Agents of Discord: Deprogramming, Pseudo-Science, and the American Anticult Movement
It is widely acknowledged that the United States has always provided fertile ground for the growth of new religious movements and cults, but modern organized efforts to oppose and restrict them have been less well understood. In Agents of Discord, Anson Shupe and Susan E. Darnell offer a groundbreaking analysis of the operations and motives of these oppositional groups, which they generally group under the umbrella term of the anticult movement. Historically there have always been parallel groups opposed to certain religious movements, whether these be anti-Quaker, anti-Roman Catholic, or anti-Mormon. The authors establish the cultural context of such movements in the nineteenth century. They point out the link between modern anticult movements and nativist movements in American history. Turning to the postwar era, the authors discuss the rise of anticult movements and focus specifically on one of the most prominent, the Cult Awareness Network (CAN). CAN was a two-tiered organization. Partly composed of volunteers, donors, and families affected by cult movements, it also included what the authors call an "inner sanctum" of behavioral science professionals, attorneys, and deprogrammers. Using never-before-reported data on CAN's activities, the authors cite an extensive history of financial impropriety that finally led to the organization's bankruptcy. They offer a pointed critique, informed by current scholarship, of the "brainwashing" model of mental enslavement presented by the anticult movement that has been a central assumption undergirding its activities. At the same time, they show how increasing professionalization has gradually begun a shift of such movements to a therapeutic model of exit counseling that rejects the crude methods of earlier intervention strategies. In their analysis of the anticult movement nationally and internationally, Shupe and Darnell merge sociological concepts and social history to make unique sense of a heretofore relatively unexplored phenomenon.
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abducted ACM activists ACM groups ACM’s activities ADFI AFF’s American Family Foundation annual Anson Shupe Anti-Cult Movements anticult anticultists attorney behavior brainwashing CAN’s CFF’s chapter Church of Scientology claimed coercive deprogrammings concern conference conﬂict countermovement court Cult Awareness Network Cynthia Kisser David G deprogramming Destructive Cults documents educational European example executive director exit counselors expert ﬁles ﬁnancial ﬁrst funds Germany Hassan Ibid ideology individual inﬂuence International involved issue Jason Jonestown Langone leaders Lenz Letter meeting ment mental health Michael mind control NARDEC North American ACM NRM members NRMs ofﬁcial operatives organization organizational parents persons Press professional psychiatrist psychologist referred religion religious groups Religious Movements resource mobilization Rick Ross Robert roles Rosedale scientists sect sexual Shupe and Bromley Shupe and David Singer social movement economy sociologists Steven Hassan Ted Patrick term tion tive Unification Church University wrote York