Archive for the ‘Scientology’ Category

by Fred W. Anson
Personally, and speaking only for myself and no other author in this series, I have a hard time finding a religious system that’s less tethered to reality than Mormonism – that is with the possible exception of its close cousin, Scientology. And over the course of the last few months, we have shown you why.

The Ten Myths that we have analyzed and scrutinized over this series aren’t just interesting trivia points of Mormon Culture, they are foundational to the very religion. Endemic to them all are Latter-day Saint dogmas that must be believed and accepted in order to justify either basic religious distinctives in particular or Mormonism in general. In some cases, if the myth isn’t true then Mormonism no longer has any justification for existing at all. Let’s consider them again along with their epigraphs one last time, shall we?

The 10 Myths Mormons Believe About Christianity

    1. “Biblical Christianity apostatized”
      Neither the Bible nor Christian Church History support Restorationist Great Apostasy claims
    2. The Bible has been corrupted.”
      We have a Biblical text that is faithful to the original
    3. “Biblical Christians believe in cheap grace.”
      Justice Isn’t a Myth. But neither is Grace and Mercy
    4. “Biblical Christians believe Christ prayed to Himself.”
      Biblical Christians fully acknowledge the one-ness and the three-ness of God
    5. “The Biblical Christian God is a monster who sends good people to hell…”
      We are, as Paul declares, “without excuse”
    6. “Biblical Christians worship the cross and the Bible.”
      If using symbols and scripture is worshiping them then Mormonism has a beam-in-eye problem
    7. “Biblical Christians have no priesthood.”
      Our authority to act in God’s name comes from His call on our lives
    8. “Bibical Christian Pastors and Apologists practice Priestcraft – they’re only in it for the money.”
      “If we’re in it for the money, we’re doing a very bad job of it”
    9. “Biblical Christians hate Mormons.”
      “I bear my testimony that Biblical Christians love Latter-day Saints”
    10. “Biblical Christianity is divided into 10,000+ sects, all believing in different paths to salvation.”
      God’s way is unity in diversity

Returning to my opening statement, it is with good reason that L. Ron Hubbard, the founder of Scientology, has been dubbed, “The Joseph Smith of the 20th Century” – the two religious systems share far more similarities than differences.1

A key difference between the two is that Hubbard learned from Smith’s mistakes and chose to disconnect his new religion from any extant religion (other than perhaps Scientism)2 and placed its origins in unknown alien space rather than known human earth history.  Thus Hubbard’s truth claims and religious origin story couldn’t be discredited by objective historical and empirical evidence.

Mormon “Plan of Salvation” (circa the 1950s) v. Scientology “Bridge” (circa the 1970s)

Nonetheless, both systems of epistemology, with their basis in confirmation-driven, “Come to the conclusion first and then bend the facts to fit” modus operandi, are nearly identical. While Mormonism relied heavily on extant 19th Century American Restorationism, Scientology was literally derived from L. Ron Hubbard’s original Science Fiction narratives to support its claims.3 Thus Scientology is epistemologically set in the realm of one’s man fiction and nothing more making it a religion that is entirely dependent on that man. And since he is now dead, the system is now completely closed, self-contained, and circular.

On the other hand, the fact that Mormonism can so easily be discredited by hard empirical evidence – including its own documented history from its own archives – is what makes it the reigning king of unreality. Mormons must not only ignore discomforting, and discrediting evidence from objective, disinterested sources, but they must also deny it too in other to remain in the system. The old image of a petulant child plugging his ears with his fingers, closing his eyes, and loudly and endlessly chanting, “La! La! La! La!” comes to mind.

Thus in both systems, one must detach from reality and accept a fantasy that then becomes the unifying principle by which one filters the world. However, Mormonism does Scientology one better by not only adopting this confirmation bias-driven epistemology but actually denying any and all evidence that might pop the Mormon fantasy bubble. For example, one can’t definitively prove that Scientology’s Xenu didn’t bring billions of his people to Earth in DC-8-like spacecraft 75 million years ago, stack them around volcanoes, and kill them with hydrogen bombs because any evidence to the contrary would have been decimated long ago. It’s not falsifiable.

