Anti-Critic Activists - A brief response to Dr. Eileen Barker
A number of cult sympathizers have attained status in the world of academics. Some of these have advanced a step further than mere sympathy, and actively work to promote concepts of value to cults. One course of action which cults value is the confusion of critical discussion about cults. The effective goal of this course of action is to help cults gain social influence by discouraging or sidetracking opposing views.
In pursuing this course of action, pro-cult activists often use factors other than reason. An irrational approach to promoting acceptance of cults is understandable, since cults, by definition, have been deemed to be sociologically deviant. In other words, cults have been looked at, information has been gathered and evaluated, and a decision has been made. A rational approach was already tried, but failed to get the group accepted. Therefore, pro-cult activists have no choice but to make use of psychological tricks to avoid or sidetrack arguments relating to the ill effects of cults. One of these tricks is the claim of one's own impartiality in rendering an opinion.
First of all, please consider reality. What is bias? Bias is a preconception, or a one-sided view without the facts. What is the value of declaring oneself to be unbiased? It's good publicity, for one thing, but human nature being what it is, the truth in content of a self-proclamation of non-bias is worthless. Therefore a claim of giving an unbiased opinion merely portrays a wish that one be perceived as unbiased. Please note that this line of critical reasoning is not likely to occur on a level of individual consciousness which most readers are immediately capable of identifying. In other words, a self-claim of non-bias has subliminal persuasive value.
For example, Dr. Eileen Barker has described her activity in this way:
*Unbiased & objective sociological description, understanding and explanation
while describing the activities of people who disagree with her as
*Warn; Expose; Control; Destroy
*from "The Scientific Study of Religion"
You Must Be Joking!" by Eileen Barker.
In this case, then, Dr. Barker has ignored the positive aspects of her opponents, whom she refers to as the "Anti-Cult Movement," namely to:
"question, invite opposing views, gather and analyze data to form conclusions which are subject, in turn, to further questioning."
In doing so, she has emphasized the negative aspects, which, by definition, is a biased action on her part. (Please see above assertions of being unbiased, understanding, etc.) While it is human to err, pro-cult activists rely heavily on misunderstandings to get their point across.
As another example, Dr. Barker also referred to a quote from the Bible, Luke 14:26, as a quote from Jesus Christ which people would never believe. In the King James version, that reads,
"If any man come to me, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple."
She failed to mention that this was considered to be a reference to 5 Moses (Deuteronomy) 33:9
"[Levi] said unto his father and to his mother, I have not seen him; neither did he acknowledge his brethren, nor knew his own children: for they have observed thy word, and kept thy covenant."
In addition, Luke 14:26 is not a basis for performing hateful or shameful acts by followers of the Bible's teachings, but was merely used as an example by Dr. Barker to show that that a misunderstanding may be due to a lack of information.
Ostentatiously, the point is that all groups are alike in that they have writings which can be misunderstood. However, this particular comparison can lead to even more misundstanding. For instance, both birds and battleships have been misunderstood in the past: does that mean that birds and battleships have something in common? Or is that merely a tactic to turn the view of the perceiver inward, away from the issue at hand?
A side effect of taking the Bible out of context is to shake up your own beliefs, in the event that you consider yourself to be a Christian. For one thing, Christians who were not aware of Jesus' frequent references to the Old Testament would undoubtedly be shaken in regard to their sacred scripture after having read Luke 14:26. It should be noted that an initial step in making people more susceptible to uncritically accepting the beliefs of others (being brainwashed) is to shake up their own fundamental beliefs.
Consider, on the other hand, the following quote in relation to the fate of deceased Scientologist Lisa McPherson, whose horrible fate at the hands of Scientology and consequent death would have gone unnoticed if a critical observer had not gathered information on a Scientology address in an obituary column , the results of which are still being investigated:
"We would rather have you dead than incapable."
and, from Scientology's book "Science of Survival":
"It is not necessary to produce a world of clears [Scientology super- humans] in order to have a reasonable and worthwhile social order; it is only necessary to delete those individuals who range from 2.0 down ..."
Another tactic of confusion used by Dr. Barker and other anti-critics is an aggressive effort to discredit and disparage "apostates," whom normal people call "former cult members." She advocates that learning about cults by listening to former cult members is like learning about marriage by listening to divorced people (the implication is that divorced people will have a tendency to say negative things about marriage). This comparison relies, for its validity, on the presumption that a being a member of a secretive cult is comparable to being married to a person with whom you live.
