Tuesday, August 7, 2018

All cults are alike; each cult is unhappy in its own way

I just finished reading TroublemakerSurviving Hollywood and Scientology. I had never heard of Leah Remini, never seen her on TV. I was in a cult. We didn't watch TV. Then after leaving, I had no interest in television, as I had such a hunger to study and learn after years in the intellectual desert that was life in the Children of God. Like Leah, I needed to rewire my brain. But unlike Leah, I had no support system, no therapists, no friends nor family nearby, just my own large brood of children that needed care and attention and money.

Reading Leah's story, I marveled at the similarities. Groupthink, which I.L. Janis defined as “a deterioration in mental efficiency, reality testing and moral judgments as a result of group pressures," is an essential feature in all cults. Scientologists, just like their COG counterparts, are “the enlightened ones,” the ones with privileged insight into The Truth. This privilege obliges members to spend hours and hours “improving themselves” through daily reading, frequent counseling, self-criticism, and criticism from leaders, with its resultant required confessions and, in the COG, united prayer sessions. Voicing doubts or criticizing leaders was cause for censure and punishment, demotion, hard-labor, humiliation, silence restriction, and/or wearing headphones listening to group publications.

I was horrified to read of the extent of the abuse that was heaped upon adults in Scientology, and its accompanying psychological warping so that the victims believe they are deserving of such ill-treatment. In the Children of God, although adults were subject to various types of abuse and constant exploitation, the real victims were the children. Especially the first generation born in the COG were subject to physical, emotional, psychological, and sexual abuse, coupled with educational and medical neglect. Like Leah explained about Scientology, the group's publications were deemed more important than mere academic education.

Scientology, with its courting of rich and famous celebrities, is wealthy, yet the rank-and-file members can find themselves bankrupt because of the amount of money the cult requires them to pay. Children of God members lived in poverty after giving up everything to the cult, being forbidden to hold regular jobs because they were too busy “doing the work of winning the world, that only they, as the chosen of God, could do,” and tithing at least 15% of the donations they raised. The very dedicated gave more.

I feel a kindred spirit to Leah, and I commend her strength and resolve in coming out of such a strong mindset as was instilled during her formative years growing up in Scientology.

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