However, it can easily be proven that Joseph Smith’s Book of Mormon Jaredites, Nephites, and Lamanites with their resulting ancient civilizations of millions and millions of Jewish emigrates were never on the North American continent preaching stock and standard 19th Century Protestant American Restorationism. Take your pick: Scientifically, Linguistically, Historically, and Theologically, The Book of Mormon can easily be deconstructed and debunked thus revoking Joseph Smith’s Prophetic credential and the keystone of Mormonism. Thus Mormonism is easily falsified.

In the end and in both cases, one must literally come to the conclusion first and then bend the facts to fit it. As one former Mormon (a former Bishop to boot) once said so well:

“I have become convinced that each individual Mormon must have his or her own personal epiphany which comes from uncertainty and questioning that arises along the way. Until something triggers the desire to ‘seek’, a member will never ‘find’ the ultimate truth.

If you try to face a believer with the truth, that person invariably rejects the messenger and the message. Something may get through sometimes, but generally, members will not thank you for trying to ‘destroy’ their testimony. The messenger is under the influence of Satan, the message is fraught with lies, and members already ‘know’ and cling to the truth – just as they were taught to. That is called faith.

As long as people want the Mormon Church to be true, more than they are willing to face the possibility that it is not, they will not entertain evidence or reason. Delusion becomes a choice.”
(Jim Whitefield, “The Mormon Delusion: Volume 4: The Mormon Missionary Lessons – A Conspiracy to Deceive”, Kindle Locations 10297-10305)

Brigadier General of the Nauvoo Legion, Joseph Smith (left); Commodore of the Scientology Sea Org, L. Ron Hubbard (right).

The same can’t be said for Judeo-Christianity which not only is tightly knit into human history and empiricism but demands that its adherents stay tethered to both just as the Apostle Paul stated so plainly in his first letter to the Corinthians. It was there that he emphatically asserted that if Christ wasn’t resurrected then Christianity is a fraud and a sham. In other words, in Judeo-Christianity, objective, empirical evidence trumps religious subjectivity and confirmation bias:

“If Christ is not risen, then our preaching is empty and your faith is also empty. Yes, and we are found false witnesses of God, because we have testified of God that He raised up Christ, whom He did not raise up—if in fact the dead do not rise. For if the dead do not rise, then Christ is not risen. And if Christ is not risen, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins! Then also those who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men the most pitiable.”
(1 Corinthians 15:14-19, NKJV)

And this same principle is expounded in the Old Testament by the Preacher of Ecclesiastes who challenged his readers with this admonition:

“It’s best to stay in touch with both sides of an issue. A person who fears God deals responsibly with all of reality, not just a piece of it.”
(Ecclesiastes 7:18, The Message)

In summary, the difference between Christianity and Mormonism is that in Mormonism one must deliberately and intentionally ignore and deny reality in order to remain an adherent, while Judeo-Christianity demands that you remain firmly rooted and grounded in reality lest you be “of all men the most pitiable.” Christianity is not only falsifiable, but insists that its adherents, employ logic, reason, and sound evidence in adhering to it.

Still, doubt me? If so, then consider these Bible verses that demonstrate the Judeo-Christian God’s admonition and insistence that His followers rely on both proof and reason:

“Come now, and let us reason together, saith the LORD…”
(Isaiah 1:18, KJV)

“Prove all things; hold fast that which is good.”
(1 Thessalonians 5:21, KJV)

“Unto thee [Jews who were delivered from slavery in Egypt via the Exodus] it was shewed, that thou mightest know that the Lord he is God; there is none else beside him.”
(Deuteronomy 4:35, KJV)

“…he [Christ] shewed himself alive after his passion by many infallible proofs, being seen of them forty days…”
(Acts 1:3, KJV)

“…the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse.”
(Romans 1:20, KJV)

“…Jesus, the doors being shut, and stood in the midst, and said, Peace be unto you. Then saith he to Thomas, Reach hither thy finger, and behold my hands; and reach hither thy hand, and thrust it into my side: and be not faithless, but believing.”
(John 20:26-27, KJV)

“…many other signs truly did Jesus in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book: But these are written, that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing ye might have life through his name.”
(John 20:30-31, KJV)

