Strange GodsStrange Gods: The Great American Cult Scare
David G. Bromley & Anson D. Shupe Jr

This book is the closest Bromley and Shupe have come to an impartial view of the successful and infamous 1970's "cults" and the concerns raised in the families of those who joined. There was no "Great American Cult Scare." There were families across the USA trying to prevent their teenage and young adult children making or continuing in seriously flawed life choices that could negatively impact their futures despite any short term inspiration and happiness they might be experiencing. As B&S delight in pointing out many of these fears were not realised though that must be little relief for those families whose children died at Jonestown or Waco or those who had no further education, gained no capital or job skills through their 20's and arrived back at their parents' doorsteps depressed and humiliated and requiring help and financial support.

They discuss 6 of the most controversial cults:

  1. the Children of God
  2. the Unification Church of Sun Myung Moon
  3. the International Society for Krishna Consciousness - "Stay High All the Time and Discover Eternal Bliss"
  4. the Divine Light Mission of Guru Maharaj Ji
  5. the Church of Scientology
  6. Jim Jones' Peoples' Temple

In my view B&S have correctly used the book to counter the claims that these cults had some secret techniques of persuasion that allowed them to coerce and then brainwash young people against their will into joining and dedicating their lives to their leaders' wishes. Certainly in the case of Divine Light Mission, most people I knew who joined were from the "hippie" counter-culture, were chronic marijuana smokers and were at a loose end when they were told about DLM and "the Knowledge" by a friend. DLM held nightly meetings wherever enough people could be gathered and in these meetings every effort was made to persuade attendees to dedicate their lives to obeying the guru and devote themselves to and worship him as God in a human body. However B&S extend their thesis to attack the credibility of apostates from these cults with the use of straw men arguments, mockery and prose as purple as the National Enquirer headlines they ridicule. The book is subtitled the Great American Cult Scare and any negative examples of cult activities are labelled 'atrocities' or "horror stoies" and examples of past intolerant campaigns between major Christian denominations are compared to the ad hoc activities of parents and sympathisers trying to minimise the harm to their youthful family members. Every possible aspersion is given to the parents' behaviour and no mention of love and concern as the underlying reasons for desperate acts of kidnapping and attempts at "deprogramming" are listed.

My concern with discussing this 30 year old book is that the aspersions cast on the reliability of apostate testimony (and yes I am an apostate) has become the conventional wisdom in certain sections of academia though not within the general public. B&S portray this as ignorant prejudice, I see it as common sense.

I "joined" Divine Light Mission in 1973 and became disillusioned with it in 1979. I remained in contact with cult activities due to family ties and maintained an ironic though friendly discourse with members until 2003 by which time I was so disgusted with the deceptive tactics of recruitment and deceitful historical revisionism of the organisation that had been renamed Élan Vital around 1983 that I began public criticism via the internet and began collecting and disseminating information about it and the leader now calling himself Prem Rawat (his legal name) or 'Maharaji' a title he translates as 'the Ultimate Ruler'.

Unfortunately B&s seem to consider that all the experiences of young people joining these cults are almost exactly like the rosy picture cults present while families, or at least the families of young people who joined these cults in the 1970's, are obsessed with regaining power over their newly adult children and need to construct a false picture of cult involvement to prevent social embarrassment. The idea that parents love their children and sincerely wish the best for them and understand that their gullibility opens the possibility of serious negative repercussions from which they wish to save them is never mentioned as far as I can recall.

B&S do a reasonable job of portraying 1970's Divine Light Mission with some important caveats. They grossly underestimate the membership of DLM through the 1970's by using the number of ashram residents as the number of committed followers. During the 1970's DLM in North America could count on 500 to 1200 ashram residents dedicating all their time and money, another 3,000 people making regular donations and 10,000 to 15,000 attending major festivals though their level of committment varied. B&S' understanding of DLM's theology (if it deserves that title) is incorrect. There is a Creator, a power that generates, operates and destroys the universe but that power incarnates in one person at a time on earth and has so incarnated from time immemorial. This lineage includes Jesus, Krishna, Prem Rawat's father and the current Perfect Master Prem Rawat aka Guru Maharaj Ji who is the greatest incarnation. At different times, DLM administrators attempted to publicise a "practicality of meditation in daily life" public image and this appears to be the basis of B&S discussion but worship of the guru was always the paramount internal dogma. At the end of 1975 DLM administrators began a series of meetings that ended in demythologising the guru and emptied the ashrams but he once he understood the consequences he initiated a complete return to his divinity being the major focus and for the next 5 years wild scenes of devotional, sometimes frenzied, worship occurred at DLM festivals.

I agree with many of the points made by B&S in their section titled "The Cult Hoax." However in their list of suspects they have failed to include the major cause of the "hoax" - the cults themselves who have used all possible ways to gain attention and used over-inflated statistics about their membership and these claims were accepted as true. I can see no connection between deprogramming - flawed though it certainly was - and the Salem witch trials nor the phony "horror stories" of the 19th century religious conflicts and modern apostate evidence though there may well be parallels in the media responses.

The Heart of the Issue 3


In this book we insist, on the basis of hard, reliable evidence, that much of the controversy over so-called cults is a hoax, a "scare" in the truest sense of the word. There is no avalanche of rapidly growing cults. In fact, there probably are no more such groups existing today than there have been at any other time in

4 Strange Gods

our recent history. Furthermore, the size of these groups has been grossly exaggerated and almost all have long since passed their peak periods of growth. Much of the "cult explosion" has been pure media hype. There is no mysterious brainwashing process used to trap and enslave millions of young Americans. Few young adults have found these new religions attractive enough even to experiment with membership, and the vast majority of those who have tried them have walked away after only a brief stay. There is no convincing evidence that all new religions are out merely to rip off every available dollar from the American public. Some have shown relatively little interest in accumulating large sums of money or in being the recipients of public donations. There is no compelling reason to believe that all modern gurus and spiritual leaders are complete charlatans. Finally, there is no bona fide mental health therapy called deprogramming that works as its practitioners and promoters claim. If anything, the logic behind deprogramming smacks of the same medieval thinking behind the seventeenth-century Salem witch trials in colonial America.

Yet this cult hoax is not the result of hallucination. Nor is it sheer fabrication by the people who have been most anxious to promote it. It is not a deliberate fraud, but it is a deliberate attempt to horrify and anger us. Stories are spread by a number of Americans who sincerely believe them and genuinely feel they have been victimized. At least some of their complaints are not groundless. These new religions are at odds with the values, lifestyles, and aspiration of the majority of contemporary Americans. Virtually all of the groups do condemn and reject the way most of us live. They do seek to recruit and reshape anyone who will listen to them. In general, they do show limited concern for individual members' past ties and obligations to families, friends, and personal careers. Many of the new religions do act unscrupulously and do treat us with some mixture of pity and contempt. Like other zealots, they presume they know what is best for us better than we ourselves do. New religions do take advantage of laws and constitutional protections to further their own ends. These facts are naturally disquieting

The Heart of the Issue 5

since most of these groups, if successful, would create worlds in which few of us would wish to live.

Who Are The Cults?

42 Strange Gods

The Divine Light Mission

Origins. Guru Maharaj Ji, the central figure in the Divine Light Mission, is the son of a family of gurus. His father, Sri Hans Maharaj Ji, was regarded as a satguru, or Perfect Master, and young Ji and his three brothers grew up in India with the expectation that they too would demonstrate spiritual gifts. James V. Downton, Jr., who has made an in-depth study of Ji's movement, reports:

Guru Maharaj Ji, like his brothers, was treated like a divine being by the many Mahatmas and premies who served his father in the ashram. Thus, he received the attention and affection of his father's devotees, who happily responded to his every wish. Luxury and service were his birthright and later became his personal lifestyle when he was elevated to his father's position as Perfect Master at the age of eight. 18

Early on Ji supposedly revealed unique talents, extraordinary spiritual sensitivity, and superb discipline. Thus at the age of eight Guru Maharaj Ji, not his eldest brother, was named satguru and became (at least symbolically) the head of the Divine Light Mission.

Guru Maharaj Ji first came to the United States in 1971 at the invitation of several American "premies," or followers, who had received the Knowledge (enlightenment) from the movement in India. Ji has always demonstrated a great deal of independence throughout his life, and even though his mother (referred to by followers as the "Holy Mother") disapproved he came anyway. He was thirteen years old when he arrived in Colorado and settled on Denver as the location for his national and international headquarters. Apparently he caused considerable interest among

Who Are the Cults? 43

the hippies and college-age youth of the area. His premie missionaries aggressively spread the word of this adolescent holy man's existence, the local counterculture responded enthusiastically, and soon the movement began its rapid growth phase. By the end of 1973 an estimated 50,000 persons received the Knowledge and then moved on elsewhere in their spiritual quest, or simply returned to the counterculture. Certainly most dropped out of the movement soon after experimenting in it. Membership size in the mid-1970s was closer to the more realistic figures of between 500 and 1200 members, estimates of the actual number of persons living in the movement's two dozen or so ashrams (communal centers). 19

Nevertheless, the much larger number of persons who at least received the core of Guru Maharaj Ji's spiritual message or who lived in conventional lifestyles but occasionally dropped in at a Divine Light Mission center suggest his wide appeal to religiously dissatisfied young adults.

Beliefs. Whereas the Hare Krishnas are monotheistic, worshipping Krishna as God, Guru Maharaj Ji's theology is monistic. There is One Reality of which we are all part. All distinctions are therefore illusory. Ji's theology has also been described as syncretic, individualistic, and "loose." The main emphasis is on receiving the Knowledge, i.e., understanding "the primordial energy or source of life," 20 which is also the Divine Light. The Knowledge is provided by a special Initiator, or movement teacher, and afterward its full implications are to be explored in daily meditation and in satsang– spiritual discourses or lectures on the Knowledge given by Ji or other teachers. According to sociologist Thomas Pilarzyk,

The mystical experience among DLM premies was considered the basis for all world religious scriptures. Continual meditation on the "Divine Light" and its effects guaranteed salvation for the individual and became a theme reinforced through the selective use and interpretation of various scriptural references. Little devotional ritualism developed and although verbal lip-service was paid to the illusory nature of the external world (maya), greater emphasis was placed

44 Strange Gods

upon the "practicality of meditation for daily living." 21

Other than the Knowledge, however, the Divine Light Mission never cultivated a really systematic theology or developed its own scriptures. The Knowledge is believed to be the basis for all major religions, hence all are "true," a belief that blurs the differences between the Mission and all other groups. At one point Ji was referred to by members as Lord of the Universe and was regarded as a living avatar. There was also a vague millennial expectation among premies that Ji's presence portended some sort of imminent change in the Universe. Little development in the beliefs occurred, however. This lack of a sophisticated or complex theology may be one reason that so many young people were initially attracted to the movement, but paradoxically it may also explain why they found so little there to hold their commitment.

