Sep 18, 2020

Most major news outlets still use the term 'Mormon,' study shows, despite church's wishes

Peggy Fletcher Stack

Salt Lake Tribune

September 18, 2020


Even after President Russell M. Nelson urged the media to use the Utah-based faith’s full name — The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints — and stop employing shortened forms or nicknames, most top national news sites were still using “Mormon” and “LDS” in their coverage a year later.

That’s one of the findings in a five-month study of 20 websites — including The New York Times, Los Angeles Times, Fox News and Forbes — by Public Square Magazine, an online publication for Latter-day Saints.

Between mid-July and December 2019, the survey found, 43% of 421 articles followed the faith’s preferred style.

Stories that mentioned the church in a significant capacity — 265 of the total — heeded the church’s recommendations 35% of the time.

Christopher Cunningham, a Public Square reporter in San Antonio, said he was “surprised” that even that many of the national media “were respecting the church’s request.” The Latter-day Saint writer expected the number to be much lower.

Of the articles that refer to the church directly in the headline (52 out of 421) only five followed the faith’s style, said Cunningham, who wrote a summary of the data. “Of those that refer to the church in the [headline], but don’t use one of the recommended short versions, 83% continue to use ‘Mormon,’ while the remainder use ‘LDS.’”

The church issued a style guide in the wake of Nelson’s August 2018 edict. It advises members and the media to use “the Church,” “Church of Jesus Christ” or “restored Church of Jesus Christ” when they need a shortened term.

Cunningham said he could not tell from the survey when, if ever, national media used any of those terms in subsequent references.

The church’s instructions were specifically to avoid using the abbreviation “LDS” or the nickname “Mormon” as substitutes for the faith or its followers. It is OK to use in proper names such as the Book of Mormon, the faith’s foundational scripture, or as an adjective in historical expressions such as “Mormon Trail.”

In March 2019, The Associated Press, which accounted for nearly 100 of the articles in the Public Square data and is the world’s largest arbiter of journalistic style, changed its guidelines to direct reporters to “use the full name of the church on first references, with ‘the church,’ ‘church members,’ ‘members of the faith’ preferred on second and later reference[s].” AP still allows for the use of “Mormons” and “Mormon” when “necessary for space or clarity or in quotations or proper names.”

The Salt Lake Tribune adopted similar style standards several months before AP’s update.

Public Square also found that 80 articles in its study included “negative editorializing.” Cunningham explained that to get a “negative” label, “portions of the article had to portray the church as discriminative, deceptive, secretive, repressive or insular.”

Of the articles with negative editorializing, 86% used the word “Mormon,” the summary explained, whereas stories without such material used that term 46% of the time.

“A mere 6% of articles that followed the [church’s] style guide included negative editorializing,” Cunningham wrote, “while 29% of articles that did not follow the style guide included negative editorializing.”

Public Square’s survey focused on national media “to limit the scope of the study,” Cunningham said. “In the future, we would like to determine which outlets report on the church the most often and analyze those, rather than simply the largest outlets.”

That research, he said, “will obviously include lots of local outlets like The Tribune.”


Anonymous takes aim at QAnon: 'We will not sit idly by while you take advantage of the misinformed'

Washington Times
Anonymous has declared war on QAnon, promising to “start some s—t with you all.”

The anarchist hacking group said in a statement that it knows “who was responsible for Q,” the leader of QAnon, a pro-Trump group that spreads conspiracy-theory information.

Anonymous posted on YouTube on Sunday a video called “Operation QAnon” depicting Anonymous’s well-known masks acting out QAnon conspiracy theories with the letter “Q” as a constant backdrop.

“Someone is going to get hurt, so we have to put our foot down and start some s—t with you all,” the group said in the video.

The video claims that Anonymous always knew who was behind QAnon, but at first thought it was merely something to laugh at.

“We will not sit idly by while you take advantage of the misinformed and poorly educated,” the group said in the video, which also was posted to Twitter with the hashtags #OpQ and #OpQAnon.

QAnon became mainstream in past week because of President Trump’s rally in Florida, at which numerous attendees held Q-shaped cutouts and alluded in posters to the various conspiracy theories it pushes, such as “Pizzagate” and special counsel Robert Mueller supposedly investigating failed presidential candidate Hillary Clinton and former President Barack Obama.

Sep 15, 2020

Mass grave of victims 'killed in violent exorcism' linked to religious cult in Panama

Police exhume a mass grave linked to a religious cult in remote Panama.(Panama Public Prosecutor)
Police had to hike through mountains for 10 hours to reach the grave in remote Panama.

Brodie Owen
September 15, 2020

Authorities in Panama have discovered a mass grave they believe contains the bodies of people tortured and killed by a religious cult.

Investigators had to hike through the mountains for 10 hours to reach the grave in a remote indigenous province in the country’s north-west.

Skeletal remains are being removed from the grave where they will later be forensically examined.

The discovery comes after another grave containing seven bodies was exhumed in January.

Police alleged an indigenous-run religious sect performed exorcisms on victims to make them “repent for their sins”.

The deceased victims included a pregnant mother and her five children, and the family’s teenage neighbour.

A further 15 people were being held captive in a makeshift church and forced to participate in bizarre rituals which included the sacrifice of a goat.

Public prosecutor Azael Tugri said they believe a different sect is responsible for the new mass grave.

“At this time it is not possible to determine either the sex or the number of people [found in the grave],” he told local media.

The grave is located about 210 miles west of Panama City on the jungle-clad Caribbean coast.

