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Sat Jun 5, 2021, 05:52 PM

Leaving a cult

Over the past week I've spent some time watching videos of people who have left cults or the more extreme cult-like forms of religion. There are many such videos on YouTube and I thought I'd watch in an effort to understand the thought processes that make someone come to their senses and get out. Based on the 20 or more videos I watched this week (a small but hopefully representative set), here are some observations:

1) It took time. Of the ones I watched no on had a sudden epiphany and left, instead they had slowly growing doubts or concerns that built up over time (often 2 or more years)

2) They came to the conclusion they should leave on their own - So far I haven't come across a video in which the person leaving the cult got into an argument with an 'outsider' who convinced them to leave. Similarly I haven't found any so far where a family staged an 'intervention' to get some one out. Instead, inner doubts and questions built up within and the person started to do their own independent research that opened their eyes up to the outside world. I would guess some people have left after a well timed and expressed intervention, but so far I haven't found any such videos in my watch list.

3) The ages are mixed. There are many of younger people who left a cult that their parents had indicted them into, but somewhat surprisingly there are also quite a number of middle aged people who started to become disillusioned.

4) There were a number of common themes in the underlying rationale. One big one was how the cult approached LGBTQ rights. Some of the people leaving were closet LGBTQ themselves before they left. Others had LGBTQ family or friends who were marginalized, ostracized or otherwise mistreated by the cult. The other big one was that the person started to see the cult as hypocritical. They started to recognize that the words espoused by the cult leaders didn't match their actions.

5) I should also add that in the video's I watched, even through the people featured were at one time deeply embedded in their cult, they did not come across as stupid in their videos. In fact many of them seemed really intelligent (that is relative to me, which may not be saying too much . Rather than being stupid, they got swept up by the propaganda. Because cults isolate their members from the outside, those people then didn't recognize to begin with that they were even in a cult.

The reason I share the above is because I know I'm not alone in looking for ways to help a MAGA recover some sanity. What the videos I watched implied to me is that it takes time.

I also think that slowly, gently and subtly pointing out the hypocrisy maybe one way forward. Maybe that won't help for the hard core, but for those who are in the cult, but already having doubts or who are only marginal members, then using memes or other devices to gently point out the hypocrisy may be in part a solution. There are of course many different examples of the MAGA and Christo-fascist hypocrisy. I plan on looking at how best to communicate that hypocrisy for this week's video viewings.

For those who have a friend, colleague or family member who left a cult (even the MAGA cult) any other experiences that might help others who are trying to restore some sanity to their loved ones?

The Hippo

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Arrow 16 replies Author Time Post
Reply Leaving a cult (Original post)
Hippo_The_Pointer Jun 2021 OP
underpants Jun 2021 #1
PoindexterOglethorpe Jun 2021 #2
ret5hd Jun 2021 #3
Hippo_The_Pointer Jun 2021 #4
cbabe Jun 2021 #5
Hippo_The_Pointer Jun 2021 #12
RussellCattle Jun 2021 #6
StarryNite Jun 2021 #7
drmeow Jun 2021 #8
Hippo_The_Pointer Jun 2021 #11
FreeState Jun 2021 #9
Hippo_The_Pointer Jun 2021 #10
TheBlackAdder Jun 2021 #13
cbabe Jun 2021 #14
NNadir Jun 2021 #16
myccrider Jun 2021 #15

Response to Hippo_The_Pointer (Original post)

Sat Jun 5, 2021, 06:12 PM

1. Thank you for your research.

As sad as this is itís fascinating to watch.

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Response to Hippo_The_Pointer (Original post)

Sat Jun 5, 2021, 06:44 PM

2. That is very interesting.

Thank you for sharing.

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Response to Hippo_The_Pointer (Original post)

Sat Jun 5, 2021, 07:09 PM

3. OK, so what I'm hearing is...

me and you are so stupid even wacky cults donít want us.

(gawd I kill me. and I think your analysis is at least close to correct)

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Response to ret5hd (Reply #3)

Sat Jun 5, 2021, 07:50 PM

4. Would Trump U help?

Maybe to really tune into the MAGA cult we should attend some Trump U classes - Shudder - Maybe not

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Response to Hippo_The_Pointer (Original post)

Sat Jun 5, 2021, 08:32 PM

5. Escape: A Memoir

by Carolyn Jessup about her heartwrenching, harrowing escape from Mormon sect.

Also, search for books about escaping from Scientology. Lots of titles.

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Response to cbabe (Reply #5)

Sat Jun 5, 2021, 11:50 PM

12. Thanks for the book reference

Hi cbabe - Thanks for the book reference. I see there are a number of interviews with Carolyn online, I'll watch those first to get a flavor of things first.

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Response to Hippo_The_Pointer (Original post)

Sat Jun 5, 2021, 08:51 PM

6. I think that your effort in analysing the process of leaving a cult is very well done. I've got....

....friends who are Trump supporters and, though I've never really considered giving up on them, I'm encouraged by the suggestion that some patience may be a long term solution.