Organization. In the first few years of his American residence, Ji's movement had a fairly simple structure and not many rules for ashram lifestyles other than prescribed celibacy and vegetarianism and taboos on alcohol, tobacco, and drugs. In 1973 the movement's headquarters in Denver was run by 125 full-time employees, but each ashram was fairly autonomous and not very separate from the non-premie world. In 1974, for example, an estimated two thirds of all members had outside jobs from which they contributed some of their wages to the movement. Members caught up in the heady overnight popularity of their guru probably saw no need for further organization. There had been no significant problems so far, and they seem to have expected the guru's continued acceptance by more and more people. Says Downton:

Within the Mission a belief was developing among premies that the day was approaching when the masses would recognize the virtues of their guru, receive the Knowledge, and join them in their mission of peace. 22

The disastrous Millennium 1973 rally changed the situation. The Divine Light Mission rented the Houston Astrodome in

Who Are the Cults? 45

1973 for what was billed as "the most significant event in human history." Guru Maharaj Ji gave satsang and members expected the rally would usher in everything from the Age of Aquarius to UFO landings. Attendance fell far below expectations, however, and what Millennium 1973 did most certainly usher in was a debt of over half a million dollars. To meet this obligation, some fairly drastic measures were taken to reform the Mission operations. First, ashrams were encouraged to become economically self-sufficient by developing businesses run by members (such as bakeries and health food stores) instead of depending solely on members' donations from other jobs. Second, stricter membership requirements and rules for ashram living came down from the Guru, which, with pressures for ashram residents to leave their outside jobs and work full time in ashram businesses, cleared out the deadwood and left only the more committed members.

These changes did tighten up the loose movement, at the same time reducing its mass appeal to young persons. Events in 1974, however, had a dramatic impact on the Divine Light Movement from which it may never recover. Guru Maharaj Ji, then seventeen years old, married his older Caucasian secretary against his mother's wishes. Since Ji had earlier advocated strict celibacy for his followers, his marriage obviously came as a shock to them. Thomas Pilarzyk estimates that between 40 and 80 percent of the ashram premies (the core of the movement) defected over this issue. 23 Some ashrams closed down altogether.

The marriage also brought to a climax the rift between Ji and his mother in India. In his years in the United States, Ji had begun to undergo changes she did not approve, including a fashionable hairstyle, Western clothes, a luxurious lifestyle complete with mansion and limousines, and hippie vocabulary. At the same time he deemphasized the more Hindu elements of the Mission. When he was photographed embracing his bride-to-be with a huge smile on his face, his mother announced that his title of satguru was revoked, to which he replied, in essence, that Perfect Masters are born, not made. While the remaining American premies may have lined up loyally in support of their guru,

46 Strange Gods

the Divine Light Mission of Guru Maharaj Ji was suddenly cut off from the much larger international movement.

Since 1974 the movement has abandoned much of its Hindu flavor. Ji is no longer referred to as Lord of the Universe, and the earlier millennial expectations have been totally removed. The Divine Light Mission has become more decentralized than it was immediately following Ji's reforms in 1974, when he wanted to weed out the parasites and hangers-on. In the late 1970s, the movement experienced a brief internal revival with Ji once again regarded as a quasi-divine personality, and some former premies apparently did return to ashrams. But the growth period was clearly over. The movement had peaked in 1974 and has never approached its former size and wealth.

Joining the New Religions 103

Nor do missionaries for the Divine Light Mission, or for other Eastern groups such as Bahaiism or the Happy-Healthy-Holy organization, all new religious groups that have sought members on large university campuses, try to pass themselves off as anything other than what they are. That is no doubt the reason their memberships are so tiny. The Guru Maharaj Ji attracts so few members because he still claims a unique spiritual status in an era when many young Americans are skeptical of omnipotent gurus and are less eager to escape into exotic Eastern religions than they are to find well-paying jobs.

Joining the New Religions 107

Furthermore, it is not generally admitted (or perhaps even known) by anticult critics that various new religions do attempt to "screen out" the serious seekers from merely curious faddists and immature or unstable persons by maintaining probationary periods before conferring full membership. Of course new religions capitalize on the naiveté of many young adults. But the same could be said of armed services recruiters who seek enlistments among high school seniors. Naiveté is, after all, one reason behind a young person's attraction to idealistic religious crusades and groups determined to change the world. Their naiveté, however, does not automatically prove they are deceived.


As scientific research shows, true coercive persuasion, or brainwashing, is rare and not nearly as effective in changing attitudes as is commonly believed precisely because it relies on imprisonment and force. Coercion tends to produce overt compliance, not changes of mind. From time to time stories in the press surface in which a person attending a high-pressure weekend workshop at the Oakland Family's remote rural farm in Boonville, California, suddenly finds the scene gone sour, demands to be driven back to San Francisco immediately, and has to wait for some time, but this is clearly not the same thing as the brutal containment of POWs. To maintain any parallel with POW experiences, anticultists have to claim that there exists psychological coercion or subtle group pressure equivalent to physical restraint as the force prohibiting young adults from simply walking away from religious indoctrination sessions. This claim moves the whole anticult explanation closer to the phenomenon we discussed earlier as thought reform, i.e., Lifton's definition, into which participants enter voluntarily and find a low-key but deliberate system of rewards,

108 Strange Gods

peer pressure, and orchestrated involvement. The claim of psychological coercion is misleading because it relies as much on subjective impression as on objective fact. Clearly there is manipulated attitude adjustment in such situations, but it hardly constitutes destruction of an individual's capacity to think or reason.

In sifting through research on various indoctrination techniques of the new religions gathered by trained anthropologists, sociologists, and scholars of religion (as opposed to the testimonies of angry ex-members of cults and unsympathetic reporters), what reliable evidence exists for the contention that mind-numbing mind-control techniques that obliterate conscious control of one's daily activities are routinely employed? If we are talking in terms of indoctrination and deliberate attempts to replace old values and attitudes with new ones, then such reshaping processes exist. The fact that new religions do not provide equal time for opposing viewpoints or that they slant arguments in their favor is certainly nothing remarkable in religious education. But if we want documentation of more ruthless manipulation, such as keeping people awake for days at a time, starving them, or exercising them to the point of exhaustion, all in order to break them down to states of suggestibility, we find little evidence produced by trained observers to support the brainwashing stereotype.

Scholars have observed and experienced indoctrination techniques, both with their presence as researchers known to their hosts and covertly, in such controversial groups as the Moonies, the Hare Krishnas, the Divine Light Mission, and Scientology. In some cases, particularly in the more monastic communal groups such as the Unification Church and the Hare Krishnas, researchers have found processes similar to what Lifton termed thought reform. After all, many of these groups are seriously bent on changing the world, including the beliefs of the people in it, and it is not surprising that they discovered the relative efficiency and effectiveness of group dynamics principles in reforming attitudes that have been long known to psychologists. Many groups have deliberate disciplines or exercises to help "train" the mind to block out extraneous or frivolous thoughts

Joining the New Religions 109

and competing desires. These include chanting, meditating, and praying. But new religions do not want to produce robots or zombies. Rather, they want members with newly committed viewpoints, values, and preferences. One cannot enter a Hare Krishna or Moonie communal center, for example, and continue to carry along the outside world's middle-class intellectual baggage of notions of privacy and individuality. A new style of life, complete with new orientations to make it work, must be learned.

Contrary to what many anticultists claim, most young adults are not terribly impressed by or attracted to such confining life-styles. Of those persons who give it a try, many cannot or do not learn how to make such a demanding lifestyle work.

Joining the New Religions 111

Most important, we found conversion had been misinterpreted by outsiders, including parents, as an event rather than a process. Many persons participated on an experimental basis, weighing the benefits (such as self-fulfillment and spiritual growth or lifestyle satisfactions) against all the previous comforts they had surrendered and the acute grief they knew they were causing their families. Continuance in the movement, as was their joining, represented the result of continually examining the cost-benefit ratio of membership. Just as falling in love realistically involves a process of initial attraction, progressing into a deepening, more complex relationship of commitment, many members' conversions to the Unification Church are best understood as processes that might be interrupted or terminated at any time, not as discrete one-time events. True, there are cases of "love at first sight" and there are persons who make onthe-spot decisions to enlist in the Church. But these instances are nowhere near as prevalent as the brainwashing stereotype has made them out to be. 20 Our discovery is similar to what sociologist James V. Downton, Jr., concluded about conversion to Guru Maharaj Ji's Divine Light Mission: "While thoughts of conversion normally bring to mind images of sweeping change,

112 Strange Gods

the fact is that both conversion and commitment are gradual in their development. Small steps, not giant strides, are the normal course." 21

Downton found that many young, college-age Americans who had become disillusioned with the hedonistic shallowness of the late 1960s drug culture but who felt unable to return to conventional middle-class lifestyles gradually drifted into the exotic subculture of an Eastern religion. As if at a lush smorgasbord of religious options and possibilities, some sampled the Divine Light Mission and rejected it, others tried it out for a while before moving on to something else, and a few plunged into it as committed devotees. The guru's message was so general, however, that it could not hold the interest of most who were initially attracted to it. In 1974, when the guru placed more restrictions on who could live in Divine Light Mission ashrams, defections increased. If his followers were indeed brainwashed zombies, or simply unquestioning, gullible youths unable to think for themselves, why is it that so many made the decision to leave after the guru disillusioned them by marrying his secretary that same year?

Joining the New Religions 113

… But having seen cult life from the inside, when members were not under public scrutiny and could be themselves on occasion, Balch concluded:

The private reality of life in a religious cult usually remains hidden beneath a public facade of religious fanaticism… The first step in conversion to cults is learning to act like a convert by outwardly conforming to a narrowly prescribed set of role expectations. Genuine conviction develops later beneath a facade of total commitment, and it fluctuates widely during the course of a typical member's career. Many cult believers never become true believers, but their questioning may be effectively hidden from everyone but their closest associates. 23

The Leaders: Gurus and Prophets,
or Madmen and Charlatans?

