How The Anti Cult Movement’s Ideology Harms Ex-Members

TAKE BACK YOUR POWER FROM THE ANTI CULT MOVEMENTThe anti cult movement teaches that minority religions harm the mental health of their members.

Hundreds of psychological practices have been built on the idea that Ex members of these minority religions are suffering from some form of mental illness, and that they need to ‘recover’ from it.

Leaving your previous religious or spiritual pursuit, whatever it is, can certainly be a time of upheaval in your life. There’s even a phrase for it “Losing My Religion”, and a song for it, too.

Adopting the beliefs of the anti-cult movement dramatically changes the views and attitudes of those who experience a loss of faith in their previous religion. And those changes have a profound effect on how Exes make sense of their own past.

So we must ask: How helpful is the ideology of the anti cult movement in making sense of things?

Is it even true?

A Religion or an Ideology As a Sense-Making Instrument

Sensemaking is the process by which humans give meaning to experience.

A lot of data comes at you from the world during the course of a day and you’ve got to process it to act effectively. A religious belief system can help perform this role for you, giving you time-tested beliefs and solutions that tell you what thoughts, attitudes, and behaviors to adopt.

When you are in a group of people who are all applying the same sensemaking instrument to the world then you’ve got a shared culture that gives you stability as a human being. It gives you status and all the other good things that we get out of belonging to a tribe.

Ex Members Are in a More Vulnerable State When They Leave a ‘Cult” Than When They Joined One

It’s a stereotype to say that whenever anyone joined a cult, they did so because they were in a vulnerable state of their lives. Some were, some weren’t.

But to say that an Ex-member who has just left a ‘cult’ is in a vulnerable state, that’s much more accurate, and much less of a stereotype. This is because it does not matter whether it was a minority religion or a majority one, or even if your sensemaking ideology was atheism. Your worldview has let you down. You’ve lost faith in it. And you have no idea what or how to process your experience any more.

Since the late 1990’s, Ex-members in this vulnerable state have gone onto the Internet to try to research and figure things out after leaving their minority religion. Since the late 1990’s – almost exclusively – they find the ideas of the anti cult movement.

A New Sense Making Instrument to Completely Re-Interpret Your Whole Previous Life

As a sense making instrument, the ideology of the Anti-Cult Movement is pretty simple. It’s no BhagaVad Gita. That’s for sure.

It goes like this:

“You were in a CULT and you were BRAINWASHED to believe the way you did. You were made to undergo HYPNOSIS INDUCING TECHNIQUES which made you LOSE YOUR POWER OF CHOICE and to adopt beliefs that created a WHOLE MATRIX OF THOUGHT THAT WAS NOT YOUR OWN“.

That’s basically it. An Ex member adopts this extremely simplistic view to make sense of their past involvement. It becomes his new belief system.

Since you’ve adopted this new instrument of sense-making, you begin to re-define and re-interpret every experience you ever had in the ‘cult’. You will use this anti cult movement ideology to radically change everything you ever knew about yourself and your previous life.

What you used to call ‘religion’ you now call ‘cult’

What used to inspire you with sacred ideas is now so profane it makes you feel sick.

What you used to be proud of, you are now ashamed of.

This would all be great if the anti cult movement ideology was complex enough to correspond to the complexity of real life. But it’s not. This belief system greatly oversimplifies things, and as it turns out, none of its ideas actually hold up to scrutiny.

This anti cult ideology is too simplistic to be true.

The Anti Cult Movement Harms Ex-Members in 5 Major Ways

I have been screaming about this for at least the last 4 years. But whenever anyone in the thrall of this anti cult movement ideology hears my screams, they just think I’ve gone back into Scientology. This is just one example of the stupidity that anti cult movement ideology causes.

Here are 5 ways that I have identified over the last 19 years of being out of Scientology that the adoption of the anti cult movement harms ex members.

1. Denies You Your Power of Choice
The concept of brainwashing denies your power of choice. When you are brainwashed, the choices you make are not your own. So the life you lived was not your own, either.

Look at this idea as sensemaking. This is how you now make sense of your life.

Can see there are other ways of making sense of how you made your decisions while in the cult? Once you begin to investigate those other ways, you’ll find that you were using your own power of choice the whole time.

