UC Not Dangerous


"The term brainwashing was first used to explain religious conversion by the British psychiatrist William Sargant, who wrote Battle for the Mind in 1957. This book is the main source of the term as used today. Sargant argues that evangelical conversions form St. Paul to Billy Graham can be explained in terms of psychological processes that he says are akin to what was called 'shell shock' during World War I. Shell shock is a psychological process that can be engineered to produce personality changes, and Sargant claims that 'brainwashing' to produce a religious conversion is a similar process. By equating brainwashing with shell shock and relating both to religious conversion, Sargant was intentionally associating the conversion process with disease.

Commenting about Methodism in his conclusion, Sargant says "this is no longer the eighteenth century. Then it did not seem to matter what the common people believed because they exercised no political power and were supposed only to work, not think; and because they read no books or papers. But religious conversion to fundamentalism seems out date now; ... the brain should not be abused by having forced upon it any religious or political mystique that stunts reason." He indicates that he considers fundamentalists —by  whom he means evangelicals—  to  be dangerous people. He says that people like Billy Graham abuse people mentally and gain followers by brainwashing.

"Since Sargant wrote Battle for the Mind, evangelical Christians in Britain and America have increased, so has their political and social influence, while unfavorable criticisms of them have conversely decreased. New religions, however, continue to stand accused of brainwashing and mind-abuse— and, ironically, evangelical Christians are among the first to make such accusations.

"Flo Conway and Jim Siegelman have produced a variation of the brainwashing thesis, arguing that groups like the Moonies (members of Sun Myung Moon’s Unification Church) use conversion techniques that place people under pressure until they snap, thus making personality changes possible. Evangelicals welcomed Conway and Siegelman’s book Snapping because it was a direct attack upon the Moonies and their leader. They completely ignored a short statement on page 46 that equates the conversion practices of the Moonies with those of evangelical Christians. In their latest book, Holy Terror (1982), however, Conway and Siegelman press their attack upon evangelicals directly, insisting that conversion is a form of snapping or brainwashing not only among would-be new religionists but also among would-be evangelical Christians."


"We reject the brainwashing thesis not only because it represents an attack upon religious conversion generally but also because there is considerable evidence that people join new religions of their own free will.

"We have four main sources of evidence about recruitment to cults. First, there are testimonies by ex-cult members who have totally repudiated the beliefs of the cult but strongly deny that they were trapped by techniques of mind control. Second, there are many parents, relatives, and friends of cult members and ex-cult members who seem to understand that the person they knew whose to join the cult freely. Third, there are many studies by social scientists indicating that individuals have different conversion careers, which would suggest that the conversion careers, which would suggest that the conversion process is voluntary. Finally, accounts of the cult members themselves often indicate that their decision to become members in new religions followed a long search not only for meaning but also for the resolution of major life crises.


"Those who assume that members of new religions are in fact brainwashed sometimes attempt to undo the brainwashing by means of a process call 'deprogramming." Deprogrammers claim to 'rescue' people from cults by using a variety of techniques to coerce them into renouncing their former allegiances. We have questions about both the premise and the effectiveness of deprogramming, however. Saul Levine, a professor of psychiatry in Toronto, writes that although there are many reports of individuals having been successfully deprogrammed, he has himself seen only one such case. Indeed, Levine not only suggests that it is doubtful whether deprogramming helps many people; he also points out the way in which it is likely to harm the victim.

For deprogramming to work, subjects must be convinced that they joined a religious group against their will. They must, therefore, renounce all responsibility for their conversion and accept the idea that in some mysterious way their mind was controlled by others. But this idea has some very unsettling implications. If one has lost control on one’s mind once, why can’t it happen again? What is to prevent another person or group from gaining a similar influence? How can deprogrammed people ever be certain that they are really doing what they want to do? By its very nature, deprogramming destroys a person’s identity. It is likely to create permanent anxiety about freedom of choice and leave the deprogrammed subject dependent upon the guidance and the advice of others.

"Fundamentally, deprogramming denies choice and creates dependency. It robs people of their sense of responsibility. Instead of encouraging people to accept the fact that they chose to join a religion or realize that they make a mistake, it encourages people to deny their actions and blame others. Thus, deprogramming is not only psychologically destructive but profoundly unchristian. The Bible repeatedly emphasizes human accountability and calls us to choose between good and evil. Deprogramming denies our responsibility to make such choices.

"CONCLUSION: Once we reject the idea of brainwashing and the claims of deprogrammers, we are able to return to the question of developing an appropriate Christian response to new religions.

"Canadian religious studies professor Rodney Sawatsky, who is a member of the Mennonite faith, offers some useful insights into the tremendous persecution endured by the Unification Church. He asks:

"Why is it that Unification members are being persecuted by deprogrammers, by some psychiatrists, by the media and even by the law? Are not all religions free to exist in America? Are these people any more brainwashed than Billy Graham converts, or Jesuit priests, or soldiers? It is very doubtful. The problem with the Moonies is that they are challenging the status quo. They are giving their whole lives to their faith. They are seeking perfection, the kingdom of God on earth. When the majority culture likes to think that "I’m OK, You’re OK," that it is indeed building God’s kingdom, Mennonites, Mormons and Moonies come along with an alternative proposal—and persecution begins."