All the remains will be sent to a morgue where a forensic examination will be carried out.

Earlier this week, police arrested the alleged leader of the New Light of God over January’s mass grave discovery.

Authorities were alerted to the cult after three villagers managed to escape to a hospital and raise the alarm.

They told police their torturers tried to “remove the demons” by attacking them with machetes, sticks and bibles.

The cult had reportedly been preying on local villagers for three months before police got to them.

Authorities believe the 15 survivors would have also been killed if they weren’t found in time.

Sep 3, 2020

Meet The New Cult In Town: Love Has Won, Now Quarantining On Kauai

Love Has Won

Residents are concerned about the group giving the spiritual community there a bad name.

Allan Parachini 
Honolulu Civil Beat
September 3, 2020

WAINIHA, Kauai — A bizarre Colorado organization called Love Has Won, which a law enforcement official there described as a cult, is relocating to Kauai, with 14 members already housed in a luxury beachfront vacation rental property here.

The organization itself confirmed its move to the island, in both social media posts and in a phone interview. A member who said his name was Ryan Kramer answered a call placed to a number listed on Love Has Won’s website at its headquarters in Crestone, Colorado. The phone number is for callers to “schedule your spiritual intuitive ascension session.”

The presence of the group on Kauai was discovered online by Theresa Kapaku, a Maui resident who said she has spent several years investigating cults on Maui and Hawaii island.

“I kind of already had my finger on the pulse” of the group, she said, “and then within a couple of clicks, I was already on their Facebook feed and they were on Kauai.

“It sounded like a funny, laughable group, but it turned very dark.”

Word of the arrival of the group on Kauai spread rapidly Tuesday and Wednesday on social media, including Facebook and Reddit. Posts to a Facebook group called “Kauai Community” were apparently removed late in the day Wednesday, but attention continued to be focused on Reddit.

Elsa Almaraz, a Wainiha resident whose home is close to the beachfront house the newly arrived group is occupying, said, “Our community is very concerned. We’ve been through a lot together and take great pride in protecting the sacredness, safety and health of our community. They give our spiritual community a bad name as it seems their intentions are very questionable.”

Asked if Love Has Won is a cult, Kramer said, “No. We’re a religion.

“We’re a group based on the ascension of the planet. We focus on astrology, on weather patterns, mainly medicine,” he said. “Our main form of work is the Gaia’s whole healing essentials. We offer other types of healing modalities.”

The group sells vitamin supplements and colloidal silver and gold, controversial products for which various health claims have been made.

“We do claim that it can assist in bringing you to 100% of health and wellness,” Kramer said. “We take a more spiritual approach to things.”

Civil Beat visited the property Wednesday afternoon, but no one answered the door. Curtains were drawn in most of the windows. Pillows had been draped over lanai railings. Damaged beach furniture was piled on the sand in front of the house. Lights were on in at least two rooms.

A search of the Internal Revenue Service database confirmed that, under the name Lovehaswon, the group is registered as a nonprofit religious organization. It is not required to file tax returns.

Kramer said cult members began moving to Kauai several weeks ago. He said the group is continuing some of its operations in Colorado, where some of its health supplements are made. He said production of some of the products may be moved to Kauai.

Capt. Ken Wilson, of the Saguache County Sheriff’s Department, described Love Has Won as “a cult activity.” He said deputies had responded to numerous calls to the group’s Colorado headquarters. “We’ll have a mother call and say ‘my daughter’s out there,’ so we go out.”

But he said his department has never made arrests because young people whose parents called law enforcement declined to leave and were old enough that they could not be forced to depart. “They stay within the boundaries, so to speak,” Wilson said.

The group appears to stream live video on an almost daily basis, which members said is disseminated through Facebook, Skype and on YouTube. The most recent video posting on YouTube is an hour-long production dated Wednesday.

Love Has Won was apparently founded by Amy Carlson, described by one cult expert as a former manager at a McDonald’s franchise. Carlson is said to be in her 40s and is referred to on Love Has Won’s website and video media as “mom” and “mother.”

The cult describes itself as having roots in beliefs in Lemuria, a mythical lost continent whose contemporary followers believe Lemurian descendants may still reside within Mt. Shasta.

In a transcript of one of the YouTube videos, a woman who identified herself as Lauren Suarez says that Carlson “was queen of Lemuria and Donald Trump was mom’s father in Lemuria.”

Kramer declined to say whether Carlson herself is currently on Kauai.

However, Facebook posts circulated on Tuesday said Carlson and other group members were in quarantine after their arrival from Colorado at a hotel in Lihue.

The Wainiha house in which the group is staying is owned by David Bancroft, who came to public attention in 2018 after Kauai County officials discovered he continued to list the property on VRBO and Airbnb after then-Mayor Bernard Carvalho imposed a ban on vacation rental operations on the entire North Shore in the wake of the floods that ravaged Kauai in March of that year.

Bancroft did not respond to phone and email requests for comment on Wednesday.

4 Keys to Help Someone Climb Out of the QAnon Rabbit Hole

Initiation WellSource: Stijndon/Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported
Joe Pierre M.D.
Psych Unseen
September 1, 2020

What to do when someone you love becomes obsessed with QAnon, part 3.

