IJMC Are You In A Cult?

			IJMC - Are You In A Cult?

Ok, so this one isn't a particularly funny post...it's still junk mail. 
And it may have some relevance to some...I think I'm in a cult from 
reading it, but that's just because it's 5am and I'm still awake 
troubleshooting my new modem... %-6				  -dave

The following is from "Smashing the Idols: A Jewish Inquiry into the Cult
Phenomenon" edited by Gary D. Eisenberg. This passage is from the chapter "The
Cult Phenomenon: Fad or Fact?" by Marcia R. Rudin, Ph.D.

... One can agree that all religions have at some point in their histories
been guilty of excesses. Extremism, fanaticism, and irrationality are
found in all religions and, one can argue, are perhaps an essential
component of all religious or mystical experiences. These new religious
cults, however, are _not_ like the Roman Catholic Church, the Mormon
Church, or other past "new religious movements." The contemporary cults
exhibit characteristics that set them apart from past religious cults and
from established religions.
	These fundamental differences make them different in kind as well
as degree and make them a unique phenomenon. What are these

	#1: Members swear total allegiance to an all-powerful leader whom
they may believe to be a Messiah. The leader sets the rules for daily life
and proclaaims doctrines or "Truth," but the leader and his "inner circle"
generally are exempt from these rules and prohibitions. These rules,
doctrines, or "Truths" cannot be questioned. The leader's word is the
absolute and final authority. 

	#2: Rational thought is discouraged or forbidden. The groups are
anti- intellectual, emphasizing intuition or emotional experience.
"Knowledge" is redefined as those ideas or experiences dispensed by the
group or its leader. One can attain knowledge only by joining the group
and submitting to its doctrines. If the follower shows signs of doubting
the cult, he is made to feel that the fault lies within himself, not with
the cult's ideas, and to feel intensely guilty about these doubts. Says
Rabbi Zalman Schachter, Professor of Religion and Jewish Mysticism at
Temple University, "[A]ny group which equates doubt with guilt is a cult."
Because of some cults' use of sophisticated coercive mind-control
techniques, followers may indeed lose their ability to doubt and to think

	#3: Cults' recuitment techniques are often deceptive. The potential
follower may not be told what he can expect and what will be required of
him. He may not even know the name of the group. The Unification Church,
for example, which operates under seventy "front" groups, often does not
mention its name or that of Reverend Moon for several weeks; by that time
the person is well indoctrinated. I am convinced taht most cult members
probably would not join if they knew beforehand what lay ahead. Since some
cults begin intensive coercive persuasion techniques immediately, by the
time the recruit realizes what the group is all about he may have lost the
ability to think freely and hence cannot rationally decide whether or not
he wants to join. As law professor Richard Delgado explains, "A convert
never has full capacity and knowledge simultaneously." 

	#4: The cult psychologically weakens the follower and makes him
believe his problems can be solved only by the group. The cult undermines
all of the follower's past psychological support systems: all help from
other therapy methods, psychologists or psychiatrists, religious beliefs,
parents or friends is discredited and often may be forbidden.
Psychological problems as well as intellectual doubts are soothed away by
denying the reality of the conflicting feelings, by keeping the adherent
so constantly occupied that he has no time to think about them, and by
assuring the convert taht faithful following of the cult's teachings will
in time assuage the conflicts. The cult follower may reach a plateau of
inner calm and appear to be free from anxiety. This placidity, however,
may be a mask for the unresolved psychological turmoil that continues to
plague the adherent.
	The cult may make the follower feel helpless and dependent on the
group by forcing him into childlike submission. Former Unification Chruch
member Chris Edwards relates how childlike he felt during a confusing game
played while he was being recruited: "During the entire game our team
chanted loudly, 'Bomb with Love,' 'Blast with Love,' as the soft, round
balls volleyed back and forth. Again I felt lost and confused, angry,
remote and helpless, for the game had started without an explanation of
the rules."
	He describes how he surrendered himself to the comfortable feeling
of being a small child again: "'Give in, Chris' urged a voice within me.
'Just be a child and obey. It's fun. It's trusting. Isn't this the
innocence, the purity of love, you've been searching for?'" The cults
offer total unconditional love but extract the higher price of total
submission to the group in exchange for this love. As Edwards explains:
	"Suddenly I understood what they wanted from me. Their role was to
tease me with their love, dishing it out and withdrawing it as they saw
fit. My role was not to question but to be their child, dependent on them
for affection. The kiddie games, the raucous singing, the silly laughter,
were all part of a scenario geared to help me assume my new identity." 