“…if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed.”
(Galatians 1:8, KJV)

“The simple believeth every word: but the prudent man looketh well to his going.”
(Proverbs 14:15, KJV)

As the late Francis Schaeffer so correctly pointed out, Judeo-Christianity is so tethered to objective, physical time-space historical reality that unless we truly accept that “…Jesus died in the sense that if you had been there that day, you could have rubbed your finger on the cross and got a splinter in it” you’re not really ready to become a Christian yet.4

This isn’t to say that some faith isn’t required in Christianity 5 but as the cited passages demonstrate that faith should be reasoned (belief with some measure of logical or evidential support) rather than blind (faith with no logical or evidential support). Mormonism epistemology is even worse than Blind Faith as it lapses into what theologians have dubbed “Unreasonable Faith” which is faith in spite of evidence to the contrary. Scientology, generally speaking, stops at Blind Faith and goes no further.

“If Christ be not raised, your faith is vain; ye are yet in your sins. Then they also which are fallen asleep in Christ are perished. If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable.” (1 Corinthians 15:17-19 KJV)

A common question that both Ex-Mormons and Christians often ask True Believing Mormons (aka “TBMs”) is this: “If the truth claims of the Mormons weren’t, in reality, true, would you want to know?” So we, the authors of this series, would simply ask you, our readers that question now. We, who are both a combination of Ex-Mormon and Never-Mormon, responded in the affirmative which is why we aren’t Mormons – it simply does not hold up to scrutiny when analyzed against the commitment to hard reality that the Bible demands of us.

As this is being written, LdS Church’s growth is not only flat and most analysts are of the opinion that it is teetering on verge of decline. Yes, other religions are certainly seeing this type of attrition too but not at the rapid rate of decline that we’re seeing in the LdS Church in particular and Mormonism in general at the moment. It is our opinion, that this hard “reality check” is a big factor in that.

If this were a horse race, it’s over. The stands are empty and harsh reality begins to set in. If you’re Mormon, the horse you bet your life savings on lost by a longshot. All your friends’ tales of a creature that had no equal and could run with the force of a hurricane were mere fabrications. In reality, it didn’t perform anywhere close to that.

Losing a horse race that you bet your whole life on is certainly what it feels like to see that the claims of the LdS church are false. But that’s ultimately not what matters. What matters is what you do with that loss.

Do you clench your fists and try again? Do you bet on the same horse even though you know it can’t win? Do you accuse the system of cheating you out of victory? Do you pretend that you won in order to save face? Do you plug your fingers in your ears, close your eyes, and bear your testimony yet again for the umpteenth time?

Or do you change your wager to the winning horse? Everyone in town told you that horse was sickly, and only a fool would cheer for it. But when it was let loose, it stampeded with the strength of a typhoon. You’d never seen such a magnificent creature. It is undeniably a winner. So why wouldn’t you change your allegiance? Something to think about, I suppose.

Perhaps you prefer the words of Paul over mine when it comes to these 10 myths, I know that I do. If so, in closing, maybe these will suffice: “Refuse profane and old wives’ fables, and exercise thyself rather unto godliness.” (1 Timothy 4:7, KJV).

“…Jesus, the doors being shut, and stood in the midst, and said, Peace be unto you. Then saith he to Thomas, Reach hither thy finger, and behold my hands; and reach hither thy hand, and thrust it into my side: and be not faithless, but believing.” (John 20:26-27, KJV)

1 I first explored the similarities between Mormonism and Scientology – including the similarities of their two founders – in detail in my 2018 article, “Mormonism and the Aftermath”. They are true, close cousins in more ways than one.

2 According to Merriam-Webster, Scientism is defined as, “an exaggerated trust in the efficacy of the methods of natural science applied to all areas of investigation (as in philosophy, the social sciences, and the humanities)” (see

3 One need only consider the Xenu narrative of Scientology’s Operating Thetan III training course to see this. From Wikipedia:

“Xenu (/ˈziːnuː/), also called Xemu, is a figure in the Church of Scientology’s secret “Advanced Technology”, a sacred and esoteric teaching. According to the “Technology”, Xenu was the extraterrestrial ruler of a “Galactic Confederacy” who brought billions of his people to Earth (then known as “Teegeeack”) in DC-8-like spacecraft 75 million years ago, stacked them around volcanoes, and killed them with hydrogen bombs. Official Scientology scriptures hold that the thetans (immortal spirits) of these aliens adhere to humans, causing spiritual harm.

