The Anti-Cult Movement

Once upon a time, a marine biologist learned to speak directly to a fish.

He was thrilled with his new found ability and he wanted to immediately use it to produce scientific results like no other marine biologist before him. So he thought very hard and prepared a highly detailed series of questions that he would ask the fish on his very first inter-species interview.

On the morning of the interview, he set up his laboratory environment, prepared his notes, and then placed the fishbowl in front of him. He carefully pointed the special speakers into the water with the fish. His microphone was perfectly tested and ready to go.

He sat upright, straightened his lab coat, and asked his first question:

“What do you think of water?”

The fish looked around, up and down, and asked, “What’s water?”

________

This story symbolizes the last 17 years of my life.

I was a member of an anti-cult movement which surrounded all my thoughts and feelings and was embedded deeply into my whole life. It was all around me. If someone had said the words “anti-cult movement” to me those words would just swoosh right over my head. I was so in it, that I did not even notice it, or even think twice about it.

It seemed like the only choice after I’d left Scientology.

Wikipedia defines Anti-Cult Movement as:

The anti-cult movement (abbreviated ACM; sometimes called the countercult movement) opposes any new religious movement (NRM) that they characterize as a cult. Sociologists David Bromley and Anson Shupe initially defined the ACM in 1981 as a collection of groups embracing brainwashing-theory, but later observed a significant shift in ideology towards pathologizing membership in NRMs. There are also Christian counter-cult organizations that oppose NRMs on theological grounds and spread information through church networks and printed literature.

The Concept of an ACM

The anti-cult movement is conceptualized as a collection of individuals and groups, whether formally organized or not, who oppose some new religious movements (or “cults“). This countermovement has reportedly recruited participants from family members of “cultists”, former group members (or apostates), religious groups (including Jewish groups) and associations of health professionals. Although there is a trend towards globalization, the social and organizational bases vary significantly from country to country according to the social and political opportunity structures in each place.

As with many subjects in the social sciences, the movement is variously defined. A significant minority opinion suggests that analysis should treat the secular anti-cult movement separately from the religiously motivated (mainly Christian) groups.

The anti-cult movement might be divided into four classes:

  1. Secular counter-cult groups;
  2. Christian evangelical counter-cult groups;
  3. Groups formed to counter a specific cult; and
  4. Organizations that offer some form of exit counseling.

Most, if not all, the groups involved express the view that there are potentially deleterious effects associated with some new religious movements.

Religious and secular critics

Commentators differentiate two main types of opposition to “cults”:

  • Religious opposition: related to theological issues.

  • Secular opposition: related to emotional, social, financial, and economic consequences of cult involvement, where “cult” can refer to a religious or to a secular group.

Barker’s five types of cult-watching groups

According to sociologist Eileen Barker, cult-watching groups (CWGs) disseminate information about “cults” with the intent of changing public and government perception as well as of changing public policy regarding NRMs.

Barker has identified five types of CWG:

  1. cult-awareness groups (CAGs) focusing on the harm done by “destructive cults”
  2. counter-cult groups (CCGs) focusing on the (heretical) teaching of non-mainstream groups
  3. research-oriented groups (ROGs) focusing on beliefs, practices and comparisons
  4. human-rights groups (HRGs) focusing on the human rights of religious minorities
  5. cult-defender groups (CDGs) focusing on defending cults and exposing CAGs

Hadden’s taxonomy of the anti-cult movement

Jeffrey K. Hadden sees four distinct classes of opposition to “cults”:

  1. Opposition grounded on Religion

    • Opposition usually defined in theological terms.
    • Cults considered heretical.
    • Endeavors to expose the heresy and correct the beliefs of those who have strayed from a truth.
    • Prefers metaphors of deception rather than possession.
    • Serves two important functions:
      • protects members (especially youth) from heresy, and
      • increases solidarity among the faithful.
  2. Secular opposition

    • Regards individual autonomy as the manifest goal — achieved by getting people out of groups using mind control and deceptive proselytization.
    • Regards the struggle as an issue of control rather than theology.
    • Organizes around families of children currently or previously involved in a cult.
    • Has the unannounced goal of disabling or destroying NRMs organizationally.
  3. Apostates

    • Former members who consider themselves egregiously wronged by a cult, often with the coordination and encouragement of anti-cult groups.
  4. Entrepreneurial opposition

    • A few “entrepreneurs” who have made careers of organizing opposition groups.