“Each one of us here today will at one time in our lives look upon a loved one who is in need and ask the same question: We are willing to help, Lord, but what, if anything, is needed? For it is true we can seldom help those closest to us. Either we don't know what part of ourselves to give or, more often than not, the part we have to give is not wanted. And so it is those we live with and should know who elude us. But we can still love them—we can love completely without complete understanding.” —Norman Maclean, A River Runs Through It

This is part 3, the final installment, of a series on “What to do When Someone You Love Becomes Obsessed with QAnon.” If you haven’t read Part 1 and Part 2 yet, you may want to go back and do so now, to fully appreciate why trying to rescue people from QAnon may not only be difficult, but in some cases doomed to fail. But here are a few practical ideas that can help.

1. Understand That "QAnons" Don’t Want to Be Saved

The greatest hurdle in trying to help a loved one who’s fallen down the conspiracy theory rabbit hole is that they probably don’t want to climb out. As the above quotation from A River Runs Through It suggests, extending a hand isn’t likely to help if a loved one doesn’t reach out and grab it or meet you halfway.

A similar perspective comes from an old psychiatry joke:

“How many psychiatrists does it take to change a lightbulb?

“Only one, but the lightbulb has to really want to change.”

In Part 1 of this series, I discussed how QAnon is part conspiracy theory, part religious cult, and part alternate reality role-playing game. Thinking about QAnon based on these different facets helps to understand why followers don’t want to escape—doing so might mean giving up a form of recreation, a sense of belonging, or even a new identity and mission in life. But these facets also suggest possible interventions.

For example, modeling QAnon as a kind of role-playing game that has the potential to become a behavioral addiction like video gaming or gambling suggests that some principles of addiction therapy could be applied to help those obsessed with QAnon. In addiction therapy, quantifying motivation for behavioral change is a core concept, with specific interventions matched to each stage of motivation. When that motivation is lacking in the so-called “precontemplation” stage, often the best intervention is to simply maintain contact, express concern, and let people know you’re there for them if they need you. That’s a great strategy for the friends and family of QAnon conspiracy theory believers who aren’t looking for help.

In a type of psychotherapy called “motivational interviewing” (MI), therapists are taught to be on the lookout for any statements that might suggest that a compulsive behavior is causing problems in someone’s life and to use that to encourage change without arguing about it. So, if someone were to say, “I’m getting in trouble at work for spending so much time online, but no one understands that QAnon is more important than anything else,” an MI therapist might reply with a reflective comment like, “other people don’t appreciate how important QAnon is to you and that’s starting to negatively affect your life.” This is a non-confrontational way of echoing distress caused by QAnon that can hopefully nudge someone closer to the “contemplation” stage of thinking about whether it might be worth trying to “unplug.”

Since QAnon is largely an online phenomenon, “unplugging” is a key step in walking away, but is best done willingly. Modeling QAnon as a cult suggests that “deprogramming” techniques—a kind of "unbrainwashing"—could be helpful, but when deprogramming was used in its 1970s heyday, it usually began with families forcibly removing their loved ones from the physical confines of a cult.1 It’s nearly impossible to prevent access to the internet these days, aside from taking internet privileges away from a child or refusing to pay someone’s internet bill. Social media companies like YouTube, Facebook, and Twitter are slowing coming around to doing their parts by unplugging QAnon groups from their platforms, but such measures may have limited efficacy.

2. Be a “North Star”

When I’m asked how to approach people about their conspiracy theory beliefs, my first recommendation is to consider your goals. Are you trying to make small talk and keep the peace over Thanksgiving dinner? Are you really trying to understand what your loved one believes and why? Or are you looking for a debate, with the hope of winning and changing someone’s mind?

More than anything, what a QAnon-obsessed loved one probably needs is support and to stay connected to something tangible and meaningful in the real world. Depending on circumstances, that might be possible without having to talk about QAnon. Focus on other common bonds instead—and if the conversation comes around to QAnon, try saying something like, "I know this is really important to you, but I'd prefer to not get into politics... can we talk about something else?" Of course, that kind of boundary-setting is less possible when people who are living together or in a romantic relationship are in daily contact.

If you’re feeling more adventurous and are willing to roll up your sleeves to understand why a loved one is so obsessed with QAnon, make an effort to listen compassionately with the goal of understanding and be prepared to dive down the rabbit hole with them. But understand that belief in conspiracy theories like QAnon requires a rejection of mainstream sources of information, so that bringing those up by way of argument along the way isn't likely to change anyone's mind. Neither will arguing from a place of ignorance—if you’re hoping to challenge your loved one’s beliefs, read up on QAnon first—this article is a great start.

The common tactic of ridiculing conspiracy theory beliefs is usually counterproductive but may depend on how far down the rabbit hole your loved one has gone, as I discussed in Part 2 of this series. Research has shown that ridicule and rational arguments can be effective under some circumstances,2 especially for “fence-sitters” who have not yet decided exactly what to believe.

But for “true believers” whose identity has become wrapped up in QAnon, ridicule and argument will usually just make them dig their heels in deeper. For “true believers” then, it’s best to avoid those easy traps—they’re much more likely to end in impasse than any progress modifying beliefs.

If you’re concerned about your loved one’s descent down the conspiracy theory rabbit hole and worried that you’re going to lose them, consider focusing less on how to drag them out and more about situating yourself as a kind of “north star”—a consistent reference point at the top of the hole in case they ever want to come up for air.

3. Refer to Debunking Experts

Another form of psychotherapy that could be applied to conspiracy theory beliefs is cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), which is designed to challenge “cognitive distortions” and false beliefs by looking at evidence to disconfirm them. However, success in CBT requires not only that the “lightbulb wants to change,” but also that the therapist is adequately equipped to objectively analyze the evidence. That means that in order to engage in “reality testing” about QAnon, you'll have to venture down the conspiracy theory rabbit hole yourself.

