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Religious Tolerance logo

The Anti-Cult Movement (ACM)


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Anti-Cult Movement (ACM) topics covered by this essay:

bulletIs an ACM needed?
bulletReligious movements that require strict discipline
bulletA list of ACM groups
bulletBooks promoting the ACM
bulletBooks and articles on New Religious Movements

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Is a Anti-cult Movement Needed?

An ACM is needed to raise public awareness of the danger of some doomsday religious groups which are/were clearly destructive and even life-threatening to their membership. During the past 20 years there have been a number of groups that have caused very serious losses of life, including:

bulletThe mass murders and some consensual suicides by 913 members of the People's Temple in Jonestown, Guyana
bulletThe Branch Davidians may be another example. However it is currently impossible to separate fact from fiction in the events at Waco TX. Some members appear to have been murdered by others in the group. Others died as a result of the fire that most likely was lit by arsonists within the group.
bulletLeaders of the Aum Shinri Kyo (Aum Supreme Truth) group in Japan organized poison gas attacks on the public.
bulletDozens of members of the Solar Temple were convinced to commit suicide or were murdered in Quebec and Europe. They believed that death would allow them to go to another level of existence.
bulletOver three dozens of members of the Heaven's Gate group in San Diego county CA were convinced to voluntarily commit suicide. There were no indications of murder at the scene. They also believed that suicide would elevate them to a higher level of existence.

But these represent a very small minority among new religious groups. And they do not appear to be the groups that the ACM primarily targets. In the past, attacks have concentrated on legitimate new religious movements, like the Unification Church, Hare Krishnas, Children of God, the Church of Scientology, the Mormon church, etc. and the nonexistent underground movement of abusive Satanists, etc. To get an understanding of the type of harm that anti-cult beliefs can do to benign religious groups, consider the experiences of the Messianic Communities (a.k.a. Twelve Tribes Communities). They have documented their victimization by ACM groups, deprogrammers, social service workers and the police. 1

Most ACM groups seem to take the legitimate public fear of destructive, doomsday cults, raise that fear to a fever pitch, and then direct it against benign new religious groups. But almost all of the groups that they victimize have only committed two "crimes": they are new, and they still have a small membership.

This essay continues below.

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Sponsored link:

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Religious movements which require strict discipline:

Much of the confusion over new religious movements relates to a misunderstanding of the conformity and discipline which is often required of its members. Sociologists D. Bromley and A. Shupe once described the Tnevnoc Cult which recruited young women, required them to shave their heads, wear special uniforms, gave them new names in a foreign language, required them to give up their personal possessions and sleep on hard pallets. During their initial membership in the cult, they were isolated from family contacts. They were later required to ritually marry the dead founder of the cult.

Bromely and Shupe received many inquiries about this abusive cult from sociologists and others concerned about psychological manipulation within cults. The latter did not realize that "Tnevnoc" spelled backwards is "Convent". 2 The sociologists were referring to activity in a Roman Catholic convent. This same theme appeared in a paper delivered in 1989. 3

Down through history, many religious groups (like convents, monasteries, intentional communities, etc.) have required their members to adhere to strict diets, schedules, repetitive praying, abstinence from sexual activities, isolation from former friends and their family or origin and other disciplines. To the casual outside observer, this might appear to be abusive. However, members accept the rules, enter and stay with the group because they find it a generally positive experience. If it becomes no longer positive, they leave and move on.

One of the opportunities of living in a democracy is that people are free to believe what they wish and to enter into religious associations with other individuals. This sometimes leads to unpleasant experiences; in rare cases, it can cause death. But that is one of the risks of living in a society which has freedoms of religion, association and speech.

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List of Anti-Cult Groups:

bulletThe AFF was founded in 1979 as the American Family Foundation. They educate the public and professionals about "cults" and assist people who have been adversely affected by cult membership. They publish the Cultic Studies Journal (CSJ) and the Cult Observer. See: http://www.csj.org
bulletCults on Campus concentrates primarily on the International Churches of Christ. See: http://www.cultsoncampus.com/
bulletThe Cult Awareness & Information Centre - Australia has information on cults, including information on recovery from heavy involvement in religious groups. This is a major site, Jan Groenveld, the late webmaster, assembled information on dozens of faith groups and psychological movements: e.g. the Unification Church, Seventh Day Adventist Church, Multiple Personality Disorder, Satanic Ritual Abuse, etc. See: http://www.caic.org.au/ This is a static site and has not been updated since the webmaster's death in 2002-OCT.
bulletCult FAQ is a service of the Apologetics Index. They deal with NRMs primarily from an anti-cult perspective, but do attack some on the basis of their theology. See: http://www.cultfaq.org/
bulletCult Information Centre is a British group founded by Ian Haworth who has "worked full-time as a specialist in cultism since 1979." at: http://www.cultinformation.org.uk/ 
bulletThought reform consultant Carol Giambalvo publishes "Carol Giambalvo's Cult Information and Recovery Internet site at: http://members.aol.com/carol2180/ 
bulletCult Information Service, Inc. is in Teaneck NJ. See:  http://members.aol.com/shawdan/cis.htm
bulletDialog Center appears to be both a counter-cult and anti cult group, located in Nenmark. See: http://www.dci.dk/engelsk/
bulletThe .ex-cult archive is at: http://www.ex-cult.org/
bulletFACTNet International (Fight Against Coercive Tactics Network) "Cults and other users of mind control," at: http://www.factnet.org/CultGroups.html?FACTNet
bulletFree Minds concentrates primarily on the Jehovah's Witnesses which they view as a mind control cult. See: http://www.freeminds.org/
bulletRecovering Former Cultists' Support Network (reFOCUS) supplies "recovery resources for folks hurt by their involvement with abusing and controlling organizations and relationships" See: http://www.refocus.org/index.html  
bulletRick Ross, former deprogrammer and current exit counselor has a personal web page containing "over 270 articles, letters, and book excerpts." See: http://www.rickross.com
bulletTrancenet.org is an anti-cult group "championing psychological freedoms in cults, corporations and family groups." Their site has up-to-date news reports. See: http://trancenet.org/
bulletUnderstanding Cult Mind Control is a web site of Steve Hassan, author of the book "Combating Cult Mind Control." See: http://www.shassan.com/

