What is it Like to Grow Up in a Cult?

Sad teenage boy

When we asked him how growing up in a cult had affected his life, Alex Davies told us to imagine a broken glass or plate.

“You know that it’s broken because you knew how it looked in the first place, and you knew that once it was whole and now it’s broken, and you can see that it had a purpose before.”

“But what if you didn’t have any moral compass to know if the plate was broken in the first place. What if you saw a broken plate, or you saw a broken glass, and you didn’t know any difference? You didn’t know there was a before and after. You thought that was normal. And you thought it was normal because someone made you believe this was normal. This really was my mind, and it was my life.”

Alex told Vision’s Shelley Scowen how he and other cult members endured a brutal regime of brainwashing and torture almost daily. “You’re part of the one true Church, and you listen to God’s last living apostle. And God loves you, and only loves the people of this cult.”

“Yet He wants to break you, and He wants to get men to beat you until you fell unconscious because of the pain. And He wants to beat you until you bleed. And He wants to beat you until these men grow tired. And it doesn’t matter how many times you plead, and you beg, and you crawl away. They keep going for more. But God loves you! It really fractures your mind because it’s two sides of the coin trying to work together.”

Alex never stopped believing in God, but thanks to his suffering, he grew to hate Him. That’s how he found himself, at 15, contemplating the murder of a class full of students. “These people seemed like they had beautiful happy families, and laughing parents, who would kiss them and hug them and say ‘have a great day at school’. And I hated them. But I hated God more that I felt that He’d blessed them, or He loved them more than me.”

Alex’s desire to commit murder came out of determination to take from God the thing he valued most – His children. For a decade he lost himself following every kind of greed there was. “I didn’t just drink that salt water of immoral pleasure and sin. I bathed in it.” But by God’s grace, he never managed to commit the killing he’d intended.

His years of wickedness only brought him misery, until ultimately he decided that suicide was his only option. In one last desperate attempt to find a reason to live, Alex decided to pray. “I don’t want to die,” he said to God. “If you don’t step into my life right now, I’m going to take my life altogether. I need you to take this feeling away. I don’t care what you do. Just take this away. I’ll do it myself if you don’t.”

“It wasn’t a half-hearted prayer,” he said. “It wasn’t sceptical. It was completely hopeful, and completely I would say faithful, just knowing that there is someone there, and there is a Christ that could help me. And from then on, things started happening.”

How can someone go from hating God to loving God? In his conversation with Vision’s Shelley Scowen, Alex explains what happened next. He also discusses how he feels about his mother, who disowned him when he left the cult, and offers us warning signs for avoiding cults, which he says are definitely active in Australia today. Listen to the podcast below for all that and more.

Tune into The Story on Vision for true testimonies from extraordinary people. Click here for your local times.

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