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Cult Concern FAQ (monthly posting)

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Archive-name: religions/cult/cult-concern-faq
Posting-Frequency: monthly
Last-modified: 1997/10/25
Version: 1.3

See reader questions & answers on this topic! - Help others by sharing your knowledge


		   Version 1.3, by Martin Poulter
		with help from the Usenet community
   Latest version available through e-mail:

	This material is a summary of personal conversations with three
exit-counsellors. It is a FAQ in that it answers a question that myself
and many openly anti-cult people are frequently asked: "I am worried about a
work colleague/friend/parent/child who is showing interest/deeply involved
in an organisation which I think is a cult. What can I do?" Some of the
advice here is relevant to dissuading someone who is just becoming involved.
Some of it is relevant if you know someone who is deeply involved. Mostly,
the focus is on gentle dissuasion: when someone is involved very deeply
with a cult, there is no substitute for an experienced exit-counsellor.
	This document contains an overview of one of the ways of getting
somebody out of a cult. It has a (highly condensed) list of useful
addresses and resources. Appendix I is the Cult Awareness Network's list of
Do's and Don't's and appendix II briefly addresses the use of the World
Wide Web in exit counselling.
	Many, many thanks go to all the people whose work has made this
document possible.


	Cult involvement is perhaps best seen as similar to an addictive drug.
On the one hand, it can provide ecstatic highs, feelings of well-being or
boosts in confidence. On the other, it can lead to a total dependence, so
that it is focused on at the expense of one's family, friends, job, or health.
Like drug addicts, cult members can end up giving all their money to fund
their search for the next peak experience. If they get very deeply involved,
they can, in effect, give up their moral and intellectual judgements in
favour of a blind acceptance of what the cult dictates.
	The fact that there are good *and* bad points is of paramount
importance. Conversations between a cult member and an anxious parent are
usually a frustrating stalemate: The cult member refuses to consider the
bad points of the cult and the parent will not accept that there are good
        Don't get into a panic. Some of the anti-cult material that is
available is very alarming, but remember that the scarier stuff is more
newsworthy. People like myself who compile anti-cult information look for
the most striking facts, just like anyone else who provides news or
information. This is not to be confused with sensationalisation, which is when
one makes insignificant facts seem unnecessarily alarming. Because a claim
is made that certain members of the cult have done X, don't assume that
such things are commonplace.
	Parents or friends occasionally resort to kidnapping in order to get
the member out of the cult. However desperate things may seem, do not try
this at any cost. It is illegal, counter-productive and completely against
the spirit of individual freedom. What you are trying to do is to restore your
friend's independence, not to put them under a new set of pressures.


	If you do not know anything about the cult, you will make no headway
at all. Many cult belief-systems strongly emphasise the distinction between
those "inside" who have the "sacred knowledge" and those "outside" who do
not understand how good the cult is. People who criticise the cult without
first learning anything about what it offers simply reinforce this view. 
	Your local library, the cult itself and of course the Internet are
places you can search for information. If you find a World Wide Web page
dealing with your particular cult, it is often worth e-mailing the
author, who may have information or documents that they have not yet put on
the Web. Read the cult's own information as well as critical books or
articles. Find out what it was that attracted your friend to the movement.
        The teachings of the cult may seem very bizarre. That isn't a bad
thing in itself: remember that most religious or philosophical doctrines
seem bizarre to people who first hear about them. The more important
issues are whether the cult has your friend's welfare at heart, or whether
he or she would still choose to be in the cult if making an informed,
uncoerced choice.
	If the teachings of the cult are obviously illogical or unethical, you
may wonder how your friend could possibly fall for such a group. Remember that
your friend is more likely to be persuaded by how they feel than by the words
on the page. The cult creates an environment in which no-one expresses a
dissenting opinion and in which people are made to feel very welcome in
return for accepting the cult's teachings and social order. Some cults treat
dissenting thoughts or criticism as crimes. In short, social pressure is
being used against your friend. People are much more susceptible to social
pressure than they realise.
	It is extremely useful if you can talk to an ex-member of the cult.
You can often find such people by watching Usenet groups, reading Web-pages
or perhaps by inquiring in your own neighbourhood. The best you, as an
outsider, can do is to express your concern to the cult member and give
them some gentle dissuasion. Proper exit-counselling can only be done by
someone with a deep experience of the cult.