Stories about cults frequently include pictures and descriptions of the gurus who lead them. These are the pied pipers who lure followers to give up their possessions, forsake their former lives and friends, and parrot their leaders' words as gospel truth, slavishly attend to their every wish, and profess total obedience to them even to the point of sacrificing their own lives. One searches for the source of their magnetism in newspaper photographs, but what is seen is a motley assortment of unprepossessing features. Sun Myung Moon is old and balding. In flattering photographs he appears to be benevolent, even fatherly. In photographs of his public speeches, however, his grimaces and wild, karatelike gestures suggest a man in a fanatical rage. Hare Krishna founder Prabhupada, by contrast, is always shown in his monk's robes with the expression of a benign, tranquil holy man from the East. Guru Maharaj Ji has been at various times portrayed as a precocious adolescent lecturing his elders, as young Jesus is often pictured lecturing the priests at the temple, or as an older teenager dressed in modish Western clothes, looking more like a rock celebrity than a guru. "Moses" David Berg strikingly resembles his namesake: a gray-bearded Old Testament patriarch. L. Ron Hubbard, whose picture has rarely been seen in recent years outside Scientology


The Leaders 129

centers, looks as if he would be completely at home among a group of corporate executives. Finally, there is the infamous Jim Jones, who–shorn of his impenetrable black sunglasses–is indistinguishable from any Midwestern small-town minister.

These modest, unassuming appearances belie both the leaders' own claims for themselves and their followers' adulation. L. Ron Hubbard, who his followers affectionately call "Ron," is regarded as a guide and friend in the process of self-discovery rather than as a spiritual master. Nevertheless, his doctrines are treated as absolute truth. Jim Jones claimed that he was the reincarnation of a number of famous people, including Karl Marx and Jesus Christ, and boasted a number of extraordinary powers. His followers called him "Dad" and, with his encouragement, always carried his picture in their wallets. David Berg regards himself as a prophet who receives messages concerning the imminent Second Coming. Guru Maharaj Ji, particularly during the early 1970s, had no reservations about accepting the rather exalted title of Perfect Master and Lord of the Universe. Prabhupada was referred to by his followers as His Divine Grace and now, after his death, is regarded by many of these same followers as a reincarnation of Krishna. The Reverend Sun Myung Moon has left little doubt in the minds of many of his disciples that he is the Messiah. Even in public interviews he has not avoided a comparison to Jesus Christ. In one he responded:

Q: You are obviously saying that you are a prophet, but do you also consider yourself the New Messiah?
A: We are in a new Messianic age. But 2,000 years ago Jesus Christ never spoke of himself as a Messiah, knowing that would not serve his purpose. I am not saying, "I am the Messiah." I am faithfully fulfilling God's instructions.
Q: But you don't rule out the possibility that you are the Messiah?
A: Let God answer you, let God answer the world.1

How can we explain the awe and reverence with which disciples treat these men and the Godlike images they have of them-

130 Strange Gods

selves? Do these leaders really possess ultimate authority over their followers, and, if so, is it the result of unscrupulous domination or willing subservience?


All groups have leaders, individuals who maintain power over other group members. The power leaders are able to exercise varies for different groups and, at least to some extent, with the personal qualities of an individual leader. It is not surprising that a military officer has more power over his troops than a social club director has over club members or that one military officer is able to gain greater loyalty and respect than another officer with the same position and title. In the cult controversy the real dispute is whether leaders maintain their positions through deception, manipulation, and coercion or through personifying the values and ideals of the group in such a way that followers willingly become disciples. The anticultists contend that mind control, physical deprivation, and intimidation are used to keep members docile and compliant. Members of the new religions contest this charge, asserting that they are deeply committed to their cause and willingly make personal sacrifices.

This dispute is difficult to resolve because human behavior is more complex than the arguments of either side. While we often think of relationships as either voluntary or coercive, many are both. After individuals join a group, they may permit themselves to be subjected to deprivation or coercion. For example, alcoholics or drug addicts who voluntarily enter treatment centers do so with the expectation that they will be deprived of these substances and that they will be physically confined or forcibly restrained if their behavior becomes unmanageable. Students who join fraternities or enter military academies anticipate a period of hazing during which they will suffer indignities. Volunteers in elite military units know they will be subjected to a schedule that may involve spartan living conditions, subsistence level rations, a few hours of sleep each night, absolute obedience to superiors, and long days filled with

The Leaders 131

strenuous exercise. The reverse situation is also possible: individuals may be coerced into joining a group and later continue participation on a voluntary basis. For example, a mentally ill person might have to be forcibly taken into custody and physically restrained. Later, that patient, after recognizing his or her own illness, may consent to continue treatment on a voluntary basis. Whether the relationship begins voluntarily or coercively, some individuals are willing to experience the coercion because they see it as being in their own interest.


Since human beings can join an organization voluntarily and as a result voluntarily experience extreme deprivation and coercion, rejecting brainwashing allegations does not necessarily imply that coercion does not take place. However, if members of new religious groups are systematically deceived, manipulated, and exploited by gurus who are charlatans, then sacrifice and deprivation, even if voluntary, are seen in a different light. Even if one rejects brainwashing allegations, important questions remain: To what extent do leaders of the new religions use members for their own private ends? What are these leaders' true motives? Is there coercion and, if so, are the gurus responsible for it? Are followers who make major personal sacrifices disciples, as they believe, or dupes, as the anticultists believe?

Attacks against the leaders of the new religions are an important component of the anticult campaign. The gurus provide a who and why for the process of exploitation the anti-cultists contend is taking place. It is these men who ultimately are responsible for cults; they are the brains behind the conspiracy; it is their warped needs and desires that give cults life and form. Four themes run through anticultist attacks on the new religions' spiritual leaders. First, the men are charged with simple greed as their real motivation–the new religions are just a new variety of get-rich-quick schemes. Second, they are seen as having political ambitions, with political programs, not spirituality, as their real agendas. Third, anticultists believe

132 Strange Gods

that leaders of the new religions have a lust for power, and this is the explanation for the ever-present need to subjugate followers. Finally, these men are not sincere, the anticultists allege, and do not believe their own claims. Spirituality is only a superficial cover for darker, hidden motives. In a word, they are charlatans. Such charges are extremely difficult to evaluate, for in order to get full and final answers, one would have to gain access to the gurus' innermost thoughts and feelings. Since such evidence is not obtainable, the leaders' behavior patterns must be compared to anticultist portrayals.

Wealth and Greed as Motives

Some of the new religions have amassed large amounts of money and property, although their wealth hardly compares with that of the mainline denominations. The Unification Church, for example, probably grosses between $25 and $50 million per year in the United States from street solicitation alone. Its South Korean headquarters operates a variety of profit-making enterprises, including an anticommunist training school, which government bureaucrats attend, and a small arms and munitions factory supported by government contracts. The Church also seems to have strong links with conservative industrial leaders in Japan who fund various projects. Finally, both the Korean and Japanese branches of the Unification Church have several hundred thousand members who make donations. Although the total wealth of the Unification Church is known only to its leaders, there is no doubt that it is substantial.

This money does not all go directly into Moon's pocket, however. The Unification Church spends vast sums on projects to further its goals. 2 During the early 1970s, for example, Moon conducted several nationwide speaking tours, appearing in virtually every major American city. Independent estimates of the cost of these tours run as high as $8 million. The Church also has poured millions into its New York City daily newspaper, The News World, in an effort to present its philosophy to the public. Additional millions have gone to sponsor Unity of

The Leaders 133

Science and New Ecumenical Research conferences with the aim of bringing scholars together to study and discuss matters of concern to the Church. The Church also supports the Unification Theological Seminary, where future Church leaders are provided theological training. In addition, it has purchased a lot of real estate around the country for use as Church centers. Finally, the Church has helped finance a variety of businesses to provide employment for its members and has established new branches in many foreign countries. All this is costly. Why does Moon expend all this money on Church projects? Surely he could siphon off more money for himself if he wished. There are probably two reasons why he does not. First, he has seen the Unification Church grow from a small band of loyal disciples to a large, worldwide organization. If he is to preside over a vital, dynamic organization, he must pour resources into it. If he is to continue to play the role of messiah, aspiring to unify all other churches, the momentum must appear to be in his direction. Since the Unification Church no longer seems to be growing rapidly either in Korea or in the United States, Moon may well be locked into a strategy of pouring resources into the Church in order to prevent stagnation. Second, he personally does not need money. As sociologist John Lofland, who has studied the Unification Church since its arrival in the United States, put it:

If his aims were mere wealth and movement power, he need not have gone to all that trouble and expense to get them. He already had a large amount of both.3

Nonetheless, the Church provides for many of Moon's major expenses. There are Church-owned estates and limousines reserved for his personal use. He travels the world at will and has a staff to cater to his every need. He spends much of his time aboard his yachts engaged in tuna fishing, his favorite pastime. Even though he has no formal, legal control over many Church assets, he has no financial worries. Since Moon already possesses great personal wealth from his many Church-run businesses in South Korea and has high expectations for his move-

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ment, it seems logical that he would invest resources heavily in the Church. Moon may be accused of empire building, but personal greed does not seem a likely motive for his actions.

The other two new religions that have generated very large annual revenues are Hare Krishna and Scientology. In addition to soliciting in the streets and hawking books in airports and on street corners, the Krishnas operate one of the largest incense companies in the world, producing products worth millions of 'dollars each year. Like the Unification Church, ISKCON appears to be reinvesting much of this money to spread its message and way of life. Large sums are spent on missionary work in India, particularly in Bombay, where the Krishnas are building a large temple and retreat center. The Krishnas also operate several business enterprises such as their incense, cosmetic, and publishing companies and have opened centers for worship and recruitment in many cities across the country. They own a 1000-acre farm in Moundsville, West Virginia, where they are constructing a model community and a large, lavish temple devoted to the worship of Krishna. However the money left over from such activities and projects is spent, it does not go to Prabhupada. Prabhupada's lifestyle remained virtually unchanged during the twelve years he spent in the United States prior to his death in 1977. Despite ISKCON's growing wealth, as Carroll Stoner and Jo Anne Parke, whose treatment of the new religions in All Gods Children could hardly be termed complimentary, conclude, "None of the reported wealth has gone to make Prabhupada a wealthy man. He continues to lead the life of an austere Hindu monk."4

Scientology relies almost exclusively on course fees to generate revenue. Becoming clear can be a very expensive proposition, often costing members thousands of dollars. Since the Church of Scientology is much larger than either ISKON or the Unification Church, a great deal of money is earned through these classes. Estimates of annual revenues from sales of classes to members and nonmembers run as high as $100 million. In contrast to the Moonies and Krishnas, members of Scientology are paid for the services they provide to the Church, although

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some members lead introductory classes in order to pay for advanced classes. In any event, Scientology incurs great expenses because members do not live communally or work full-time for the Church without pay. The margin of profit therefore is probably considerably lower for Scientology than for the Unification Church or ISKCON.

