conclude . . . that the vast bulk of scientific findings
whatever clinical, field observation or survey methodologies
never supported the ACM [anti-cult movement] perspective that
most "cult" members were duped or psychologically shanghaied
into membership, coercively maintained in subservience as
slaves or impaired in any meaningful way through their membership.
Bromley and Oliver, The
Anti-Cult Movement in America
some kind of movement is needed to raise public awareness of the
danger of some doomsday religious groups which are (or were) clearly
destructive and even life-threatening to their membership or others.
That is fine and good. But as we pointed
out earlier, the number of such doomsday religious
groups can be counted on the fingers of both hands, while the number
of new religious movements
all of which tend to be branded
as "cults" by the anti-cult movements
is in the tens of thousands. The anti-cult movements tend to cast
their net around (and blacklist) all
new religious movements indiscriminately, which amounts to blatant
gets worse. Many of the anti-cult movements became even more radical
and took direct action against members of what they called "cults".
They attempted to "liberate" members from their groups. Some parents
of "cult" members, some disillusioned former members, and some "kidnappers
for hire" became "deprogrammers". For a fee which could exceed $10,000,
they engaged in such activities as:
them for days against their will
to forcibly brainwash them, so that they will abandon their religious
faith and adopt the belief systems of the kidnappers
them of sleep, food, etc. in order to facilitate their emotional
/ mental / spiritual breakdown
them from communicating with the people in their support network
large sums of money for their services
has caused considerable emotional damage to members of new religious
movements. The goal was to return them to their family of origin.
It is ironic that the deprogrammers felt justified in using the
very practices that they accused the "cults" of engaging in. "Fighting
fire with fire", they sometimes called it.
anti-cult groups appear to have been generally successful in avoiding
criminal charges. This is largely because their victims realize
that such charges would implicate members of their family in a criminal
conspiracy. In many cases, the deprogrammers convince the former
members to leave the group, and to get on with their lives with
no residual animosity towards the deprogrammers.