Podcast Brunch Club

CULTS: December 2022 podcast playlist

Podcast Brunch Club playlist: CULTS. Like book club, but for podcasts.

Cults are such a fascinating topic. Often times, there is an almost imperceptible border between cults and religion, but they can also take the form of self-help groups and business networks. Cults can be so powerful that people may lose their money, their faith, their morals, and even their lives. This podcast playlist highlights a range of cults from the perspectives of those who were in them.

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This playlist is sponsored by Double Elvis, a network of your favorite music podcasts.



Podcast Playlist on CULTS

Get the full playlist on your podcast player of choice using these platforms:

This Month’s Podcast Playlist Running List of PBC Podcast Playlists
Listen Notes | PodchaserPodyssey | Spotify Listen Notes | PodchaserPodyssey | Spotify

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Love and Radio: “The World Tomorrow” (September 2022, 31 min)
Glynn Washington, the host of the Snap Judgment podcast, talks about his time growing up as a black child in a white supremacist cult called the Worldwide Church of God.

Heaven’s Gate: “1: The Seekers” (October 2017, 36 min)
The Heaven’s Gate faithful weren’t freaks or space cadets. They were regular people, hungry for something more. They were Seekers.

DISGRACELAND: “Charles Manson the Music Man: Lost Records and a Prosecutorial Song too Crazy to Sing” (November 2022, 46 min)
CONTENT WARNING: Graphic depictions of violence and explicit language are included in this episode.
In and out of juvie and jail since childhood, Charles Manson learned guitar in prison from the last of the great Depression-era gangsters. He also made music industry connections in jail like the Rolling Stones’ road manager. During the “Summer of Love”, Manson bounced from prison and took his act to San Francisco, formed a drug-soaked sex cult, moved the whole Family to L.A., and before you could say “celebrity orgy,” he was hanging with Neil Young, the Mamas and the Papas, and the Beach Boys. Charles Manson was about to be the breakout star of 1969…at least in his own mind.
Was I In A Cult?
: “Hollyweird: “Thief of Dreams””
(December 2021, 56 min)
Los Angeles, CA is full of dreamers. After all, dreams are what people move to the City of Lost Angels to chase. But did anyone know that an acting teacher can turn into a cult leader? Is that even possible? Apparently stranger things have happened, because the answer is… Oh hell yes she can. Two former students studying under an acting coach turned self-help cult leader are here to share their harrowing stories of showing up with their dreams in their hands… but unfortunately, giving them over to the wrong “guide.”

Escaping NXIVM: “Episode 1: The Branding” (September 2018, 36 min)
Sarah Edmondson is a high-level member of a self-help group called NXIVM, but an invitation to join a secret women’s group called DOS leads her to do something she later regrets.

Bonus podcast episodes:

  • Sounds Like A Cult: “The Cult of Instagram Therapists” (February 2022, 38 min)
    If you have an Instagram account, you’ve probably seen those beautifully curated infographics explaining “trauma,” “attachment theory,” and “boundaries” in 100 words or less… but when does mass-disseminating parasocial mental health advice on social media become cultish? This juicy episode dives into the world of Instagram therapists: mental health experts (and self-proclaimed “experts”) who have taken our era’s desperate need for accessible therapy and spun it into an influencer career.
  • The Dream: “S1 E1: Wanna Swim in Cash” (September 2018, 41 min)
    There’s nothing as intoxicating as piles of money, unless the Feds are watching you count it.
  • The Casual Criminalist: “71 – Charles Manson: The Most Dangerous Cult Leader” (February 2022, 51 min)
    A deep dive into the bizarre life of Charles Manson.
  • Let’s Talk About Sects: “NXIVM” (September 2019, 1 hr 13 min)
    Edgar Bronfman Sr. of the Seagram liquor fortune once wrote a testimonial for a course he had taken through an organisation called Executive Success Programs, or ESP. He said, quote, “If everyone were to go through this training, the world would be a much better and safer place to live.” Seventeen years later, the leader and inner circle of that same organisation, now going under the name NXIVM, would be on trial for charges including sex trafficking, forced labour, fraud, extortion and child pornography.
  • A Little Bit Culty: “Page Turner: Spencer Schneider on Writing His Way Out of ‘School’” (June 2022, 1 hr 24 min)
    Spencer Schneider, the guest on this episode, wrote a memoir called “Manhattan Cult Story: My Unbelievable True Story of Sex, Crimes, Chaos, and Survival.” Here is a snippet: “We were invisible. We had to be. We took an oath of absolute secrecy. We never even told our immediate families who we were. We went about our lives in New York City. Just like you. We were your accountants, money managers, lawyers, executive recruiters, doctors. We owned your child’s private school and sold you your brownstone. But you’d never guess our secret lives, how we lived in a kind of silent terror and fervor. There were hundreds of us.”

Conversation Starter Questions:

  1. How do you think people find themselves in cults?
  2. Discuss the similarities and differences between cults and organized religion.
  3. What emotional needs to cults seem to fill?
  4. Do you think cult leaders know exactly what they are doing or do they believe in the same way their followers do?

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