    • Broadcasters, journalists, and lawyers who base a reputation or career on anti-cult activities

Cult-watching groups and individuals, and other opposition to cults

Family-members of adherents

Some opposition to cults (and to some new religious movements) started with family-members of cult-adherents who had problems with the sudden changes in character, lifestyle and future plans of their young adult children who had joined NRMs. Ted Patrick, widely known as “the father of deprogramming“, exemplifies members of this group. The former Cult Awareness Network (old CAN) grew out of a grassroots-movement by parents of cult-members. The American Family Foundation (today the International Cultic Studies Association) originated from a father whose daughter had joined a high-control group.

Clinical psychologists and psychiatrists

From the 1970s onwards some psychiatrists and clinical psychologists accused “cults” of harming some of their members. These accusations were sometimes based on observations made during therapy, and sometimes were related to theories regarding brainwashing or mind-control.

Former members

Anson Shupe, David G. Bromley and Joseph Ventimiglia coined the term atrocity tales in 1979, which Bryan R. Wilson later took up in relation to former members’ narratives. Bromley and Shupe defined an “atrocity tale” as the symbolic presentation of action or events, real or imagined, in such a context that they come to flagrantly violate the (presumably) shared premises upon which a given set of social relationships should take place. The recounting of such tales has the intention of reaffirming normative boundaries. By sharing the reporter’s disapproval or horror, an audience reasserts normative prescription and clearly locates the violator beyond the limits of public morality.

Christian countercult movement

In the 1940s, the long held opposition by some established Christian denominations to non-Christian religions or supposedly heretical, or counterfeit, Christian sects crystallized into a more organized Christian counter cult movement in the United States. For those belonging to the movement, all religious groups claiming to be Christian, but deemed outside of Christian orthodoxy, were considered “cults”.[17] Christian cults are new religious movements which have a Christian background but are considered to be theologically deviant by members of other Christian churches.[18] In his influential book The Kingdom of the Cults, first published in the United States in 1965, Christian scholar Walter Martin defines Christian cults as groups that follow the personal interpretation of an individual, rather than the understanding of the Bible accepted by mainstream Christianity. He mentions The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Christian Science, the Jehovah’s Witnesses, Unitarian Universalism, and Unity as examples.

The Christian countercult movement asserts that Christian sects whose beliefs are partially or wholly not in accordance with the Bible are erroneous. It also states that a religious sect can be considered a “cult” if its beliefs involve a denial of what they view as any of the essential Christian teachings such as salvation, the Trinity, Jesus himself as a person, the ministry of Jesus, the Miracles of Jesus, the Crucifixion of Jesus, the Death of Christ, the Resurrection of Christ, the Second Coming of Christ, and the Rapture.

Countercult literature usually expresses doctrinal or theological concerns and a missionary or apologetic purpose. It presents a rebuttal by emphasizing the teachings of the Bible against the beliefs of non-fundamental Christian sects. Christian countercult activist writers also emphasize the need for Christians to evangelize to followers of cults.

Governmental opposition

For more details on this topic, see Governmental lists of cults and sects.

The secular opposition to cults and new religious movements operates internationally, though a number of sizable and sometimes expanding groups originated in the United States. Some European countries, such as France, Germany, Belgium and Switzerland have introduced legislation or taken other measures against cults or “cultic deviations”.

In the Netherlands “cults“, sects, and new religious movements have the same legal rights as larger and more mainstream religious movements. As of 2004, the Netherlands do not have an anti-cult movement of any significance.

Polarized views among scholars

Social scientists, sociologists, religious scholars, psychologists and psychiatrists have studied the modern field of “cults” and new religious movements since the early 1980s. Debates about certain purported cults and about cults in general often become polarized with widely divergent opinions, not only among current followers and disaffected former members, but sometimes among scholars as well.

All academics agree that some groups have become problematic and sometimes very problematic, but they disagree over the extent to which new religious movements in general cause harm.

Several scholars have questioned Hadden’s attitude towards NRMs and cult critics as one-sided.

Scholars in the field of new religious movements confront many controversial subjects:

Janet Jacobs expresses the range of views on the membership of the perceived ACM itself, ranging from those who comment on “the value of the Cult Awareness Network, the value of exit therapy for former members of new religious movements, and alternative modes of support for family members of individuals who have joined new religions” and extending to “a more critical perspective on [a perceived] wide range of ACM activities that threaten religious freedom and individual rights.”