These events are known within Scientology as “Incident II”, and the traumatic memories associated with them as “The Wall of Fire” or “R6 implant”. The narrative of Xenu is part of Scientologist teachings about extraterrestrial civilizations and alien interventions in earthly events, collectively described as “space opera” by L. Ron Hubbard. Hubbard detailed the story in Operating Thetan level III (OT III) in 1967, warning that the “R6 implant” (past trauma) was “calculated to kill (by pneumonia, etc.) anyone who attempts to solve it”.
(“Xenu”, Wikipedia website, retrieved 2023-02-10)  

4 Speaking of what he called “Prevangelism” – an explanation of the set of the basic, underlying presuppositions that form the Christian worldview – Schaeffer stressed that we must make sure that the non-Christian that we are speaking to understands that we are asserting objective historical reality in Christianity and not just creating our own subjective guilt relief therapy via religious feelings, opinions, or dogmas:

“…we must make sure that the individual understands that we are talking about real truth, and not about something vaguely religious which seems to work psychologically. We must make sure that he understands that we are talking about real guilt before God, and we are not offering him merely relief for his guilt feelings. We must make sure that he understands that we are talking to him about history, and that the death of Jesus was not just an ideal or a symbol but a fact of time and space. If we are talking to a person who would not understand the term ‘space time history’ we can say: ‘Do you believe that Jesus died in the sense that if you had been there that day, you could have rubbed your finger on the cross and got a splinter in it?’ Until he understands the importance of these things, he is not yet ready to become a Christian.”
(Francis A. Schaeffer, “The God Who is There”, p. 139) 

5 Christianity can’t for example, prove a talking serpent or talking donkey; the Tower of Babel; a floating axe head; a burning bush; the parting of the Red Sea, or any number of other fantastic claims of the Bible. However, it can easily prove that a literal Jewish people, a literal land of Israel, and a literal city of Jerusalem existed when and where the Bible claims that they did. Thus even the irreligious, secular Israeli Biblical Archaeologist, Eilat Mazar, could confidently say, “I work with the Bible in one hand and the tools of excavation in the other,” as she once told the Jerusalem Post. She went on to say, “The Bible is the most important historical source and therefore deserves special attention.” (see John Burger, “Archaeologist known for using Bible as historical text dies”, Aletia, June 1, 2021)

And turning to the New Testament, Christian Scholars can and have produced a mountain of evidence for the physical resurrection of Jesus Christ (such as Gary Habermas’ superb Credo House series on the subject among many, many, many others) in addition to the fact that the places and historical figures in the New Testament are easily verified from historical records external to the Bible.

Thus Judeo-Christianity is, minimally, credible even though not entirely provable. Reasoned Faith is still required in order to become and remain a Christian in addition to any subjective experience. It’s not either/or, it’s both.

Scientology v. Scientology Lite

By Fred W. Anson
The A&E show “Leah Remini: Scientology and the Aftermath” has been nothing short of a phenomenon. For those unfamiliar with the show, here’s the description from the show’s website:

Leah Remini: Scientology and the Aftermath gives a voice to victims of the Church of Scientology despite public attempts to discredit them.

Leah Remini, along with high level former Scientology executives and Church members, explores individual accounts from ex-Church members and their families through meetings and interviews with Leah. Each episode features stories from former members whose lives have been affected by the Church’s harmful practices, even well after they left the organization. Along with a team of former high-ranking Scientology insiders who understand the inner workings and policies of the organization, Leah gives the victims a chance to be heard.
(A&E website; “About Leah Remini: Scientology and the Aftermath”)

And anyone who’s watched the show will testify that it’s riveting stuff to watch. There’s intrigue, enlightenment, and horror all at once and usually in the same show. More than one box of Kleenex has undoubtedly been emptied over the heart-wrenching stuff that these people have had to endure both as members of the cult of Scientology and as former members – and often it’s hard to tell which is worse! And, of course, to the surprise of no one, current members and the Church of Scientology deny that any of it is true. Rather, they would have us believe, everyone involved in the show is either an enemy of the Church and/or an angry, bitter apostate – a “Suppressive Person” to use Scientology’s lingo.

