The best books on cults, world religions, and extremist faiths

Who am I?

As a young man, I wanted to do good. And I believed the best way to do that was to increase the commitment I’d made to my faith. So, I joined a church that appeared genuine. But much to my shock, not everything was as it seemed—I’d fallen into a cult. Deception, authoritarianism, and hypocrisy abounded. This led me on a decades-long search for answers: How could leaders do this? Why would members stay loyal? What could be done about it? I eventually found my answers and began doing what I’d always wanted to do—help others. I did it by becoming a journalist/author specializing in religion. 


I wrote...

One Nation Under Gods: A History of the Mormon Church

By Richard Abanes,

Book cover of One Nation Under Gods: A History of the Mormon Church

What is my book about?

Founded in 1830, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormonism) was initially viewed as a movement of polygamous, socially/morally disruptive, radical zealots; now, in many parts of the U.S., it’s synonymous with the height of conservative religious values and politics. In reevaluating its preoccupation with issues of church and state, Abanes uncovers the church’s original political agenda, which still rests at Mormonism’s core—the transformation of the world into a theocratic kingdom under Mormon authority. Discover how today’s Mormon Church evolved from its violent, anti-social, and wildly controversial origins into what it is today. This illustrated edition has been revised and offers a new postscript by the author. 

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The books I picked & why

Book cover of A Time to Kill

Richard Abanes Why did I love this book?

An extraordinarily well-written, suspenseful, and thought-provoking novel that served as one of my earliest exposures to not only the seriousness of, but also the deep pain of, racism in America. Also, for aspiring writers, this was one of the first books I read in order to gain a foundational understanding of seriously good writing. It’s a perfectly crafted novel, wherein John Grisham shows his finesse at using grammar, creative imagery, plot development, character building, scene description, and realistic dialogue.

By John Grisham,

Why should I read it?

8 authors picked A Time to Kill as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

______________________________
THE MULTI-MILLION COPY BESTSELLER

John Grisham's first and most shocking novel, adapted as a film starring Samuel L. Jackson and Matthew McConaughey

When Carl Lee Hailey guns down the violent racists who raped his ten-year-old daughter, the people of the small town of Clanton, Mississippi see it as justice done, and call for his acquittal.

But when extremists outside Clanton - including the KKK - hear that a black man has killed two white men, they invade the town, determined to destroy anything and anyone that opposes their sense of justice. A national media circus descends on Clanton.

As…


Book cover of Going Clear: Scientology, Hollywood, and the Prison of Belief

Richard Abanes Why did I love this book?

A shocking and frightening expose that reveals the inner workings, beliefs, and activities of one of America’s most infamous religious groups. A terrifying read from cover to cover. This book documents many things that I had only learned about via hearsay when I began my own in-depth research of Scientology over three decades ago—back when so much about the group was still shrouded in mystery and well-kept secrets.

By Lawrence Wright,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Going Clear as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

NATIONAL BESTSELLER • NATIONAL BOOK AWARD AND NATIONAL BOOK CRITICS CIRCLE AWARD FINALIST •  From the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of The Looming Tower comes “an utterly necessary story” (The Wall Street Journal) that pulls back the curtain on the church of Scientology: one of the most secretive organizations at work today. • The Basis for the HBO Documentary.

Scientology presents itself as a scientific approach to spiritual enlightenment, but its practices have long been shrouded in mystery. Now Lawrence Wright—armed with his investigative talents, years of archival research, and more than two hundred personal interviews with current and former Scientologists—uncovers…


Book cover of The Racist Mind: Portraits of American Neo-Nazis and Klansmen

Richard Abanes Why did I love this book?

One of the most important investigations of America’s far-right White Supremacist movement. This highly informative  volume, which I used while doing my own research of the movement for various projects, is based primarily on the  actual words/views voiced by White supremacists with whom the author lived for many months. Fascinating and  disturbing. 

By Raphael S. Ezekiel,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Racist Mind as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

"Ezekiel's pointed volume is the best available modern source for grasping the psychological foundations of the Radical Right."-Thomas F Pettigrew, Univ. of Cal., Santa Cruz.


Book cover of The Evangelical Dictionary of World Religions

Richard Abanes Why did I love this book?

From an evangelical Christian perspective, this reference work covers a wide range of topics via short, easy-to-understand, fact-based, and information-packed essays that range from just a paragraph to several pages. It’s an excellent research tool to which I contributed several essays. Some of the best researchers, scholars, and experts in the field of world religions were part of the large editorial team that produced this benchmark work.

By H. Wayne House (editor),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Evangelical Dictionary of World Religions as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

With all of the different religions, sects, denominations, and belief systems out there, it can be difficult to separate the facts from mere opinion, especially if one is relying solely on online sources which may or may not be vetted and which often have an ideological or political slant to them. How can we truly understand if we cannot even be sure we are getting the facts straight?

In this comprehensive resource, more than 75 evangelical scholars offer a thoroughly researched guide to Christianity, other world religions, and alternative religious views, including entries on movements, theological terms, and major historical…


Book cover of Combating Cult Mind Control: The #1 Best-Selling Guide to Protection, Rescue, and Recovery from Destructive Cults

Richard Abanes Why did I love this book?

As someone who personally knows this author, I can say with absolute certainty that this is one of the best go-to books for anyone interested in cult structure and the dynamics of cult involvement. If you’ve ever been perplexed by how someone could possibly get involved in not just a religion-based cult, but also a politics-based cult, then this is the volume for you. It’s intriguing, as well as informative.  

By Steven Hassan,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Combating Cult Mind Control as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Combating Cult Mind Control: The #1 Best-Selling Guide to Protection, Rescue and Recovery from Destructive Cults:
This 2018, 30th-anniversary edition honors the 40th anniversary of the tragedy in Jonestown, Guyana. On November 18th, 1978, over 900 people including a U.S. congressman Leo Ryan died because of Cult Leader Jim Jones. Over 300 were children forced to drink cyanide-laced Kool-Aid by their parents who believed they were doing God’s will. The techniques of undue influence have evolved dramatically, and continue to do so. Today, a vast array of methods exist to deceive, manipulate, and indoctrinate people into closed systems of obedience…


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The Edge of Too Late

By Jan Sikes,

Book cover of The Edge of Too Late

Jan Sikes Author Of The Edge of Too Late

New book alert!

Who am I?

Author Avid reader Lover of Music Astral Traveler Tarot Reader Grandmother

Jan's 3 favorite reads in 2023

What is my book about?

What's the point of having it all when you have no one to share it with? Brandon Miller has everything—except a commitment from the woman he loves. Angela Cooper has deep scars from a previous marriage. She's not interested in a do-over with Brandon or anyone.

Yet, he arranges a romantic getaway to the historic Harbor Pointe Inn, where he plans to propose. Angela's got her camera in hand and ghosts on her mind, but they arrive to find a much more tangible horror. Accident or foul play? Angela becomes the next target, and when suspects can be worldly or otherworldly, danger and secrets lurk everywhere. Poised at the perilous edge of too late, Angela and Brandon face the fight of their lives.

The Edge of Too Late

By Jan Sikes,


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