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How were people persuaded to follow this guy?

I don't know… perhaps he's very charismatic, and sincere in his beliefs. (In which case he is, perhaps, psychotic. But that still doesn't forgive the parents in my mind.)

Years ago I recall someone* try and explain the difference between a legitimate religion and a cult. He said that if you questioned a legit Orthodox Rabbi, for example, about his teachings, he would be happy for you to ask other Orthodox rabbis, for you would quickly find they all agreed. In contrast, any "religious" leader who tells you that he alone knows G-ds will is running a cult.

A legit leader shouldn't be asking you to keep secrets (which this guy almost certainly did), nor should he be threatened by your consulting others.

* I think it was Mark Powers, then the National Director of the anti-cult and counter-missionary group Jews for Judaism. But my memory could be wrong.
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