Scientology Lite
Does any of this sound familiar Mormon Critics and Ex-Mormons? If so, you’re not the first to recognize the parallels between Scientology and Mormonism. Back in February 2011 (two-years before Leah Remini left Scientology) an article entitled, “Scientology Lite” on the Mormon Expression Blogsite listed the following parallels between Mormonism and Scientology:

  • The church refuses to account for member behavior even when they are quoting or following leaders
  • There are a lot of “unwritten laws”
  • Members default to defending the church, even to lying or turning back on family members
  • It’s all subjective…so how do you “know”?
  • Coverts are often “loners looking for a club to join”
  • Testimonies are overly effusive.
  • There’s “some good” in it, so “what harm can there be?”
  • The crazy S#!$ is introduced later … there’s a long process until you are fully entrenched.
  • Fascinating, enigmatic founder
  • Church underpays its employees
  • Requires sincerity for it all to work
  • Doesn’t “look” like a cult initially
  • Proof is in the lives of its members
  • Testimonies often include, “I don’t know where I’d be without….”
  • Levels of membership. Focus changes over time
  • Perverse pride in membership
  • Charitable but not egalitarian
  • Lack of curiosity keeps members in – they are uninterested and afraid of information
  • Willed myopia of membership
  • Hard to get through “scriptures”
  • At upper levels of membership they are deprived of adequate food and sleep
  • Members tell themselves they are wonderful examples to the world of good living
  • Inability of membership to laugh at themselves
  • Certain processes are confusing and unsatisfying
  • Members project unambiguous, non-ambivalent view of world
  • “If it changes me for the better, who cares if it’s true?”
  • Arrogance of membership with lots of superlatives used in sales pitch
  • Church avoids “overt political stands” but membership is almost entirely homogeneous politically
  • Apostasy is all the apostates’ fault. All disconnection to family  and friends is blamed on that decision
  • Wives tend to stay and denounce husbands who leave
  • Church discipline (kicking people out) is seen as “for their own good”
  • Members consider membership “safe” and a “protection”
  • Members maintain positive exterior, but a very reproachful interaction with former members
  • Public image of religion is MOST IMPORTANT
  • There’s a difference between public tenets and private interaction
  • Greatest fear is expulsion from religion
  • Church holds power the of eternal life
  • Members are taught to handle internal conflict within church’s own justice system
  • Big Brother type files kept of high level apostates
  • Members attack apostates’ character rather than address the issues
  • Church doesn’t live up to its own standards for its members
  • Special service is supposedly to “help people” but most of the time and energy is really just spent on serving the purposes of the organization
  • Sells itself as “fastest growing religion”
  • Members think it “does more good”
  • Critics are vilified and suspected of “anti” sentiment
  • Members sacrifice a lot with little to show for it
  • Original books are changed and church denies the changes are significant
  • All or nothing claims, “base stories are true or else it’s ALL a lie”
  • Shame in leaving, “Everyone else could see it was a sham, why couldn’t I?”
  • Apostates who leave claim they feel “alive” and can think clearly for the first time in a long time (or ever)
    (Dad Primal, “Scientology Lite”, Mormon Expression website, February 19, 2011)

Lt. General Joseph Smith, commander of the Nauvoo Legion, and Commodore L. Ron Hubbard of the Sea Org.

That article was based on this Ex-Mormon author’s dinner with an Ex-Scientologist co-worker during which they compared notes and were floored by the similarities between their two religions.  As he states in the article, “She’s a very successful businesswoman, but I had to scrape my jaw off the floor as she related her experience…some good, some bad…just like my experience with Mormonism.” That dinner was later augmented by the February 14, 2011, New Yorker article about infamous Scientology Apostate, Paul Haggis (Lawrence Wright, “The Apostate: Paul Haggis vs. the Church of Scientology”). That’s where the bullet points related to apostates were drawn from in his analysis.

