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{Newsgroup post, January 2008}

I like Sting’s message about religion in “Send Your Love” …

People accuse me of being religious because I practice one. In fact, I embrace pretty much all of them. It’s just ironic that when you speak out against the evils found within a religion, you are suddenly branded as an intolerant, and whatever card-carrying membership you have is attacked as hypocrisy. It’s like someone calling me a racist cop if I arrest a crook who happens to be a minority, and then bringing up the crimes of white people to make me look like an idiot, as if I’m downplaying those crimes by dealing with the ones at hand. I can be anti-terrorist and not be against Islam or Arabic culture, and belong to groups who have made mistakes like any other as well. I can be anti-Nazi but have no problem with Germany and not be a hypocrite because my country once had slavery. I can be anti-mind control …

The thing is that any group (a religion or not) needs to have some basic human accountability. It needs to NOT be shielded from criticism, from within or without. It needs to have an external gauge as to what makes sense medically, psychologically, and especially in terms of human rights. And when a group — even a religion — subverts free will as a matter of POLICY, it needs to be addressed as a very serious thing — a crime against humanity. It matters not if it is a government or a church. It is NOT their business. What if such a group is targeting celebrities and people of power, knowing the influence on children and the easily influenced masses that it brings? I wouldn’t want the responsibility of being famous, but I would at least accept it and hope I would not be used as a pawn in someone else’s game.

But people are not taught to think. They cannot distinguish between brainwashing and natural social controls. They think either no one does anything against their will, or anyone in any religion is doing things against their will. It makes the terms “cult” and “brainwashing” utterly meaningless, when in fact, they mean something very real for the people who use the word to describe a specific phenomenon. People need to get over the idea that all groups are equally harmful or harmless, simply because belief systems are not better or worse than each other. Not only is that completely illogical, it is an intentional tactical diversion pushed by many harmful groups that when repeated enough has already become popular opinion.

Many decades of research and serious thought from many disciplines went into cult research, and I don’t mean the often just-as-cultish anti-cult movement where cults are defined by how much someone disagrees with YOUR beliefs. I mean understanding mind control as a natural extension of the sociological psychology of manipulation. Many of us know when persuasion ends and coercion begins, even in personal relationships. Some of us know there is a HUGE distinction. Many of us can tell when our minds are being f&@ked with by a salesman, or a friend, or boss, or minister. At a certain point it is abusive, even if it bills on the surface that they are only trying to “lovingly” save us and “persuade” us for our own good. But even the most educated of us can slip into that slowly boiling pot of water if we don’t do a background reality check before we reach the edge where we can’t see it for ourselves any more. But if you do your homework, you will see that some groups set out what must be deliberate, elaborate systems of control, collections of both psychological and social techniques, some new, some as old as mankind.

That’s why it’s so frustrating to hear people in groups that are intentionally dominated in one or more aspects of their lives say such-and-such isn’t cult because they don’t chant mantras all day or have to shave their heads. That’s your grandpa’s cult (mostly stray young adults, which ironically will all say they are totally and willingly committed to their group and it’s cause until they escape), and many a cult leader since the 70’s and 80’s found out it’s not where the money is. In fact, most groups today are “open cults” that don’t require around-the-clock obedience of any kind, just unquestioning loyalty when it comes to anything related to the revenue stream.

Commercial cults fit this bill, as do many LGATs. You can believe anything you want, which is false “proof” it isn’t a cult, because the rule doesn’t apply when it comes to your beliefs about the group itself. You’re given token scraps of freedom to variably express or perceive the devotion or level of involvement you give the group, but in the end, doubt about them, their leadership, or their cause is unthinkable (“willingly” forbidden), with you yourself taught to be the guardian enforcer of your own thoughtcrimes. Brainwashing is domination internalized.

The saddest thing is that people who get it will be able to fill in the blanks and apply it with an obvious, honest clarity to this or that group, but people still stuck in the abuse of it all will simply attack people like you (and even THEMSELVES) for seeing it like it is. And we feel compelled to “live and let live” while our brother cannot do the same for himself or others. Forced deprogramming was chuck full of ethical issues and inappropriate practices, but the concept was as sound as the state stepping in on child abuse or a psychologically debilitated person being made a ward of a family member in order to get help. Slippery slope, maybe, but you have to remember that these groups are using fear of such things to make choices for you. There has to be some line drawn by someone. A spouse who is spending all their family’s money on some group’s self-help programs needs to have the checkbook taken away from them for the sake of the family and themselves. A person who “willingly” subjects themselves to live in a labor compound or commune under prison conditions needs to be broken out at all costs and treated for their mental, and likely physical, health.

The only problem left is that the psychology / psychiatric community overall has not yet fully untangled or recognizes how to collectively deal with such issues, with symptom sets which include conditioned phobias, scotomization, extreme de-hypnotozation, cognitive dissonance, etc., some of which aren’t in the DSM (yet) but are as real as a bone fracture.