Whatever the size of Scientology's profits, it is clear that L. Ron Hubbard is not in need of money. During the 1950s, his self-help therapy, Dianetics, was extremely popular and Dianetics: The Modern Science of Mental Health became a popular bestseller. The profits from his extensive science fiction writings, lectures, and therapy made him independently wealthy. Yet he has taken a variety of actions that have aroused deep suspicions about his motives. Shortly after Hubbard unveiled Dianetics, a variety of individuals began to administer independently Dianetics therapy. Hubbard moved quickly to regain control by establishing formal credentials for those who could legitimately offer the therapy. Whether this was an attempt to maximize profits once he had discovered how popular Dianetics was becoming or an attempt to prevent others from modifying his ideas and exploiting the name Dianetics at will is impossible to know. Dianetics quickly evolved into Scientology and was reorganized as a Church. Critics have charged that this transformation was no more than a clever tax dodge. In recent years, Hubbard has continued to "discover" further stages of personal enlightenment toward which his followers work, often at considerable expense. Critics have charged these new "revelations" are merely a means of keeping followers hooked on Scientology and to keep the money flowing in. It is certainly possible to interpret Hubbard's actions as designed to maximize wealth. However, at least at the present time, it seems more likely that Hubbard, like Moon, is empire building because he wishes his vital organization to survive him.

Whether or not this movement deserves to be condemned is, of course, an arguable issue. There is a tendency on such issues to compare the realities (or even the excesses) of what new religions do with inflated conceptions of the motives and actions of

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conventional churches and their leaders. Realistic comparisons of empire building among L. Ron Hubbard, Sun Myung Moon, Pat Robertson, Jerry Falwell, and Billy Graham would probably reveal more similarities than differences in style. From one perspective there is little merit in arguing that Hubbard or Moon is no more or less money-oriented than many other religious leaders. Take, for comparison's sake, the case of the well-known (and respected) television evangelist Rex Humbard. In April 1980, Humbard pleaded with viewers to send contributions to his organization so that it could cope with a $2.5 million deficit in its operating budget. Some of his debts were at least four months behind in payment. Researchers Jeffrey Hadden and Charles Swann in their book Prime Time Preachers noted:

Humbard's appeals brought in $4 million and wiped out the debt. About the same time, a Cleveland Press writer discovered that Rex and two of his sons, who work with him on the television ministry, had purchased a home and condominiums in Florida valued at $650,000 with down payments of $177,500 in cash. A lot of people have long believed that preachers, especially the evangelical variety, have their hands in the offering plate. In light of this belief, the timing of Humbard's corporate debt and personal investment certainly didn't make him look very good. And he didn't help his own cause any when he told the prying Press reporter, "My people don't give a hoot what I spend that money for."5

Yet the fact that Moon, Hubbard, and others lead new religions and are so frequently accused of greed raises some doubt that personal greed is the real issue.

In contrast to the Unification Church, Hare Krishna, and Scientology, the Divine Light Mission and the Children of God do not possess a great deal of wealth. Throughout its history, Divine Light Mission has been financed by contributions from members, ashram-run businesses, and festivals that members must pay to attend. While the festivals were reasonably profitable, Divine Light Mission never grew large enough to generate a great deal of money either from festivals or member donations. Since Church-run businesses were largely small,

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local enterprises, they also failed to earn a great deal of revenue. As a result of some overly ambitious projects designed to spread its message, Divine Light Mission has faced severe financial difficulties. Despite these problems the Guru Maharaj Ji has continued to maintain an extremely affluent lifestyle, complete with mansion, limousines, and expensive, fashionable clothing. According to some reports, during the mid-1970s the guru was receiving five hundred dollars per day for his personal expenses. Some premies, according to reports, decided their guru needed his own private Boeing 747 jet, and Maharaj Ji responded with delight at the idea. However, the guru's lavish lifestyle has been the source of considerable controversy and even defections among premies due to Divine Light Mission's precarious financial condition. It is fair to conclude that Maharaj Ji comes closest to fitting the anticultists' stereotype of a leader living in luxury at the expense of his followers.

The Children of God have raised funds in a variety of ways, ranging from donations of funds and property by members to publicly selling their literature. Member donation has not been as profitable as literature sales since the group has not experienced a great expansion of membership. As the religious tracts Children of God devotees sell are rather inexpensively printed, these "sales" in many respects amount to public donations. Nevertheless, the Church seems more interested in spreading its message than in making money. Children of God runs a number of youth-oriented nightclubs and music-related businesses, but these are more important to the Church for their recruitment value than for money. Despite its modest income, the Children of God pours substantial funding into international proselytizing. The Church claims to have founded colonies in over 80 countries, and the cost of establishing and sustaining these missions must be substantial. Members continue to live frugally, consistent with their theological beliefs, and there is no evidence that David Berg personally departs significantly from this lifestyle.

The People's Temple amassed a large amount of wealth through donations of money and property from members. Jim

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Jones maintained tight control over Church funds, although it is not clear whether he intended to put any of this money to personal use. There were disturbing signs, however: Jones appropriated the social security checks of the many elderly members of People's Temple and transferred the ownership of Church-owned nursing homes into his own name. Still, it is difficult to conclude that Jones hoped to exploit his Church financially. Whatever else may be said about Jim Jones, he did not live an affluent lifestyle. Furthermore, the cost of moving his entire congregation to Guyana must have been extremely high, and Jones was contemplating another expensive migration to either Cuba or the Soviet Union. Given these massive projects, the funds at Jones's disposal do not seem excessive. And if wealth and luxury were his primary objectives, it hardly seems likely that he would have led his flock to the primitive jungles of Guyana.

The degree to which leaders of the new religions seek personal wealth clearly varies. At one extreme we find Prabhupada, living a totally ascetic life, and at the other the Guru Maharaj Ji, who regards unlimited luxury as his birthright. There is no doubt that those leaders who desire to live in affluence do so, and for the most part, their followers seem to accept and expect this. Most leaders seem more interested in building churches than in accumulating greater personal wealth. Since they have spent much of their lives building churches, their motives are hardly unselfish. The churches are extensions of themselves, and the churches' immortality seems their prime concern. Regardless of how we may feel about their empire building, however, it seems clear that simple greed is not the sole motivation. The same amount of energy, devoted more directly to amassing wealth, could have been much more lucrative.

Political Ambition

One of the anticultists' major allegations is that the leaders of new religions are using the movements to gain political power for themselves. This allegation does not apply to most of the leaders. David Berg has gone into seclusion in Europe. Prabhupada lived a life of ascetic retreat until his death. Neither

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L. Ron Hubbard nor Guru Maharaj Ji has expressed political ambitions. Only Jim Jones and Sun Myung Moon could be used as evidence that these spiritual leaders secretly harbor political ambitions.

Jim Jones was a potential revolutionary. Although he was involved with a variety of civic projects in San Francisco and gained the trust of some of that city's political leaders, he became more radical with the passage of time. His fears that a massive repression of blacks was imminent, that a nuclear holo-caust was inevitable, and that governmental persecution of the People's Temple would continue created more of a defensive than an offensive stance, however. He made his initial move to California to found a refuge from nuclear devastation. His move to Guyana was triggered by government investigations of the People's Temple, and his plans to migrate to a socialist country were based on fears of continuing government persecution. Despite his support of international socialism and his rejection of the United States, he does not seem to have been politically ambitious except as political alliances would protect his Church. Of all the new religious leaders, the Reverend Sun Myung Moon has shown the greatest interest in politics. His concern stems directly from his vision of a worldwide theocracy. From Moon's perspective, the source of all mankind's problems has been a refusal by mankind to live up to God-given responsibilities. In Moon's vision of theocratic socialism, the church must be superior to the state and political solutions must flow out of spiritual revelation. Only if government is sensitive to God's will can mankind's problems be solved and true potential realized. Moon, therefore, quite openly advocates a close working relationship between church and state in which the church is the ultimate authority.

In addition to Moon's theological interest in politics, he has been made sensitive to political currents as a result of his Church's origins in South Korea. Prosperity and even survival in dictatorial South Korea would have been impossible had Moon not been a shrewd politician. There is no doubt that Moon is

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well connected to the South Korean political elite, although his political fortunes in his home country have fluctuated significantly over the last several decades. Since the assassination of dictator Park Chung Hee and Moon's failure to win great influence in Washington, D.C., his political future is indeed questionable. But the Korean government contracts with his arms and munitions factory and his leadership training school are convincing evidence of his continuing closeness with government leaders, at least in South Korea.

Moon has not shown the same political shrewdness and sensitivity in the United States, however, perhaps due to major cultural differences in political expertise. A number of Moon's provocative statements have received widespread publicity and elicited angry criticism. Moon, for example, has been quoted as saying:

The time will come, without my seeking it, when my words will almost serve as law. If I ask for a certain thing, it will be done. If I don't want something, it will not be done.6

Another frequently publicized quote is, "I will conquer and subjugate the world. I am your brain." In addition to rhetoric, Moon has involved himself in a variety of political activities that have angered many Americans. Followers lobbied in Congress for a closer alliance with South Korea based on Moon's designation of that country as the New Israel. During the Koreagate scandal his remark briefly became an issue. There is no doubt that Moon's greatest political error was attempting to develop close personal ties with Richard Nixon during the Watergate period. The noisy demonstrations he organized in support of the Nixon presidency and his statements to the effect that God had chosen Nixon to rule and therefore only God could remove him from the presidency created strong public anger and hostility. Following these events, media coverage of the Unification Church became consistently negative. Assessing Moon's political ambitions is difficult at this point. Most of his political initiatives backfire and, in recent yeras, he has remained in seclusion. Whatever

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political aspirations Moon might have, widespread public hostility toward the Unification Church and the failure to continue to attract large numbers of American youth mean that such plans now are little more than fantasies.

If the new religions are just a cover for seeking political power, it is not apparent from the actions of most leaders of these groups. Most have shown little inclination to become involved in political affairs, although a number have condemned America as thoroughly corrupt. Only Jim Jones and Sun Myung Moon have been politically active. Jones's actions were largely defensive in nature, and he did little in the United States to further his socialist convictions. Moon has been much more politically active. There is little doubt that he courts government power, and Americans would have reason for concern if Moon had any real chance of achieving his goals. His willingness to support a repressive regime in Korea and his advocacy of a theocratic form of government are hardly reassuring. However, Moon stands little chance of ever gaining political influence because the Unification Church is no longer growing rapidly and has committed several fatal political blunders. Still, concern about his intentions is not sheer fantasy.

