Saturday, February 27, 2016


A widespread denial technique used within the ranks of the COG was the "No True Scotsman" fallacy. That argument is said to be drawn from the image of a Scotsman reading the newspaper, "English sex maniac terrorizes rural town." With a self-righteous harumph, the Scotsman declares, "No Scotsman would ever do such a thing." 

Come the next morning, he reads, "Glasgow troubled by series of sex crimes." With another harumph from the Scotsman, he asserts, "No true Scotsman would do such a thing."

So went the thinking: "Maybe, just maybe, somewhere in a COG Home, there were abuses. Maybe, I mean, we can't deny that it could be possible. But no true COG member would do such a thing." 

I told myself the same thing. Maybe there were abuses, but unlike those "sinners," I was a true COG member - true to the Bible and the basic Mo Letters.

Certainly, the founder and prophet, Berg, would never do such anything abusive

Sadly and tragically, history has proven just the opposite to be true. He not only horrifically abused those within his household, he created an environment within the cult where abuse of all kinds - psychological, physical, sexual, and deprivational - was not considered abusive. The ingroup "normal" was manipulated to be completely delusional and perverse. 

Berg's own step-son, raised with the "best care in the world" to be his heir, met a very tragic end. How the cult side-stepped and justified that horrendous crime - the fruit of years of abuse - by blaming the victim, only adds insult to the memory of his name.

Rest in peace, Ricky Rodriguez

Thursday, February 18, 2016


Last week I finished Amanda Lindhout's compelling memoir, A House in the Sky, recounting her 15 months as a hostage in Somalia. Aside from being food for nightmares, what impressed me deeply was the community she had back home that was working to save her. Although isolated and alone in her dark room, separated from her fellow-captive, there were many many people in Canada that worked tirelessly to obtain her release.

Then I listened to a talk by Steve Hassan, who, according to Wikipedia, "is an American licensed mental health counselor who has written extensively on the subject of cults." He joined the Moonies when he was 19 and was in for a couple years when a traffic accident landed him in the hospital. His sister visited and convinced him to go home with her to meet her son who had been born after Steve joined the cult. He agreed, but asked that she not tell his parents because they didn't like him being in the Moonies. Fortunately, she did tell his parents, and they arranged an intervention in the form of a deprogramming, and after five days of this, he came to his senses. He went on to study cult recruitment methods, write Combatting Cultic Mind Controland become an expert on cults.

I wonder if people take their families and friends for granted? I know it's easy to take our "normal" for granted. Both of those people's salvations were made possible by others. What if they had had no friends and family? Or what if their parents were dead and their friends and families were so caught up in their own lives that they had no time to think about them? The endings may not have been so happy.

So much of the power of cults to keep its members comes from their burning of bridges - cutting off contact with their friends and families and keeping them isolated. Orphans are even easier to keep. Where can they go?

Monday, February 8, 2016

Are people who join cults stupid?

Someone wisely said, "If you can fall in love, you can join a cult."

Nevertheless, our inborn self-serving bias and illusion of superiority tells us that we would never be so stupid as to join a cult. "Other people would, but I would never! Other people would, but I'm too smart to fall for such a stupid thing."


Let's take a look at brain chemistry, and what goes on when we meet a person or a group that we feel attracted to.

Just like using cocaine, being "in love" gives us a high, and it does this by lowering the threshold for dopamine release in our brains. Dopamine is the neural transmitter that is associated with the anticipation of pleasure. Lowered dopamine threshold = more things are fun.

Maybe you've heard people say how it's important to “make learning fun.” Well, there is actually scientific backup for that because dopamine is what solidifies the changes made in our neural connections when we learn new things.

So now we've met people and been inundated with feelings of love, dopamine thresholds are lowered, all that pleasurable anticipation brings on a flood of dopamine, and the things we learn in that lovey-dovey, happy state become set in our brains.

But that's not all.

Our feelings of love release oxytocin. Oxytocin is a neuromodulator - like an overseer of neural connections. It has the power to erase connections - erasing memories and thought patterns.

So what we have coming along with that "in love" high is oxytocin melting away the former neural connections which prepares the way for new connections, then dopamine stepping in and strengthening the pathways of those new ideas. Old ideas out - new ideas in.

Could this play a part in people being "born again," "new creatures"? "Forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth to those things which are before..." (Philippians 3:13)

Oxytocin helps people to "forget" and the surge of dopamine solidifies their new learning. Another side of this "forgetting" and "unlearning" feature of falling in love/joining a cult is that once-strong, self-confident individuals can transform into “new” people that lose all sense of self and become plagued by self-doubt. Without the confidence to trust themselves, they look to their "lover."

For more on the amazing workings of our brains, read this: The Brain that Changes Itself, by Norman Doidge