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Negative aspects of the Anti-Cult Movement


3. Negative aspects of the Anti-Cult Movement

1. Paranoid - The anti-cult movement is fundamentally an hysterical mob reaction based on myths, prejudice, ignorance, and its own form of cultic mindset. It has an informal doctrine organized around the myth of "mind-control", and tends to lump all "cults" together, calling on the wildest atavistic hyperboles and fears, and thereby creating irrational phobia among the public and sometimes authorities. A closer and more factual examination of anticultists' claims often reveals a very different reality. It also shows that in the case where tragedies did happen, it had for an important part been brought about by the frantic reaction of the anti-cult movement itself.

This does not mean - that there is no such thing as the cultic mindset, that high involvement groups called "cults" are not a potential danger, and that the problem should not be addressed. It only means that the hysterical reaction cults can bring about in the population at large is not necessarily the best answer of a responsible society. While the potential danger of the cult phenomenon should be addressed, it should be done rationally and within a correct perspective. The negative and often hidden impact the anti-cult movement should be taken into account as an integral part of the overall picture.



2. Danger to civil rights - From the start the "solution" provided by anticultists has been tainted by brutal and totalitarian methods. They started out by kidnapping cult members, and subjecting them to a constant and grueling verbal barrage until they gave up their newly-found beliefs. Later, they used the conservatorship laws to get hold of cult members on the basis that the cult "mind-control" made them incompetent, and they even tried to pass on this notion into new big-brother laws. These practices mostly ceased after the notion of "mind-control" had been debunked by scholars, and thus rejected as a justification by the courts. Today, the anti-cult movement attacks on the civil rights of everybody are embodied by certain European governments, such as the German or French ones, who have fallen for the anti-cult rhetoric rather than follow the more factual and tested approach of scholars and knowledgeable 3rd parties. Hopefully, this will gradually change as authorities become better informed.

This does not mean - that nothing should or can be done about the problems cults may present. Voluntary exit counseling in which the person is not physically forced to confront critical information is a viable alternative, conform to individual rights. As a matter of fact, it has been found to be more effective on the long run than forcible deprogramming. Information groups lead by independent parties, which give factual information and help to potential members, actual members, ex-members, and their relatives, such as Inform in the UK, is an effective tool to counter the propaganda of both cult and anti-cult groups. Conciliatory units from within the law enforcement forces, made of staff educated in the various aspects of the issue, has already started in the United States and proven to be extremely effective in avoiding tragedies and preventing conflicts - all the while abiding by the constitutional rights awarded to every citizens in democratic countries.



3. Cure worst than disease - In nearly all areas the anti-cult movement has outdone in scope what they accused the cults of doing. They accused the cult of detaining members through "mind-control" and have themselves effectively kidnapped and forcibly detained members of cults. They accused the cults of trying to pervert the law, and have themselves abused laws such the concservatorship laws. They accused the cults of wanting to create a totalitarian society, and have themselves nearly succeeded passing laws that would have effectively done that. Today, they accuse the cults of violating human rights, and are themselves supporting measures and laws that do just that. They accuse the cults of censorship and harassment, and again their own form of censorship and harassment have overcome in scope what cults ever did. Instead of informing families they exacerbate or even create conflicts. Instead of helping ex-members, they offer them another ready-made and cultic explanation that prevents them from learning from their experience and move off. All in all, they have had a prime role in bringing about mass tragedies like Jonestown and Waco, and proven themselves a factor of dissent and hatred rather than one of conciliation and healing.

This does not mean - that anticultists don't have a case at all. While the mind-control theory is fallacious and dangerous when taken literally, it can be useful when used as a metaphor. Rather than mind-control, what it describes, in fact, is simply the phenomenon of fanatical religious beliefs, indoctrination, and the cultic mindset. This is something, by the way, which is not merely reserved to cults but can be found within mainstream religions as well, and sometimes through secular involvement too. With time, and because circumstances have forced them to soften their approach, anticult groups have become less radical. Moderate elements within these groups can also provide a more reasonable outlook. At the same time, society at large gradually realizes the potential danger of fanatical anti-cult groups and the potential danger fanatical anticultists represent. They become less prone to let themselves taken by the emotional and hysterical reaction these antis seek to create. Overall, both anticult groups and the society at large have moved towards a more fitting approach. The danger anticult groups represent, however, is still important and real - particularly in certain European and Far East countries.