So when it’s all said and done, Dad Primal’s article was new, fresh, eye-opening, enlightening – even shocking. Thus the article resonated strongly with Ex-Mormons and was soon being discussed extensively across the Mormon Bloggernacle.

Things had settled down a bit when the 2015 award-winning HBO documentary, “Going Clear” (which was based on Lawrence Wright’s 2013 book “Going Clear: Scientology, Hollywood and the Prison of Belief”) aired resulting in a fresh new crop of comparisons between the two groups. Then, once again, the Bloggernacle erupted with new articles and discussion based on the revelations of that excellent documentary.

But if that weren’t enough, later that year, Leah Remini’s book, “Troublemaker: Surviving Hollywood and Scientology” hit the bookstores with the aforementioned “Scientology and the Aftermath” hitting cable TV a year later to the month. It was around that time that the influential MormonThink website published a full analysis and explanation of the issues focusing on the following points of comparison:

10 Things common to both Scientology and Mormonism
1) Keeping secrets about the religion from its members.
2) You’ll be lost without the Church.
3) Excessive financial conditions for Church membership.
4) Believers often defend the religion with the comment that “it’s a good organization”, whether or not it is literally true.
5) Read only faith-promoting materials produced by us.
6) Churches use Internet filters to block some websites that frankly discuss some of the problems of their organization.
7) Detractors of the faith are labeled as liars and “anti.”
8) The founders and top leaders are hero-worshiped.
9) Tears families apart.
10) Have been labeled as a cult and the members as brainwashed.
(“Scientology and Mormonism”, MormonThink website)

So what started as a spark in 2011 has erupted into the full-on wildfire that we see burning today. Go to just about any Mormon-centric website and within a few minutes, you’ll find someone making a Mormon/Scientology comparison. It’s almost become a cliché.1

But if the parallels are so obvious to outsiders then why are active, believing Mormons so oblivious to them?

Mormon “Plan of Salvation” (circa the 1950’s) v. Scientology “Bridge” (circa the 1970s) [click to zoom]

Why They Stay (and Other Unsolved Mysteries)
One of the most common questions asked of those of us who have left Mind Control Cults is, “Why did you stay so long?” And very often, candidly, we don’t know ourselves! I have spent decades trying to unravel why I couldn’t see what outsiders could see so clearly about my cult. And I’m not alone, in my work with recovering Ex-Mormons I very often see them struggling to untie that knot too.

One explanation is that we were all in a “Snapped” psychological state. This isn’t a concept and term that I came up, nor is it a term that journalists, Flo Conway, and Jim Siegelman invented when they wrote the watershed book “SNAPPING America’s Epidemic of Sudden Personality Change” in 1978. Rather, it’s the term that ex-cultists often use to describe the shift in thinking that lead them into, and kept them in their group. Here’s how Conway and Siegelman describe it:

In all the world, there is nothing quite so impenetrable as a human mind snapped shut with bliss. No call to reason, no emotional appeal can get through its armor of self-proclaimed joy.
(Flo Conway and Jim Siegelman, “Snapping: America’s Epidemic of Sudden Personality Change”Kindle Location 1302, Stillpoint Press. Kindle Edition.)

And to their point is there any greater cultist defense mechanism than that of thought-terminating clichés? As cult researcher Luna Lindsey explains:

A thought-terminating cliché is a phrase that halts argument or prevents clear thought. It can be a short “bumper sticker slogan”, seeming to deliver a profound message without really meaning much. Or it can represent a larger concept that can’t be expressed in words. In either case, it is a shortcut to prevent deeper exploration or discussion.
(Luna Lindsey, “Recovering Agency: Lifting the Veil of Mormon Mind Control”p. 194. Kindle Edition.) 

Anyone who has attempted to reason with cultists has encountered these. They’re pat responses that get thrown up when the cultist is presented with discomforting evidence that challenges their group’s claims. Each group has there their own unique set but often there’s crossover between groups. Leah Remini talks about them throughout her book ( the aforementioned “Troublemaker: Surviving Hollywood and Scientology”) and Lindsey, a former Mormon, has an entire chapter of Mormon thought-terminating clichés in her book, things like:

  • The church is perfect, man is not.
  • The hardhearted hate the truth.
  • Satan is raging in the hearts of men.
  • Choose the right.
  • These are plain and precious things.
  • Cast not your pearls before swine.
  • It will be sorted out in the next life.
  • Wickedness never was happiness.
  • All will be revealed in due time.
  • You will not be tempted more than you are able to bear.
  • Are those feelings/thoughts/teachings in line with the gospel?
  • Leaving the Church is the easy way out.