Brainwashing and mind-control

Over the years various controversial theories of conversion and member retention have been proposed that link mind control to NRMs, and particularly those religious movements referred to as “cults” by their critics. These theories resemble the original political brainwashing theories first developed by the CIA as a propaganda device to combat communism,[43] with some minor changes. Philip Zimbardo discusses mind control as “… the process by which individual or collective freedom of choice and action is compromised by agents or agencies that modify or distort perception, motivation, affect, cognition and/or behavioral outcomes”,[44] and he suggests that any human being is susceptible to such manipulation.[45] In a 1999 book, Robert Lifton also applied his original ideas about thought reform to Aum Shinrikyo, concluding that in this context thought reform was possible without violence or physical coercion. Margaret Singer, who also spent time studying the political brainwashing of Korean prisoners of war, agreed with this conclusion: in her book Cults in Our Midst she describes six conditions which would create an atmosphere in which thought reform is possible.

James T. Richardson observes that if the NRMs had access to powerful brainwashing techniques, one would expect that NRMs would have high growth rates, yet in fact most have not had notable success in recruitment. Most adherents participate for only a short time, and the success in retaining members is limited.  For this and other reasons, sociologists of religion including David G. Bromley and Anson D. Shupe consider the idea that cults are brainwashing American youth to be “implausible”.[48] In addition to Bromley, Thomas Robbins, Dick Anthony, Eileen Barker, Newton Maloney, Massimo Introvigne, John Hall, Lorne L. Dawson, Anson D. Shupe, J. Gordon Melton, Marc Galanter, Saul Levine of Mount Wilson FM Broadcasters, Inc, amongst other scholars researching NRMs, have argued and established to the satisfaction of courts, relevant professional associations and scientific communities that there exists no scientific theory, generally accepted and based upon methodologically sound research, that supports the brainwashing theories as advanced by the anti-cult movement.

Deprogramming or exit-counseling

Further information: Deprogramming

Some members of the secular opposition to cults and to some new religious movements have argued that if brainwashing has deprived a person of their free will, treatment to restore their free will should take place, even if the “victim” opposes this.

Precedents for this exist in the treatment of certain mental illnesses: in such cases medical and legal authorities recognize the condition as depriving sufferers of their ability to make appropriate decisions for themselves. But the practice of forcing treatment on a presumed victim of “brainwashing” (one definition of “deprogramming“) has constantly proven controversial. Human-rights organizations (including the ACLU and Human Rights Watch) have criticized deprogramming, too. While only a small fraction of the anti-cult movement has had involvement in deprogramming, several deprogrammers (including a deprogramming-pioneer, Ted Patrick) have served prison-terms for acts sometimes associated with deprogramming including kidnapping and rape, while courts have acquitted others.[34]

Responses of targeted groups and scholars

The Foundation against Intolerance of Religious Minorities, associated with the Adidam NRM, sees the use of terms “cult” and “cult leader” as detestable and as something to avoid at all costs. The Foundation regards such usage as the exercise of prejudice and discrimination against them in the same manner as the words “nigger” and “commie” served in the past to denigrate blacks and Communists.

CESNUR‘s president Massimo Introvigne, writes in his article “So many evil things: Anti-cult terrorism via the Internet”, that fringe and extreme anti-cult activists resort to tactics that may create a background favorable to extreme manifestations of discrimination and hate against individuals that belong to new religious movements. Professor Eileen Barker points out in an interview that the controversy surrounding certain new religious movements can turn violent by a process called deviancy amplification spiral.

In a paper presented at the 2000 meeting of the Society for the Scientific Study of Religion, Anson Shupe and Susan Darnell argued that although the International Cultic Studies Association (ICSA, formerly known as AFF or American Family Foundation) has presented “… slanted, stereotypical images and language that has inflamed persons to perform extreme actions”, the extent to which one can classify the ICSA and other anti-cult organizations as “hate-groups” (as defined by law in some jurisdictions or by racial or ethnic criteria in sociology) remains open to debate. In 2005, the Hate Crimes Unit of the Edmonton Police Service confiscated anti-Falun Gong materials distributed at the annual conference of the ICSA by staff members of the Chinese Consulate in Calgary. The materials, including the calling of Falun Gong a “cult”, were identified as having breached the Criminal Code, which bans the willful promotion of hatred against identifiable religious groups (see also Verbal violence in hate groups).

