Jan 31, 2022

QAnon Followers Think This Fake Mexican Trump Twitter Account Is Real

January 31, 2022

Hardcore QAnon followers are confident a fake Mexican Donald Trump Twitter account is directly communicating to them via coded messages.

In the aftermath of Trump's election defeat in 2020, the QAnon conspiracy movement was left fractured, having been abandoned by the anonymous "Q" poster and social media platforms permanently denying a voice to the former president to communicate directly with his followers.

While many QAnon influencers ditched the conspiracy rhetoric and embraced fresh causes centered around unfounded election fraud claims, others sought out anyone who they believed would affirm their views.

One such account latched on to by numerous QAnon followers is Il Donaldo Trumpo, a fake account that frames a mustachioed Trump as a Mexican who poorly imitates a Spanish accent in its tweets.

The bio for the pro-Trump account reads: "Me look like el Presidento, but me no him, señor Twitter Jacko [Jack Dorsey] and his no-hug Twitter niños. I mucho different with glorioso moustachio. Please no ban me again."

Further examples of poorly imitated Spanish include calling various figures, including President Joe Biden, piso****o and erroneously calling his followers "patriotos" when it is "patriotas."

In numerous tweets, the Il Donaldo Trumpo account plays into outdated perceptions of Mexican culture with photos of the mustached Trump wearing a sombrero and "taco Tuesday" posts.

While most people will dismiss the account as a parody attempt, hardcore adherents of the QAnon mythos believe the person behind it is, in actuality, the former president himself.

A spokesperson for Donald Trump has confirmed to Newsweek that the account has absolutely no connection to the former president.

Among those who believe the account is run by Trump are members of the Dallas QAnon faction that waited for JFK Jr. to emerge in Dealey Plaza last year, and now believe the former President is communicating to them via coded messages.

In a January 21 live stream shared on a Telegram channel associated with the Dallas QAnon faction, its de facto leader Michael Protzman revealed to tens of thousands of followers his group had attempted to decode a January 18 tweet by Il Donaldo Trumpo, which read: "I'm Batman."

Using Gematria, a type of numerology that allocates words to numbers, Protzman, known to his followers as Negative 48, explained how he had stayed up late in order to decode the message he believed was for his group.

In response to a question about what he had been doing, Protzman said: "Pretty much sat around doing some coding, stayed up late yesterday. Trump, he was back talking to us and said 'I am Batman,' 'cause Batman's 51 which is 'Michael.'"
Il Donaldo Trumpo's tweet was not lost on other followers associated with Protzman, with one linking the post to a real-life Batman-themed emergency message that was sent out in Missouri earlier this month.

Speaking in a January 23 live stream on a Dallas QAnon faction-affiliated Telegram channel, the follower said: "I live in Missouri and after President Trump did say he was Batman what did we get on our alerts - the Batman signal EBS and who talks about Batman sometimes? Negative 48."
In December, the group wrongly celebrated Trump's birthday, as part of its unfounded belief the former president was adopted into the Trump family.

Il Donaldo Trumpo commands a large following at 282,900, and nearly 200,000 subscribers on Twitter and Telegram, respectively.

The fake Trump account has also created numerous accounts on other social media accounts and video-streaming services, including YouTube.

Many of Il Donaldo Trumpo's posts are shared among QAnon influencers, including lawyer Lin Wood and John Sabal, who command a subscriber count that combined reaches hundreds of thousands of people.

But Mike Rothschild, author of "The Storm is Upon Us: How QAnon Became a Movement, Cult, and Conspiracy Theory of Everything," said it was not surprising QAnon followers believed the account was real.

He pointed to the number of people who mistakenly believed messages written by "Q" on imageboard 8chan were written by people in positions of enormous influence, or by Trump himself.

Speaking to Newsweek, Rothschild said: "It's very similar to what was going on with QAnon where there were certain Q drops that were signed "Q+" and Q believers really thought that that was Donald Trump using 8chan to communicate with them, bypassing the media, bypassing all of his handlers. Trump was directly speaking to them and I think that this thing is the same.

"The particulars are a bit different, but it's the need to believe that you are special, and that the person who you worship and venerate sees how special you are and is communicating with you because you are important and you're going to do something great.

"It's completely ridiculous. Donald Trump does not know how to use 8chan and is famously computer illiterate. He was able to tweet, but only then because people put stuff in front of him and that's all he did."

Donald Trump speaks to reporters on the South Lawn of the White House before boarding Marine One on July 15, 2020 in Washington, DC. Many QAnon followers believe the fake Twitter account is really Donald Trump.

Jan 30, 2022

ICSA’s Openness to Dialogue: Historical Perspective

ICSA’s Openness to Dialogue: Historical Perspective

ICSA E-Newsletter

28 January 2022

ICSA’s Openness to Dialogue: Historical Perspective

Michael D. Langone, PhD


From its founding in 1979, ICSA strove to apply professional perspectives and research to understand and respond to the problems posed by cults. This professionalism has made ICSA open and tolerant, and, consequently, credible. Though there were and continue to be different opinions about how open ICSA should be, the prevailing view has always been that we must not be like cults, which are closed-minded and censor or refuse to engage with those who advocate dissenting views.