One of the many differences is that in marriage, the family's wages go to improve the lives of the individuals in the family. In a "new religious movement," however, little or none of the profits benefit the individual cult members. Instead, a major portion of the money goes to waging war on the outside world. For instance, Richardson and van Driel have estimated that Scientology spent $170 million dollars to suppress unfavorable press by 1988 (Journalists' Attitudes toward New Religious Movements, "Review of Religious Research" 39(2), Dec 1997).
In other words, one would no more ignore former cult members in gathering information about a cult than one would ignore former soldiers in gathering information about a war. Is it realistic to state that Scientology is waging a war, at least in spirit?
" 9. Our current attackers are walking straight in to a minefield. Personal ruin faces each of these few attackers the moment we start our campaign.
10. So don't be worried unduly. We're sitting here with 12 inch howitzers all loaded and read to fire. Just make sure we do our jobs and in our attack, don't miss."
- From a confidential Scientology executive directive
dated 26 September 1966 to "staff only" from
L. R. Hubbard identified as "ED 21 WW 27 SH":
Naturally, the above does not refer to real mine fields and howitzers. Still, it demonstrates the idea that war is being waged - though it does not employ fatal, man-made devices intended to kill or maim instantaneously. A more widely read Scientology text serves better to identify the mindset used by Scientology on its general membership:
"We would rather have you dead than incapable."
is from "Keeping Scientology Working," a Scientology directive which is mandatory reading for every major Scientology course. Even if this statement is taken figuratively, it still suggests an undesirable preference as a consequence to being incapable, as Scientology defines the term. In the figurative sense, it clearly implies that, according to the will of Scientology, inability will be punished by total rejection.
In contrast, the vow of marital finality, "til death do you part," does not imply that the participants will be pressured to choose between a death wished upon them by others and staying married.
There are more examples which show that Scientology does, indeed, implement its alarming directives just as faithfully as it does its directives which mandate acceptance of Scientology by society. One of the benefits of critical thinking is the ability to explore whether group teachings are as anti-social as they sound.
Finally, for the purposes of an anti-critic activist, the media, essential to a democracy, are viewed as a mercenary institution whose aims have been summed up as follows:
Good story; get/keep readers, viewers, and/or listeners*
Anti-critic activists have succeeded in giving the media good stories which they call "atrocity tales," which is actually a tongue-in-cheek term. An atrocity tale is a fairy tale about someone who plays a bad practical joke on a cult. Here is the story line of an atrocity tale:
Once upon a time there was an evil cult which brainwashed people. Rapes and murders were commonplace. Evidence of this was given in sworn testimony by an escaped cult brainwashee. Then one day a valiant anti-critic activist came along and proved that the person who gave the sworn testimony was actually lying.
That is a great story which gets across a good moral point, namely that some people lie. However, when it is used as a specific response to an accusation of wrongdoing, it is nothing more than a back-handed way of putting the accuser on the defensive. It is a tactic to take attention off the wrongdoing and put attention on the perceiver.
In summary, even though sociology is not a physical science, scientific principles should still apply. Verification should never be frowned upon. Claims of impartiality do not serve to shield one's own credibility while carrying out aggressive attacks on critics or opponents.
This response is meant to present a disagreement to specific points Dr. Barker has made and to provide supporting evidence thereto. Feedback is welcomed. Please use the Feedback link on this page. Dr. Barker is considered one of the world's best pro-cult activists, enough so as to be ferried about by cults to foreign countries to serve as an expert witness in their court trials.
For a working sample of a mission statement of a center which provides both rehabilitation and preventive assistance in regards to the undesirable side-effects of Scientology, visit the Lisa McPherson Trust at www.lisatrust.net.
Their statement may not get the message across perfectly, but it appears to be a working statement to stop organizational abuse by tax-exempt religions. For instance, Scientology has repeatedly used tax-exempt status granted to it by the IRS as a reason to keep from being prosecuted. One example is the Lisa McPherson proceedings.
There are also elements of consumer protection, religious freedom, freedom of speech and therapy through sharing common experiences. Someone who characterizes the above as an "anti-cult movement" is not completely unbiased.