Power and Domination as Motives

The most consistent and emotional charge made against leaders of the new religions has been that they wield dictatorial power over church member activities. This is a key element of the brainwashing allegation. The guru's insatiable lust for power provides the explanation for manipulation and abuse of members of the new religions. Some statements by leaders of the new religions, frequently quoted by the anticultists, do little to allay the fears of those who believe them, for example, that of Guru Maharaj Ji:

So whatever extra you have got, give it to me. And the extra thing you have got is your mind. Give it to me. I am ready to receive it. Because your mind troubles you, give it to me. It won't trouble me! Just give it … So just try to be holy and

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try to be a good devotee, a perfect devotee of that Guru who is Himself perfect, who is really perfect.7

Statements like Moon's classic "I am your brain" have frightened new religions' opponents, who have taken them as evidence of all gurus' evil intentions. We have already considered the allegations of brainwashing and find little supporting evidence. Even if followers are not brainwashed, they may be subjected to highly authoritarian rule. Let us consider the issue. There is no doubt that the major decisions affecting the course and development of each of the new religions have been made by their founder/leader. For example, the People's Temple migrations from Indiana to California and from California to Guyana were dictated by Jim Jones, and the whole concept of the ideal community, Jonestown, was his. It was L. Ron Hubbard's inspiration that made a spiritual quest out of Dianetics. When the Guru Maharaj Ji decided his premies had become too laggard, he tightened control over followers by organizing communal ashrams. Moon also moved rapidly toward tight communal organization shortly after arriving in the United States. In each case, some members left and those who remained were forced to substantially restructure their lives. Prophecies of impending doom or deliverance by the Children of God, Unification Church, and People's Temple have produced frantic activity and willingness to ignore rules of conventional society in the name of a greater cause and a higher truth. From this perspective, leaders of the new religions clearly have a tremendous capacity to instantly transform the lives and priorities of members.

While the spiritual leaders of the new religions do control the major economic and organizational decisions, their authority has not gone unchallenged. For example, "Moses" David Berg has had problems asserting control over his movement. As two sociologists who have closely followed developments in the Children of God put it:

…while the case is often made that the Children of God is a community under the personal control of David Berg,

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there is evidence that since 1971 his exhortations to the effect that the organization develop in small groups … had been ignored by the intermediate leadership. 8

While Berg eventually won the fight, he was forced to threaten to cut off communication with the rebellious groups in order to do so. There has been ongoing conflict between the East and West Coast branches of the Unification Church, although efforts have been made not to let outsiders become aware of it. 9 The West Coast's more deceptive recruitment practices have been a continuing irritant to the East Coast because of the negative media coverage resulting from such practices. Friction has continued despite Moon's attempt to resolve the factionalism within his American movement by appointing the West Coast branch's leader as president of the Unification Church in America. When the Guru Maharaj Ji married his secretary, after admonishing his followers to lead a life of abstinence, half or more of the core members of Divine Light Mission defected, hardly suggesting total control by the guru. There is evidence that Jim Jones was beginning to lose control over the People's Temple. In addition to the loyalty of his trusted lieutenants, Jones had the total support of the senior citizens at Jonestown, who felt they owed Jim Jones everything. Jones was able to bring issues before the entire community for a democratic vote with complete assurance of winning. By the time of the Jonestown tragedy, however, a group of dissenters was beginning to find means of circumventing Jones's control and the outside world appeared increasingly hostile to Jones. The suicide/murders at Jonestown may well have indicated a growing sense of desperation and loss of control rather than the iron-handed rule so widely assumed. The degree to which leaders are able to control and shape the churches they found vary considerably.

The extent to which leaders of the new religions manage the day-to-day activities of members' lives also varies. The Reverend Sun Myung Moon continues to direct the major organizational and financial decisions within the Unification Church, but most members, who are scattered across the country and around the world, rarely see him. Many have never

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even met the man they call their spiritual parent. L. Ron Hubbard remains in relative seclusion aboard his fleet of yachts, Sea Org, off the Atlantic coast. David Berg deliberately withdrew from active leadership of the Children of God several years ago through an open letter to all members, "I Gotta Split." Although Berg attends annual meetings, he does not appear to exercise much influence over ongoing Church affairs. Indeed, observers of the Children of God have noted substantial differences in the lifestyles and operation of the various colonies. There is a similar pattern in Hare Krishna. Temple lifestyles differ considerably, and members apparently have some choice in locating a temple where they feel personally comfortable. The pattern was evident even before the death of Prabhupada. In the case of the Divine Light Mission, many members apparently left because there was so little organization and discipline. Maharaj Ji simply shows little interest in such matters. Only Jim Jones closely controlled the daily round of his members' lives. He was able to do this both because the size of his congregation was small and, once the move to Guyana had been made, almost completely isolated. Certainly evidence exists that some of the new religions are organized in a highly authoritarian way and have been coercive, but with the exception of People's Temple, it is not the gurus themselves who dominate members. Yet all these men have some influence over their followers, and several have an enormous amount of influence. The more spectacular cases have received widespread publicity. Sun Myung Moon, for example, picks marriage partners for many converts to the Unification Church, sometimes without their having met one another prior to the matching ceremony. Moonies refer to Moon and his wife as "True Parents," as distinguished from their physical parents. Female members of the Children of God have been willing to have sexual relations with potential converts following Berg's assertion that this was an acceptable way of demonstrating the power of love. Jim Jones was able to convince a large number of his followers to join in a mass suicide. Even if we leave aside such sensational illustrations, it is clear that many members of the new religions significantly

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alter their lives. Krishnas and Moonies, for example, turn their backs on conventional lives and sometimes their entire past, including family and friends. Members of Scientology and Divine Light Mission may live more conventionally, but their entirely different vision of the world reorders values and priorities. Gurus do play a major role in such transformations. How can we reconcile apparently conflicting indications of leaders' power?

There are two answers. The first is that the most visible, dramatic changes in members' lives occur in communal groups, and, in this situation, the leader's influence is indirect. Moon and Prabhupada cannot monitor each of the many communal groups scattered across the country. Once communal groups are established, they tend to be self-sustaining. There is intense pressure for total loyalty and commitment, and leaders and followers both have a stake in maintaining the group. Because participation is voluntary, pressure is intense. Each member has made a substantial personal sacrifice and commitment for the group, and all members therefore look to others' sacrifice and commitment to sustain their own. Leaders usually play a major role in establishing a communal organization, but they may be quite remote from day-to-day operation without any noticeable consequence. Of course, there are cases where leaders do exert ongoing personal control, as Jim Jones did, but this is not usual.

Communal groups can create very intense peer pressure to conform on members, particularly when either doom or salvation is believed to be on the horizon. Under these conditions such groups typically separate themselves from conventional society, which is viewed as corrupt, in order to maintain their own "purity" or to save themselves from their inevitable holocaust. The Children of God, Hare Krishna, Unification Church, and People's Temple have all organized communally and to varying degrees have withdrawn from conventional society. The isolation of the People's Temple in Jonestown is the most dramatic case, but the other three groups also keep members quite isolated. Contact with outsiders is generally limited to occasions when members are recruiting or fund-raising, and ties

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their leaders is the creation of stories that endow leaders with superhuman qualities or deeds. L. Ron Hubbard, for example, is reputed to have engaged in both time travel and astral projection (i.e., leaving his physical body in his astral, or spirit form, to travel distances) and to have encountered spirits from other galaxies. Sun Myung Moon has been raised to heroic stature in a number of stories. After meditating on the tragic life of Jesus as a young man it is reported he wept all night long, and in the morning his tears had saturated the mat on which he slept and soaked through the ceiling to form a puddle on the floor below. Moon is believed to have special rapport with animals, who can sense his special qualities; for instance, animals have congregated around him when he visited a zoo and tuna have jumped onto baitless hooks he cast into the sea. Leaders are also described in superhuman terms. Sun Myung Moon is believed by many Moonies to be the Messiah; the Guru Maharaj Ji is believed to be the most extraordinary person ever to have lived by premies; followers of David Berg present him as a great prophet; and members of Hare Krishna treated Prabhupada as a reincarnation of Krishna. In each case followers attributing extraordinary qualities to leaders justify their own commitment to each other and to the leaders.

The leaders themselves claim extraordinary qualities and deeds, such as seeing visions, conversing with God, and combating Satan. In order to maintain their position, leaders constantly have to demonstrate extraordinary qualities, which creates considerable pressure for leaders even though followers are willing to accept heroic tales rather uncritically. Partly for this reason, leaders often issue such new prophecies as "Moses" David Berg's periodic forecast of the destruction of America or Sun Myung Moon's prediction of dates for the restoration of man to God. The lack of confirmation of such prophecies does not seem to be important to many believers, since the failures can be explained. What is important is that the leader continually confirm his position by having visions and making prophecies.

If follower and leader wish to confirm the leader's unique spir-

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itual status, it is easy to see why leaders exercise such authority. The more a leader moves or is moved toward a Godlike position, the more complete must a follower's obedience be. While there are some restraints on the process, charismatic authority poses a danger. In the case of the People's Temple, for example, not only did Jones and his followers create heroic tales, but Jones engaged in deliberate deception and manipulation to preserve his position. He produced a bloody shirt with a bullet hole in it and claimed to have been shot but left unharmed. He arranged for confederates to shoot up his church and then as a demonstration of his telepathic powers described his attackers in great detail. Jones's activities show the potential for the abuse of charismatic authority. For this reason, most churches that were founded by a single charismatic leader gradually place controls on succeeding generations of leaders. Yet it is important to recognize that while leaders do, in fact, have a great deal of authority over individual members, much of this authority comes from the followers.


Even if it is true that new religious leaders are not motivated solely by political ambition, or a need for domination and control, the question of basic sincerity remains. Are they in reality what they appear to be? Are they genuine? Such questions are extremely difficult to answer, of course, because we seek to compare inner thoughts and feelings with outward actions when we can only observe the latter. It may be that new religious leaders are not motivated by any single need such as wealth or power but still may be charlatans.

One test of sincerity is whether a leader's founding of a church fits in with a pattern of a devout, religious life or represents a sharp departure from it. While far from a perfect test, this at least indicates continuity of purpose. By this standard most of these leaders would have to be judged as reasonably sincere. David Berg had been an ordained minister in the Christian and Missionary Alliance some years before starting his coffeehouse ministry, Teens for Christ, in 1968. For at least twelve years he

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has continued to invest his time and energy in building the Children of God despite the fact that there has never been a very large membership or financial profit. Sun Myung Moon had a vision of Jesus commissioning him to become the next messiah or "Lord of the Second Advent" at the age of sixteen and began preaching the revelations he had received at twenty-six. In 1954, he founded his church in Seoul at the age of thirty-four. During the years that followed Moon worked tirelessly, spreading his church and his message around the world. Moon has devoted virtually his entire life to building the Unification Church, developing an elaborate theology (the Divine Principle), and following the course which he believes God laid before him more than forty years ago. Prabhupada became a Krishna as an adult and, in 1944, at the age of forty-three founded the Church's magazine, Back to Godhead. His religious commitment continued to grow and at fifty-eight he became a Hindu monk. Six years later he brought his message to the United States, spending the remaining twelve years of his life developing ISKON in this country.

