Cults and Terrorism, Part 3 – “Good” Cult-Like Groups

Continued from part two. The Amana Colony was founded in 1713 in Germany by two Lutherans as the Community of True Inspiration. Amana means true, from the Song of Solomon. They believed God speaks through inspired persons (Werkzeug). Persecuted, they moved to Buffalo NY in 1842, then in 1855 to seven communes in Iowa on 18,000 acres. In 1859 they became the Amana Society, non-profit religious communes of farms and businesses. The great depression in the 1930s reduced income and many families wanted to live separately, with more material possessions. In 1932 it became a for-profit joint stock company. Amana built refrigerators (now Whirlpool), beverage coolers (the first coke machine), and the Radarange microwave.

The Shakers were founded in 1747 in England as a splinter group of Quakers. Shaker derives from “shaking Quaker” because of their physically active rituals. They called themselves the United Society of believers in Christ’s 2nd Coming. In 1776 they moved to New York State in a pacifist commune of celibate men and women who lived separately. Women had equal status (took the U.S. ‘till 1920). Work was prayer and they farmed but are most remembered for their simple, practical furniture, and inventing the clothes pin and flat broom. They composed many songs, among which is Simple Gifts (“Tis a gift to be simple, ‘tis a gift to be free, ‘tis a gift to come down where you ought to be, after turning, turning, turning, to come down in the valley of love and delight”) made famous by composer Aaron Copland in Appalachian Spring.

The Oneida Commune was founded in 1848 in Oneida NY by Humphrey Noyes who believed Jesus’ millennial kingdom could be realized by spiritual purity. Members shared property and possessions, grew and canned fruits and vegetables, made leather luggage, garden furniture, straw hats, silk thread and, in 1857, silverware. Unlike Shaker celibacy, sex was seen as spiritual and every man was considered married to every woman. Partners changed weekly. Older members introduced teen members to sex since there was less risk of pregnancy (some unplanned pregnancies did occur). The commune declined when Noyes named his atheist son his successor, but also younger members wanted monogamous marriages. When marriage was allowed in 1879, 35 couples chose it. Soon all manufacturing was discontinued except silverware.

Dr. MacHovec authored Cults and Terrorism (available in paperback and ebook) which “describes the psychology of cults and terrorism with examples from ancient and modern history, the psychological concepts involved, how to detect and prevent them and treat its leaders and member-victims.”
The is the third article of a six-part series on Cults and Terrorism. Throughout the week, the remaining articles will be published; Cults and Terrorism – Destructive Cult-Like Groups will follow.


MacHovec, Frank. Cults and Terrorism. Publisher: Frank Machovec ( 2010. ISBN: 978-0-557-04459-7.

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  • Jacob

    Reminds me a bit of the Kibbutzim in Israel although not quite cults they were socialist bastions and many have evolved into corporations of a a sort with factories and hotels

    • Frank M

      Yes, a kibbutz passes the test as a ‘good” cult-like group. The test being: is there any harm? There can be some harm, such as isolation from a nuclear family, but the same test applies: how much harm? And does the harm fade over time, such as family feeling and fellow feeling in the Kibbutz that satisfies the same psycholical-emotional needs as with a nuclear family.

      • cheryl

        It does harm a the nuclear family as well as the lost member.
        A lifetime of memories is erased for the pure satifistation of a disfunctional narcisstic cult.

  • cheryl

    my son is dating a woman from a kibbutz. she has no contact with us his family, and keeps him to work and only be with people from her kibbutz no matter where they move now uk. he is becoming more and more isolated from us, he feels no laughter, does not know how to have feelings, and seems very depressed. how do we get him to get out of this mess, he is 32. and suppose to be working on his phd as she is hers, but we think he may of dropped out so she can further hers…help!!!

Frank MacHovec, MA, PhD

Frank MacHovec, MA, PhD, is a retired clinical psychologist who worked 30 years in mental health clinics and hospitals and in private practice. In addition to BA, MA, and PhD degrees, he earned two post-PhD diplomates and was a certified forensics examiner who testified as expert witness in civil and criminal cases.

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