Logo of The Campaign for Collective Apostasy in Spain, calling for defection from the Catholic Church

At the end of a fascinating Wikipedia article on Apostasy, these three paragraph appear:

“Sociologists Bromley and Hadden note a lack of empirical support for claimed consequences of having been a member of a “cult” or “sect”, and substantial empirical evidence against it. These include the fact that the overwhelming proportion of people who get involved in NRMs leave, most short of two years; the overwhelming proportion of people who leave do so of their own volition; and that two-thirds (67%) felt “wiser for the experience”.'[119]

“According to F. Derks and psychologist of religion Jan van der Lans, there is no uniform post-cult trauma. While psychological and social problems upon resignation are not uncommon, their character and intensity are greatly dependent on the personal history and on the traits of the ex-member, and on the reasons for and way of resignation.'[120]

“The report of the “Swedish Government’s Commission on New Religious Movements” (1998) states that the great majority of members of new religious movements derive positive experiences from their subscription to ideas or doctrines that correspond to their personal needs—and that withdrawal from these movements is usually quite undramatic, as these people leave feeling enriched by a predominantly positive experience. Although the report describes that there are a small number of withdrawals that require support (100 out of 50,000+ people), the report did not recommend that any special resources be established for their rehabilitation, as these cases are very rare.[121]”.

I’m sure that citing those paragraphs of scientific studies by those social scientists is going to make me even more popular among Anti-Scientologists (not). What’s so fascinating to me is – with all their feigned love of SCIENCE – how little influence actual science has on Anti-Scientologists for their claims of “mental damage” that Scientology, and other cults, do to people.

Why do you think that would be?

Because the preponderance of scientific evidence on this subject raises serious doubt on the claims of Anti-Scientologists, and other members of the anti-cult movement.

This scientific study from the University of North Carolina in 1989 shows a very high correlation between an hysterically negative view of one’s former religion and exposure to the ideas of the anti-cult movement.

As an Ex-Scientologist, there is so much to learn from social scientists in this area.

Here’s more from the article:

The American sociologist Lewis A. Coser (following the German philosopher and sociologist Max Scheler) defines an apostate as not just a person who experienced a dramatic change in conviction but “a man who, even in his new state of belief, is spiritually living not primarily in the content of that faith, in the pursuit of goals appropriate to it, but only in the struggle against the old faith and for the sake of its negation.”

The American sociologist David G. Bromley defined the apostate role as follows and distinguished it from the “defector” and the “whistleblower” roles.

  • Apostate role: defined as one that occurs in a highly polarized situation in which an organization member undertakes a total change of loyalties by allying with one or more elements of an oppositional coalition without the consent or control of the organization. The narrative documents the quintessentially evil essence of the apostate’s former organization chronicled through the apostate’s personal experience of capture and ultimate escape/rescue.
  • Defector role: an organizational participant negotiates exit primarily with organizational authorities, who grant permission for role relinquishment, control the exit process, and facilitate role transmission. The jointly constructed narrative assigns primary moral responsibility for role performance problems to the departing member and interprets organizational permission as commitment to extraordinary moral standards and preservation of public trust.
  • Whistle-blower role: defined here as when an organization member forms an alliance with an external regulatory agency through personal testimony concerning specific, contested organizational practices that the external unit uses to sanction the organization. The narrative constructed jointly by the whistle blower and regulatory agency is depicts the whistle-blower as motivated by personal conscience, and the organization by defense of the public interest.

Stuart A. Wright, an American sociologist and author, asserts that apostasy is a unique phenomenon and a distinct type of religious defection, in which the apostate is a defector “who is aligned with an oppositional coalition in an effort to broaden the dispute, and embraces public claims-making activities to attack his or her former group.[5]

That bolded is mine. Does it sound familiar?

Context is everything. Breaking these 3 types of Exes out into those three bins above:

  • Apostate Role
  • Defector Role
  • Whistle-blower Role

allows for a better analysis of the types of ways that people leave cults. And, I think it better illuminates your own context as an Ex-Scientologist. The prevailing view among Ex-Scientologists is that the Apostate group shows “more responsibility” for their fellow man. But the apostate group has some very revealing characteristics:

The Capture Story

The Atrocity Tales

The Escape Story

The Pleas for Government Intervention (and the resulting government apathy to such pleas)

These characteristics don’t only occur with Anti-Scientologist apostates. They occur in a very small percentage of all people who leave all religions.

They are the Apostate group.

They have been identified by social scientists who study these things. And not all of them are “paid off” by the Church of Scientology, either. The apostate group is different in the ways above than others who leave.

Is apostasy an identifiable human response for some people who change their minds about something as deeply rooted into their self-identity as religious and spiritual belief?

I am very aware that the Church of Scientology has used the word “apostate” to try to discredit the atrocity tales of Ex-Scientologists and to shudder them into silence. But this particular use of the word is of a very specific group of people who share many very real characteristics from many different religions and cults – not just Scientology – but ALL religions. We could call them the “Striped Shirt/Plaid Pants” group from now on if that helps your passions make your reason less passive.

By studying this information, I think I have found one of the last steps of leaving Ex-Scientology behind forever – by owning my apostasy.

More on this for future posts.

What? You thought I’d just shut up now and disappear?

No way.

Just like when I left Scientology, I’m just getting started leaving Ex-Scientology!