The Social Construction of the Anti-Scientology/Anti-Cult Narrative

white women brainwashed by indians In an excellent paper written by Prof. David Bromley called “The Social Construction of Contested Exit Roles: Defectors, Whistleblowers and Apostates”, the author absolutely nails the socially-constructed elements of the anti-Scientololgist/Anti-cultist’s “Capture Stories, “Escape Stories” and “Atrocity Stories“.

In the section of this paper called “Apostate Narratives”, Bromley explains that because of the polarized situation and power imbalance that exists when leaving cults, there is considerable pressure on individuals who leave cults to negotiate a narrative with a group of Ex-members that offers an acceptable explanation for participation in the cult and for now once again reversing loyalties.


“The common story that is negotiated among Exes of many cults is a “captivity narrative” in which apostates assert that they were innocently or naively operating in what they had every reason to believe was a normal, secure social site; ‘

“They were then subjected to overpowering subversive techniques; ‘

“They endured a period of subjugation during which they experienced tribulation and humiliation; ‘

“They ultimately effected escape or rescue from the organization; ‘

“And they subsequently renounced their former loyalties and issued a public warning of the dangers of the former organization as a matter of civic responsibility. ‘

“Any expressions of ambivalence or residual attraction to their former cult or their association with it are vigorously resisted and are taken as evidence of untrustworthiness.’

“Emphasis on the irresistibility of subversive techniques is vital to apostates and their allies as a means of placing responsibility for participation on the organization rather than on the former member himself. This account avoids attribution of calculated choices that would call for invoking the label of traitor. ‘

“Further, the broad allegation of cult allows a diverse array of opponents to unite under a common banner and to formulate a variety of claims in terms that will mobilize or neutralize a broad spectrum of interests. ‘

“Upon the rendering of an acceptable narrative, the Ex-member coalition accepts pledges and tests of loyalty and professions of regret as the basis for reintegration into social networks to which it controls access.’

This is what I have been looking at every time I stepped outside the lines of this socially constructed Anti-Scientology/Anti-Cult narrative.

This explains a whole lot of my last 15 years being involved in Ex-Scientology.

From the book “The Politics of Religious Apostasy”

31 thoughts on “The Social Construction of the Anti-Scientology/Anti-Cult Narrative”

  1. A female fertility rate (rate of reproduction) of 2.1 children per female produces a stable population. The current fertility rate in the US is 1.87. In 1960 the US population was 179 million. Census Bureau estimates say the current population is 325 million.* So it’s indeterminate how much of the increase of 146 million (almost a doubling of population in 57 years) is due to immigration, legal or otherwise. In a world of 8 billion people there are surely a billion people who would like to find safe harbor in America.

    If the topic is cultism, then the media depicts opposite extremes of the political spectrum as cultish in nature. Ten, twenty or thirty thousand people take an interest in scn per se. The greater interest is in cultism in general.

    * As far as I know, most Census Bureau statistics are based of forms being filled out and attested to. Some people believe they are not that accurate, but for now I suppose they are the best there is.

  2. This stuff seems to me like getting into the details of the details of the details. In AA and other 12 step programs people tell their story which has a common thread and leave it at that.

        • Yes – perhaps a meeting of the minds. I’m not anti intellectualism. It leads to greater depth and understanding of the human condition. Regarding cults, I think some writings about it are junk, people making a name for themselves or getting government or private funding. That’s why the findings, observations and so on need to be debated by people interested. Most people who extricate themselves from cults recover without elaborate understanding.

          It finally stopped raining so I can get some work done. I’m painting an outside deck so the wood needed to dry out for a few days before I could proceed. Yesterday I went fishing. I like dirty jobs. I had visions of becoming a field auditor which would have been a clean job, but that didn’t work out.

          • Richard said

            Most people who extricate themselves from cults recover without elaborate understanding.

            Yes they do. I even question whether that process can legitimately be called “recovery”. I see the process as a cultural adjustment, and not a disease or addiction from which you have to “recover”.

            • I agree. I thought before writing recovery and used it as a shorthand. I believe I follow your line of reasoning of changing the overall line of thinking from recovery to adjustment. But the general conception is that cult=evil and requires recovery. If I didn’t go into scn, I might have adopted cultish behavior from here, there. or anywhere as Doloras points out above. When and if I realized it as such, I would need to examine it and adjust.

              If you’re going to try to convince me that I had no cultish behavior when I was in scn, you’re in for a job – lol – If Buddha were around he might tell me “I hope you had fun in scn – what’s next for you?” Actually, I think he said something like this to the monks going out to spread the word, “Some will listen and some will come.”

  3. One amazing thing that Tony Ortega did was that he was always harping on how Mark Rathbun never took responsibility for his evil deeds as a Scientology Warrior. Then Marty said something about how his depiction of Miscavige for the Theroux film was, in retrospect, more about himself than Miscavige. Response? Ortega doesn’t congratulate Mark for fessing up, he uses it as proof that Mark is now doing Miscavige’s dirty work.