2. Walls Off and Toxifies Your Previous “Cult” Self
Steven Hassan is one of the primary promulgators of the anti cult movement’s ideology on the Internet. He has a model, based on the great Leon Festinger’s work, which Hassan calls “The BITE Model”. This sensemaking instrument prompts you to split your self up into a “true self” and a fake “cult self”.

Because I personally bought into this when I left Scientology, it’s hard for me to describe the amount of damage this idea caused me, and how much of my life was derailed by it.


Try using that as a sensemaking instrument instead.

3. Gives You Nightmarish Narratives of Who You Were & What You Did
I know of Ex-Members who are heavy anti cult movement promoters who have said that Scientology’s RPF was “the worst experience that any human being could ever live through”. That is a direct quote.

Obviously this Ex has not put his experience in perspective with the experiences of other human beings who have been through things like Auschwitz, Darfur, or even modern day Syria. But that is the kind of nightmare fantasy that the Anti cult movement’s ideology regularly instills in Exes.

These types of cognitive distortions cause depression and anxiety – and they come straight out of the anti-cult movement’s ideology.

4. Becomes a Huge Source of Guilt & Shame
The biggest evangelists of the anti cult movement regularly say that you were not stupid for giving up your power of choice and becoming a brainwashed zombie. But you believe you were a brainwashed zombie. This is the only conclusion allowed. This is a cartoonish oversimplification of your past and who you were. But there is no other possible interpretation for who you were, as long as you buy into the anti cult movement’s ideology.

5. Prompts You to Nullify & Discard Your Whole Previous Life
If you have ever been to a gathering of Exes who are trapped in the ideas of the anti cult movement, you will see one or two stand up and say that they wasted 30 YEARS of their life while in the cult. Or however long they spent inside.

Yet the person they were when they were in the cult was sometimes the best person they’ve ever been. All of that experience got wasted when they adopted the anti cult movement, disowning their past and walling it off.

Not only is this damaging to an ex-member, but it is so false that it literally wastes the value of your own life experience. That is a colossal waste – directly caused by adopting the anti cult movement’s ideology.


There’s a real liability to allowing your sense-making instrument to fall apart on you. And so I realize the level of discomfort that my ideas here are creating in those who have left a cult and found a new ideology to make sense of it for them.

But I’ve seen the anti cult movement do so much damage to myself and to other very good people that I just can’t shut up about this.

So what should be done instead?

1. Instead of denying your own power of choice – embrace it. Accept that you woke up every day and decided on purpose to be a Scientologist. Find out why. Find out what you were getting out of Scientology (or your previous religion or worldview) and explore how to keep getting that now on the next step in your evolution.

2. Instead of walling off your previous “Cult Self”, recognize that you were you before the cult, during the cult, and after the cult. See if your strengths and weaknesses have changed in leaving it. Don’t walk around thinking you have two selves inside of you, one of which you are at war.

3. Next time you tell yourself a nightmarish exaggeration about who you were & what you did in the cult – STOP. Examine what you are telling yourself. Ask yourself if that nightmarish story is accurate, or if it is distorted or dysfunctional. Take some of the emotion out of it. Gain some reason on it. Then think up what is the non-exaggerated truth. And practice telling yourself that from now on. This an extremely valuable self discipline.

4. Study whether there is any actual science on brainwashing. Ask yourself if you really were “brainwashed” by what you did in your religious or spiritual pursuit. Think about the word ‘cult’ as a mental construct. What is the reality which this mental construct is describing? Again, get some perspective. Stay cool headed about this. Find factual terms that are backed up by science.

5. Don’t wall off your previous self. Your experiences were valid, and the lessons you learned are too. All that treasure is still there. Why harm yourself by throwing it away? Break down the wall between you and your past – integrate and embrace who you used to be. Learn from it.

If you can do these things you can see that getting out of a cult is not something you recover from, but something that makes you stronger.

That is my hope for Exes.

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Doloras LaPicho

Honestly, I think the best model to interpret “cults” (of religious or political or even anti-religious versions) is as abusive relationships. Abusive partners do use mind games, love bombing, gas-lighting and emotional blackmail to keep their victims in line, just like the Church of Scientology or several political movements. I wonder if – when my mother left my father because of his violence – Stephen Hassan would have jumped in there to yell at her about how she was BRAINWASHED and created a FALSE SELF – and whether that would have helped or hindered her recovery.

