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Criteria for destructiveness

2012-03-23 Author:By Leshchinskaya Elena

Leshchinskaya Elena Candidate of Psychological Science, Seniour Scientific Associate at the Institute of social and political psychology of the Academy of Pedagogical Science of Ukraine.

Discussions on human right to religious freedom do not slacken in Ukraine, as well as all over the world. Those, who fight for religious freedom and support the anticult movement, keep putting forward arguments in favour of their uncompromising position. But a scrutinized observation of non-religious groups’ activities leads us to the conclusion that, though formally the problem consists in exercising the right of religious freedom, in fact this issue concerns the transformation of criminal activities, aimed at human enslavement and exploitation by means of psychological pressure. It is a very tempting opportunity for many people to bring to life R. Habbard’s famous saying about creation of one’s own religion as an effective source of profit.

According to the foresaid, it is high time to suggest some socialand- psychological means of differentiation of religious organizations and various destructive cults. Unfortunately, that part of the Ukrainian Legislation, dealing with registration of religious organizations and regulation of their activity, does not contain any legal expert procedure, which would make it possible to define if some organization is destructive, totalitarian, etc.

Since all the religious schools claim to perform their practice in society, it would be worth ascertaining the consequences of such activities just for the society. At the same time, the experience shows that in Ukraine the right for religious freedom is first of all the right of preaching for the leaders of religious groups. But these are different things. Obviously it is time to entail the legislation with social and psychological examination of religious practice and doctrine. Practice of religious abuse has become evident enough to get the experts in social psychology to prevention of the social-and-psychological problems, but not only defining them.

According to the results of the anticult organizations leaders’ (V.I. Chebanenko, Y.M. Shchekaturov, V.M. Hmel) poll on human rights and freedoms violation in Ukraine by religious destructive cults, we have got the following list of them:

. The right to information. When recruiting new members, cults conceal all the true information about themselves under the cover of confessional anonymity, being registered as charitable, educational, cultural or psychotherapeutic organizations. Under such outward disguise they hide their religious nature. Some of them even deny their involvement in religious activity.

. The right to free choice of religious views, since cults use methods of social pressure, psychological contamination and special methods of suggestion. A person, who has got involved into such organization, without being aware of it, is put under strict control (of conscience, emotions, behaviour, social bonds). Cults also apply methods of isolation, manipulation of time and attention. They also exercise destructive pressure, prohibition of free view expression, which does not coincide with the group’s concept; forcibly change the scheme of the psychophysical activity and sleep, limit protein consumption, suggest fear and guilt.

. Violation of the social education principle. There have been a lot of cases, when, the educational establishment’s permission having been received, cult members carry out the propaganda of their own religious views under the guise of lectures about the harm of drugs, healthy lifestyle, preparation for family life, advanced methods and forms of physical and spiritual perfection, etc.

. Manipulation of political views. There are cases known when during elections or referendums cults’ leaders foist off certain political views and decisions on the disciples, thus promoting themselves or other adherents to the governmental posts of different levels. 

 With that purpose they create “initiative groups of citizens”, which act very energetically and absolutely disinterestedly.

. Violation of parents’ rights to participate in ethic upbringing of the children and take responsibility for them. Firstly, it concerns teenagers, who have got involved in such organizations, secondly, it concerns disciples’ children, whose parents energetically bring to life even the most nonsense and immoral pedagogical directives of their leaders.

. Violation of the rights to property. There are a lot of cases when apartments, cars, money savings are contributed to the funds of such organizations. The members of such communities pretty often work at construction or repair of meetinghouses, pastors’ houses or sect subsidiaries. It can be a school, where teachers are paid no salary or pastry baking and selling, distribution of propagandistic literature, newspapers, printed output etc.

. Violation of the right to free movement. A person is forcefully kept at the community site or is sent to another place without his or her consent.

. Deprivation of any rights at all. Being involved into a strictly hierarchical organization under entire control of the leader or his surrounding, a person can “voluntarily” waive having any rights.

. Economical harm for the state. Cults illegally produce different goods and run different illegal financial operations.

. Encroachment upon state security. Cult members are striving to enter government institutions, lobbying the decisions beneficial for them.

Yet it is very difficult to elaborate the criteria of religious practice destructiveness, which makes manipulation of this subject possible for such a long time. Firstly, when elaborating the level of destructive influence on a person, we should admit that here we face the problem of subjective and preconceived opinions. That’s why it is necessary to work out an algorithm, which would minimize the probability of the experts’ preconceived opinions. Secondly, the analysis of the manipulative methods, used by neocults, has shown that there are no destructive technologies, non-relevant to human communication. Destructiveness is reached through application of different communication methods and combinations of influence, which become destructive due to their inappropriateness, deliberate role imbalance (for example, a seller, who is your friend, comes to see you and suggests you buying something from him, but in this case your position is different from that of a customer in the market. These circumstances press down on you).