But really, we’re still just describing symptoms rather than answering the question, aren’t we? Perhaps Christian Apologist, J. Warner Wallace, in a July 2018 radio interview, cut straight to the chase when he proposed that there are really only three reasons why we believe anything:

  • Rational Reasons.
  • Emotional Reasons.
  • Volitional Reasons.

And Mr. Wallace makes the point that typically Emotional and Volitional Reasons trump Rational Reasons. This is true even for non-cultists, it’s just not as extreme. Thus the issue when it comes to cults is really degree. For example, in healthy religious settings, you can leave the group pretty much without consequence. As the saying goes, “Cults have many entrances but few exits.” And, in fact, many experts claim that this is the key criteria in determining if a group is a cult or not.

Some Ex-Mormons have suggested this re-branding of their former religion.

Now consider that in light of Scientology and Mormonism, where leaving may result in loss of family, vocation, and social standing. As a result, many members simply choose to stay in the group even though they no longer believe in it. Leah Remini explains in her book that she stayed in Scientology even though she no longer believed in it because she knew that to do so would get her labeled a “Suppressive Person” which would result in her family “disconnecting” (Scientology’s policy-mandated form of extreme shunning) from her. Thus she stayed for volitional reasons.

We see a similar phenomenon in Mormonism with “Shadow Mormons” – Mormons who no longer believe the Church is true but remain members and play the game rather than risk losing their marriage, families, jobs, or social standing in the community. The cult has them trapped and they know it, as the words of one Shadow Mormon demonstrate so well:

REMEMBER US! To those of you on the outside reading this, I beg you, please do not forget us. Please remember the hundreds of thousands of unique, special, beautiful individuals that are currently serving life sentences in the prison of Mormonism. Please do not cease to pray; to whatever God you serve, for our deliverance. Some of us have no hope for redemption or liberation. For the greater good, we willingly sacrifice our souls upon the altar of conformity and orthodoxy. Our pain is real. Our sentence is absolute.
(‘Enigma’, “The Death of Reason and Freedom”, Beggar’s Bread website, October 18, 2013, caps in original)

And speaking from my own personal experience, and factoring in the many conversations that I’ve had with recovering cultists over the years as well, I will tell you that probably the #1 reason why we all stayed in our cults even when confronted with a mountain of discrediting evidence was that we wanted to. The reasons were emotional.

When I was a cultist I could rationalize and justify anything that didn’t conform to my preferred narrative. Thus I could bury any logic, reason, or evidence underneath feelings and will. In the aforementioned radio interview, J. Warner Wallace refers to this as “remediating the evidence”. And chillingly, he says that it’s the same mental process that criminals use to justify their crimes. It is, simply stated, a form of self-delusion – as former Branch, Ward, Stake and Regional Mormon leader Jim Whitefield explains:

I have become convinced that each individual Mormon must have his or her own personal epiphany which comes from uncertainty and questioning that arises along the way. Until something triggers the desire to ‘seek’, a member will never ‘find’ the ultimate truth.

If you try to face a believer with the truth, that person invariably rejects the messenger and the message. Something may get through sometimes, but generally members will not thank you for trying to ‘destroy’ their testimony. The messenger is under the influence of Satan, the message is fraught with lies, and members already ‘know’ and cling to the truth – just as they were taught to. That is called faith.

As long as people want the Mormon Church to be true, more than they are willing to face the possibility that it is not, they will not entertain evidence or reason. Delusion becomes a choice.”
(Jim Whitefield, “The Mormon Delusion: Volume 4: The Mormon Missionary Lessons – A Conspiracy to Deceive”, Kindle Locations 10297-10305)

So in summary and conclusion, the bottom line for to why cultists don’t leave is simply this: They choose to stay.