Doloras LaPicho

To clarify my own experience: everyone knows that there are left-wing and right-wing political cults (the LaRouchies, the Jim Jones movement etc) which use very similar tactics to Scientology to control their members. Now, I’ve never been in one of those groups which took over my whole life – but I have been in a group where an unaccountable leadership used manipulation and emotional blackmail to keep its followers in line. (“Cultism” is a spectrum. Honestly, I think cultism is just an exaggerated, sick version of the processes that hold all groups together.)

The interesting thing is that, while I was in that group, my own political beliefs changed to match those of the leadership, whom I trusted and “gave up my power to”. But afterwards, my beliefs have moved more or less gradually back to what they were before. I’m not ashamed of what I believed while I was in the group – I was given data which later turned out to be incomplete. I still have issues with the leaders who love-bombed me when I was “good” and threw me to the wolves when I was “bad”. BUT: I’m not going to join a new cult insisting that the people who treated me bad were a cult and need to be wiped off the planet, through state oppression or a shocking reality TV show. On the Left, they call it “Darkness at Noon” syndrome – the way in which no-one is as fervent and angry an anti-communist as someone who was once a fervent and angry communist.


Great post Alonzo. I’m very grateful for your blog site.

Best wishes friend.

Evil Morty
Evil Morty

Couldn’t agree more. Great post. The anti-cult is just as much a “cult” as the groups they protest against.

Whenever you leave a long relationship of any kind, you need to take time off to yourself so that you can honestly reflect upon your experience without any lens filtering. I recall about a girl I dated about 10 years ago that ended horribly. When we broke up, I was so angry and upset that I did nothing but focus on all the negative aspects of it. All I could think about were the bad things happened and the things she said that made me upset. Through this lens of anger, I was the victim and she was the bad person and not a single good thing happened ever.

But after about a year of down time, I came to realize that it was not so black and white. There were times when we both made stupid choices. There were also really good times and moments of genuine love just like there were bad times. It was at this point that I learned from the experience and actually became stronger for having gone through it.

Here is the important part: Had I just rushed out and immediately started dating some new girl, would have missed out on this process. And that is exactly what the anti-cult is: the “new girl” you meet on the rebound that offers a quick fix to a bigger problem. The anti-cult tells you that you were a brainwashed zombie the entire time you were in the “cult” group. So there is no point in engaging in honest self-reflection because you were not YOU during this time period. You are completely a victim in every possible way. Just focus on your anger and bitterness like Darth Vader.

Idle Morge
Idle Morge

I got into Scientology because I believed the lies. I wanted to be part of a humanitarian group to help the planet. I was not interested in joining a cult, going up a Bridge and spending a ton of money “going Clear” spending hundreds of thousands of dollars thinking I was getting rid of my reactive mind….but later finding out I was not saying the right words….”I mocked up my own reactive mind but can stop it”…hence hundreds of thousands of dollars more and decades of my life.

I stayed in Scientology because I was under a spell and believed the lies. I was under hypnotic commands.

I got out of Scientology because I personally witnessed criminal behavior where Scientology staff members were extorting money out of others. Regrading people up and down the Bridge. Being abusive. Staff were not winning – they were poor and suppressed. There was no state of clear…no state of OT….just pure arrogance.

I was in for several years. I was okay when I walked in. I had a lot of life prior to Scientology…and I had a successful life.

I was in bad shape when I walked out. I lost my identity, my family, my friends. My abilities and skills were smashed and I was confused and in fear. My mind was scrammbled. Thanks to some friends and family who welcomed me back with open arms….I finally was able to feel safe and recover.

I recovered with love and compassion by others (wogs) and by learning about mind control and how cults operate. I appreciate the work from Steven Hassan.

There is a time and a place for the ex members and then you move on.

There is no need to go from ex Scientologist to now ATTACKING ex Scientologists.

Find a new game Alanzo.

Figure out who hurt your feelings and deal with them.

Stop attacking people.

Mike Rinder and Leah Remini are helping people wake up.

I am now out of everything “Scientology”

This is my last post anywhere

Good luck Alanzo….I do hope you find a new game. This one you are playing is not productive or helpful…just another place to park on the Bridge out of the Cult.

Get off the Bridge and start living your life.