	#5: The new cults expertly manipulate guilt. The devotee believes
that the group has the power to "dispense existence," and to determine,
according to psychologist Moshe Halevi Spero, "who has the right to live
or die, physically or metaphorically." Members may be forced to "confess"
their inadequacies and past "sins" before the group or certain individual
members. Journalists Carroll Stoner and Jo Anner Parke report that
"[c]ountercult activists claim that some religious cults keep dossiers on
members and their families -- the more secrets the better -- in order to
use the material as emotional and blackmail if the members should decide
to leave, and tell of cases where this has happened." 

	#6: Cult members are isolated from the outside world, cut off from
their pasts, from school, job, family, and friends as well as from
information from newspapers, radio, and television. They may be prohibited
from coming and going freely into the outside world, or are so
psychologically weakened taht they cannot cope with it. They are told that
salvation can come only by remaining in the group and giving up all else. 

	#7: The cult or its leader makes every career or life decision for
the follower. The Hare Krishna group, for example, regulates every hower
of activity for those members who dwell in the temples. The cults
determine every aspect of the adherent's personal life, including sexual
activities, diet, use of liquor, drugs, and tobacco, perhaps even the
choice of marriage partners and whether, when, and how to bear children.
Even if one does not live within the group, the cult comes to overpower
all other aspects of life. Career and schooling may be abandoned and all
other interests discouraged so that the cult can become the follower's
total world. 

	#8: To attract idealistic member, some cults promise to raise money
to improve society and help the poor. In practice, however, energies are
channeled into promoting the well-being of the group rather than into
improving society. Cults often exist solely for the purposes of
self-survival and financial growth. All energy and financial resources are
devoted to the cult, in some cases to the benefit of only the leaders.
While all religious organizations must be concerned with such practical
fffairs, these considerations are not their sole reasons for existance. 

	#9: Cult followers often work full-time for the group. They work
very long hours, sometimes eighteen to twenty hours a dya, seven days a
week, for little or no pay, in circumstances that are often demeaning. In
many cases their situation could be described as involuntary servitude.
They are made to feel guilty or unworty if they protest. If they do work
outside the group, salaries are turned over to the cult. The lower echelon
members often live a life of self- denial or live in extreme poverty,
often in conditions that violate health and sanitary codes. In contrast,
however, cult leaders live comfortably and in some cases very luxuriously. 

	#10: The cults are antiwoman, antichild, and antifamily. Women
perform the most menial tasks of cooking, cleaning, and soliciting
contributions on the street and rarely hold high decision-making
positions. Birth control, abortion, and the physical circumstances of
childbirth are regulated by the group's leaders, who are usually men.
There are reports of sexual abuse of women in the Church of Armageddon,
and a fourteen-year-old in the Children of God claims that she was raped
when she disobeyed a leader. Women in the Children of God are encouraged
to use sex to recruit new members from different strata of society who
then can provide the group with worldly skills and talents.
	There have been tragic reports of child neglect. Children are
often improperly cared for and inadequately educated. They may be taken
away from their parents and raised by others in the group or even
geographically separated from their parents. Children and teenagers in
Jonestown were beaten and given electric shocks, and two children who
tried to run away had chains and balls welded to their ankles as
punishment. In the Church of Armageddon children are beaten and locked in
the closets if they are unhappy or disobedient, and members and their
children often are denied food. Because some members now have belonged to
a cult for many years, the consequences of the cult experience are
affecting a second generation, the innocent children of these members.
This is perhaps the most tragic aspect of the cult phenomenon.
	Family bonds are subordinated to cult loyalties, and the cult may
even speak of itself as a higher family. Children and parents are not
allowed to form close relationships because this would threaten loyalty to
the cult. Families often are deliberately split up and members forced to
renounce spouses who disapprove of or leave the group. Cult leaders may
order a cult member to "marry" a new partner even though the follower is
already legally married to another either inside or outside the cult.
	Followers' ties with families who do not belong to the group are
strained if the family disapproves of the cult; adherents often are forced
to sever these familial ties altogether. Families often are prevented from
locating or communicating privately with their loved ones. The cult may
tell the adherent that his family is satanic and warn him that the family
will try either to kidnap him or to trick him into leaving the group. 

	#11: Some cult members believe that they are elite members of an
"elect"  survival group in a world taht is coming to an end. They believe
that the universe is embroiled in a Manichean conflict between Absolute
Good and Absolute Evil and that the final battle between these two
opposite forces will soon be fought. By joining the cult, the members
believe that they have become affiliated with Absolute Good which will
triumph over the forces of Evil at the End of Time. They shed their old
identities and take on new ones in preparation for this "new age." The
cult members experience a feeling of rebirth, and often adopt new names,
new vocabulary, and new clothing in order to purify themselves for their
new lives. 

