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Cult Hackers

Author: Cult Hackers

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A podcast about cult hacking! Cracking the cult code to understand what they are, how they work, how people leave and how to make sense of the world after leaving.

Father and daughter team, media graduate Celine, and former cult member now organizational psychologist Stephen, explore how cults work, why they are so dangerous and the experience of leaving and making sense of the world. They speak to cult hackers from all over the world, from ex members to academics, from writers to filmmakers, and from therapists to activists.

Music is Snap by Purple Planet Music
198 Episodes
Belonging to a fundamentalist religious cult often means having a complicated relationship with science and scientific discoveries. After leaving, the joy of learning opens up, and many leavers study scientific subjects as part of a career change or just for fun. For this bonus episode we are please to welcome back Thomas our very own science guy to talk about the big fusion breakthrough and also why we should study fundamental science even without knowing if there will be a commercial return.  If you enjoy the podcast or find it useful you might want to support it by becoming a patron for just $1.50 per month.  
Claire Alison Hams was raised as a Jehovah's Witness and was a full time pioneer. She is now a mental health professional and is doing a PhD. It was so interesting to listen to Claire's journey out of the group and to talk about her insights into helping people recover from religious trauma as well as future research.  Links Claire's website Ex JW Support Website Ex JW Facebook Group   Scott Homan and Witness Underground   Become a patron for just $1.50 per month  
Today Stephen and Celine are joined by Elgen Strait ex Moonie - Falling Out Podcast, Frankie Tease ex Morningland Church - Frankie Files and Clint Heacock ex Evangelical - The Mindshift Podcast to talk about cults, coercive control, cult research, cult education and much more.  Thank you to Frankie, Elgen and Clint. If you've not already, check out their shows.   If you'd like to support the podcast you can for just $1.50 The Guest's Podcasts The Frankie Files Falling Out Mindshift        
Today's episode explores the 2012 classic The Master, written and directed by Paul Thomas Anderson, starring Joaquin Phoenix, Philip Seymour Hoffman and Amy Adams. The writer and director Paul Thomas Anderson admitted that the themes in the movie had been inspired by L Ron Hubbard the founder of Scientology and it’s clear that there are many recognisable elements in the film. But although it may have been a starting point Anderson has created something new that draws from cults and cultic groups in general. In today's episode Stephen explored the psychological manipulation cults use on their followers. Become a patron for just $1.50 per month Contact us at As referenced, Chris Shelton's YouTube Review of The Master  
In her memoir, 'Uncultured' Daniella Mestyanek Young tells her story of being raised in the Children of God, her escape at just 15, finding herself in a world she didn't understand, getting an education and then joining the US army and becoming an intelligence officer. It's a compelling story and Daniella talks about her book, her life and her research into both healthy organizations and toxic ones as well as her reflections on effective leadership.  Daniella's Website Become a Cult Hacker Patron for just $1.50 per month    
Today's guest is Joy Cranham from the Family Survival Trust, a charity that specialises in helping victims of cults and supports the families of those impacted. Joy's own background is as a born-in member of the Exclusive Brethren (also known as the Plymouth Brethren) so we talk about her childhood, and reflect on the hundreds of thousands of children raised in highly controlling groups with frightening beliefs. Joy also talks about the work of the Family Survival Trust and more generally how to educate society to understand damaging cults and what to do about them.  Just Giving Page to contribute to Stephen's fund-raising page for the Family Survival Trust. Become a Patron Reach out to us  
The Invisible Man - it's not about invisibility! Coercive control is a signature tactic of cults and a sign of toxic relationships. The 2020 movie, 'The Invisible Man' explores the methods used and the red flags to look out for. Contains spoilers. Become a patron for just $1.50 per month Contact us  
The final Cult Hackers podcast for the year with Celine and Stephen as they review their favourite episodes, talk about some of the amazing guests they've spoken to, as well as give a nod to some of the big news stories of 2022. Also did you get the pun? Get in touch Become a patron for just $1.50    
In this bonus episode from the Cults on Film series, Stephen explores cult tactics employed by the Jedi and the Sith. Cult recruitment 101 by Alex Guinness and Ian McDiarmid.  Become a patron for just £1 or $1 or an Imperial Credit. 
For cult leavers raised in groups like Jehovah's Witnesses who don't celebrate Christmas, the holidays can create mixed feelings. Celine and Stephen explore this and talk about their own experience of learning to embrace cultural celebrations and holidays. Also, is it hypocritical for atheists to celebrate Christmas? The second segment is more personal and Celine and Stephen talk about why they do the podcast even though it has come at a cost neither expected. Support the podcast by becoming a patron Nonna's Natale Animation, My First Christmas  