But the QAnon rabbit hole is so deep and tangled that it’s not particularly realistic—or healthy—for family and friends to jump in with their loved ones. In the 1998 movie What Dreams May Come, the late Robin Williams plays a man who, in order to rescue his wife from hell, has to go there himself to pull her out. In the end, her salvation requires that he give up on rescue in favor of committing to staying in hell forever and losing his mind.

With conspiracy theory believers, that’s often exactly what’s wanted from their loved ones based on the belief that they’ll see the light and want to stay there together. But while “joining them to save them” might make for a great Hollywood ending, it isn’t particularly likely to work in the real world.

I would never recommend that someone try to rescue a loved one from drug addiction by becoming a drug addict themselves nor would I recommend that they try to “wing it” as a psychotherapist to treat a loved one’s psychiatric disorder. Just so, I don’t recommend that friends and family jump down the rabbit hole to debate the legitimacy of QAnon, especially if their loved ones are “true believers” who are deep in the hole. What I do recommend is referring their loved ones to accounts of those who have left the conspiracy theory world or to experts who know about QAnon and have experience and success with debunking.

One “referral” option is to point QAnon believers to the Reddit subforum r/QAnonCasualties where they can read other accounts of just how much havoc QAnon has wreaked on other people’s lives and relationships so that they can better understand why you’re concerned.

While they’re on Reddit, you could suggest that your loved one stop by the subforum r/changemyview to get feedback from others about QAnon conspiracy theories and to read other efforts to “reality test” them. At the very least, doing so could be a useful way of breaking out of one’s echo chamber and fostering cognitive flexibility—another way of “unplugging” as a necessary step towards climbing out of the QAnon rabbit hole.

Encourage your loved one to check out the discussion forums of conspiracy theory debunker Mick West’s website West has detailed knowledge of conspiracy theories and has debunked several QAnon claims, but also likes to point out real-life conspiracies worthy of our attention. He has a kind of infectious enthusiasm for debunking that he believes could satisfy some of the needs that conspiracy theories fulfill for believers.

In that vein, you might suggest that your loved one “do their own research” and spend more time investigating the identity of “Q” rather than accepting what “he” says at face value. In fact, there’s more evidence that QAnon has been perpetuated as a kind of hoax for financial gain (e.g. Google “Jim Watkins”) than there is to support that Q is a reliable source of information. All too often a simple, real-life conspiracy theory lurks behind the more outlandish ones.

4. Get Help for Yourself

If your loved one has fallen down the QAnon rabbit hole, help them by helping yourself. Visit r/QAnonCasualties for support and share your story there.

Arm yourself with knowledge. Here’s a recommended reading list:

“How to talk to conspiracy theorists—and still be kind” by the moderators of the Reddit r/ChangeMyView subforum.

"My father, the QAnon conspiracy theorist" by Reed Ryley Grable.

Escaping the Rabbit Hole: How to Debunk Conspiracy Theories Using Facts, Logic, and Respect by Mick West.

Freedom of Mind: Helping Loved Ones Leave Controlling People, Cults and Beliefs and The Cult of Trump by ex-cult member turned cult expert and counselor Steven Hassan.

David Neiwert’s forthcoming book Red Pill, Blue Pill: How to Counteract the Conspiracy Theories That Are Killing Us also looks to be a worthwhile read.

And finally, keep watching this space. And good luck.


1. Ungerleider JT, Wellisch DK. Coercive persuasion (brainwashing), religious cults, and deprogramming. American Journal of Psychiatry 1979; 136:279-282.

2. Orosz G, Kreko P, Paskuj B, et al. Changing conspiracy theory beliefs through rationality and ridiculing. Frontiers in Psychology 2017; 7:1525.

What Is It About California and Cults?

HBO’s The Vow examines yet another sinister, Hollywood-adjacent, destructive organization. But are Californians really more susceptible to cults—or do cults simply want what the Golden State is selling?

Jane Borden
Vanity fair
September 3, 2020

When you hear the word cult, do you imagine a group of beautiful, young people dancing trancelike in the sun? Do you assume they’re aspiring actors who lost their compasses, took a wrong turn at the beach, and wound up in an orgy? If so, you’re not alone. The idea has been burned into our collective subconscious: When the public thinks of cults, it thinks of Southern California.

Some of the most famous ones in American history have called SoCal home—the Children of God, Heaven’s Gate, the Peoples Temple, the Manson Family, and, depending on who’s defining the word cult, Scientology. Even NXIVM, the latest cult to capture the public’s fascination—thanks in part to the new HBO docuseries The Vow—has a strong Hollywood connection, though the organization was based in Albany: Smallville star Allison Mack, one of the group’s highest-ranking members, was arrested in 2018 on charges including sex trafficking and forced labor, along with NXIVM leader Keith Raniere. Mack ultimately pleaded guilty to racketeering and racketeering conspiracy; Raniere was found guilty on all charges.

It’s no wonder that Americans have long assumed Californians not only want to be in cult-like groups, but are also more likely to be duped by the bad ones. “There’s this perception that Californians are pinballing around out here,” said William Deverell, director of the Huntington–USC Institute on California and the West—that their new age, self-improvement-focused lifestyles leave them particularly susceptible to the NXIVMs of the world.