And whether we’re talking about Scientology, “Scientology Lite”, or any other cult, therein lies the problem. As funny as it sounds some folks actually prefer a cage to freedom. Yet, ironically, they’re utterly blindly convinced that outsiders are the ones who are caged. This is as writer and university instructor, David Foster Wallace famously said so well,

Blind certainty, a close-mindedness that amounts to an imprisonment so total that the prisoner doesn’t even know he’s locked up.”
(David Foster Wallace, Kenyon College Commencement Address, May 21, 2005)

And it is that blind certainty, my friends, that keeps Scientologists; Mormons; people in the abusive Shepherding Movement that I was in; and everyone else who’s ever been a cult from leaving it. Take away that certainty and suddenly everything changes.

1 And to add my own contribution to the growing body of observed parallels, here’s another one: The book that is held up to investigators as the best introduction to and/or the foundational text for the religion is not only largely tangential to the current doctrine of said religion but may at points even contradict it. This just as true of “Dianetics” as it is “The Book of Mormon”. As Sociologist of Religion, Bryan R. Wilson noted:

In 1952, Hubbard launched Scientology, and this new, expanded, and more encompassing belief-system subsumed Dianetics, providing it with a more fully articulated metaphysical rationale…

In a collection of scholarly papers edited by the Jesuit sociologist, Professor Joseph H. Fichter, S.J., of Loyola University, New Orleans, (Alternatives to American Mainline Churches, New York: Rose of Sharon Press, 1983), Frank K. Flinn, now Adjunct Professor in Religious Studies at Washington University, St. Louis, Missouri, addresses directly the question of the religious status of Scientology in great detail. He considers first the religious status of Dianetics…

‘While Dianetics had religious and spiritual tendencies, it was not yet a religion in the full sense of the term… Dianetics did not promise what may be called ‘transcendental’ rewards as the normal outcome of its therapy. It did, however, promise ‘trans-normal’ reward… Secondly, in the Dianetics stage of the movement, engrams were traced back to the fetal stage at the earliest… Thirdly, Dianetics had only four ‘dynamics’ or ‘urges for survival’—self, sex, group and Mankind… Fourthly, the auditing techniques in the Dianetics phase [did not use] the ‘E-Meter’’
(Bryan R. Wilson, Ph.D., “Scientology: An Analysis and Comparison of its Religious Systems and Doctrines”, University of Oxford England, February 1995 pp.32,48) 

And I documented the many conflicts and contradictions between the Book of Mormon and modern Latter-day Saint doctrine in my article “The Book of Mormon v. Mormon Doctrine” which I concluded like this:

The reader may be scratching their head wondering how the work that is held up as the “keystone of our religion” by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints not only contains very little of that religion … but discredits much of it. The answer to that question is pretty simple: The Book of Mormon doesn’t teach modern Mormonism, rather it teaches 19th Century American Restorationism.

As Latter-day Saint scholar Thomas G. Alexander explains, “Much of the doctrine that early investigators found in Mormonism was similar to contemporary Protestant churches.” So if you strip away the baggage of Joseph Smith and the Book of Mormon origin story you’re left with a piece of Christian literature that’s more akin to “Pilgrim’s Progress” or “The Screwtape Letters” than “Dianetics”. In the end, it’s very much as Shawn McCraney described it when he said, “[We] recognize the Book of Mormon as a piece of 19th-century literary fiction aimed at teaching Jesus Christ…”

… For the uninformed, the Book of Mormon can be a powerful recruiting tool.  But for the informed that power is quickly lost.
(Fred W. Anson, “The Book of Mormon v. Mormon Doctrine”, Beggar’s Bread website, June 26. 2014) 

Thus, rather than being an accurate encapsulation of the religion, both “introductory” texts are really just a vehicle to get the investigators to talk to the full-time evangelists for these organizations: Auditors for Scientology, Missionaries for Mormonism.  Those evangelists use the book (even if it ultimately ends up going unread) as a means to begin the process of indoctrination into the religion and groom the investigator for the more esoteric and less comfortable “truths”, which will be only be revealed after so much of the investigator’s time, money, emotional energy, and personal effort have been invested into the organization that it’s hard for them to leave. Different organizations, different books; same tactic, same result.