If you like cult documentaries, the recently released HBO/Max docuseries, "Love Has Won: The Cult of Mother God," is a must-see. I binged the entire 3-part series last night and was riveted. I already knew a great deal about the cult, as I've followed Be Scofield's terrific reporting over the last few years, and even watched my fair share of the cult's livestreams before leader Amy Carlson died. Even so, the HBO/Max docuseries was informative—and also highly disturbing.
HBO describes the docuseries:
Love Has Won: The Cult of Mother God chronicles the life and death of Amy Carlson, also known as Mother God, a self-proclaimed spiritual savior who built a cult through her online manifestos and live-streaming sessions. As Amy's health declined, her followers believed her death would lead to her evacuation by UFO and salvation for humanity. Told through the eyes of Amy's devotees and constructed from the cult's archival footage, the three-part docuseries captures the perils of internet proselytizing and a conspiracy-driven faith.
HBO Documentary Films presents an Elara Pictures Production, Love Has Won: The Cult of Mother God. Director, Hannah Olson; producers, Ana Veselic and Matthew Killip; executive producers, Dani Bernfeld, Ronald Bronstein, Benny Safdie, Josh Safdie, Lauren Cioffi, and Hannah Olson. For HBO: executive producers, Nancy Abraham, Lisa Heller, and Sara Rodriguez.
People magazine has a great review of the piece, which includes excerpts from an interview with cult expert Rick Alan Ross:
Noted cult expert Rick Alan Ross of the nonprofit Cult Education Institute,who has helped save more than 500 people from predators such as Branch Davidian leader David Koresh and NVIVM founder Keith Raniere, says Love Has Won was one of the most dangerous groups he's ever encountered.
"This was a very controlled, tightly wound group," he tells PEOPLE, "led by an outrageously destructive and abusive leader."
Carlson, he says, "could be extremely physically and emotionally abusive. She would scream at them, slap them and lock them in closets."
She made sure to socially isolate members and make them completely dependent on her for everything, including what to think, he says.
They endured her abuse, he says, because she had made them believe she was their "all-powerful" leader with godlike powers.
"In that alternate reality those people had no alternate perspective," he says. "She controlled the environment until her death and exploited them terribly."
Like other cult leaders, he says, Carlson "was a malignant narcissist obsessed with grandiose claims about herself, including that she was god manifested on earth. When you have a leader as crazy and delusional as Amy Carlson, it's a formula for tragedy."
Whether you're already very familiar with Amy Carlson and Love Has Won, or this is the first you're hearing about it, the docuseries is definitely worth a watch. Be prepared, though, the story of Amy Carlson and her followers is as tragic as it infuriating, and the series contains some very disconcerting images, including post-death footage of "Mother God," who died of alcoholism, anorexia, and colloidal silver poisoning.