VICE has been reporting on cults and spiritual weirdness since we were a free magazine in skate shops. Why? Because cults don't make a lot of sense.
The Oxford English dictionary defines a cult as "a system of religious veneration and devotion directed toward a particular figure or object." But then it goes on to admit that a cult's practices are often regarded as "strange or sinister" by outsiders. And therein lies the rub.
While most groups offer happiness via a single figure or object—think sports teams, or political parties—they're not usually seen as damaging. So what is it about these groups that set out to purvey peace and understanding, only to terrorise their members? And how is it that so many intelligent people fall for these groups, time and time again?
To explore these issues, VICE is presenting a week of cults and fringe religions, both here and overseas.