Saturday, December 4, 2010

Post-Cult Recovery and Religion

There are four main approaches to the post-cult recovery:
1. Purely psychological approach when the main goal is to address psychological and emotional problems caused by the cult involvement and a person's belief system is not affected.
2. Purely theological approach when the main goal is to change the person's belief system from incorrect (unorthodox, heretical) to correct (orthodox), but psychological and emotional issues are not properly addressed.
3. A combination of psychological and theological approaches that addresses both psychological and emotional problems and person's beliefs.
4. A combination of psychological and atheist approaches when psychological problems are addressed and a person is encouraged to leave religion completely.

I personally prefer approach that does not cause a person to change the belief system. I cannot agree with atheist/"ex-Christian"/"recovering fundamentalists" approach because of their atheist propaganda. They claim that any religion is abusive and promote leaving it completely. Ironically, their arguments very much repeat arguments used by communists. Communists also taught that any religion is abusive and promoted atheism. Was communist atheism less abusive? Of course, not. Atheism as well as religion may be very abusive.

The problem with theological approaches is the definition what is the correct and incorrect religion. In Russia, there are rehabilitation centers that have a goal of conversion ex-members of cults to Russian Orthodox church. Thus, they consider that a person is recovered if he or she joined Russian Orthodox church. There are evangelicals (in other countries) who believe that ex-cult members should be converted to evangelicalism and who consider that a person is recovered only if he or she was converted to evangelicalism. Who of them is right? It is hard to tell.

There is a difference between post-cult recovery and religious (or atheist) propaganda. I do not think that these things should be mixed. I do not think it is ethical to promote any religion or atheism to ex-cult members (especially newly exited) because of their vulnerability. So, I am against it.

On the other hand, ex-members of cults may have theological questions and issues. I think that in this case they may be benefited from theological counseling if the counselor does not promote his/her belief system and does not seek to change the ex-cult member's belief system.


Oneperson said...

(Comment 1 of 2)
I really like this post Lom, and your previous post.

I have experienced people who are atheists that I consider to be like fundamentalists. That is, they propound that they are right and others (believers) are wrong. To me, that is just as totalitarian (in the sense of authoritarian) as the religious fundamentalists.

At this point in my life, I don't think it possible to prove or disprove the existence of a creator or god.

You stated in your post:
"I do not think it is ethical to promote any religion or atheism to ex-cult members (especially newly exited) because of their vulnerability."

I've recently been thinking about how vulnerable people are when they leave a cult or belief system. In my case, and in hindsight, I think I was more vulnerable when I left The Way than when I got involved with The Way (which ended up a cultic experience for me). When I left The Way my self, my foundation, my core shattered.

What I state below is not in light of 'beliefs,' but rather in light of vulnerability upon leaving a group.

I recently read and commented on that vulnerability
at this blog post on the Missing Deerfield, MST, IAO and OCR Blog

In my comment there, I quoted from the transcript of Benscoter's talk:
These easy ideas to complex questions are very appealing when you are emotionally vulnerable. What happens is that circular logic takes over.

When I read it I thought of scenarios I've ended up in sense leaving The Way and how my emotional vulnerability led to some possible circular logic and rationalizations. Since leaving The Way, I know I have been quite vulnerable in grasping for meaning, understanding, belief, identity, purpose and more. Not everyone necessarily goes through that, but I think probably many do...especially if they were 'true believers.

I'm going to copy and paste from my comment at Deerfield regarding the emotional vulnerability and leaving a belief system/high-control group.

But I'll have to do that in a separate comment because it takes up too too many characters for one comment! ;-D

Oneperson said...

[Hmm...not sure if the first part of my comment showed up or not.]

Here is comment 2 of 2:

I'm going to copy and paste from my comment at Deerfield regarding the emotional vulnerability and leaving a belief system/high-control group.

From my comment:
Wow! These two sentences [the Benscoter quotes] REALLY stand out to me as to how I have ended up in certain relationships in my post-cult rediscovery. I’m going to ramble a bit here.

When one leaves a toxic (cultic) relationship or group in which s/he was a true believer or where s/he implicitly trusted the group or individual, when one leaves that relationship, the person is very emotionally vulnerable. At least I know I have been.

Since leaving The Way, I’ve found myself in the midst of a few toxic relationships. All those toxic relationships have been with ex-cult members. Interesting, but not really surprising. In some ways, for me, what happened in those relationships and the emotional trauma afterward has been worse than the cult experience. I describe my time with The Way as a slow chronic illness and the relationships with certain anti-cultists as a car wreck. Both have impact, yet in different ways. (I was a ‘true believer’ for over 28 years. I left my group [The Way International] a little over 5 years ago.)

In any relationship, it takes two to tango, so to speak. That does not let the perpetrator off the hook. Yet, I am looking closely and examining how I have ended up in these scenarios.

I’ve read and heard from other ex-cult members (that were deeply involved with their former groups) that they too have experienced similar to what I have in post-cult recovery. That is, they find themselves in the midst of another cultic-type toxic relationship.

Anyhoo, today those two quoted sentences really stand out for me, about how circular reasoning can take over when one is emotionally vulnerable. Rationalizations and justifications for certain behavior play into that circular reasoning.

Hmmm….reminds me of a quote I read yesterday in a book:
“In unity, the individual loses his autonomy and along with it often his sense of responsibility.” Dr. Ben Zablocki