An article on the categorization of new religious movements in US media published by The Association for the Sociology of Religion (formerly the American Catholic Sociological Society) criticizes the print media for failing to recognize social-scientific efforts in the area of new religious movements, and its tendency to use anti-cultist definitions rather than social-scientific insight, and asserts that The failure of the print media to recognize social-scientific efforts in the area of religious movement organizations (as our previous research [van Driel and Richardson, 1985] also shows) impels us to add yet another failing mark to the media report card Weiss (1985) has constructed to assess the media’s reporting of the social sciences.

That’s right. This blog post is a 90% cut and paste job of almost the whole article on wikipedia on the Anti-Cult Movement

There’s more there, including a bunch of references at the end of the article.

You’ll have to excuse me for my lack of digestion and commentary.

I’m like a fish who’s finally discovering what water is.

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Richard
Guest

With all the acronyms going on, Mark Rathbun was lucky he could focus on scn with an S in the middle and create a brand new acronym, ASC, Anti Scientology Cult. When Marty first started his ASC tirade someone posted “Your uniform is pressed and ready for you, Marty.” That made me laugh and I thought Marty was a good sport for posting it.

Hexagonal Thetan
Guest

I am from Italy and this is the first time I write on this blog, I hope to write in an understandable English.

Being anti-something isn’t necessarily a bad thing.

Anti-nazism, anti-fascism and anti-communism aren’t bad things, at least to me (althought I think nazis, fascists and communists would not agree ).

Being anti-something doesn’t mean that one necessarily has to HATE that something, to me it means that I OBJECT to that something.

You know that Scientology objects to (and even hates) the wog world: Scientology is anti-wog.

So I see no evil or wrong in being anti-Scn, that is to OBJECT to Scientology with legal methods.

Can we ever get out of this collision? I fear not, because Scientology goals probably will never change … and one of the main Scientology goal is a cleared planet.

Do we have to stop Scientology? This is a tought and dangerous question.

But if I said … do we have to stop nazis? Probably no one would object … except the nazis.

Is it fair to compare Scientology to nazis? Maybe not … but even some freezoners believe that the infamous Ron suggestion to get rid of the low toned (from 1.1 down)
could be beneficial to the planet while ruling it with the Simon Bolivar policy methods. A real hell on earth.

Fortunately Scientology is too small to be a real danger, but the potential Scientology dangerousness and fanaticism are not a fairy tale.

After 11 years into Scn as a Class V Auditor and after 18 years from my “escape” I still think that Scn is an organization with parafascistic traits and goals, so being anti-this-pseudospiritual-materialistic-totalitarian-hodgepodge-called-scientology to me isn’t a deprecable thing.

Because of Scientology I gave away my work, my money and , ultimately, part of my life. Then, after 11 years, I woke up and I had to start again from the scratch.
I am from Italy and this is the first time I write on this blog, I hope to write in an understandable English.

Being anti-something isn’t necessarily a bad thing.

Anti-nazism, anti-fascism and anti-communism aren’t bad things, at least to me (althought I think nazis, fascists and communists would not agree ).

Being anti-something doesn’t mean that one necessarily has to HATE that something, to me it means that I OBJECT to that something.

You know that Scientology objects to (and even hates) the wog world: Scientology is anti-wog.

So I see no evil or wrong in being anti-Scn, that is to OBJECT to Scientology with legal methods.

Can we ever get out of this collision? I fear not, because Scientology goals probably will never change … and one of the main Scientology goal is a cleared planet.

Do we have to stop Scientology? This is a tought and dangerous question.

But if I said … do we have to stop nazis? Probably no one would object … except the nazis.

Is it fair to compare Scientology to nazis? Maybe not … but even some freezoners believe that the infamous Ron suggestion to get rid of the low toned (from 1.1 down)
could be beneficial to the planet while ruling it with the “Simon Bolivar policy” methods. A real hell on earth.

Fortunately Scientology is too small to be a real danger, but the potential Scientology dangerousness and fanaticism are not a fairy tale.

After 11 years into Scn as a Class V Auditor and after 18 years from my “escape” I still think that Scn is an organization with parafascistic traits and goals, so being anti-this-pseudospiritual-materialistic-totalitarian-hodgepodge-called-scientology to me isn’t a deprecable thing.

Because of Scientology I gave away my work, my money and , ultimately, part of my life. Then, after 11 years, I woke up and I had to start again from the scratch.

Sure it wasn’t all Scientology’s fault, I better had to wake up before from that sham dream. I am still surprised to have been so gullible to think I was “saving the world” (ohmmaygod!!!) while being a semi-slave of the Org production chain.