Jim Jones began a career as a preacher only a year after high school graduation. Four years later he founded the Christian Assembly of God church (which later became the People's Temple) and subsequently was ordained as a Disciples of Christ minister. Like Moon, he devoted virtually his entire adult life to the development of his church, although he never produced an elaborate, distinct theology as Moon did. The Guru Maharaj Ji is the son of a Perfect Master. He became the head of Divine Light Mission at the age of eight. Only thirteen when he established a branch of Divine Light Mission in the United States, he has continued to play the role of Perfect Master into which he was born. Precisely when L. Ron Hubbard developed Dianetics remains a mystery, but he had worked on his ideas some time before publicly unveiling them in 1950. For the last thirty years he has continued to develop the implications of his ideas and has steadily integrated his therapy into a religious framework. Of the six leaders, only L. Ron Hubbard "added on" a theological doctrine, within two years of the public introduction of Dia-

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netics. Whether this represented an attempt to gain tax-exempt status and greater control over auditors or simply a natural evolution in his thinking is impossible to determine. Each of these men has thus been involved in a long-term effort to develop a church; most of them have come either from a well-established religious tradition or developed new theologies. New religions do not represent dubious operations that suddenly appeared in the early 1970s.

A second test of sincerity is the extent to which a leader has suffered persecution or made major personal sacrifices in the course of developing churches. It is not clear that either L. Ron Hubbard or David Berg has experienced much personal sacrifice aside from the recent condemnation of all new religions, but each of the other leaders has endured some type of persecution. Jim Jones left Indianapolis for California due, in part, to the persecution he faced for racially integrating his congregation. It is also true, of course, that he had been sexually promiscuous from the early days of his ministry and faced criticism for this. Prabhupada renounced his family and left his job in order to devote his life to the worship of Krishna. The Guru Maharaj Ji could have remained in India as head of the Divine Light Mission and lived a life of luxury as a revered spiritual leader. Instead he chose to come to the United States against his mother's wishes. His movement has never achieved great strength in this country, and his mother has revoked his title and claim to his former position in India. Sun Myung Moon was imprisoned twice by the communist regime in North Korea and subjected to extreme physical deprivation and punishment, apparently on the complaint of a group of Christian ministers. He was briefly imprisoned nearly two years later, in 1955, on charges of injuring public morals (i.e., sexual promiscuity) and draft evasion, but those charges were later dropped. Yet the fact that each of these leaders has made some major sacrifice for his beliefs suggests that they are not mere charlatans.

A third test of sincerity is the degree to which the leaders have exploited their respective churches for personal advantage. This is probably the most complex issue and one on which the record …

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To evaluate the new religions' fund-raising practices, we need to understand what they do and why, specifically how they raise their money and its purposes. It is to these issues we now turn.


As we have pointed out, the six major new religions possess very different beliefs, organizations, and goals. Not surprisingly, therefore, both their needs for money and the ways in which

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they have gone about fund-raising are also distinctive. The public stereotype that all the new religions engage in deceptive panhandling is simply not true, but it has led to an across-the-board campaign to prevent all new religions from fund-raising. (As we shall see, relatively few of the new religions resemble the prevailing stereotype.)

What are the reasons the new religions need money? Their needs vary. For example, like the Jehovah's Witnesses, the Shak- ers, and other well-known Christian sects, the Children of God expect an imminent end to this world as we know it. Their major objective is to warn everyone of Christ's Second Coming in this century and the terrible fate that will befall those who do not harken to the message of God's chosen prophet, David Berg. The end is coming, regardless of what humanity does, so there is no need to store up material goods or wealth beyond the movement's survival needs. For COG, therefore, money is raised largely to broadcast their message and provide living expenses for the faithful while they await the millennium. These funds come from the sale of pamphlets and newsletters, or what they call "litnessing."

The Divine Light Mission resembles the Hare Krishnas in that its members are interested primarily in individual change that will ultimately lead to a better world. But the premies are much less aggressive than the Krishnas in their world-transforming efforts. Nor do their beliefs, which stress self-enlightenment, lead them to establish lavish, expensive temples. In the main, Divine Light Mission activities are supported by cooperative enterprises, such as bakeries or craft shops, run by local communal ashrams. Premies do not panhandle or fund-raise in the streets. In this sense the Mission is much like such late-nineteenth-century utopian communal groups as the Oneida and Amana communities in this country.

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Reevaluation does not produce angry ex-members of new religions who are suddenly eager to tell all about the groups. There are some ex-members who walk away from their commitment and write damaging exposés of what they saw and did, but they are rare. (NB Of course they're rare, in the 1970's authors were rare and it was not yet fashionable to write books discussing your mistakes and worship of false gods) Most ex-members made the decision to leave as simply as they made the decision to join.

But for coercively deprogrammed ex-members leaving is not that simple. As we have seen, parents are under strong (if understandable) pressure not to blame either themselves or their children for cult involvement. Once a young person becomes convinced that the new religion is not nearly as lofty, appealing, or benevolent as once thought, he or she too comes under the same pressure: not to blame oneself for misplaced idealism or naiveté.

Deprogramming is an option that provides a stigma-free way out of the dilemma: "Yes, my son (or daughter) did become involved in a 'strange' group, but it was not his (her) fault." "Yes, I really did call my parents Satanic and reject them, but did not know what I was doing–my mind was not my own." Deprogramming provides parents with the potential to remove their children from unconventional groups quickly, but they can only justify such actions on the grounds that the young persons do not know what they are doing. After the reconciliation of the family, therefore, pressure on a young person to reinforce the parents for what they did is strong. Once out of the new religion, the ex-member cannot simply admit he or she has made a mistake, then have all forgotten and forgiven. That scenario would not only violate the logic of the brainwashing-deprogramming explanation, it would also ignore several facts:

  • that parents had been humiliated and insulted by the offspring's rejection of their lifestyle, values, and past sacrifices
  • that they had gone to the trouble, potential legal risk, and often considerable expense to stage the deprogramming
  • that no excuse that the young person had been deprogrammed for his or her own good (thus that violation of the individual's religious freedom was justified) is nearly as convincing to others uninvolved as the ex-member's own testimony.

Thus, some ex-members, or what scholars call "apostates," tell their tales of atrocities that include lurid themes of exploitation, manipulation, and deception.19 They and their stories, which may be true, false, or embellished, serve several important uses. Aside from justifying the family's desperate and coercive actions and avoiding any public stigma attached to both family and individual, such stories become evidence that other opponents of new religions can point to in seeking laws, police action, and other remedies against the groups. Apostates' claims of what they saw and did have a first-person quality that makes them hard to refute. Since the family and the ex-member appear to be perfectly normal and average in every other respect, their stories deliver a profound impact on listeners and readers. These anecdotes tend to outrage audiences, frighten families of members currently in new religions, and make public officials more willing to consider controlling the so-called cults. For most Americans who know relatively little about new religions, apostates' stories may be their only source of information.

Consider the following excerpts from newspaper articles collected over the past five years (and recall others that we presented earlier in chapter four):

We were told that if we worked against the movement our grandchildren would dig up our bones and spit on them.

200 Strange Gods

I was always compelled to sleep on the floor, including the winter. There were no adequate sanitation supplies. For instance, one or two toilets would periodically back up for as many as 100 to 200 males.
I had lost 20 pounds, had pneumonic cough, and was staring into space with a big smile.
We were kept busy 19 to 20 hours a day and restricted to two low-protein diet meals daily.
I would have killed for him. I would have done anything Moon said.
Had I been asked to kill my parents I would not have hesitated.
I pulled in $700 to $800 a week, selling flowers. You go to businesses, commercial places, industrial places. You sneak in. I was pretty good at it … I could get money from anyone now. I know how. I got the last penny from a bum on the street.
We went door to door in the poorest section, telling the people we represented an organization called the World Crusade and were selling flowers to raise money to help rehabilitate people who were in trouble. The girl told me, "Any line you can use is a good line."

Anyone who has followed the media's coverage of the cult controversy during the past decade is familiar with such stories. Some apostates have appeared briefly in the public eye to tell their stories, enjoyed a measure of short-lived publicity, and then faded away. A few have sought profit by writing books based on their adventures and/or by going on lecture circuits. (One, Chris Elkins, who appears on Texas campuses annually to speak to evangelical groups, had a movie entitled Deceived made from his book.)

A well-known example of this recent apostate phenomenon is ex-Moonie Christopher Edwards, who wrote an autobiographical book of his experiences, Crazy For God. 20 Aside from demonstrating a remarkable memory for details and events that allegedly occurred while his brain was being washed, Edwards' account of his indoctrination at the hands of the Unification

Deprogramming 201

Church's Oakland Family is a modern illustration of a literary genre as old as the anti-Mormon and anti-Catholic movements of the early nineteenth century. Edwards portrays himself as a young, idealistic innocent who was reduced by malevolent leaders to a degenerative, zombielike state. He was exploited callously, the reader is told, for their own selfish and fanatical purposes until he was dramatically saved from such an unhappy predicament by his family and hired deprogrammers. With a literary style and deliberate melodramatic construction reminiscent of the script for a made-for-TV movie, Crazy For God makes one feel as if the ghost of Maria Monk, that self-proclaimed ex-nun from a nineteenth-century Montreal convent, had reappeared to promote another potboiler tract, this time substituting the Unification Church for the "Papist" Roman Catholics.

In sum, apostates and the horrific stories they tell are necessary, to provide fuel to attack unpopular movements, but, more important, to absolve families (and themselves) of any responsibility for their actions. This can be clearly seen in recent research by British sociologist James Beckford, 21 who went to great efforts to track down examples of that rarely seen but plentiful species: the silent majority of former new religions' members who were not deprogrammed but walked out on the group after deciding it was not for them. Beckford interviewed ex-Moonies and their families in Britain and discovered a telling source of strain remaining in the family even though the son or daughter had returned and resumed a "normal" life. Beckford noted that ex-Moonies continued to be ambivalent about their past participation in the Unification Church. While overall the experience had not worked for them, they still recalled good times and positive aspects. They were also embarrassed, knowing how others regarded the Church, and therefore deliberately avoided publicity concerning their past membership. It was their parents who badgered them to offer outsiders details of their experiences that could be interpreted as manipulative and deceptive. The parents wished to interpret their offspring's participation as the result of brainwashing, but the ex-members

202 Strange Gods

knew better. They had voluntarily walked away from the Unification Church.

