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The Unforgiven

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The Unforgiven:

Religious cults with leaders that focus upon an upcoming event in which the "unrighteous" (non-cult believers) will be purged from the earth are called "doomsday cults". Leaders of these groups often have "predictions" of how much time is left before non-cult members face tragic, painful death and everlasting torment. Members of doomsday cults are continually threatened into conforming to cult rules and theology by the cult leader's continual focus upon impending doom. Members are trained to fear the upcoming event, and this fear creates an emotional barrier between the cult and the outside world. Fear becomes a counterweight to happiness; it is an ever-present reminder that other human beings are about to die. Worse, it becomes a replacement for a very fundamental element of healthy religious groups: forgiveness.

By continually focusing upon the death of non-cult members, doomsday cults are also focusing upon their idea of "sin" and "sinners" -- those who do not believe or adhere to cult rules and theology. Since "salvation" is found in the cult's doctrine and belief in its leader, any who question theology or violate cult rules are at risk of being purged along with unbelievers. As a result, though they promise "forgiveness", forgiveness never comes. Cult members are continually reminded of their "sins", both in public speeches and in private meetings. Since fear is the motivator, those who "sin" receive more fear of death from cult leaders.

This is a challenge for former members. Because forgiveness was so scarce in the cult, many former members struggle to receive forgiveness and to forgive themselves. When they accidentally upset or offend new friends, they fear losing them; former cult members seldom expect others to forgive. Worse, they replay the uncomfortable memory over and over, not able to forgive themselves for making the mistake. It takes time to learn the difference between real forgiveness and cult "forgiveness".