But is there actually truth to this stereotype? No, according to several experts I contacted for this story. “I have dealt with people in destructive cults for decades, and they come from every background,” said Rick Ross, founder of the nonprofit Cult Education Institute. “There is no profile of a potential cult member.” Anyone can be drawn in—and eventually manipulated—by a charismatic leader making tantalizing promises that wind up causing real harm; Ross has seen that firsthand.

Then why does the myth persist? Because there is indeed a connection between Southern California and cults—but the public has it backward. Southern Californians don’t necessarily want what cults offer. But they are specifically and aggressively targeted for recruitment because cults badly want what Southern California offers.

Historically, if you wanted to sell something new to a bunch of rich people, you went to California. By the early 20th century, the gold rush and Hollywood had made the state synonymous with cash. And while the East Coast was dominated by established European religions, California in the early days was largely “unchurched,” explained University of Oregon professor emeritus Marion Goldman—which made the area particularly appealing to founders of new religious movements and intentional communities, many of which wouldn’t fit Ross’s definition of what makes a destructive cult. But that meant California was also a perfect hunting ground for con artists starting movements that were actually centered on coercing followers into giving them money and sex.

So far, so good. But if you want to steal even more money, as all megalomaniacs do, you’ll need stronger recruitment tactics. Enter celebrities.

One of the best ways for a cult to advertise itself, said USC media and religion professor Diane Winston, is by attracting high-profile members. “Who do they want to hold up?” she explained. “People who are famous and influencers to the general public”—like Tom Cruise and John Travolta, whose support helped transform Scientology into a household name. The Vow is filled with choice behind-the-scenes peeks at NXIVM’s inner workings because Raniere specifically recruited actors, as well as filmmaker Mark Vicente—who was a member for years before disavowing the group. Vicente shot mountains of footage of the group—including multiple scenes of people turning giddy in the presence of Raniere—and gave Vow directors Jehane Noujaim and Karim Amer access to it after deciding to participate in their project. Sarah Edmondson, an actor and ex-acolyte who also figures prominently in the doc, received extensive recruitment training and tapped into her Hollywood circles to find new members when she was still in NXIVM’s thrall. Raniere also convinced Clare and Sara Bronfman, heirs to the Seagram fortune, to give NXIVM as much as $150 million.

Recruiting from the entertainment industry—and targeting the wealthy people associated with it—is such a foolproof growth tactic that destructive cults often open branches in Los Angeles after developing elsewhere. Heaven’s Gate started in New Mexico, while Jim Jones began the Peoples Temple in Indiana; both eventually moved operations to the Golden State.

No matter where they launch, many destructive groups actually start out rather benign—in the 1950s, Jim Jones fed the poor and pushed integration—but veer increasingly pernicious as leaders grow hungrier for power and followers. The Vow doesn’t investigate whether Raniere’s intentions were originally aboveboard; allegedly, he had been leveraging power to seduce young women for decades. It seems, however, that only more recently did he start having acolytes burn his initials into women’s flesh. Who knows—if Raniere hadn’t been taken down, it’s possible NXIVM would be opening a Los Angeles Celebrity Center soon. That’s just good business.

Moonies: Cult of Personality' | How to watch, live stream, TV channel, time


Katey Clifford, eCommerce reporter
Oregon Live
September 2, 2020

Sun Myung Moon, the all powerful Reverend of the Unification Church, wields immense control over his congregation. Find out what happens to the members of his church in Moonies: Cult of Personality premiering tonight, Wednesday, September 2, at 8 p.m. ET/PT on Reelz, and is also available to watch on Sling.

In Washington, D.C., at RFK Stadium, over 28,000 couples gathered to be married. As a part of Moon and his wife’s Unification Church, the couples were told they are on a mission to save humanity. What they’re actually doing is building a multimillion empire for their Messiah.

The couples were matched by Reverend Moon himself, and many of them had never dated or even met their spouse until that moment. As they come together to dedicate their lives to each other, they are also swearing themselves to the Unification Church.

From that point on, the Church handles all of their possessions and sacrifices many of their liberties for the movement. In this first episode, ex-Moonies K. Gordon Neufeld, Yolande Brener, Lisa Kohn and Mary Jo Downey give their first-hand experience with the cult, and cult specialist Rick Ross shares his analysis.

What channel is Reelz on?

You can find which channel Reelz is on by using the channel finders here: Verizon Fios, AT&T U-verse, Comcast Xfinity, Spectrum/Charter, Optimum/Altice, DIRECTV and Dish.

Where can I watch Moonies: Cult of Personality if I don’t have cable?

You can watch it on Sling TV which offers over 50 of your favorite TV channels including Reelz, Food Network, HGTV, History, ID and more.

Sep 1, 2020

Cult Recovery: Gaining Trust After Cult Exploitation

Uniting the Continents, Support for the Pacific Rim and Western USA
An ONLINE EVENT for Families, Former Members and Friends Affected by CULTIC Groups and Relationships.