Psychologist Trudy Solomon's recent study of 100 exMoonies, some of whom had been deprogrammed and some of whom had exited voluntarily, also came to the same conclusion. Those who voluntarily left the Unification Church became less involved with the anticult movement, as did their parents, and felt less pressure to view their past involvement as a totally negative experience. The deprogrammed Moonies, on the other hand, were encouraged to become active anticultists.

As one respondent said:

I felt a compulsion from deprogrammers, family and friends to categorize the Moon experience as bad, negative, what have you, even if unconsciously. I resented this and it made it more difficult to find a balance in my post-Moon thinking.22


Deprogramming has its passionate defenders, many of whom probably stopped reading this book long before now. Neither can Strange Gods please civil libertarians, since the coercion element in deprogramming has been just as overplayed as the manipulation of some new religions' indoctrination procedures. For those less involved, what can be finally said of deprogramming and the issues it raises? Here are some conclusions:

1. Deprogramming, contrary to the claims of its advocates, is definitely not a new method of mental health therapy. In fact, a good case can be made that the trauma and psychic conflict it induces can conceivably cause mental illness if not exacerbate such problems. Moreover, from a public health perspective it is dangerous to think of deprogramming as anything resembling the psychiatric/clinical psychological professions since deprogrammings' practitioners are, by professional standards, almost always totally untrained in any healing science or profession. For example, Ted Patrick is a high school dropout who served a brief stint as ad hoc state social worker in California. Joe Alex-

Deprogramming 203

ander, Sr., his one-time apprentice, is a former used-car salesman. Another prominent deprogrammer is a private detective, and still another a lawyer. Some claim as credentials the fact that they were once in a cult themselves and were later deprogrammed. If this constitutes a legitimate background for tinkering with people's personalities, what does it say about psychiatry and psychology? Does having surgery qualify one to be a surgeon? It is idiotic to think so, yet deprogrammers frequently base their qualifications on similar logic. True, there are many critics of psychiatry and psychology (we are among them), but these professions have codes of ethics and professional standards, including formal education, that at least provide for some systematic supervision of training and practice. Modern deprogrammers remind us of renegade doctors and midwives running backroom abortion clinics before such operations became legal and under state sanction. Caveat emptor: Let the buyer beware.

2. Deprogramming does not work the way its advocates claim it does. If it did, we would have to assume first of all a brainwashing process. Chapter four showed that there are no overwhelming mind-numbing powers at the disposal of new religions. What really occurs is family reconciliation, a situation where the conflict of interests is resolved in favor of the parents. Reevaluations, in which cultists decide to stick it out with their new religious commitments, all arguments considered, are no doubt considered failures by parents but are nevertheless resolutions of the conflict. The important feature of such family conflicts is that they can be resolved in a number of ways. Coercive deprogrammings are simply attempts to resolve conflicts of interest in which parents have the upper hand.

3. The similarities in horror stories told by apostates, or ex-members, of new religions are not the result of their all having experienced the same brainwashing processes; rather, their stories are so similar because the family dynamics– that is, the need of both families and individuals to deflect responsibility for joining a strange religious group away from themselves–are the same for most persons. Many anticultists claim that brain-

226 Strange Gods

18. See James V. Downton, Jr., Sacred Journeys (New York: Columbia University Press, 1979), p. 2. As Downton points out, Mahatma means "great soul" and "premie" refers to members of the Divine Light Mission.
19. As in the other movements we have described in this chapter, high turnover rates and inadequate means of keeping track of membership result in "foggy" membership estimates in the Divine Light Mission. For two separate attempts at counts, see Downton, Sacred Journeys, p. 5, and Thomas Pilarzyk, "The Origin, Development, and Decline of a Youth Culture Religion: An Application of Sectarianization Theory," Review of Religious Research, Vol. 20 (Fall 1978), p. 30.
20. Downton, Sacred Journeys, p. 3.
21. Pilarzyk, "The Origin, Development, and Decline of a Youth Culture Religion: An Application of Sectarianization Theory," p. 32.
22. Downton, Sacred Journeys, p. 5.

Notes 227

23. Pilarzyk, "The Origin, Development, and Decline of a Youth Culture Religion: An Application of Sectarianization Theory," p. 38.
24. Scientology has been observed in its evolution during the past three decades by various persons largely unsympathetic to, or at least unenthusiastic with, the movement's claim of being a significant new form of psychospiritual therapy. Two older sources that attempt to debunk Hubbard's claims are popular science writer Martin Gardner, Fads and Fallacies in the Name of Science, revised edition (New York: Dover, 1957), pp. 263-80, and British psychologist Christopher Evans, Cults of Unreason (New York: Dell, 1973), pp. 17-134. Two recent studies by sociologists are William Sims Bainbridge and Rodney Stark, "Scientology: To Be Perfectly Clear," Sociological Analysis, Vol. 41 (Summer 1980), pp. 128-36, and (undoubtedly the most comprehensive) Roy Wallis, The Road to Total Freedom: A Sociological Analysis of Scientology (New York: Columbia University Press, 1976).
25. Evans, Cults of Unreason, p. 33.
26. Wallis, The Road to Total Freedom, 1976.
27. Evans, Cults of Unreason, p. 17. See, for a discussion of the linkages between Hubbard's theory and science fiction literature, Harriet Whitehead, "Reasonably Fantastic: Some Perspectives on Scientology, Science Fiction, and Occultism," in Irving I. Zaretsky and Mark P. Leone (eds.), Religious Movements in Contemporary America (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, pp. 547-48).
28. Evans, Cults of Unreason, p. 35.
29. Evans, Cults of Unreason, p. 36. The patently unhealthy obsession of Dianetics (whatever it reflects on Hubbard) with incompetently self-induced abortions via coathangers and sewing needles by mothers and with their alleged repeated adulterous affairs carried on into late pregnancy are not simply the exaggerations of anti-Scientological authors. See also, for what is apparently a pro-Scientology popular source, Walter Braddeson, Scientology for the Millions (Los Angeles: Sherbourne Press, 1969).
30. Wallis, The Road to Total Freedom, p. 128.

232 Strange Gods

15. In 1976, at the first of two public meetings between Senator Robert Dole and various other federal officials and angry parents of cult members, a coalition of regional anticult organizations decided to limit their complaints and call for investigations of Moon and the Unification Church. This seemed to them a reasonable strategy since Moon and his movement have been so highly publicized through numerous financial investments, possible political skullduggery in the Koreagate scandal, and outspoken support of President Richard Nixon during the Watergate/impeachment scandal. Their reasoning was that successful repression of Moon's large and wealthy movement would serve as a precedent for attacking other cults. Further details on how and why the Unification Church was singled out by the anticult movement to be its arch-nemesis can be found in Shupe and Bromley, The New Vigilantes: Deprogrammers, Anti-Cultists and the New Religions.
16. A clear example of the dynamics of how rumors and outright conjecture can be repeated often enough by journalists until these are assumed without doubt to be fact is provided by Edward Jay Epstein in his book Between Fact and Fiction: The Problem of Journalism (New York: Vintage, 1975), pp. 33-77. Epstein meticulously analyzed the widespread and repeated accusation that the shooting of several Black Panther leaders by police in 1969 was part of a national law enforcement pattern that had resulted in the deaths of a total of 28 Panthers. Taking the cases one by one, Epstein ultimately found this charge, despite its frequent uncritical repetition by many journalists, to be largely fabrication and/or gross exaggeration.
17. Carroll Stoner and Jo Anne Parke, All Gods Children: The Cult Experience (Radnor, Penn.: Chilton, 1977), p. 68. Stoner and Parke's book, despite its attempts to maintain journalistic neutrality, nevertheless takes for granted many anticult assumptions. Therefore it unavoidably propogates a misleading picture of the extent of cult influence.
18. See Bromley and Shupe, "Moonies" in America: Cult, Church and Crusade, pp. 169-96.
19. Personal Interviews at Unification Theological Seminary, Barrytown, New York, 1978.

Notes 233

20. Two sources that discuss these research findings in more theoretical terms are Bromley and Shupe, "Moonies" in America: Cult, Church and Crusade, pp. 169-96, and David G. Bromley and Anson D. Shupe, Jr., "'Just a Few Years Seem Like a Lifetime': A Role Theory Approach to Participation in Religious Movements," in Louis Kriesberg (ed.), Research in Social Movements, Conflicts and Change (Greenwich, Conn.: JAI Press, 1979), pp. 159-85.
21. James V. Downton, Jr., Sacred Journeys: The Conversion of Young Americans to Divine Light Mission (New York: Columbia University Press, 1979), p. 75.
22. Francine J. Daner, The American Children of Krishna (New York: Holt, Rinehart & Winston, 1976), p. 64. Another researcher of the Hare Krishna movement has mentioned an affiliate status conferred by the movement on those persons interested in the doctrines and goals but unable (or unwilling) for whatever reason to live in strict communal fashion. See J. Stillson Judah, "The Hare Krishna Movement," in Irving I. Zaretsky and Mark P. Leone, Religious Movements in Contemporary America (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1974), pp. 463-78.
23. Robert Balch, "Looking Behind the Scenes in a Religious Cult: Implications for the Study of Conversion," Sociological Analysis, Vol. 41 (Summer 1980), pp. 137-43.
24. Saul V. Levine and Nancy E. Salter, "Youth and Contemporary Religious Movements: Psychosocial Findings," Canadian Psychiatric Association Journal, Vol. 21 (1976), p. 414.
25. J. Thomas Ungerleider and David K. Wellisch, "Coercive Persuasion (Brainwashing), Religious Cults, and Deprogramming," American Journal of Psychiatry, Vol. 136 (March 1979), p. 281.
26. J. Thomas Ungerleider and David K. Wellisch, "Psychologists' Involvement in Cultism, Thought Control and Deprogramming," Psychiatric Opinion, Vol. 16 (January 1979), p. 15. Another source on this subject, using a greater number of subjects, is Mark Galanter, Richard Rabkin, Judith Rabkin, and Alexander Deutsch, "The Moonies: A Psychological Study of Conversion and Membership in a Contemporary Religious Sect," American Journal of Psychiatry, Vol. 136 (February 1979), pp. 165-70.
27. For examples of these researchers' claims that brainwashing does occur in a variety of new religious groups, see John G. Clark, Jr., "Cults," Journal of the American Medical Association, Vol. 242 (July 20, 1979), pp. 279-81, and Margaret Singer, "Coming Out of the Cults," Psychology Today, Vol. 12 (January 1979), pp. 72-82.

