Archive for the 'cults' Category

The JBFCS Cult Clinic and Satanism: A response to Arnold Markowitz, LCSW

January 27, 2011

(revised February 10, 2011)

Here in New York City, there is a Cult Hotline and Clinic run by the JBFCS (the Jewish Board of Family and Children’s Services). They provide various helpful services to ex-members of “cults” and to estranged families and friends of “cult” members. They are, as far as I can tell, the only place in New York City that offers such services.

Truly harmful religious groups certainly do exist, and it’s good that there are at least a few places, like the JBFCS Cult Clinic, where people who have been hurt by such groups can get help. But the website of the JBFCS Cult Clinic associates Satanism in general with “cults,” even though the vast majority of Satanist groups (or, at least, most of the ones I’ve run into) do not fit the JBFCS Cult Clinic’s definition of a “cult.”

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More about “fringe cults” — What is “normal”?

April 21, 2007

Eariler today I posted a blog entry titled “Fringe cults”, about the debate following “The Devil Is In The Details” on the blog “Sailing to Byzantium.”

In response to my initial reply to “unitedcats,” I got replies not only from “unitedcats” himself but also from another person:

katyjane wrote::
April 18th, 2007 at 5:28 pm

dianavera… are you not guilty, in that last line, or doing the same thing you decried of unitedcats? Why would non-mainstream folks be “even more varied” than mainstream folks?

You get some pretty different ideas, regardless of where you’re looking.

I replied:

Diane Vera wrote::
April 20th, 2007 at 10:56 am

katyjane wrote:

“dianavera… are you not guilty, in that last line, or doing the same thing you decried of unitedcats? Why would non-mainstream folks be ‘even more varied’ than mainstream folks?”

Obviously there are more ways to differ from the norm than there are ways to be normal. That’s simple math.

Of course it’s true that even amongst “normal” folks there is quite a bit of variety.

I would add now that what I was doing was not at all the same thing that I (perhaps incorrectly) perceived that “unitedcats” was doing. I was not making a generalization about all people outside of some norm of my own.

As it turns out, I may have misperceived what “unitedcats” meant by “fringe cults.” (See my previous post,“Fringe cults”.)

Admittedly my reply to “katyjane” was rather abrupt, since I was arguing what seemed to me to be an extremely obvious point. But apparently it wasn’t.
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“Fringe cults”

April 21, 2007

Shortly after writing my first two posts here on this new blog of mine a few days ago, I looked at WordPress’s listing for the Satanism tag, to see if my post on Satanic panic in Russia? had appeared there yet. It hadn’t, but my eye was caught by a blog entry titled “The Devil Is In The Details” on a blog called “Sailing to Byzantium.” The post was about Anton LaVey. I agreed with most of the what the author had to say. I was glad to see his open-mindedness about LaVeyan Satanism, but I also agree with most of his stated reservations about it, as well as with most of what he said he liked about it.

Then I looked down at the comments and came across the following:

unitedcats wrote::
March 4th, 2007 at 12:59 am

I would have to agree, all fringe cults are pretty much the same. Satanism, UFO cultists, whatever…just lost souls who want to be special somehow and don’t have much identity of their own. Mostly harmless, I mean things like the Solar Temple, Jim Jones, Aun Shimrikyo make the news…but there must be million’s of people in fringe cults around the world so the dangerous ones are the exception, not the rule. And mostly dangerous to their own members even when they do go nuts. Often confused too, like the dyslexic Satanist who sold his soul to Santa. ;) JMO —Doug

Startled by this person’s claim that “all fringe cults” (apparently including all the many different kinds of Satanism???) are “all … pretty much the same,” and that their adnerents are all “just lost souls who want to be special somehow and don’t have much identity of their own,” I quickly dashed off the following reply:

dianevera wrote::
April 18th, 2007 at 12:39 pm

unitedcats, you sure do generalize about people in “all fringe cults,” claiming that they are all “just lost souls who want to be special somehow and don’t have much identity of their own.” People in nonmainstream religions have a variety of different motives, just as people in mainstream religions do. You have fallen into the common human tendency to oversimplify and to be socially dualistic, to see everyone outside one’s own little box as being fundamentally all alike. But that’s an error — they aren’t all alike. Nonmainstream folks are even more varied than mainstream folks.

As we will see later, I may have misunderstood what “unitedcats” meant by “fringe cults.” I got the impression that, by “all fringe cults,” he was referring to all nonmainstream religions. He may have meant to refer just to the more authoritarian, “brainwashing,” and controlling ones, rather than to nonmainstream religions in general. Or does he perhaps believe that all nonmainstream religions are “cults” in the authoritarian/”brainwashing”/controlling sense? If so, that belief is wrong. Or does he perhaps believe that all forms of Satanism are “cults” in the authoritarian/”brainwashing”/controlling sense? If so, that belief is wrong too. Unfortunately, I didn’t think to ask these questions in my reply.
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