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A Complex Situation

11/11/2017
Seek The Truth Blog

A Complex Situation:

Yesterday's blog post about "The Power of Information" raised some uncomfortable questions. Where does responsibility lie in a destructive religious cult? Are cult leaders who purposefully conceal or mishandle information responsible for victims who do not critically examine their claims? Or are cult members responsible, having failed to properly research and examine cult propaganda? When former cult members realize that cult leaders are aware of the fundamental issues with their claims, many are angered. It is very easy to focus their anger towards those who knowingly mislead large numbers of people.

Destructive cults exist because of trust. A large number of people are very trusting by nature, especially when listening to religious speakers who claim to be sincere, humble, and devout. Cult leaders realize that by convincing others of their "honesty" while distracting listeners with religious subject matter, they can gain trust without question. Why would religious people question a man or woman pleading with them, "follow me while I follow God?" Very intelligent people can be persuaded to join a cult using this strategy. Can we really say that the unsuspecting should share any blame for being misled?

This is a complex situation that has existed as long as time has been recorded. Historically speaking, ancient races of people across the globe have shared similar failures. Many ancient leaders descended from powerful families the common people believed to be gods or demigods. Authoritative figures rose into power by purposefully misleading uninformed people. In the ancient world, access to information was very limited. Even the educated explained the laws of nature and science through religious context. The large, bright, light in the day was a "god" who came into full power when the heat was most intense at noonday. The lesser light at night was a "god" who tried to conquer the greater "god", but failed every day at sunrise. Drought and famine, earthquakes and hurricanes, and other forces of nature must exist because these "gods" were angered, while bountiful harvest and calm weather must exist because the "gods" were pleased. Even the monotheistic Israelites, while believing in a single God, viewed the world in much the same way. Natural disasters were often given religious context. When we read the ancient text today, we read it through our own understanding of the world, and overlook their world views. It is far different from the way the text was understood by the ancient writers, and likely far different from our future descendants who have access to information that we do not yet have.

By manipulating people into reading the text through the eyes of much more primitive and uninformed ancients, cult leaders are able to lure their victims into the same type of bondage our ancient ancestors faced. Yet we do not have the same disadvantage as our ancient ancestors; we have quick access to information. Much faster access than even a few decades ago. Even today, religious cult leaders are able to convince their victims of the ancient world views that defy common knowledge. Some have convinced their victims of the ancient "flat earth" view found in ancient scrolls -- while many are aware of the sun's light shining on time zones as the round earth spins, and have seen the physical sphere spinning from cameras mounted on satellites and space stations. A manipulative leader could easily argue that people have access to critical information, and choose to reject that information for the sake of cult membership. In a court of law, this defense would carry much weight.

At the same time, cult members cannot be blamed for false claims. In the court of law, should the cult leader make false claims to the judge and jury, and the attorneys prove that the cult leaders were aware of their false statements, they would be guilty of perjury. Not only is deception unethical, in some cases it is illegal. There is a fine line between selling religious propaganda under false pretenses and the crime of false advertisement. When former members first escape a destructive cult, they lean heavily upon this argument. They are fully aware that they have been manipulated into believing something that isn't true, and are also fully aware that cult leaders know that what they claim is not entirely true.

As a people, we must spread awareness of these deceptive tactics. Not because of lack of information; there are abundant resources available to combat cult propaganda. Education is becoming less of an issue. Even those who attempt to reject modern views of the world and laws of nature no longer share most ancient worldviews. Lack of awareness of destructive cults and their manipulative tactics is an issue. How we use the information available is an issue. Tendencies to avoid critical thought, simply because a speaker appears to be "religious", is an issue. Though blame can rightfully be cast towards those who purposefully and unethically abuse this knowledge, we cannot avoid taking responsibility for shutting down our own critical thought. We must always critically examine claims that impact the lives of ourselves, our family, and our descendants. If not, our children can easily place as much blame on us as we place upon the cult leaders.