234 Strange Gods

28. For additional scholarly descriptions and analyses of the Oakland Family's recruitment tactics, see Bromley and Shupe, Jr., "Moonies" in America: Cult, Church and Crusade, pp. 169-96, and John Lofland, "'Becoming a World-Saver' Revisited," American Behavioral Scientist Vol. 20 (July/August 1977), pp. 805-18.
29. There are competing versions of a general psychological theory that says human beings have a need to make their attitudes consistent with their actions. Since actions are often affected by immediate social pressure, attitudes about these actions are usually formed to explain them in ways that are plausible to the actor-thinker. In other words, we infer our attitudes about specific things and events from observing our own actions regarding them. For general statements of such well-established theory, see Leon A. Festinger, A Theory of Cognitive Dissonance (Stanford, Calif.: Stanford University Press, 1957), and Darrel J. Bem, "Inducing Belief in False Confessions," Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, Vol. 3 (1966), pp. 707-10.
30. See David L. Altheide and John M. Johnson, "Counting Souls: A Study of Counseling at Evangelical Crusades," Pacific Sociological Review, Vol. 20 (July 1977), pp. 331-32.


1. "An Interview with Reverend Sun Myung Moon," reprinted from Newsweek International, June 14, 1976, by the Unification Church of America.
2. See David G. Bromley and Anson D. Shupe, Jr., "Moonies" in America: Cult, Church and Crusade (Beverly Hills, Calif.: SAGE Publications, 1970), pp. 149-67.
3. John Lofland, Doomsday Cult (New York: Irvington, 1977), pp. 341-42.
4. Carroll Stoner and Jo Ann Parke, All Gods Children (Radnor, Penn.: Chilton, 1977), p. 112.
5. Jeffrey K. Hadden and Charles E. Swann, Prime Time Preachers: The Rising Power of Televangelism (Reading, Mass.: Addison-Wesley, 1981), pp. 2-3.
6. John Cotter, "Rev. Moon Seeks Power Through 'Gospel," Chicago Tribune, December 14, 1975, p. 12.
7. Maharaj Ji, "You Are Disciples Now." Speech given at Satsang at Hampstead Town Hall, England, October 31, 1971.

Notes 235

8. Rex Davis and James Richardson, "The Organization and Functioning of the Children of God," Sociological Analysis, Vol. 37 (Winter 1976), p. 326.
9. Bromley and Shupe, Jr., "Moonies" in America: Cult, Church and Crusade, pp. 97-105. Religious Group Disintegration." Paper presented at the annual meeting of the Society for the Scientific Study of Religion (October 1979), San Antonio, Texas, p. 13.


1. Harvey Katz, Give! Who Gets Your Charity Dollar? (Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday, 1973), p. 4.
2. Katz, Give! Who Gets Your Charity Dollar?, p. 20.
3. Katz, Give! Who Gets Your Charity Dollar?, p. 80.
4. F. E. Andrews, Attitudes Toward Giving (New York: Russell Sage Foundation, 1953), pp. 14-65.
5. David Sills, Means and Ends in a National Organization (Glencoe, Ill.: The Free Press, 1957), p. 157.
6. National Broadcasting Corporation, "Prime Time with Tom Snyder" (New York: National Broadcasting Corporation, July 1, 1979).
7. Sun Myung Moon, "God's Hope for America," in Bo Hi Pak (ed.), Christianity in Crisis: New Hope (New York: Holy Spirit Association for the Unification of World Christianity, 1974), p. 58. Moon's theology of charitable solicitations, as one example of gathering necessary resources in new religions, is discussed at length in David G. Bromley and Anson D. Shupe, Jr., "Financing the New Religions," Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion Vol. 19 (September 1980), pp. 227-39.
8. Quoted in Bromley and Shupe, "Financing the New Religions," p. 233.


711. Pam Fanshier's testimony, and that of other unsuccessfully deprogrammed members of new religions, can be found in Deprogramming: Documenting the Issue (New York: Alliance for the Preservation of Religious Liberty, 1977).
2. For this quote and the following excerpts see the Tribune, Great

236 Strange Gods

Bend, Kansas, October 15, 1975, for only one example of a series of newspaper articles.
3. Ted Patrick and Tom Dulack, Let Our Children Go! (New York: Dutton, 1976), p. 71.
4. Jim Siegelman and Flo Conway, "Playboy Interview: Ted Patrick," Playboy (March 1979), pp. 70-74.
5. "Ex-Krishna Glad He Was Kidnapped," Dallas Morning News, October 11, 1980.
6. Thomas Robbins, "Cults and the Therapeutic State," Social Policy (May/June 1979), p. 44.
7. Dean M. Kelley, "Deprogramming and Religious Liberty," The Civil Liberties Review Vol. 4 (July/August 1977), p. 32.
8. This case is described in Robert J. Moore, "Terror in Denver," Liberty (March/April 1979), pp. 8-13.
9. See Josh Freed, Moonwebs: Tourney in to the Mind of a Cult (Toronto: Dorset Publishing Company, 1980), p. 122. Freed's account of a deprogramming, originally published in installments in the Montreal Star in 1978, provides a good example of how journalism can descend into sensational melodrama and how the conflicts of interest inherent in this controversy, with some skillful literary embellishments, can be exploited to make dramatic reading.
10. Siegelman and Conway, "Playboy Interview: Ted Patrick," p. 70.
11. Writs of temporary conservatorship were originally enacted by states to permit one adult to become the legal guardian, or conservator, of another (usually a family member) and his or her estate in the event that the second person became not legally responsible for his or her actions. Such writs can be granted by a judge on short notice without a formal hearing and without the person in question present. They can be granted for 30- , 40- , or 60-day periods, allowing emergency action if a senile or mentally unstable person is about to do something irreparably injurious, such as elderly Aunt Tilly intending to sign over her mortgage to a 25-year-old gigolo with whom she has become infatuated. Customarily the person seeking to become the legal guardian appears before a judge with a psychiatrist, family physician, or some other professional who can testify to Aunt Tilly's erratic, possibly harmful behavior. During the temporary period Aunt Tilly loses the right to conduct legal transactions and essentially assumes the legal status of a child.

Notes 237

Members of new religions are rarely present at these preliminary hearings. Indeed, almost all judges who have granted such conservatorships have never seen the person for whom they issue such writs. Writs of temporary conservatorship have become less frequently used in recent years as higher courts have ruled that they were not designed to be used for cases involving possible violations of religious freedom. The Freedom of Thought Foundation ran into trouble not only on those grounds but also because it often obtained through its lawyers writs of temporary conservatorship granted in one state and served them in another state, which is illegal. For a discussion of these writs and other legal tactics used by deprogrammers, as well as for more information on the money involved in deprogrammings, see Anson D. Shupe, Jr., and David G. Bromley, The New Vigilantes: Deprogrammers, Anti-Cultists and the New Religions (Beverly Hills, Calif.: SAGE Publications, 1980), pp. 130-36.
12. See Walter Robert Taylor's affidavit of his deprogramming in Deprogramming: Documenting the Issue, pp. 65-67.
13. Taken from W. J. Helander v. Ted Patrick, Jr., et al. "Memorandum of decision in re Helander vs. Patrick, Jr." (Fairfield, N.Y.: Superior Court, No. 15-90-62, September 8, 1979).
14. This excerpt from an interview transcript made in 1976 was published in Anson D. Shupe, Jr., Roger Spielmann, and Sam Stigall, "Deprogramming: the New Exorcism," American Behavioral Scientist Vol. 20 (July/August 1977), p. 950.
15. For the original article claiming suicide training in the Unification Church (and nowhere else), see J. Carroll and B. Bauer, "Suicide Training in the Moon Cult," New West (January 29, 1979), pp. 62-63. For our critical analysis of such claims, see Shupe, Jr., and Bromley, The New Vigilantes: Deprogrammers, Anti-Cultists and the New Religions, pp. 214-17.
16. See Francine Jeanne Daner, The American Children of KRSNA (New York: Holt, Rinehart & Winston, 1976), pp. 55-56.
17. Shupe, Jr., Spielmann, and Stigall, "Deprogramming: the New Exorcism," p. 951.
18. Hans Toch, The Social Psychology of Social Movements (Indianapolis: Bobbs-Merrill, 1965), p. 226.
19. For a more complete analysis of this type of story, and of the category of people who tells it, see David G. Bromley, Anson D. Shupe, Jr., and Joseph C. Ventimiglia, "Atrocity Tales, the Unifi-

238 Strange Gods

cation Church, and the Social Construction of Evil," Journal of Communication Vol. 29 (Summer 1979), pp. 42-53.
20. Christopher Edwards, Crazy for God (Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice-Hall, 1979).
21. See James Beckford, "'Brainwashing' and 'Deprogramming' in Britain: The Social Sources of Anti-Cult Sentiment," forthcoming in James T. Richardson (ed.), The Deprogramming Controversy: Sociological, Psychological, Legal, and Historical Perspectives (New Brunswick, N.J.: Transaction Books), and "Politics and 'The Anti-Cult Movement,'" Annual Review of the Social Sciences, Vol. 3, pp. 169-90.
22. This quotation appeared in Trudy Solomon, "Integrating the 'Moonie' Experience: A Survey of Ex-Members of the Unification Church," in Thomas Robbins and Dick Anthony (eds.), In Gods We Trust. New Patterns of Religious Pluralism in America (New Brunswick, N.J.: Transaction Books, 1981), p. 288.
23. For example, in its one and only real year of operation, the Freedom of Thought Foundation deprogramming ranch cleared an estimated $195,000. Likewise, there is convincing evidence that Ted Patrick did not do badly himself during the mid-1970s. See Shupe, Jr., and Bromley, The New Vigilantes: Deprogrammers, Anti-Cultists and the New Religions, pp. 135-41, for further details on available profit figures from deprogramming.


1. For a discussion of this issue see, for example, J. Stillson Judah, "The Hare Krishna Movement," in Irving Zaretsky and Mark Leone (eds.), Religious Movements in Contemporary America (Princeton: Princeton University Press), pp. 463-78; Dick Anthony and Thomas Robbins, "The Meher Baba Movement: Its Effect on Post-Adolescent Social Alienation" in Zaretsky and Leone (eds.), Religious Movements in Contemporary America, pp. 479-514.
2. Dean Kelley, "The 'Redeeming' Qualities of New Religious Movements," Paper presented at the Conference on Conversion, Coercion and Commitment in New Religious Movements, Center for Study of New Religious Movements, Berkeley, Calif., June 1981, pp. 11-12.