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Books promoting the anti-cult message:

bulletDaniel Shaw, "Traumatic Abuse in Cults: An Exploration of an Unfamiliar Social Problem" at: http://www.cyberpass.net/truth/essay.htm This essay discusses SYDA (Siddha Yoga).
bulletArmand DeWayne Pack, "The Cult Handbook," at: http://www.internetpro.net/~armandp/
bulletFlo Conway & Jim Siegelman, "Snapping: American's Epidemic of Sudden Personality Change," Lippincott, Philadelphia, PA, (1978) Read reviews and/or order this book from Amazon.com
bulletRonald Enroth, "Churches that Abuse," Zondervan, Grand Rapids, MI (1992)
bulletRonald Enroth, "Recovering from Churches that Abuse," Out of print, but may be available
bulletSteve Hassan, "Combating Cult Mind Control," Park Street, Rochester, VT, (1988) Review and/or order
bulletSteven Hassan, "Releasing the Bonds: Empowering People to Think for Themselves,'' Aitan Publ., (2000), Read reviews or order this book
bulletRobert Lifton, "Thought Reform and the Psychology of Totalism: A Study of Brainwashing in China," University of North Carolina Press, (1989). Order this book
bulletRobert Lifton, "The Nazi Doctors: Medical Killing and the Psychology of Genocide," Basic Books, (Reprinted 1988). Order this book
bulletMargaret Singer, "Cults in Our Midst," Jossey-Bass, San Francisco CA, (1995) Review and/or order
bulletThomas Streissquth, "Charismatic Cult Leaders (Profiles)," Oliver Press (1995) Review and/or order
bulletMadeleine Tobias & Janja Lalich, "Captive Hearts, Captive Minds: Freedom and Recovery from Cults and Other Abusive Relationships," Hunter Publ., (1994) Review and/or order
bulletKeith E. Tolbert and Eric Pement, "1996 Directory of Cult Research Organizations", American Religion Center, PO Box 168, Trenton, MI 48183 (313) 692-7772. This organization may not exist. There doesn't seem to be any reference to it on the Internet.

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Books and Articles about New Religious Movements

These are by persons who do not form part of the anti-cult movement. The authors have a positive approach to new religious movements:

bulletD.G. Bromley & A.D. Shupe, Jr., "Strange Gods: The Great American Cult Scare", Beacon Press, Boston MA (1981) Out of print, but a used copy can be purchased
bulletT. Miller, Ed, "America's Alternative Religions", SUNY Press, Albany NY (1995) Read reviews or order this book safely from Amazon.com online book store
bulletBenjamin Zablocki & Thomas Robbins, Eds, "Misunderstanding Cults : Searching for Objectivity in a Controversial Field," University of Toronto Press, (2001). Read reviews or order this book
bulletRob H. Nanninga has a bibliography of articles and books on "Cults & New Religious Movements." See: http://www.clas.ufl.edu/users/gthursby/rel/nanninga.htm
bulletS.J. Gelberg, "On Leaving the 'Hare Krishnas'", Communities, Issue 88, Fall 1995, Route 1, Box 155, Rutledge MO 63563. Cost is $4.50 in the US, US$4.50 elsewhere.
bullet"The Crisis of the U.S. Anti-Cult Movement: Cult Awareness Network Loses its Appeal," at: http://www.cesnur.org/can.htm
bulletCult Awareness Network Press Release, "Court Strikes Death Blow to Hate Group," issued 1998-JUL-30

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References cited above:

  1. "An issue of control: Conflict between the Church in Island Pond and state government," at:   http://www.twelvetribes.com/
  2. D.G. Bromley et al., "The Tnevnoc Cult," Sociological Analysis, 40(4): Pages 361 to 366, (1979)
  3. "Satanic cults: A skeptical view of the law enforcement approach," reprinted by Y Tylwyth Teg - Welsh Tradition in America  Religions" at: http://www.tylwythteg.com/lawguide3.html 

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Copyright © 1996 to 2006 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Latest update: 2006-APR-05
Author: B.A. Robinson
Hyperlinks last checked: 2003-APR-19

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