But sure it wasn’t all my fault, if Hubbard/Scientology/Miscavige had been honest with their communications surely I would have gone straight away.

If one person sells you an empty parcel for a very high price and you buy it, maybe you are gullible but that person is a crook.

You can nitpick elements inside Scientology that can be interesting and stimulating.

I myself am still fascinated by L Ron REAL history and by some of his countless techniques (many of which borrowed).

But the fact that Alber Speer was a great architect under Hitler does not make nazism more passable.

Richard
Guest

Good comment, HT. Your English is fine. Like you, I just can’t get too soft (easy) on scn. It follows:

Scn is still in the news. While waiting in line at a convenience store today I noticed that pictures of Tom Cruise, JohnTravolta and Kristy Ally were on the front cover of everyone’s favorite newspaper, The National Enquirer. I scanned it while waiting. Kristy took her adopted kid (she’s 66) to a supposedly non scn event and the scn-ists attending were quite happy about it. The non scn event had people pitching scn and the food was shitty.

Scn is my claim to fame. People say “You were in Scientology? REALLY??”

Richard
Guest

Sociology departments at universities could create a new classification, BSCS, Bachelor of Science in Cult Sciences, or something like that. Many ex scn-ists could breeze through a course like that and be certified as cult/ideology counsellors. Pres. Trump would approve since it would create some jobs. Alanzo would instantly be awarded a professorship at some cornfield university! Professor Alanzo’s class is now in session!

Gib
Guest

I didn’t know you were “I was a member of an anti-cult movement” as you stated in your post.

Myself, I’m part of the anti scientology movement being a ex member as I have come to the conclusion there is no scientology but only Hubbardology. And I like exposing the untruthfulness of Hubbardology.

Maybe I shouldn’t post here anymore, nothing against you Alanzo, just my view.

Richard
Guest

Whatever else Hubbard might be accused of, it can’t be said that he was not diversified in his studies and background. Gib and others have done extensive research into Elron’s use of rhetoric, crowd psychology, affirmations, government intelligence background (The McClaughry’s Blog), hypnosis, etc. etc. etc.

George White probably did the most extensive study of the occult background of scn/hubbardology to date. Here’s the definition of occult from http://www.dictionary.com which some people might find interesting. I find that dictionary.com is a useful tool in that it has clear but uncomplicated definitions, which, incidentally, is the type of dictionary recommended in the “study tech” (which some people, naturally, regard as junk since it appears in scn)

occult – adjective

1. of or relating to magic, astrology or any system claiming use or knowledge of secret or supernatural powers or agencies.
2. beyond the range of ordinary understanding; mysterious.
3. secret; disclosed or communicated only to the initiated.
4. hidden from view.
5. a. not apparent on mere inspection but discoverable by experimentation.
b. of a nature not understood, as physical qualities.
c. dealing with such qualities; experimental: “occult science”
6. Medicine/Medical. present in amounts too small to be visible: “a chemical test to detect occult blood in the stool”

occult – noun

7. the supernatural agencies and affairs considered as a whole, usually preceded by ‘the’.
8. occult studies or sciences, usually preceded by ‘the’.

origin of occult – 1520-30 < Latin occultus (past participle of occulere, to hide from view, cover up)

http://www.dictionary.com

Junk Phrases
Guest

Interesting take on the ACM POV. Ted Patrick is an interesting and *still* controversial after all this time. There is an amazing documentary on Mr. Patrick on Netflix, and has some additional stories about ex cult members.

Gib
Guest

there is something you should know Richard, Le Bon actually goes over “Mystic” logic in his book, and this is the book Hubbard read as he mentioned to Heinlein pre Dianetics release and development of Dianetics along with Campbell and Dr Winter.

http://www.infoamerica.org/documentos_pdf/lebon6.pdf

Le Bon is French, and guess what, France has been outlawing Scientology. Maybe those folks over there know something from their history and reading of Le Bon? I don’t know for sure.

Richard
Guest

A long time commenter and long time Buddhist (not George White) has posted a version of this a few times on the blogs:

“The Yogis, the adepts and the sages of all persuasion say that no spiritual effort is wasted. All lessons are valid. There are no mistakes. We experience what we experience. We learn what we learn.”

However, he has lately been on full attack mode of scn – lol
I guess he figures it’s ok if you “were in”, but now get out or don’t “go in” in the first place.

Eileen
Guest

Richard, that is very interesting (the idea that no effort expended is wasted). Reminds me that “matter can be neither created nor destroyed, only transformed”. Was that Einstein?

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