    What drove Tony mad was that, even while he was fighting the Church of Scientology, Rathbun would never adhere to Anti-Scientology orthodoxy. Mike Rinder, on the other hand, does so and is beloved by Ortega and all others. Ron Miscavige had rape accusations used against him while he was still in – now they are forgotten. Tribal morality.

    • Thank you omg thank you!

      That is EXACTLY what I have been seeing for the last year or more. These social scientists have been documenting this kind of behavior since at least the mid 1980s among those who leave all religions – not just cults, and certainly not just Scientology.

      I am beginning to see the messaging more now as anti-cult rather than just anti-Scientology. There are so many similarities in the narratives of all Exes – not just Ex-Scientologists. I think there is something about being an Ex of anything religious (where your self-identity was heavily invested) which causes this kind of high-control behavior over adherence to the narrative.

      But that control is certainly there. I’m living proof of it as “The Most Banned Person on the Internet!”

      I kept thinking “but aren’t we all just trying to find out the truth??”


      No, we aren’t.

      The question for me now is “What the hell was I doing before I saw all this? Was I really living in a socially constructed reality as an Ex?”

      • by golly Alanzo, have you lost your moral compass, I mean the whole purpose of scientology is to produce a clear and then OT.

      • This – ” my willingness to take responsibility for getting myself into Scientology has raised considerably over the last year or so. I can now see my involvement in Scn as a series of conscious choices I made”

        was incredibly brave and responsible of you to tell the world Alanzo.

        My deepest thanks to you for being willing and having the courage and honesty to write yourself back into your history.


      • “I kept thinking “but aren’t we all just trying to find out the truth??”


        No, we aren’t.”

        So horribly true. Too many are just too invested in denying their own role in their own history to even have a view from which to seek actual truth.

      • “I think there is something about being an Ex of anything religious (where your self-identity was heavily invested) which causes this kind of high-control behavior over adherence to the narrative.”

        Religious, or high-demand political, like being a Communist. Atrocity/apostate stories from ex-commies are very similar.

        • Both are situations where you adopt an ideology and it becomes part of your self-identity and you conform all your thinking to it.

          You tell yourself you are a communist, and you see the world as communism sees it. And then you decide you aren’t a communist any more. Something happens to some people there – but not all.

          The Wellspring study said that 67% of ex-cult members said they felt “wiser for the experience”. That is not the apostate viewpoint. From the studies I’ve seen so far, apostates make up a small minority of people who leave a cult.

          • You see, that (Leftist disconnection) doesn’t actually happen. That’s an atrocity story that you tell YOURSELF as a rightist. Or it’s projection – that’s what the Right do when they discover a “liberal” or “commie” (the two are interchangable in Rightist-lingo) in their midst.

            • Good point about self created atrocity stories. Points and counter points expressed on a blog. It seems to me to be a bit like logical debate on a blog. It’s much better than what’s going on in the mainstream media.

  4. Anson D. Shupe, Jr. (21 January 1948 – 6 May 2015) was an American sociologist noted for his studies of religious groups and their countermovements, family violence and clergy misconduct.[1] He was affiliated with the New Cult Awareness Network,[2] an organization operated by the Church of Scientology, and has had at least one article published in Freedom magazine.[3]

    This is his main collaborator.

    • Yes. Guilt by associating with the Scientology shill Anton Shupe!

      These sociologists actually worked with the cults and religions that they studied. I was studying sociology and cultural anthropology in college before I quit to join staff. I could totally see these guys speaking with David Miscavige, and writing things where they were being as fair as they possibly could to the group they were studying. Because they also knew the power dynamics of the groups which called them “cults” in society, as well.

      Many Anti-Scientologists and Anti-Cultists say all of these guys are “Cult Apologists”. They’re PAID to write what they write! (Just like critics are PAID by Big Pharma)

      Que Bono!

      But Chief Science Officer for the USS Anti-Scientology, Chris Shelton, says this about David Bromley:

      ” I’m quite sure that Bromley is dead to Scientology forever because this is the first and maybe only chapter in this book [Scientology by James R Lewis] that describes in detail Scientology’s confidential upper-level OT3 materials including a summary of Xenu and body thetans that would be tantamount to heresy to Scientology and there is no way that they are ever going to pay him or use anything he writes or says in the future”


      [Bromley] “is not apologizing so much as he’s just remarking on the plain fact of what Scientologists are doing – as Bromley puts it – the successful process of constructing LRH as a prophetic leader has involved establishing the reality of lrh over lafayette ronald hubbard. Bromley then goes into scientology mythology and this section is an almost one hundred percent accurate breakdown of the entire philosophy of scientology. Bromley proves, without question, that he understands this subject to the level I suspect very few academics have bothered to find out.”

      So there you have it. A glowing tribute and stamp of approval from the Authority himself, Chris Shelton!

      Don’t go in for guilt by association, quo Bono statements, and appeals to authority?

      All right then.

      You should read the ideas themselves, inspect the reasoning and the evidence for the claims they make, and see for yourself whether or not they’re true! 🙂

      Painting all social scientists who have studied Scientology to be scientology shills is one of the hysterical claims of the most hysterical of anti-Scientologists. It just doesn’t hold water.