Lorna Goldberg, LCSW, PsyA
Cult Recovery: Gaining Trust After Cult Exploitation
After cult involvement, former members may wonder if they can trust others not to betray or shame them. They may wonder if they can trust themselves. For first generation former cult members, cult trauma was an “assault of the unimaginable” (Ringstrom) upon their character, interests, and goals. Many have experienced shaming and deception. For recruits, these assaults may have led to their acceptance of an altered view of their ability to perceive truth. Former members who were born and raised in cults may have accepted their cult’s characterization of them as “bad” or “evil.” Helping ex-cult members gain trust in others includes reminding them of their right to be treated with dignity, which is the opposite of cult shaming. By contrasting dignity with shame, former cult members can both objectify their shaming experience and create a language for understanding that they did not merit the treatment they received. This understanding can serve as a bridge to and a model for future relationships.
Lorna Goldberg, LCSW, PsyA, Board member and past president of ICSA, is a clinical social worker/psychoanalyst and Director, Institute for Psychoanalytic Studies. In 1976, Lorna and Bill Goldberg began a support group in Englewood, New Jersey, which continues online at this time. Some of her recent articles include Goldberg, L. (2012). “Influence of a Charismatic Antisocial Cult Leader: Psychotherapy with an Ex-Cultist Prosecuted for Criminal Behavior,” International Journal of Cultic Studies, Vol.2, 15-24. Goldberg, L. (2011). “Diana, Leaving the Cult: Play Therapy in Childhood and Talk Therapy in Adolescence,” International Journal of Cultic Studies, Vol.2, 33-44. Lorna has co-written with Bill Goldberg, “Psychotherapy with Targeted Parents,” in Working with Alienated Children and Families (2012). She co-edited ICSA's Cult Recovery: A Clinician’s Guide to Working with Former Members and Their Families. (2017). She has written “Therapy with Former Members of Destructive Cults” in New Religious Movements and Counselling (2018). Website: Email: 

The Spectrum of Coercive Control in Cults, Extremist Groups and Abusive Relationships

Uniting the Continents, Support for the Pacific Rim and Western USA
An ONLINE EVENT for Families, Former Members and Friends Affected by CULTIC Groups and Relationships.

Linda Dubrow-Marshall, PhD, Reg. MBACP (Accred.), Rod Dubrow-Marshall, PhD, MBPsS
The Spectrum of Coercive Control in Cults, Extremist Groups and Abusive Relationships
This talk will examine contemporary understandings of coercive control in relationships and groups and will explain how the psychology of coercion and abuse operates across the contexts of cults, extremist groups, domestic violence, trafficking and gangs. It will also outline how changes to the law across a range of jurisdictions reflects increased understanding of how coercion and undue influence works psychologically across these contexts. An analysis will be provided of how a heightened dialogue between practitioners and researchers across the fields of intimate partner violence, trafficking, cults and extremist groups is leading to enhanced appreciation of commonalities in the process of psychological indoctrination and practice responses. Positive implications for prevention, exit, recovery and rehabilitation will also be discussed, including how to properly safeguard those who are vulnerable, and recommendations for policy and practice will additionally be outlined.
Linda Dubrow-Marshall, PhD, MBACP (Accred.), Counselling and Clinical Psychologist, is the Chair of the Mental Health Committee for ICSA. She is a co-founder of RETIRN, a private practice that provides services to individuals and families who have been affected by cultic and abusive groups and relationships. Along with Dr Rod Dubrow-Marshall, Linda developed and co-leads the MSc Psychology of Coercive Control programme at the University of Salford, and offers private consultations through the Re-entry Therapy, Information and Referral Network (RETIRN/UK). She is registered with the Health and Care Professions Council, United Kingdom, as both a clinical and counselling psychologist, and she is an accredited counsellor/psychotherapist with the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy. She is a licensed psychologist in Pennsylvania and a registered psychologist with the National Register of Health Service Psychologists in the USA. She has specialist certifications in Addictions, Clinical Hypnosis, and Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing.  
Rod Dubrow-Marshall, PhD, MBPsSRod Dubrow-Marshall, PhD, MBPsS, is a Professor of Psychology who developed and is Co-Programme Leader, MSc Psychology of Coercive Control, and a Visiting Fellow in the Criminal Justice Hub at the University of Salford, UK.  Rod has been researching the psychology of coercion and undue influence including in cults or extremist groups for over twenty years and developed the evidence based Totalistic Identity Theory to explain and tackle ideological and violent extremism. Rod is a member of the Board of Directors of the International Cultic Studies Association and is Chair of the ICSA Research Committee and Network and co-Editor of the International Journal of Coercion, Abuse and Manipulation (IJCAM). In 2006, he was awarded The Herbert L. Rosedale Award, jointly with Dr. Paul Martin, for their psychological research on undue influence. He offers private consultations and is an exit worker with the Re-entry Therapy, Information and Referral Network (RETIRN) UK.

Aug 31, 2020

Is Buddhism a Religion?


AUGUST 25, 2020 



The Buddha said:

“The practitioner will find great joy and attain the state of final rest by having confidence in the Buddha’s religion, discovering the happiness of ending mental conditioning” (Dhp 382).

Is Buddhism a Religion? It seems like a simple question until you realize that there is little agreement on what Buddhism is or what religion is. Let’s start with the word religion.

What is Religion?

The social scientist J. Milton Yinger states, “Many studies of religion stumble over the first hurdle: the problem of definition” (3). This is because “there is no universally accepted definition of religion” (Crawford 3). It seems there are as many definitions as there are academic disciplines. As John Hick writes:

“Religion is one thing to the anthropologists, another to the sociologist, another to the psychologist (and again another to the next psychologist!), another to the Marxist, another to the mystic, another to the Zen Buddhist and yet another to the Jew or Christian. As a result there is a great variety of religious theories of the nature of religion. There is, consequently, no universally accepted definition of religion, and quite possibly there never will be” (Crawford 3).

But religion is a useful word. It helps us distinguish a human activity that is different from what animals do. Only humans are religious. As Tim Crane writes, “We should try to understand religion because without such an understanding we lack an adequate sense of a fundamental part of human civilization and its history, and we therefore lack a proper understanding of ourselves” (xi).