"To join a cult is to turn inward, psychologically and spiritually, to seek reassuring answers to questions about self-worth. Self-purification consumes the cultist’s time, energy, and thoughts. Trapped by the demands of the cult leader, whose approval is required for self-respect, he is prevented form genuinely contributing to social needs, although altruistic and idealistic goals may have been important motivations to join the cult in the first place.

"The cult represents a spiritual protest against a secular milieu. It also represents a protest against the failure of the traditional church to fill spiritual voids, to provide answers, to instill fervor. And, of primary importance to many members, the cult also represents a quest for the intimacy of true based on a shared ideological identity. For the natural family the Unification Church substitutes an "idealized" family and set of "perfect parents" that promise eternal relief from loneliness.

"Despite (or perhaps because of) pressures to achieve scholastically, today’s young individualistic generation exhibits a stubborn anti-intellectualism. To join a cult is to leap into a mythological world which denies reality in exchange for the apparent transcendence of illusion. Few young people have the sophistication of skepticism to see beyond the attractive illusions or the understand how intense emotional involvement can cloud and distort their perceptions.

"But most importantly, to bright, idealistic young people suffering from guilt and boredom of their privileged upbringing, the cult world (with its tentacles of deception and control hidden behind the sincerity of its adherents) presents the opportunity to engage in heroic missions in the context the what appears to be a life-and-death struggle for meaning. Whatever suffering occurs within the cult in the accomplishment of these missions is given the highest theological value.

"This priority is very evident when we consider that the same congress which approved the United States Constitution also passed the Northwest Ordinance of 1787. Article 3 of this ordinance states: "Religion, morality, and knowledge being necessary to good government and the happiness of mankind, schools and the means of education shall forever be encouraged."

"The Founding Fathers believed that education should include not only the teaching of knowledge, but religion and morality as well. Today, however, the U.S. Public school system devotes little effort to the education of moral values. Religious teaching in the schools has often been replaced with secular humanist principles which are, in essence, atheistic. While many oppose the re-inclusion of religious principles in the American public school curriculum because they do not want their children to be indoctrinated in the beliefs of a particular denomination, the fact is that the Founding Fathers set out from the beginning to make the teaching of religion a unifying cultural factor in education and to exclude any emphasis on a particular creed or doctrine. They sought a universal religious code that would be acceptable to people of all faiths.

Antonio Betancourt, Executive director, The Summit Council for World Peace, wrote a letter to the editor of Macleans saying, "Rather than seeking objectivity as would be expected, your cover story disparages Rev. Moon, organizations he founded and those who choose to associate with them, including Canada’s former governor general Ed Schreyer. With that as a given, no wonder you made no effort to give the perspective of the Unification Church. The net result is to foment a sense of public hysteria based on unchallenged allegations and pure antipathy. I am further aghast at how easily you impugned the integrity of Schreyer, who has distinguished himself for decades in the service of Canada. You have also chosen to ignore evidence of the Summit Council’s substantive role in facilitating peace and stability in Northeast Asia, among other regions, so it would not distract from your caricature, heavily laden with discredited cliches of Moon and his church."

Senator Hatfield

Senator Mark Hatfield has said Barb lost her "intellectual freedom" in the UC. "It is an enlightened warning to each and every household." She says while away from the church she realized she was a "slave" and that "most of my life in the Family, I hadn’t ever closely examined the Principle, hadn’t had time to study or look into theological questions, weigh other viewpoints." She focused on being "obedient" and not thinking and following Abel. Because she had spent years not actually saying UC in fundraising and witnessing she felt the church believed in "heavenly deception." She hated being dishonest and was guilt ridden. She writes how the ends don’t justify the means. Her life was "limited and restricted." When she was forced to be with her parents, she felt they loved her more than the church that called itself a family. The members and leaders didn’t care for her and only used and abused her by working her like a slave and treating her as a cog in a machine that has no heart and no person has individuality. She was influenced also because a few of the former members who worked on her had been early members and leaders there.

I don’t believe that the UC should fundraise anymore because it has such terrible baggage. And no one will ever say the name of the church and Sun Myung Moon and they should hand a flyer out explaining what the money is going for with pictures of Father, etc. The past history of controversy is so great that they should focus on jobs and businesses and not regiment people and drive them endless hours as it seems they are still doing in 1995 when the Macleans article came out and several ex-members told the usual story of months of grueling fundraising. When the Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts or the local high school band or the Jehovah Witnesses or Mormons come to the door everyone accepts that. There are scam artists ripping off elderly people and other too. When someone donates and buys something and later finds out that they gave to something Rev. Moon is behind they feel cheated and lied to and that is one of the worst things any one can do in America. The Boy Scouts are still persecuted by the gays, and Promise Keepers are criticized by the feminists but no one criticizes them for deceiving anyone in how they get their money.

Legally it is probably all right to sell things to help any organization, but in the case of the UC it isn’t good to fundraise anymore. We need an image different from rose selling and communes and single people pushed to the limit without time off. The Cain/Abel philosophy or restoration has been taken too far and there needs to be more freedom.