Friday, July 31, 2009

Episode 48 Cults


What is a cult and how is it different from a religion? Recent revelations about the Church of Scientology provide a frightening example of how cult leaders can manipulate their flock using basic principles of group psychology. Later we talk to a RD listener who is trying to leave the Mormon church, and finding that it is harder than one would think. Finally, a former Jehovah's Witness asks for advice on how to convince his younger brother to leave the sect.

To download this or any previous Reasonable Doubts episodes click here. Find the episode you want and right click the "play now" link and select "save target as..."

13 comments:

Jeremy said...

Correction: Its RathBUN not Rathburn.

My apologies,

JB

Skepoet said...

I really enjoyed this episode. Although if we are calling Mormonism a cult, then most "new religions" count. (To be fair, I think most religions actually meet the "cult" definition strictly speaking). Anyway, great episode.

K.M. Warner said...

Check this out: http://www.religio.de/cudef.html

As a former Mormon myself (was active for nearly 25 years, married in the temple, etc.) Mormonism is definitely a cult - especially in Utah or anywhere else where there's a decent percentage of Mormons (like the Phoenix, AZ and the Omaha, NE areas).

At the last ex-Mormon conference, they had a cult expert speak. He talked about how China is considered the largest cult in the world. http://www.exmormonfoundation.org/audio.html then click on the link for "Releasing the Bonds: Empowering People To Think For Themselves"

theicidalmaniac said...

I think that I would consider Mormonism to be less of a cult than it used to, mainly because the "isolation" factor is easing up. I think that people are learning a lot more about Mormonism and that Mormons feel that they are a lot better understood than they used to be.

As an ex-Mormon I have heard all kinds of strange questions from people who were curious about Utah and Mormonism (was your family polygamous, can you read, etc etc.) but the internet is helping to open up a dialog, I think, and give people a more accurate depiction of what Mormonism actually is.

Nevertheless, there is still an element of isolation in some of the church's core doctrine; even though as of 1978 black people have been allowed full fellowship the church STILL councils against interracial and ESPECIALLY interfaith romantic relationships. They print warnings against such things in the youth handbooks, or at least they did 15 years ago when I was getting them. They explicitly warn against reading any material that is critical of the church or any of it's leaders, past or present. I have heard of several instances even of BYU firing professors whose research contradicted Book of Mormon claims.

They are getting more liberal, but it's a slow process, unfortunately, and even I and most of my ex-Mormon friends are unable to have conversations with our family members about the LDS church, because our families are told that such debating is "evil," in that it causes contention which is, according to LDS scripture, "of the Devil." In fact several of my friends who are no longer LDS actually served missions when they were younger and were told in the Missionary Training Center in Provo, UT (which is essentially a sales-tactics and apologist boot camp) NOT to engage in any sort of conversation which questions the church. They are at your house to teach, NOT to entertain serious, thoughtful questions, because they don't really want serious, thoughful philosophical musings among their flock. They want people who are persuaded by emotional testimony bearing.

Anyway, Jeremy, Dave, and Luke, thanks a ton for giving me a voice on the podcast. You guys are top shelf.

Josh

tinyfrog said...

Hey guys. I was just going to comment that I have been both polygraphed and e-metered. Are the two similar? Sort of. I've heard that the e-meter is basically a polygraph test circa 1960s.

In a polygraph test, they hook you up to monitor your heartrate, your breathing (they put a strap across your chest), and I don't remember if they monitored your electrical resistance (i.e. which is a measure of sweat, I think). They ask you a few test questions to get a 'baseline'. These questions are designed to get a reaction so that they can see what it looks like when you are talking about something alarming. They record all the data on a computer (both the questions asked and your physiological recordings), and have a trained polygraph reader look at the read-out after it's done.

As for the e-meter, I decided to try it out a few years ago at a fair. The scientologists had setup a booth where they would 'measure your stress levels' or something like that.

The emeter itself is extremely cheap. I would be surprised if it cost them more than $5 to put the device together - yet, I've heard they sell them to scientology members for $4000+. (Do a google image search on 'emeter' if you want to see a picture.) Here's how it works: they put two metal cylinders in your hands and ask you things like "how do you feel about your job?" or "how do you feel about your boss". As far as I can tell, the device is simply a voltmeter. The scientologist watches it and anytime the meter moves to the right, that's interpreted as a "hit" - something you're stressed about. The scientologist will often adjust the settings of the emeter to keep the needle centered. In my case, the needle kept slowly sliding to the left - as if I was getting more and more relaxed whenever I talked about money, my job, my girlfriend, etc. Unlike the polygraph test, there is no recording of physiological information, and the scientologist never asked any initial 'calibration' questions. I noticed that the meter would sometimes move slightly to the right at times when I wasn't thinking about anything. The scientologist would immediately stop and ask me what I was thinking about at that moment. In other cases, I would think about my old boss (who I did not like at all) and it wouldn't produce any reaction on the emeter.

My impression of an e-meter is that it's a cheap device that has little more accuracy that a couple of dousing rods.

At the end of it, when I was apparently not stressed about anything, the scientologist told me that if I'm already this unstressed, that I'm pretty advanced already. Scientology was really interested in people like me because imagine how far I could go if I did some scientology training. (Roll eyes)

You might also be interested in hearing that Anonymous had a few undercover people around handing out cards to anyone visiting the booth. They would also stop and talk to people about scientology. As far as anyone could tell, the scientologists were completely oblivious that members of Anonymous operating within 30 feet of their booth.

Mer said...

ZOMFG ok this has nothing to do with Cults, but this is amazing and has to be shared!