	#12: Many of these groups share a philosophy that allows the ends
to justify the means. Because the ends, such as the salvation of souls,
the salvation of the world, and the triumph of Good over Evil, are so
important, any menas necessary to achieve them are permitted and even
encouraged by the cult.  Moreover, there may be a double set of values,
one for cult members and another for the outside world. Thus, while the
cult members must be truthful to each other and to the cult leaders, they
may be encouraged to lie to outsiders. The Unification Church, for
example, practices what it calls "heavenly Deception"  and the Hare
Krishnas "Transcendental Trickery." The Children of God believe that the
world is so corrupt that they are not subject to its laws and teach their
members to subvert the legal system. 

	#13: The cults often are shrouded in an aura of secrecy amd
mystery.  They refuse to provide new members with information about the
group, promising more knowledge only as the members become more involved.
Some leaders are rarely if ever seen by the average member. In addition,
some cults keep financial information from the public. 

	#14: An atmosphere of violence or potential violence frequently
surrounds the cults. Two recruitment centers of the Unification Chruch are
guarded. The Divine Light mission has a security force and the Hare
Krishnas' farm in West Virginia houses weapons which the cult members
insist are necessary to protect themselves and their leaders from "hostile
outsiders." Members of the Way International participate in marksmanship
and weapons "safety" courses. A large arsenal of automatic rifles,
shotguns, and handguns was accumulated at Jonestown, where congressman Leo
Ryan and members of his party were slain and the People's Temple followers
committed mass suicide by poison.
	Some cult members have been involved in beating or shooting
incidents.  Im May 1979, for example, a Swiss court sentenced the head of
a Divine Light Mission to fourteen years in prison on charges ranging from
breach of the peace to attempted murder. In August 1979, two Unification
Church are directors were arrested and charged with shooting at the
unoccupied car of two former members.  Because of harassment, the parents
of Christopher Edwards, a former unification Church member, had to hire
private detectives to guard their home for several months after their son
was deprogrammed. Edwards has received many death threats since the
publication of his book about this experiences with the Unification
Church. Other former members have reported that their lives, too, have
been threatened, and that, after leaving their cults, they have been
harassed psychologically, economically, and legally. 

Here are the Signs and Symptoms of Cult Involvement from the August 1993
issue of Moment Magazine: 

	o Sudden changes in life plan (dropping out of school or changing 
	o Unusual state of euphoria, excitement or other rapid change in 
	o New friends, new and different activities that offer a life 
	o Dramatic decrease in social activities with former friends.
	o Dogmatism about social, religious or philosophical issues.
	o Weekends or evenings away or involvement in vaguely described 
	  meetings or attempts at secrecy.
	o Open discussion of new interests or ideas about religion, spiritual 
	  matters or philosophy.
	o Major change in diet such as becoming a vegetarian for spiritual 
	  reasons. However many teenagers and college students become 
	  vegetarians for other reasons.

A personal story:

A friend of mine nearly got caught up in the Unification Church a couple
of years ago. She met a couple of people on the streets who offered to her
a "new perspective on life." She agreed to at least try it out and
attended some of their meetings. She described the meetings as being "real
wierd" in that she couldn't understand what the speaker was saying because
he was mixing words so much and saying everything so fast. The strange
thing was that the members of this "new religion" laughed at things that
the new people were completely oblivious to what the leader said that was
so funny. This friend of mine eventually made a phone call to her parents.
She was excited about joining this group. When her parents asked what this
group was called, she said she didn't know and happened to see a stack of
papers with the letterhead on it. The letterhead mentioned the Unification
Church leader Reverend Sun Myung Moon. 

That phone call saved her life.

For further information on cults, you can check out the following books:

	o "Combating Cult Mind Control" by Steve Hassan.
	o "Smashing the Idols: A Jewish Inquiry into the Cult Phenomenon" 
	  edited by Gary Eisenberg.
	o "Cults: What Parents Should Know" by Joan Carol Ross and Michael 
	  D. Langone.
	o "Religion, Sect and Cult: Psychodynamic Perspectives" edited by
	  David Halperin.
	o "Cults on Campus: Continuing Challenge" edited by marcia Rudin.
	o "Could this Happen To You? A guide to Groups on College Campus."
	o Video: "Cults: Saying No Under Pressure" narrated by Charlton

These materials can be obtained from the Cult Awareness Network, 2421 West
Pratt Blvd., Suite 1173, Chicago, IL 60645. 

IJMC July 1995 Archives