Dr Darrel Ray is a well known author, psychologist and speaker about the difficulties of making sense of the world after leaving problematic religious experiences and groups. This week Stephen talks to Darrel about his book 'The God Virus' and the work he does as the founder of 'Recovering From Religion', a non profit that supports people after leaving. Useful Links Become a patron for just $1.50 The God Virus, Darrel Ray Recovering From Religion      
Today's bonus episode is an analysis of the 2017 movie Apostasy written and directed by former Jehovah's Witness, Daniel Kokotajlo starring Siobhan Finneran, Molly Wright, Robert Emms and Sacha Parkinson. This is a very important movie and in this analysis Stephen explores the devastating realities and consequences of this group's policies, including those around certain types of medical intervention and shunning.
This week’s episode is a special one and welcomes guest Riley from the Jexit channel. It explores the spectacular story of the KLF, a 90s band who burned a £1M and promoted the cause of a counter-culture cult called the JAMs. Drawing upon the amazing book by John Higgs, The KLF: Chaos, Magic and the Band who Burned a Million Pounds, Stephen and Riley make their way through pop music, a pseudo religion called Discordianism, The Illuminatus Trilogy, Alan Moore, Self Referential Reality Tunnels, magic and conspiracy theories to mention just a few things, all from the perspective of two people who lived in a cult.  Reference Become a patron  
In this final episode of our mini-series Stephen is joined by Jane Stewart and and James Carrier from The World of World Project to explore the importance and the dangers of meaning and purpose being exclusively tied to the workplace. 
Raised as a 4th generation Jehovah's Witness Natalie Grand wanted to educate the world about life for a woman growing up in the group. Celine and Stephen enjoyed talking to Natalie about her wonderful graphic novel called Cult Girls, which tells the story about a group of young women taking control of their lives from the patriarchal cult, the only life they had known. If you would like to support the podcast you can do so by becoming a patron for just £1 ($1.50)    
In this week's special collaboration with The World of Work Project we explore the importance of being able to speak up and have your say in healthy organisations. One of the defining features of cultic organisations is that the members have no meaningful voice and are encouraged to be obedient. How can we avoid this danger in our team? If you'd like to support the podcast you can do so by becoming a patron for just £1 ($1.50)   Reference Guided Team Self-Correction: Impacts on Team Mental Models, Processes, and Effectiveness. Smith-Jentsch, A. and Cannon-Bowers, J.  DOI: 10.1177/1046496408317794 
Celine and Stephen explore the ever-present belief that the end is nigh, starting with Stephen's former group Jehovah's Witnesses, including the calculations he was taught as to why Armageddon would definitely come within the generation that saw 1914. Jehovah's Witnesses are not the only ones who have claimed this special knowledge, only to be made to look foolish, so Celine and Stephen take a whistle stop tour of end time prophecies. Finally they explore what real threats there are out there and what we could do about them as well as having a quiz about end of world films. Become a patron for just $1.50 Links End of world prophecies JW Facts        
Part 2 of our special collaboration with the World of Work Project's Jane Stewart and James Carrier. This week we explore leadership within cults and business, and how progressive efforts to create collaborative cultures and transformational goals can set a trap for well intentioned organisations and individuals. References The Dark Side of Transformational Leadership  
In part 2, Andrew continues his discussion with Celine and Stephen. Andrew Pledger is a podcaster, activist, writer and life coach who left a fundamentalist Christian cult and now seeks to raise awareness of religious trauma, as well as help those who leave to rebuild their lives. To listen on a web page Andrew's Links Linktree Andrew's Podcast, Speaking Up Become a Cult Hacker backer with Patreon for just $1.50 per month  
Andrew Pledger is a podcaster, activist, writer and life coach who left a fundamentalist Christian cult. He raises awareness about religious trauma and recovery from controlling religious groups. He is a member of the LGBTQ+ community and provides insights into how fundamentalist Bible groups compromise identity. It's a fascinating discussion over two episodes. Part 2 is available after the 20th November 2022. Andrew's Links Linktree Andrew's Podcast, Speaking Up Become a Cult Hacker backer with Patreon for just $1.50 per month    
Comments (2)


She hit it right on the nose when she said that in the incidences she was able to defend herself, it was because she felt safe and empowered. As a survivor of years of molestation by more than one during my childhood, I was conditioned to believe that no one would come if I screamed. So when as an adult I was sexually assaulted twice and raped once, I was practically silent….after all, who was going to care to come rescue me. Thank you for your story and thank you WSITA for patiently allowing her to tell it.

Feb 25th
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