclusion of friends or family, and to the detriment of their employment, education,’ or other other facets of their life,” lifestyle website ATTN reports.

Touching on why cult members are often defensive, the report notes that they often take any questioning or criticism as persecution.

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