Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Mind Control, Psychology, and Religious Experience

Mind control aka coercive persuasion aka thought reform is absolutely different from normal religious experience. Mind control is either deceptive or coercive. Normal religious experience is not. Mind control is a psychological phenomenon. Normal religious experience is a theological phenomenon, though it includes some psychological matters. However, religious experience cannot be understood only in the realm of psychology.

What psychologists can observe are some outward things, however, they are unable to give them a proper interpretation without religion. For example, one famous psychologist made an experiment. She invited Christian, Muslims, Buddhists and followers of other religions. She asked them to pray while their brain waves were being measured by electroencephalograph. The result of this experiment was that she found out that they all had low brain waves at the time of prayer. Since this psychologist believed in God, though she did not follow any religion, she made a conclusion that the low brain waves at the time of prayer indicate that a person contacts God in prayer. She also concluded that the frequency of brain waves indicate the depth of a person's contact with God.

In principle, what she found was only the low brain waves at the time of prayer. Many atheist psychologists would argue with her conclusions.

However, if people are able to contact God in prayer, it is absolutely possible that this contact will cause some psychological and physiological phenomena. Strictly speaking, these phenomena do not prove God's existence or God's contacts with people. However, they, at least, might indicate that. So, an attempt to explain these phenomena only by psychology is wrong.

The case of religious cults is more complicated. For example, many abusive churches hold Christian doctrines the same as good and benign churches. This means that, in principle, their members should have the same Christian experience. However, abusive churches use mind control. It means that the members experience both mind control and Christian experience. Moreover, mind control influences their religious experience. Then, it is hard to distinguish their pure religious experience and their religious experience influenced by mind control.

Probably, the best way is to ask a question, "Does this experience match the Bible or mind control techniques?" For example, a pastor says, "If you leave my church, you will go to hell." The Bible does not say that leaving a particular church will cause to lose salvation. However, one of the methods of mind control is to indoctrinate phobias of leaving the group. This means that cult leaders teach the members of their cults that if they leave, they will perish, lose salvation, and so on. So, this pastor does not teach the Bible, but uses methods of mind control instead.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Postcult Trust in God

A number of people who left religious cults and abusive churches lost their faith and trust in God. However, there are also many people who were able to maintain their faith and trust in God.

Why does it happen that some people lose their trust in God and some do not? I think it depends on their experience in these groups. Probably, people who experienced more abuse "in the name of God" tend to lose their trust in God more easily than those who did not.

After I spent 5 years in a cult, I had a desire to leave and to join a Christian church. I still had faith in God at that time though I had serious problems with the cult leaders. However, I did not leave. I left only 5 years later. By that time, I completely lost faith in God. Those 5 years were filled with the leaders' abuses. They always told that they carried out God's will. I wish I had left much earlier. Then, I would not have so many spiritual problems.

There are so many people who left abusive churches and who lost their faith in God. This is a real problem.

Secular and Religious Psychology

I would say, there are two kinds of psychology. There are secular psychology and religious psychology. Both deal with human psychological realm, however, they have different goals.

There is Christian psychology, Muslim (especially, Sufi) psychology, Buddhist psychology, and so on. They have some similar principles in opposition to secular psychology. The main purpose of religion psychology is religious self-improvement and self-perfecting. It is also used to help other people who have psychological and spiritual needs with religious means. The stress in religious psychology is on self-analysis, self-judgment, self-improvement.

During the history, many people were interested about human psychological realm long before modern secular psychology. However, psychological knowledge was inside of religion. In the Bible, in Koran, and other religious writings there are many things that deal with human psychological realm. Many religious people practiced these principles and taught others.

Secular psychology deals with a psychological realm of people in very objective and analytical way. Secular psychologists try to be scientific and tend to deny religious knowledge.

I think the best way is the combination of religion and psychology. Secular psychology by itself is not sufficient to solve all the human psychological problems and needs.

It looks like that even some psychologists eventually realize that secular western psychology is not sufficient. For example, Lynn Wilcox, Ph.D. psychologist and professor of California State University and also a practicing Sufi, wrote a book Sufism & Psychology: A comparative study of Western Psychology and Sufi Psychology. Though she is Sufi (Sufism is a part of Islam) and not a Christian, she stresses that secular psychology is not sufficient. There is a need for religious psychology. Since she is a Sufi, she considers Sufism as an alternative to secular psychology. Christianity has its own religious psychology. So, of course, Sufism is not the only alternative to secular psychology. However, this is interesting that she reached a lot in psychology and then realized that it is not sufficient. Unfortunately, many psychologists put psychology almost on the place of God.

Friday, August 8, 2008

Psychological and Spiritual Methods in Postcult Recovery

As I have already written, I believe that people who left religious cults and abusive churches, need both psychological and spiritual recovery. I think these two things are closely related. In addition, psychological recovery may help spiritual recovery and vice versa.

Christianity and other religions have been using psychological methods for a very long time. They use psychological methods in combination with spiritual methods. I think this combination is very important.

For example, people who left abusive groups sometimes cannot rely on God. This frustrates their spiritual life and growth. This problem is obviously spiritual. However, people who left cults (and not only religious cults) sometimes feel that they cannot rely on people. This problem is usually considered to be psychological. So, I think the problem of the lack of trust in God is both spiritual and psychological.

On the other hand, spiritual practices can reduce psychological problems.

This is why I think that combination of both spiritual and psychological methods is very useful.