I work at a grocery chain called Reasors, here in Tulsa. SUPER conservative, the BUCKLE of America's Bible Belt, thank you.

Well we have a "radio" station that plays a mix of fairly decent music mixed with shitty christian and country pop, which I really don't mind that much most days... some days it drives me insane.

>If I have to hear "What if His People Prayed" ONE MORE fucking time... :-P <


Anyway, so today during a segment called "Entertainment News" this woman was talking about how Brad Pitt announced he didn't believe in God, and she said "Well, I'll just pretend he didn't say that..." which kind of ruffled me a bit, but I wasn't surprised at all.

THAT is not the story.
The story is literally FIVE MINUTES LATER....

Bad Religion's "Sorrow" came on!

I was completely shocked and I started cracking up.

Everyone where I work thinks it's a Christian pop song... which I suspect is why it got on this very conservative radio station.

I tried to explain that they were saying that there will ALWAYS BE SORROW because the "messiah" in the song will never come (that's the point) they didn't quite understand what I meant... I told them to look up the band and decide for themselves.

Anyway sorry this was SO LONG and I'm sure full of grammatical errors. Just pass along that great moment to your friends, kids. hahahaha

NoCoolName_Tom said...

As an active Mormon (and active listener) I just wanted to thank you for the insightful and honest discussion you had on this show. When you started off the show I was concerned because usually when a segment on a show starts off with "And we'll be talking with an ex-Mormon you get one of two responses:

1)"I didn't even know what the Bible WAS when I was a Mormon, but now that I've found the real Jesus I know the truth!" (any given religious programming)

2) or "Yeah, I started having trouble when I went to the temple and learned that God was actually a sexually libertine space alien who lives on a planet named Kobol; I mean, I never even HEARD about this stuff when I went to Church every week!" (Religulous and similar)

So, again, thank you for the honest and rational approach to the interview. I applaud the young man interviewed and wish him well in his new life; I don't think he is being dishonest or somehow, deep down, really "knows" there is a God. I hope there is one, but, to be honest, deep down I don't really know, so who am I to judge when someone doesn't have a belief in God? And if they're happier that way then I think that's great!

I don't know how hard it was to avoid the usual cheap shots while recording this, but I appreciate it and feel it helped provide you with a higher quality discussion.

Keep up the great work, RD! I love the show.

stephy said...

Oh wow, this is really interesting to me. An elder at our (Presbyterian PCA) church left a few years ago and took some members with him to start his home church. It ended up taking on completely cultish qualities and those people stopped associating with us for typical cultish reasons. It was really painful. I also just finished reading a book by someone who left the Mormon church. Crazy similarities in the scare tactics used to make people hush and comply. Anyway, thanks for talking about this, it needs to be talked about.

Daniel said...

I know this is an old episode, but I'm fairly new to the podcast (since October '09) and am in the middle of listening.

Just wanted to let you guys know that I'm an ex-mormon and your podcasts on the disunity of the bible were instrumental in bringing me out of the Mormon mindset. Thank you so much!!

Thought my comment would be appropriate here, as this is probably the most in-depth treatment of Mormonism you're likely to do, since it's more of a fringe religion than I ever understood growing up.

Again, thank you for opening my eyes.

stephy said...

Hey Jeremy, I left the comment before yours just now about reading a book about someone who left the Mormon church. It was by someone named Martha Beck and her dad was really high up in the Mormom church. She writes really beautifully about coming to terms with who she is and if she really believed what she'd been taught. Anyway, if you're looking for something to read it might offer you some moral support because leaving the church is really scary and brave of you. Love and good wishes to you!
stephy

Anonymous said...

Greatings from Sydney, Australia!

I have a question regarding Episode 48 about Cults. The ex Morman spoke about resigning from the church. When I was about 21 I joined the church of scientology (mostly because of a boy). I am now, however, and have been for a long time, an atheist. It did not occur to me til I listened to your show that I should resign from Scientology but I'm not sure how - do you have any information on this? I remember signing this whole contract that I really can't remember the details of - actually, the more I think about it, the more horrified I am!

Kate
PS: Love the show.

Dan said...

Kate I can't speak for Scientology, but I learned about resigning from Mormonism by searching online. I haven't done it, yet, but I know how and I know my rights. I'd suggest googling "Resign from Scientology" or some such and see what you get.

Barbara Lee's Art said...

TinyFRog and others I am an Independent Scientologist and I agree mostly on that the Corp rotation known as Scientology is a cult and DM is running it into the ground with his abuses, black Scientology, black Dinaetics, power and money grab.

That does not make auditing bad or evil. It is being used in reverse for the above reasons.

The Stress test is something new that was never used in the early church for it did not exit. They cult does use it for new recruits.

The needle reading going to the right is called a fall. I can locate issues that you may have but it also can show if you are tired or upset about something.

It is hard to learn to be an auditor to use the meter. I know I tried and did not do it because of the alterations of the how to do in the church so it will not work.

IT is a heavy reponsiblity to be an auditor. There are so many more independents out of the church that are then in the cult.

We keep what works and dump what does not. Most are working on this as it is a process and sadly some don't make it too well.

The meter does work but too many get dependent on it when one can audit without it. It is just a tool to help one be more accurate.

A needle that goes back and forth in a idle fashion is called an FN and for the basic stuff that is a good thing. Means you are doing fine and maybe realized something about life.

There is a lot to it and I think that auditors should be trained social workers.

Some have done so.

Yeah pick at the church all you want to as that is fairly accurate of what is but the independents leave much of that behind.