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Response to Hippo_The_Pointer (Original post)

Sat Jun 5, 2021, 09:21 PM

7. Very well thought out post.

Thank you. And welcome to DU!

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Response to Hippo_The_Pointer (Original post)

Sat Jun 5, 2021, 10:26 PM

8. In some ways a more accurrate comparisong

might be leaving violent extremist groups. RAND has a report about Al Qa'ida - MAGA has similarities: https://www.rand.org/pubs/technical_reports/TR785.html

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Response to drmeow (Reply #8)

Sat Jun 5, 2021, 11:47 PM

11. Will read

Hi Drmeow - Thanks for the article I've had a quick flick through, but there is a lot there. I will have a full read through during the week.

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Response to Hippo_The_Pointer (Original post)

Sat Jun 5, 2021, 11:13 PM

9. I was raised in a cult and left when I was in my 20s.

Most of my family is still involved with the cult (a high demand religion that requires complete devotion, massive amounts of time, a portion of your income I order to take part in sacred ceremonies etc.)

Probably the biggest thing people donít understand is the pressure to stay in the cult is massive, usually from your family and friends (itís unlikely you have many that arenít involved in the cult and the ones you do are work friends). If you leave you lose connection and access to your family. Your seen as a huge disappointment and someone whoís gone ďastrayĒ.

This happens with Trump followers too. They donít want to lose family of friends.

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Response to FreeState (Reply #9)

Sat Jun 5, 2021, 11:45 PM

10. Need for acceptance

Hi Freestate - I can certainly see how the need to feel we belong and are accepted must be a powerful force that keeps many in their cult. We humans are in general social beings and loneliness and the fear of being rejected are powerful factors. As such those of us wanting to help a cultist leave or turn towards healthier options would need to consider how to make the leaver feel supported and accepted. You've given me some goof food for thought...Thanks

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Response to Hippo_The_Pointer (Original post)

Sat Jun 5, 2021, 11:59 PM

13. Did a university research paper on that for one of my religion courses.

.

The person has to be completely removed from the span of control.

Unfortunately, this is not like being extricated and deprogrammed after leaving a small cult. Most Trumpers live in an are that is Trump country. Their family, neighbors, friends, church congregants, people in town and in the stores and restaurants, are all Trumpers. They can never really leave Trump to regain a sense of self. The community they are living in determines that. Most can not make a clean break, and won't. Their family that would normally perform the kidnapping and relocation to an undisclosed house where family love-bomb them back to counter the cult's love-bombing doesn't exist.

Religious conversions typically come at moments of undue and overwhelming stress, grief, or feelings of loneliness. Many cults operate at colleges, because that is often the first time students are away from their families, in a strange environment and subject to unchecked influences. They prey on people from fractured households or with no friends. It starts slowly, and the target is filled with a strong sense of self-worth and community and that makes them want to initially stay, and then afterwards, they slowly get assimilated into the cult. They would need another type of conversion to leave, or complete removal from all strings that connect them to the cult influence.

.

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Response to Hippo_The_Pointer (Original post)

Sun Jun 6, 2021, 12:30 AM

14. Educated by

Tara Westover is another extraordinary book about escaping a family cult.

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Response to cbabe (Reply #14)

Sun Jun 6, 2021, 06:26 PM

16. Thanks. I wasn't aware of this book.

I had an aunt an cousins in a cult; and my sister-in-law is in one as well, as is one of her two daughters.

I may check it out.

Welcome to DU.

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Response to Hippo_The_Pointer (Original post)

Sun Jun 6, 2021, 11:50 AM

15. My somewhat adjacent experience tends to support your research.

I spent several years participating in an on-line forum called talk.origins that consisted of people who argued with fundamentalist, anti-science believers about science. The main thrust was around biological evolution, but everything from astronomy to zoology (even the occasional flat-earther) came up for scrutiny at one time or another. Most of these people werenít technically in cults, but their vociferous, blind beliefs based on deeply emotional attachments to worldviews that denied known facts is, imo, similar to cult-like thinking.

No one was convinced in some epiphany while we argued with them. But people would come back later (sometimes years later) and tell us that our arguments and evidence had planted a seed of doubt that eventually convinced them that the science was correct. As you report, that seed caused them to do their own independent research and self-reflection. Some left their fundamentalist religions, in part, because of our discourse. No one likes being duped.

We got a lot of feedback from the "audience" who just watched the arguments, too. Many of them said that they had also changed their outlooks.

Even though what you say to someone with these whackadoodle ideas may not seem to make a dent, you could still say something that starts the first stone of an avalanche rolling. I donít know what the percentages for success are but the more people we can peel away, or just neutralize with doubts, the better...for them and for society as a whole.

Iíd emphasize that yelling and name-calling didnít seem to be the most successful approach, though. No matter how frustrated we got.

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