One man’s cult is another man’s religion, and the wealthy, recognising this dynamic, build power through their embrace of these top five modern cults.
In the labyrinth of power, wealth, and unconventional faith, the unexpected intersections where affluent individuals connect through shared beliefs create a rich tapestry of intrigue. Wealthy individuals, ever on the lookout for avenues of influence, expansion, and preservation of their wealth, find in these cults a unique concoction of exclusivity, networking opportunities, and affirmation of their worldviews. Cults, often shrouded in secrecy and seclusion, provide a paradoxical sense of community and individualism, appealing to those who perceive themselves as distinct, yet value connection and mutual benefit. By participating in these organizations, the affluent not only consolidate their wealth but also expand their network and influence, contributing to the adage, “the rich get richer.”
In the past 60 years, a unique group of modern cults, alternatively understood as unconventional religious movements, have burgeoned globally. These organizations, divergent as their cultural roots, harbor a stunning accumulation of wealth. This exploration navigates through the top five cults whose financial clout and influence are undeniably significant, providing the wealthy with community, spiritual fulfillment, and sometimes, advantageous networking opportunities.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints:
With an estimated wealth exceeding 100 billion USD, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS) has a captivating history riddled with intriguing financial practices and doctrines.
- Their unique tithing system encourages members to contribute a significant portion of their income, resulting in substantial wealth accumulation.
- The Church owns vast landholdings throughout the U.S, primarily used for agriculture and ranching.
- Wealthy and influential figures, such as Jon Huntsman Sr., founder of the Huntsman Corporation, and Marriott International’s J. Willard Marriott, are well-known members.
- Cult experts often dispute the LDS Church’s classification, but its influence, especially within the U.S., is undeniable.
Sri Venkateswara Swamy Temple:
The Sri Venkateswara Swamy Temple in India, commanding a remarkable wealth of 30 billion USD, is one of the globe’s richest places of worship.
- Its income stems largely from the abundant donations of devotees, many of whom are successful businesspeople and celebrities.
- The temple is also a major landholder, controlling large swaths of property around Tirumala.
- High-profile figures, such as the Ambani family, who control India’s largest private corporation, are ardent devotees.
- Cult experts acknowledge the temple’s prominent spiritual and economic stature within India.
Catholic Church in Germany:
Commanding an astounding 26 billion USD, the Catholic Church in Germany holds a formidable position in both religious and economic realms.
- The state-collected church tax (Kirchensteuer) contributes significantly to the church’s wealth, alongside property holdings and investments.
- Prominent business leaders like Hubert Burda and Maria-Elisabeth Schaeffler are known members.
- Experts highlight the Church’s influence, which extends beyond spirituality into the socioeconomic aspects of German life.
Catholic Church in France:
Despite a rise in secularism, the Catholic Church in France stands resilient, boasting an estimated wealth of 23 billion USD.
- The Church’s wealth originates from donations, vast property holdings, and profitable investments.
- Wealthy figures such as Bernard Arnault, CEO of LVMH, and François Pinault, founder of Kering, are reportedly followers.
- Experts underscore the Church’s historical heritage and its evolving role in France’s predominantly secular society.
Church of Scientology:
The Church of Scientology, a controversial yet financially robust religious movement, draws intrigue from many quarters.
- Its wealth accrues from member donations, lucrative property investments, and a range of legal and business ventures.
- Prominent members include Hollywood’s elite, such as Tom Cruise and John Travolta.
- Experts frequently debate Scientology’s fusion of celebrity, wealth, and spiritual belief and its significant cultural impact.
Over the last 60 years, a unique group of modern cults, alternatively understood as unconventional religious movements, have emerged globally. As varied as their cultural roots, these organizations amass remarkable wealth, with some even operating like well-oiled multinational corporations. They offer their wealthy adherents community, spiritual fulfillment, robust networking environments, and business opportunities, cementing their financial influence in society.
Wealth and Religion – The Personal Faiths of the World’s Elite
The Private Cult of Jeffrey Epstein
Jeffrey Epstein, a financier and convicted criminal, had no known religious affiliations. Instead, his “religion” could be said to revolve around sex, money, and blackmail. Epstein curated an insidious private cult, a shadowy realm that catered to the whims and vices of the ultra-elite wealthy.
- Epstein’s web of influential contacts was meticulously crafted, drawing from various spheres of wealth, power, and celebrity. It was in this nexus of influence that he orchestrated his illicit activities.
- While Epstein himself did not publicly espouse any specific religious or philosophical beliefs, the ethos of his private life was rooted in manipulation, exploitation, and the wielding of power as a weapon.