Thirdly, a concise analysis of the technologies of destructive control over society, used in totalitarian sects, on one side, and some technologies of family upbringing on the other, has led us to the conclusion, that there is a kind of isomorphism between these two phenomena. For every weak link in the system of upbringing there is a certain method in the arsenal of “the hunters for human soles”. We can draw a conclusion that the mainstream society and culture provide some preconditions for “destructive control over society” technologies to be effective. Moreover such technologies are elaborated in correspondence with the weak sides of human society. We deal with specific “virus” production and the necessity of creating the “antivirus programs”. Speaking about the criteria of religious practice examination, it is necessary to emphasize, that this list, as well as any antivirus program, should be constantly updated. A continuously monitoring of these processes is needed.

The analysis of existing examinations of religious practices, carried out by Ukrainian, Russian and Byelorussian scientists, as well as our own research on the consequences of the cult membership, we have made an attempt to single out some criteria, indicating the destructive nature of religious practice. Here they are:

. Contraction of conscience.

. Disprovision of medical help.

. Provocation of psychopathological states.

. Aggression against any dissent.

. Emotional violation.

. Stimulation of brute instincts.

We have also outlined supplementary criteria, which belong more to the psychological factors, than to the legal ones, yet they distinctly point out the destructive actions and requirements, made in the process of religious practice.

Signs for detecting the criteria of religious practice destructiveness

- Strict hierarchy is not necessarily obvious. Strict discipline and a distinct system of subordination; undoubted subordination of “the younger” to “the older”; 

 - Career development inside the sect depends on subjective factors and is connected with the interim examinations (initiations);

- Development of a strong drug-like addiction to the organization and the teacher. A totalitarian sect is easy to enter, but difficult to leave, although there is no official prohibition;

- Possible (but not obligatory) usage of psychotropic substances;

Intolerance, distinct division into “our members” and “strangers”; emphasis on uniqueness of the system;

- Active, imposing and even aggressive methods of recruitment;

Overall intolerance or scornful attitude to the traditional religions and national spiritual values;

- Claim for “charismatic” leadership divine inspiration, i. e. claim for divinity and particular significant wisdom, the cult of the founders and leaders) and the truth of the matter;

- Presence of the in-cult and out-cult doctrine;

- Strict isolation of the adherents from access to other information;

- Using the technology of conscience control with the purpose to develop “cult mentality”, namely:

- persuasion that “the end justifies the means”;

- totalitarian world perception, when group ideas dominate the individual ones;

- stimulation of different phobias;

- direct or indirect physical and financial addiction to the leaders of the cult;

- support of elite mentality by means of constant and integral duty to recruit new members; leaders’ political interests, i.e. the desire to have their own agents in governmental institutions; usage of special dictionaries of “key words” (“cult slang”), which are of great importance for the cult members. Sects’ leaders understand that, the one, who controls a person’s language, controls the person’s thoughts.

- Calls aimed at violation of the constitutional system of Ukraine: national and state sovereignty, territorial entity, non-religious kind of government, priority of the law, ideological variety;

- An attempt to create new history;

- Claim for uniqueness, confrontation to the surrounding world, neglect of the Ukrainian traditions and cultural treasures;

- Parents are absolutely smoothed down, they are called by names. Parents can’t claim to enjoy any authority with their children, since the principle authority is the spiritual teacher;

- Ruining all social bonds, calls not to respect any social friends, acquaintances, pedagogues, state and political figures. All forms of social interaction are denied, all social bonds get torn;

- The idea of denial of all national values is suggested to disciples. All socially approved knowledge and values are recognized as useless and substituted by legends and myths;

- Ruining of all social knowledge of young people, received at educational institutions in our country;

Special meals, not vegetarian, but minimal, leading to the loss of weight, dystrophy, changes in the physiology of young people, pathology in mental development;

Stimulation of the programmed kind of behaviour, subordination, loss of sensitivity, resulting in irreversible physical and psychological damage;

Blocking of rational logical thinking, which results in the left cerebral hemisphere damage;

Ruining ethic, legal and aesthetic standards and values of the adherents.

The disciples are inspired with the fear to live outside the sect. Besides, they are forcibly persuaded that they are happy. They are made to believe that in sect they have found the only right method of human existence and that way have rescued themselves;

When applying the listed above criteria to the analysis of the activities of the “Falun Gong” religious union, we can admit that developing in the disciples the negative attitude to all the people outside their community, non-critical loyalty to the leader, full subordination, psychological addiction to absurd views and ideas, propaganda of amorality and inferiority of people in terms of religion, are the indicators of the destructiveness of this religious group’s practice.