      • You know, through studying cultural anthropology, that this kind of research involves immersion in a group (or culture). Careful observations and copious notation leads to a descriptive examination of the group. No problem. The limitation of this kind of research is that it cannot be extrapolated outside the group studied.

        But, these writers aren’t describing Scientology, they are describing former Scientologists. That is a whole different culture. And they are using Scientology terms (apostate, need to make themselves enemies etc) in this description. That is extremely troubling.
        A researcher would note (first thing) that they had formerly studied Scientology and acknowledge that this may have affected their objectivity.

        I can’t find any evidence that either writer (or anyone listed as a contributing author) actually studied former Members of an NRM in building their “theory” of apostasy.
        Your example of Big Pharma is a good one. Anyone who presents at a conference has to provide a statement about payments or grants from companies, being on boards etc.
        we have to reveal our bias, because we are all biased.
        Is it possible that you are being drawn into a false narrative? Confirmation bias for your current desire to lob grenades at the antiscientology crowd?
        BTW: I wouldn’t spend time reading these theories, there is only one contributor to the book who seems like a real researcher.
        Do you know of any legitimate research that has been done on Scientology? Closest I can come is “Going Clear”

        Another BTW: why did you add an ad hominem at the end of your reply? It added nothing to the point.

        • Your last question first:

          Because I couldn’t help it.

          Your next question:

          “Is it possible that you are being drawn into a false narrative? Confirmation bias for your current desire to lob grenades at the antiscientology crowd?”

          Maybe. I’m still going to keep studying their work, though. It’s giving me new ideas and new viewpoints that I have not considered before. And it is describing and explaining things in a way that has never been explained to me.

          Also, along with my willingness to accept and embrace my earlier “self” as a Scientologist, my willingness to take responsibility for getting myself into Scientology has raised considerably over the last year or so. I can now see my involvement in Scn as a series of conscious choices I made, rather than being hypnotized or brainwashed in to them. This has opened my eyes to much of the blame that goes on in the Ex and Anti communities. And the blame that I myself was placing on sources other than myself for my involvement in Scientology.

          Legitimate research? Ray Wallis?

          I’m sorry, social scientists who study cults aren’t all shills for the cults they study. That is absolutely preposterous.

          Yes this information is totally heretical to the Anti-Scientology-Anti-cult narrative. I’m going to do my best to study it and see what I can learn from it.


        • The post topic provided by Alanzo is after the fact of somebody getting involved and leaving, and the study thereof, which is incomplete from a philosophy POV. And I go by this definition:

          I’m more concerned with how people involved POV which is missing from many write-ups of scientology and other cults by these scholars of the mind.

          If anthropology is about the studies of societies and cultures and their development, then that is what we should seek in studying scientology.

          Scientology is a culture, aka Cult, as are others.

          What’s the difference between all the cultures, or cults?

          From my research Hubbard read Le Bon, and that book is a study of creating a culture, only Le Bon called it a “crowd”, and Le Bon wrote those books to analyze how cults are formed and to warn people.

          And from my experience and after reading his books, I’ve come to the conclusion Hubbard used Le Bon’s research on what creates a crowd, or cult or culture to create scientology, and in addition to other things Hubbard used.

          Hubbard even said one has to run Scientology out, laughing. And it’s true.

          And if we are to believe Sarge, Hubbard said he wasn’t coming back and failed.

        • Questions for you, Eileen:

          I wouldn’t spend time reading these theories, there is only one contributor to the book who seems like a real researcher.

          What are your qualifications for “real researcher”? Are you saying that David Bromley, a PhD professor from the University of Virginia, does not qualify as a real researcher or is incapable of conducting “real research”?

          Who is the one contributor to the book who seems like a “real researcher” to you and what makes him seem that way?

          • Speaking of U of VA, they are doing very interesting research (currently on mice) and finding mechanisms by which healthy gut bacteria (lactobaccillus) improves mood. Someday we will replace Prozac and Wellbutrin with yoghurt!
            Now THAT is research that may actually help millions. Sociologists? Pshaw!
            Good go, need to buy a big bottle of Probiotics.
            I wonder if Scientology will be anti-lactobaccilus (big pharma).

            • I’ve read some of that! It’s amazing how gut bacteria controls the mood of the host to go eat food that the bacteria feeds on!

              90 per cent of the cells in the intestines of humans are NON HUMAN!

              And by the way, I understand that your disdain for social scientists is a tribal belief of yours. It’s “Psychs vs. Sosh” like Sharks vs Jets! 🙂

        • Excellent observation, Eileen. The evidence I have found so far is not in this post. It’s in an earlier post of mine.

          Here is a pdf download of one of the possible research studies these observations are based on:

          It’s called “Apostates and the Legitimation of Repression: Some Historical and Empirical Perspectives on the Cult Controversy*” It goes into the separation and definition of three types of “leave-takers” – Defectors, Whistleblowers and Apostates and it shows the various attitudes that they have about their former group based on their exposure to anti-cult narratives.

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