	It will be useful to get other people on your side. Talk to other
people who care about the cult member: friends, work colleagues or family.
Again, don't just create a panic: tell them that, while your friend of course
has a right to his or her own life, you are concerned that he or she is being
manipulated by people who have no real interest in his or her welfare. Show
them some of the documents that you have found in the library or printed out
from the Internet.
	Together with these other people, you can set down what you know about
the cult victim and ask yourselves why it is that he or she joined the
cult. It may help if you go through Steve Hassan's questionnaire, which is
on the Web at
	Many cults pressurise their members into handing over large amounts
of money, usually in an escalating series of payments. Members can get into
terrible debts this way and they often get the money from their families.
You can restrict the financial loss by shutting off joint accounts or
trust funds that you both have access to, and by warning people not to
loan money to them. It also restricts your friend's cult involvement. He or
she will become a lot less valuable to the cult if it becomes known that he
or she does not have much money to turn over. If she or he begs, don't
send money to "help"; send necessities like food and clothing instead.


	You may feel like going up to your friend and ridiculing them for
being so stupid as to fall for what is, to you, an obvious scam. This is
entirely the wrong attitude. It's really just another use of social pressure.
The cult member is being taught to see you as an enemy: careless actions
on your part can easily reinforce this.
	Make it absolutely 100% clear to your friend that you do not hate
them for what they are doing. Perhaps you hate the cult, or you hate
people who have lied to your friend, but you are only discussing the cult
out of concern for their welfare. (If you do hate your friend for what
they're doing, stop and think again: you're looking at the situation the
wrong way).
	Remember that you are trying to get them to make a free choice
between an independent life and life in the cult. It may be that troubles
at home, in their personal life or their career helped to make the
independent life look less attractive. (Of course, such things are never
major factors: people join cults because they are *recruited*). You
may have to face up to, and rectify, some problems at home. Remind your
friend that there is a supporting environment waiting for them if they
want to leave the cult.
	Among the many different beliefs that the cult member will have taken
on, some will have higher priority than others. For example, the belief in
the infallibility of the cult leader may be sacrosanct, while the belief
that the money is being put to good use is something about which the cult
member may have real doubts. Hence you have to choose carefully which
aspects of the belief system you are going to discuss. For example, it
would be pointless to start by discussing the cult leader. This is one of
the ways in which the advice from ex-members is useful.
	Arrange to meet your friend, in a place, preferably a family home,
where they feel comfortable. It has to be a private place, and somewhere
where you have your documents and a video player to hand. Make sure they
know that they are not under any pressure to stay but that you want to
spend some time listening to each other's concerns.


	Get your friend to talk about their life in the cult. They will
start off by telling you how much it has transformed their life for the
better. Although you'll be tempted to interrupt them or challenge them,
*don't*. Just listen to what they have to say. By making them describe the
cult in their own words, you are encouraging them to think for themselves
about what they have done. Follow this up by asking what the teachings of
the cult are, or how their life now compares with life before they joined
the cult. What they say to you is very important: it is the key to
understanding why they joined the cult.
	Don't dispute the successes: if you were trying to persuade
someone to come off drugs, you wouldn't tell them that the drug doesn't
generate a high, would you? Instead you would try to draw their attention
to how their life has been affected by the drug and how their habit wasn't
worth the money or the danger. This is the same approach that one should
use in the cult situation.


	Remember that your friend has been told that there is only one
trustworthy authority -the cult hierarchy. Because of this, you cannot
expect to say to them "You're in a cult," and have them respond, "Yes,
you're right: what a jerk I've been." What you can do is to pave the way for
them to *discover for themselves* that they are in a cult. When they are
suitably talkative, you can suggest that you watch a video. Video
documentaries on mind control, hypnosis or on other cults are useful at
this stage: anti-cult groups will tell you how to get hold of these.
[a video list will be included in a future version of this FAQ]
	For the moment, you are not discussing your friend's cult; just
showing them what you mean by a "cult". Most people are completely unaware
of the power of social pressure and of psychological coercion. The better
your understanding of coercive tactics, the less effective they are on you,
so it's essential to give your friend some understanding before they can
recognise what has happened to them.


	Your friend will not immediately make the connection between what
they learn about mind control and what is happening in their own lives.
However, if you have made it this far, you have at least sown some vital
seeds of doubt. You have laid the groud for the important step of getting
your friend to look at some negative material about their own cult.
	They may be confidently asserting that they are not in a cult, in
which case you can invite them to look through some critical material
("Let's criticise the critical material!"). It is best to start with
well-known sources, such as video documentaries or mainstream press articles.
You, of course, have on hand some documents or further articles with which
to back up the claims in the article or video. Remember that the facts are
on your side; the point of the exercise is to allow your friend to
look at the facts with an open mind, not to tell them off.