4. Envenoms conflicts - When individual tragedies become mass tragedies like Jonestown and Waco, the public tends to perceive only the fanaticism of cults and don't realize what stands in the background. Yet, if you look closer to the historical events that preceded these tragedies, you will see that it is rarely brought about by cult action alone. There has been a gradual escalade of conflict between the cult and anticult groups. This has increased the misunderstanding on both sides and amplified the cult's paranoia. To exclude and ignore the role the anticult movement had in bringing about these tragic events is to have a very partial view indeed. Keep in mind that the first mass tragedy took place in 1979, or eight years after the anticult movement had been busy kidnapping, threatening, maligning and demonizing new religious movements. Similar circumstances can also be found in subsequent tragedies such as Waco and the Heaven's Gate. In addition, Individal drama occur on a daily basis, away from public view. Though smaller in scale, they subjectively can be about as quivering to cult members and their relatives as those that unfold at a bigger level.

This does not mean - that fanatical religious movements cannot be dangerous on their own, and that nothing should be done to prevent the occurrence of similar tragedies in the future. Indeed, one should not underestimate the danger of fanatical zealots ready to sacrifice themselves for what they believe, or even resort to criminal activities that in their eyes are fully justified because aimed to bring about the apocalyptic prediction of their leaders. However, an hysterical reaction and a counter-cultic fanaticism are hardly the best answers to avoid these tragedies. Any responsible government would do well to look beyond the mere appearances and look into the root causes of what brought these events about. In so doing, they would not just take effective measures to prevent any deleterious actions from the groups if circumstances so warrant, but they would also take an active part in preventing the escalade between the cult and anticult groups in the first place. This is what seems to be the new approach of the FBI. Hopefully, a similar approach will also be generalized to law enforcement agencies of other countries.



5. Discredits genuine criticism - Exaggerated claims make the game of the cults. Cult members stop reading critical web site after the first few lines, and outsiders stop taking critics seriously once they find out the claims they made were false or exaggerated. Thereby, the genuine criticism that can be levied against cults is lost as well. This may also drive away intelligent critics. They either lose interest, or don't want to associate themselves with fanatics, be lumped together with what may appear to outsiders as lunatics, or encourage anticult craziness. The end result is one of radicalization. On the one hand a counter movement where mostly the more zealot critics remain. On the other, cult members who are now more cultish because the antis have confirmed all the evil their leader warned them about. The whole situation can escalade to the point where each faction ends up working hand in hand in bringing about the errosion of civil liberties of everybody, as well as horrendous tragedies.

This does not mean - that cults should not be criticized at all. Despite their negative aspects, anticult groups help in a way to raise public awareness about the potential danger of cults, help members to question their involvement, and prevent others from getting involved. Ultimately, anticult groups are right, but because of their own form of cultic mindset, they end up accomplishing the contrary of what they aim to accomplish. In that, again, they are the exact mirror of cults. The answer, of course, is somewhere between both extremes. The middle ground is made of moderate critics and scholars specialized in new religious movements - those whom anticultists erroneously refer to as "cult apologists". While popular opinion is likely to be more influenced by the alarmist claims of anticultists, those who are in a position of responsibility would do well to listen, instead, to the more balanced and factual viewpoint of the middle-ground group.


Positive aspects of Scientology Critical aspects of Scientology
Critical aspects of the Anti-Cult Movement Positive aspects of the Anti-Cult Movement



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This web site is NOT created by a Scientologist. It is created by a Scientology EX-MEMBER who is critical of Scientology. However, this ex-member is ALSO critical of the anti-Scientology movement. This does not make him a Scientologist, nor a defender of Scientology.

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