- His lifestyle, notorious for its debauchery and illicit activities, drew considerable public scrutiny, casting a stark light on the sordid underbelly of wealth and influence. The ethical dimensions of Epstein’s actions ignited intense discussions on the morality of the elite, the accountability of power, and the perversion of wealth.
- Epstein’s life serves as a cautionary tale of unchecked power and influence, reminding us that wealth and societal stature can be twisted into tools of exploitation and harm, particularly when insulated within secretive networks.
At the time of his death, Jeffrey Epstein was reportedly worth over $500 million, a fortune amassed through undisclosed means as Epstein never held a traditional job. His extensive real estate holdings spanned the globe, including a mansion in Manhattan, a private island in the U.S. Virgin Islands, a residence in Paris, a ranch in New Mexico, and a mansion in Palm Beach, Florida.
Though not directly involved with the top 5 cults mentioned, many of the world’s most affluent and influential figures have intriguing connections to religion, faith, and Epstein. Additionally, the following political and business leaders were also known associates of the infamous Jeffrey Epstein, and they were frequent flyers on his jet, visited his private island in the Virgin Islands, mansions in New York and Palm Beach, and donated money to many of Epstein’s “foundations.”
The Private Cult of Jefferey Epstein alleged members included:
Bill Gates, co-founder of Microsoft, is known to practice Protestant Christianity. His pragmatic approach to faith and immense philanthropy are defining characteristics of his public image, but he’s known to have a dark side.
- Gates’ connection to faith seems more personal than institutional, reflecting his humanitarian approach.
- His philanthropic efforts through the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation further extend his influence beyond the tech world.
- Gates’ connection to Epstein has been documented, with reports of several meetings between them. However, Gates has maintained that he had no business or personal relationship with Epstein.
Elon Musk, the mind behind Tesla and SpaceX, not known to be associated with any religious group or cult. But he’s become a “cult of personality” with Twitter.
- Musk’s existential views often focus on the advancement of technology and space exploration.
- His lack of traditional religious affiliation reflects a broader trend among tech entrepreneurs, suggesting a shift in the dynamics of wealth and religion.
- Musk’s relationship with Epstein is somewhat ambiguous. There is evidence of interaction but Musk has vehemently denied any close association with Epstein.
Bill Clinton, the 42nd President of the United States, a member of the Baptist Church.
- Clinton’s religious faith influenced several of his policies and public services.
- However, as a mainstream Protestant denomination, the Baptist Church diverges from the typical definition of a cult.
- Clinton’s association with Epstein was made public when flight logs revealed he had flown on Epstein’s private plane multiple times. Clinton has stated that his connection to Epstein was solely related to work for the Clinton Foundation.
Donald Trump, businessman and the 45th President of the United States, identifies as a Presbyterian.
- Trump’s faith seems to be more personal than institutional, but he has had notable associations with religious leaders during his business career and presidency.
- Although Trump’s religious affiliations have been a topic of interest, there is no evidence of his involvement with any groups considered to be cults. However, his MAGA could be considered the Walmart of Cults.
- Trump and Epstein were known to have a social relationship, with Epstein frequently visiting Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate. However, Trump reportedly distanced himself from Epstein long before Epstein’s legal troubles surfaced.
Several other noteworthy figures from various fields were also reported to have associated with Epstein. This includes notable individuals like Prince Andrew of the British royal family, former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak, and renowned lawyer Alan Dershowitz, further highlighting Epstein’s extensive network within the spheres of global wealth and influence.
These examples further underscore the complex dynamics between wealth, influence, and unconventional faith practices. Wealthy individuals might not always associate with “cults,” but the intersection of their influence and personal beliefs remains a fascinating avenue of study.
The intricate dance between wealth and cults offers a window into an intriguing facet of societal dynamics. It’s evident that the affluent often flock together, forming a tribe-like bond, united by shared beliefs, economic interests, and networking opportunities. After all, in the whimsical world of faith and fortune, one man’s cult is often another man’s religion.
These cults, shrouded in secrecy and potent influence, provide fertile grounds for business ventures, partnerships, and the consolidation of wealth and power. They are more than spiritual or philosophical havens; they are strategic institutions that help the wealthy enhance their wealth and influence.
As these powerful networks grow, they shape our economic, cultural, and spiritual landscapes in subtle yet profound ways. The symbiotic relationship between wealth and cults exemplifies the complexity of societal structures and reminds us of the intricate ways the rich maintain and increase their wealth.
This exploration merely scratches the surface of these fascinating interactions, inviting readers to delve deeper into the tangled world of wealth, power, and unconventional faith practices. From Bill Gates‘ personal approach to faith to Elon Musk’s fascination with existential technology, the world’s elite weave a fascinating narrative of influence, belief, and wealth.
Alex has written for Vanity Fair, Barrons, Bloomberg and Condé Nast Traveler.