In approaching the word religion, it is good to remember the words of Jonathan Z. Smith, “Religion is solely the creation of the scholar’s study. It is created for the scholar’s analytic purposes by his imaginative acts of comparison and generalization” (xi). Its purpose, therefore, is to help us understand a human phenomenon.

Worship of God

The Paperback Oxford Dictionary defines religion as, “the belief in and worship of a God or gods.” This is the only kind of religion Westerners knew for centuries. They knew of the gods of ancient Greece and Rome, and the Pagans. But to them, religion was mostly dealing with Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. So religion had to do with God and the worship of God. But such a definition is short-sighted.

But as the religions of the East began to be known, they didn’t fit this mold. Buddhism, Daoism, and Jainism have no personal creator God like the Western religions, and so their religion has little to do with worshiping God. So if religion is defined by belief and worship of God, Buddhism, Daoism, and Jainism are not religions.

But since when does the world revolve around the West. Just because a religion is not like our religion doesn’t make it not a religion. Religion isn’t what we say it is, it should be descriptive of activities that deal with the transcendent or sacred. There is no other word for these human concerns. But our definition of religion should be descriptive not prescriptive.

A Definition of Religion

Buddhism, Daoism, and Jainism are religions and any definition of religion must not exclude them. So we need a definition of religion that is not too broad, not too narrow, and not biased. Too broad would be defining religion as “Ultimate Concern.” Too narrow would be defining religion as “the belief in and worship of a God or gods.” Too biased would be defining religion as a “virus” or an “illusion.”

Two definitions are really good. The first is from Time Crane, he defines religion as “a systematic and practical attempt by human beings to find meaning in the world and their place in it, in terms of their relationship to something transcendent” (6). The second definition is by William E. Paden, he says “religion is generally used to mean a system of language and practice that organize the world in terms of what is deemed sacred” (10).

Others take a more functional approach to religion. As Michael Molloy states, “We may accept as a ‘religion’ whatever manifests a reasonable number of the following characteristics:” He then lists belief system, community, ethics, characteristic emotions (like devotion, liberation, inner peace, and bliss), ritual, and sacredness (7).

My definition of religion is that it is a worldview and way of life that is related to the Divine or sacred. That means that there are at least three elements in a religion, a worldview, a way of life, and something sacred. A worldview is the belief system or conceptual framework we use to see and interpret the world. A way of life deals with the personal, ethical, and social ways that we act in the world. And both these are related to the Divine or sacred. Judaism, Christianity, and Islam are all worldviews and ways of life related to God.

The Sacred in Buddhism

Buddhism is not a worldview and way of life that is related to God. You could say that early Buddhism was polytheistic since it acknowledges many “angels, demons, and Gods” (AN 4.23). But these gods are of little relevance to Buddhism, because they are, just like humans, stuck in the same cycle of rebirth. This is called samsara, which I translate as the “prison of rebirth.”

The bottom line is that these Gods are of no help in attaining freedom from the unsatisfactoriness of conditioned existence. So Buddhism is not related to the Divine, but it is related to the sacred. By sacred I mean, that which is honored, respected, and even reverenced.

In Buddhism, it is the Three Jewels that are sacred. They are the Buddha, the Doctrine (Pali, dhamma), and the Community (Pali, sangha). These are honored, respected, and reverenced by all Buddhists. I would argue that life itself is also sacred in Buddhism, since abstaining from taking life is the first of the Five Precepts of Buddhism.

Buddhist Worldview

The Buddhist worldview sees life through the conceptual framework of the Four Noble Truths. The first truth is that suffering characterizes the unawakened life. Suffering, which is better translated as unsatisfactoriness, refers to the unsatisfactoriness nature of life, which is a prison of endless suffering in a cycle of births and deaths. Suffering is all around us. Everything around us changes, breaks, dies, and fails to give lasting happiness. You can’t count on anything.

The second truth is that the cause of this suffering is craving, which goes back to ignorance of the true nature of reality. From ignorance spring attachment and aversion, which causes suffering.

The third truth is that we can awaken and cease our attachments and aversions, and therefore we can end suffering.

And the fourth truth is that the Buddha taught the Eightfold Noble Path that leads to the end of ignorance, attachment, and aversion, and therefore it leads to the end of suffering.

Buddhist Way of Life

The Dhammapada, the most popular Buddhist scripture, sums up the Buddhist way of life this way, “Avoid doing harm, cultivate good conduct, and purify one’s mind: This is the instruction of the Buddhas” (Dhp 183). In this one line, we have the ethical and spiritual aspirations of Buddhism.

The ethical code for Buddhists, in general, is summarized in the Five Precepts, there are more for monks and nuns. The Five Precepts are (1) to abstain from taking life; (2) to abstain from taking what is not given; (3) to abstain from sexual misconduct; (4) to abstain from false speech; and (5) to abstain from intoxicants that cloud the mind.

In addition to the ethical way of life, there is also a religious way of life. This includes developing virtues such as generosity, compassion, lovingkindness, and equanimity. And it includes spiritual disciplines such as chanting and meditation.

The Buddhist Religion

So Buddhism is a religion. In Pali, it is called Buddha-sasana. Bhikkhu Sucitto defines Buddha-sasana as “the Buddhist religion” (Sucitto 52). Here are two translations of the Dhammapada:

“When a bhikkhu applies himself when still young to the religion of the Buddha, he illuminates the world, like the moon breaking breaking away from a cloud” (Richards Dhp 382).

Here is an older translation.