Some general questions you might focus on are:
	1) Cults promise that their members can attain superior happiness,
virtue and/or ability. Do other people in the cult have these qualities?
	2) Do your friend's superiors really care about your friend? Are
the 'friends' that they make in the cult real friends?
	3) Is the cult truthful in the way it presents itself to the public?
(The two of you can take a close look at the recruitment literature.) Does it
come up to its own proclaimed ethical standards?
	4) Is your friend really more free now than they were before joining
the organisation?


	If you have created the right conditions and persuaded your friend
to rationally discuss the cult they are involved in, it may be that they
realise how they have been manipulated. There is still a recovery process
to go through, whose length will depend on the severity of their cult
	People with a deep involvement will have to get used to being able to
choose when to sleep or eat. They will have to get used to not having their
decisions made for them. They will be suddenly free from the pressure to
"produce", and from the the fear of failure. They will have to get used to
ordinary language and social protocols. The world will seem quite alien to
them for a while, in a way which outsiders cannot understand. They will
need plenty of time to think things through, and to talk about what has
happened to them.
	The emphasis should still be on letting your friend find things
out for him- or her-self. Remember that you are dealing with someone who has
been made very suggestible and vulnerable. If you convey to them that
they are in for years of psychological ill-effects, the act of telling
them might contribute to the syndrome. The answer then, is not to tell
your friend how they should be feeling, but to let them recover at their
own pace.


The best explanation of cult mind control that the present writer has
seen is Bob Penny's "Social Control in Scientology" which is available at
the following Web sites:

One exit counsellor who uses a method similar to what I've outlined here
is Joe Szimhart, whose web page is at



	Pastoralamt der Erzdiozese Wien, Stephansplatz 6/6, A-1010 Vienna

	VVPG, Gemeente Park 1, 2930 Brasschaat

	ADIF, 8 HErtogenweg, b-1980 Tervuren

	The Dialog Center, Katrinebjergvej 46, DK 8200 Arthus N.

	Uskontojen uhrien tuki ry (Support Group for the Victims of Religions)
	Kukonkuja 2, FIN-39160 Julkujarvi

	Research Institute of the Lutheran Church, Box 239, SF 33101, Tampere

	U.N.A.D.F.I., 10 Rue du Pere Julien Dhuit, 75020 Paris

	A.G.P.F., Graurheindorfer str. 15, D-53111 Bonn 1

	Panhellenic Parent's Union, 14 Ioamiou Gennadion St., Athens 140

	MEKDSZ, Kende U.7, H-111 Budapest

	The Cult Department, Irish Church Mission, 28 Bachelor's Walk,
	Dublin 1

	Concerned Parents Against Cults, P.O.B. 1806, Haifa

	A.R.I.S., Via A. Doria 9/3, 20058 Villasanta

	Toverud, Vestgrensa 3, 0851 Olso

	Ruch Obrony Rodziny i Jednostki (Movement for Defense of Family
	and Individual) R.O.R.iJ., SP116, 05-200 Wolomin

	Asociation Pro-Juventud, Paseo Maritim 27 bjs., Palma de Mallorca 14,
	also at: Aribau, 266, Int.bjs, 08006 Barcelona

	Svenska Kyrkans Namnd For Mellankyrkliga Och Ekumeniska Forbindelser
	Box 438, 751 06 Uppsala
	F.R.I., Svandammsvagen 10, S-12634 Hagersten

	S.A.D.K., Postfach 18, CH-8156 Oberhasli

	Info Secta, Schweighofstrasse 420, Postfach 8055, Zurich

        Cult Information Centre, BCM Cults, PO Box 12, London WC1N 3XX

        Family Action, Information and Resource
        FAIR, BCM Box 3535, PO Box 12, London WC1N 3XX

        42 Southfall Close, Ranskill, Nottinghamshire DN22 8NE


	Info-Cult, 5655 Park Avenue, Suite 305,  Montreal, Quebec H2V-4H2.

	Council on Mind Abuse (COMA), Box 575, Station Z, Toronton,
Ontario. M5N-2Z6

	Cult Project, 3460 Stanley Street, Montreal, Quebec. H3A-1R8

	Center d'Information sur les Nouvelles Religions, 8010 St. Denis
Street, Montreal, Quebec. H2R-2G1.

