Religious Liberty In Europe:
Apostates


Massimo Introvigne

Dec. 1, 1997
     
   
    Bryan R. WilsonProfessor Massimo Introvigne is both the managing director and founding member of the Centre for the Study of New Religious Movements (CESNUR). CESNUR is an organisation founded by a by a group of international scholars to study and to provide accurate independent, unbiased information on these groups. In particular it acts as a consultancy service to governments. Dr Introvigne is the author of over twenty books and the editor of twelve publications on the sociology of religion and culture.
   
   

Mind control theories are part of a rejected knowledge consistently repudiated by the academia, professional association, and courts of law. It is however, argued that scholarly objections are less relevant than the "testimony" of "former members" who claim "cults" are indeed joined because of manipulation and mind control. It is unclear why the accounts of one or another "former member" should be accepted by official political bodies, including parliamentary commissions, as more relevant by definition than scholarly research. Additionally, a misunderstanding about the very notion of "former members" is perpetuated, and plays a key role in the public stigmatization of minority religious movements. While parliamentary reports and sensationalized media accounts claim to rely on the "testimony of former members," we learn invariably that, for each religious group, only a very limited number of "former members" have been heard by the parliamentary commissions, the courts, or the press.

Sociological research suggests that, among thousands of former members of any large organization (no matter how controversial) only a small minority become "apostates" (a technical, not a derogatory term). Not all former members are apostates. The apostate is the former member who reverses loyalties dramatically, and becomes a professional enemy of the organization he or she has left. Most former members do not become apostates. They remain in sociological terms suggested by David Bromley and others "defectors" (members who somewhat regret having left an organization they still perceive in largely positive terms), or "ordinary leave takers" with mixed feeling about their former affiliation. However ordinary leave takers (and, to some extent, defectors) remain socially invisible, insofar as they do not like or care to discuss their genuine representatives of the former members. In fact, quantitative research shows that even in extremely controversial groups, apostates normally represent less than 15% of former members.

   




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