“The monk yet young, who unto Buddha’s religion devoteth himself, brighteneth this world, as the moon from cloud set free” (Edmunds Dhp 382).

Buddhism is a religion because it is a worldview and way of life that is related to the sacred. But it is a unique religion. Most religions talk about getting right with God through repentance, faith, and obedience. To them, the problem is human sin. But Buddhism goes further.

The problem is not your relationship to God, your problem is your relationship to reality. You are in a prison of your own making, “hindered by ignorance and chained by craving” (SN 15.1). God did not make the law of karma, it is part of the system. God is subject to karma.

Is murder wrong because God forbids it, or does God forbid it because it’s wrong? Buddhism says the moral law existed before God. God forbids it because it is the law of conditioned existence. God is obligated to obey the moral law. As Alfred North Whitehead pointed out, “The actual world must always mean the community of all actual entities, including the primordial actual entity called ‘God’ and the temporal actual entities” (65).

Works Cited

·         Crane, Tim. The Meaning of Belief: Religion from an Atheist’s Point of View. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2017.

·         Crawford, Robert G. What is Religion?: An Introducing the Study of Religion New York: Routledge, 2002.

·         Edmunds, Albert Joseph, trans. Hymns of the Faith (Dhammapada): Being an Ancient Anthology Preserved in the Short Collection of the Sacred Scriptures of the Buddhists Chicago, IL: Open Court Publishing Company (1902).

·         Molloy, Michael. Experiencing the World’s Religions: Tradition, Challenge, and Change. Mountain View, CA: Mayfield Publishing Company, 1999.

·         Paden, William E. Religious Worlds: The Comparative Study of Religion. Boston: Beacon Press, 1994.

·         Richards, John, trans. The Dhammapada. Pasadena, CA: Theosophical University Press, 1980. PDF file.

·         Smith, Jonathan Z. Imagining Religion: From Babylon to Jonestown. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1987.

·         Sucitto, Bhikkhu. Sangha Words: a Manual for Forest Sangha Publications. Revised Edition Version 1.2. Hemel Hempstead, England: Amaravati Publications, 2016. PDF file.

·         Whitehead, Alfred North. Process and Reality: Corrected Edition. Ed. David Ray Giffin and Donald W. Sherburne. New York: The Free Press, 1985.

·         Yinger, J. Milton. The Scientific Study of Religion. New York: MacMillan Publishing Co,, 1970.


Passenger sues easyJet after crew told her to move seats to satisfy ultra-Orthodox Jews

Melanie Wolfson was asked to move twice because men refused to sit next to a female

The Guardian
Harriet Sherwood

Thu 27 Aug 2020


A British-Israeli woman is suing easyJet after the low-cost airline asked her to move seats on a flight from Tel Aviv to London following objections from ultra-Orthodox Jewish men who refused to sit next to a female passenger.

Melanie Wolfson, 38, is claiming 66,438 shekels (almost £15,000) compensation in a lawsuit filed on her behalf by the Israel Religious Action Center (IRAC), which won a similar case in 2017 brought against El Al, the Israeli national carrier.

Wolfson, a professional fundraiser who moved to Israel 13 years ago and lives in Tel Aviv, is also asking that easyJet bans its cabin crew from asking women to switch seats because of their gender.

According to the lawsuit, Wolfson paid extra for an aisle seat on her flight last October. An ultra-Orthodox man and his son, who were sitting in the row when she arrived, asked Wolfson to switch seats with a man a few rows ahead.

Wolfson says she was “insulted and humiliated” by the request. “It was the first time in my adult life that I was discriminated against for being a woman,” she told Haaretz.

“I would not have had any problem whatsoever switching seats if it were to allow members of a family or friends to sit together, but the fact that I was being asked to do this because I was a woman was why I refused.”

A flight attendant intervened and offered Wolfson a free hot drink as an incentive to move. Concerned that the flight might be delayed on her account and feeling that she had little choice in the matter, she agreed to switch seats. “There were passengers watching this happen who said nothing,” she said.

According to the suit, several flight attendants told Wolfson during the flight that women were often asked to switch seats in order to accommodate ultra-Orthodox men.

Two months later, on another easyJet flight to London, Wolfson was again asked to move seats by two ultra-Orthodox men. She refused their request but two female passengers agreed to change seats with the two men sitting next to her.

Members of the cabin crew did not intervene or try to defend her right to stay seated where she was although again she was offered a free hot drink, according to the suit.

Wolfson complained to the airline on both occasions but when it failed to respond, she decided to sue for violation of Israeli law, which prohibits discrimination against customers on the basis of race, religion, nationality, land of origin, gender, sexual orientation, political views or personal status.

Although easyJet is not based in Israel, lawyers will argue that the airline was subject to Israeli law while its plane was on the ground at Ben-Gurion airport, where the incident took place.

In a statement, easyJet said: “We take claims of this nature very seriously. Whilst it would be inappropriate to comment, as this matter is currently the subject of legal proceedings, we do not discriminate on any grounds.”

Three years ago, Renee Rabinowitz, an 82-year-old Holocaust survivor, won a landmark ruling against El Al. The Israeli judge hearing the case said that “under absolutely no circumstances can a crew member ask a passenger to move from their designated seat because the adjacent passenger doesn’t want to sit next to them due to their gender”.


At the time, IRAC said almost 7,500 emails had been sent to El Al by members of the public objecting to requests made to female passengers to change seats.

• This article was amended on 28 August 2020 to restore the wording “ultra-Orthodox”, which had been mistakenly changed during the editing process.