	Alberta Cult Education, 0136-100 St., Suite 502, Edmonton,
Alberta. T5P-4C1

	Saskatchewan Citizens Against Mind Control, (SCAMC), Medow Lake
Chapter, Box 348, Medow Lake, Saskatchenwan. SCM-1V0

        American Family Foundation, AFF, PO Box 2165, Bonita Springs, FL 34133

        Recovering Former Cultists Support (ReFOCUS), PO Box 2180,
	Flagler Beach, FL 32136
        or PO Box 4901, Grand Junction, CO 81502

        IMPORTANT: The Cult Awareness Network is now defunct and appears
        to have been bought up by Scientology. I recommend people not to
        contact them.

        Fundacion SPES, Pasaje Del Carmen 740-4th "Z", 1019 Capital Federal


        Cult Awareness & Information Centre, PO Box 2444, Mansfield 4122
	CultAware Australia, Locked Bag 1000, Granville NSW 2142

New Zealand
	Free Mind Foundation, 12 Wright's Hill Road, Karori, Wellington 5

	Mind Control Research Centre, Sapporo-shi Chuo-ku,
	Minami 9 - jo nishi 10 chome, Grand Mansion No 506, Hokkaido

	Methodist World Mission, K.P.O. Box 740, Kwangwha Mun, Seoul 110, R.O.


	Carol Giambalvo; Exit Counselling: A Family Intervention
	Steve Hassan; Combatting Cult Mind Control
	Madeleine L Tobias and Janja Lalich; Captive Hearts, Captive Minds
	Langone & Ross; Cults: What parents should know
	Margaret Singer and Janja Lalich; Cults in our Midst


	Margaret Singer; What is a cult, and how does it work?
	and Leaving a cult (both available from AFF)

	Louis Jolyon West; The Scientology Wars

This is a very condensed resource list. A much more extensive list can be
found on the Web, at

APPENDIX I: Do's and Don'ts

Downloaded from the website of the now-defunct Cult Awareness Network,
(see the CAN Memorial Page at

                                DOS AND DON'TS
               A guide for families who think a member or friend
                     is involved with a destructive cult:

   DO record all names, addresses, phone numbers of persons known to be
      associated in any way with the individual's activities.

   DO maintain a written chronology of events associated with the
      individual's activities relating to the group.

   DO answer all communications from the individual in a loving, sincere,
      non-critical and consistent manner.

   DO collect related items from newspapers, magazines, and other sources,
      as well as publications of the group.

   DO NOT send money to an individual in a cult if you can send non-cash
      gifts such as clothing, non-refundable airline tickets, etc.

   DO NOT spend large amounts of money for treatments or seminars until you
      have verified such programs' credentials and qualifications for
      handling your problem.

   DO NOT GIVE UP!  Remember the individual is a product of your love,
      training, heredity, and home environment.  These influences can never
      be permanently eliminated by any technique.

   DO NOT feel alone.  This is a common problem faced by thousands all over
      this country and abroad.  It affects families of every religious or
      socio-economic background.

   DO seek help, establish and continue an association with an organized
      group of families with similar situations.  We care about you!


	With the advent of hypertext databases of cult material on the
world-wide web, there is the possibility that some exit counselling could be
done by sitting the cult member at a computer and inviting them to peruse
documents at their own pace. The problem with traditional exit counselling is
that it is done by a few known people: cults can teach their members to fear
and distrust those people. When hypertext is involved, the cult member,
rather than the counsellor, is choosing the order and the rate at which they
are exposed to negative information.
	Each critic's web-page has a different focus. Many are created
with the intention of "immunising" people against future involvement, and
might not be suitable for people who have already been drawn into the cult.
First-hand accounts of life in the cult make a good starting point, because
these are likely to have the most credibility to your friend. It is always
an advantage to have paper copies of the important documents and articles
on hand.
	It is too early to say how effective this method will be, but I am
aware of one case in which a cult member exit-counselled himself by reading
anti-cult web pages, and of a few other cases in which the web played an
important part in helping someone out of a cult.
MARTIN L: Postgrad., amateur crackpotologist and caffeine-free celibate bon M
POULTER : viveur studying the Philosophy of Belief at Bristol Uni., England c
Cult Concern FAQ + Soppy Compliments Page + Celibate FAQ + Gifts from "Bob" Q
Helena Kobrin Page + Scientology Criticism: !

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