The reasons for and importance of openness and dialogue was formally articulated in a document written by the ICSA Board of Directors: “Dialogue and Cultic Studies: Why Dialogue Benefits the Cultic Studies Field.” Historical background can be found on ICSA’s history page, especially Changes in the North American Cult Awareness Movement.


ICSA’s openness to dialogue can sometimes be difficult to reconcile with ICSA’s mission of helping those adversely affected by cultic involvements. Former members, especially those who have been traumatized, may feel discomfort -- sometimes revulsion -- when ICSA’s openness to divergent views exposes them to people with positive views of cults or even of religion in general. Openness may also challenge parents and helping professionals who are focused on ameliorating harm. Conversely, some academicians may interpret ICSA’s focus on cult-related harm as an anti-religious bias.


Because ICSA is open to diverse and conflicting views, ICSA cannot please “all the people all the time.” Some degree of tension and discord, therefore, is unfortunately unavoidable. This tension can be challenging, but it can also enhance learning and thinking creatively about cult-related problems.


ICSA is unique because it brings together in a coherent and substantial way international constituencies of victims, families, helping professionals, and researchers. The diversity within ICSA promotes an environment that is conducive to thinking broadly about the subject and to learning from those one might not ordinarily encounter. “Stress-testing” our opinions is a hallmark of critical thinking.


ICSA has tried to minimize the strain that openness can cause in the following ways:

  • By providing events and resources that focus on distinct constituencies, e.g., workshops for researchers, families, and former members of cultic groups, CE seminars for mental health professionals.
  • Making sure that the annual conference, which brings the four constituencies together, has an abundance of offerings for each of the constituencies.
  • Offering pre-conference workshops for each constituency and providing an assistance team to help former members navigate the divergent perspectives that characterize many ICSA events.

To provide historical perspective, this report lists events and activities that reflect ICSA’s professionalism and history of openness and dialogue with religious persons, academicians of all perspectives, and cult members. (For clarity we will use “ICSA” for those time periods when the organization was called “AFF” – American Family Foundation. The name was changed in 2004.)

  • Many clergy, who came from different religions and denominations reflecting a range of theological perspectives, were active in this field during ICSA’s early years, including but not limited to: Rabbi A. James Rudin, Rev. James LeBar, Rev. Roger Daly, Rev. Walter Debold, Rev. Dr. Richard Dowhower, Rabbi Sandy Andron, Rev. George Papademetriou, Rev. Dr. Friedrich Haack, Rev. John Blackwell, Rev. Kent Burtner, Rev. Dr. Robert Thornburg, Rev. James McGuire.
  • Of ICSA’s 5 founding directors, two were clergy: Rabbi Maurice Davis and Baptist minister Rev. George Swope.
  • During the 1980s ICSA staff and advisors, most notably exit counselor Kevin Garvey and Dr. Michael Langone, had many conversations with Dr. Thomas Robbins and other so-called “cult apologists.” These conversations indicated that the major concerns separating the two groups were the ethics of deprogramming and the acknowledgement that cultic groups could harm members.
  • In 1983 ICSA’s Drs. John Clark and Michael Langone, as well as several members of ICSA’s advisory board, participated in an American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) conference that explored the “divergent perspectives” among professionals and scholars who had written or spoken about cult issues. This conference brought together so-called “anti-cultists” and “pro-cultists.”
  • Unfortunately, when lawsuits were filed and experts were called as witnesses, much of the dialogue between the so-called “camps” (i.e., “anti-cult” and “pro-cult”) diminished considerably, in part because scholars and professionals were concerned that their words might be misused in lawsuits. When, for example, I heard that one of the persons with whom I had dialogued had been hired by one or more lawyers to “discredit” Dr. Margaret Singer, I became reluctant to share information with that person. The dialogue picked up again, as we will note later, in the late 1990s, when lawsuits were less of an issue.
  • In 1984 ICSA hosted meetings with evangelical leaders who were concerned about the cult label’s being unfairly pinned on their organizations. A team of evangelicals, led by InterVarsity Christian Fellowship (IV), contributed to a special issue of Cultic Studies JournalCults, Evangelicals, and the Ethics of Social Influence.” Among their contributions was “A Code of Ethics for the Christian Evangelist,” a direct response to ICSA’s focus on the ethics of influence.
  • ICSA’s journals have always been open to articles from a diverse range of scholars and occasionally from members of controversial groups. The first such article by two Maharishi University faculty members appeared in Cultic Studies Journal in 1986. A complete list of articles published in ICSA journals can be found here. A perusal of that list will show that ICSA clearly focuses on harm, but it is open to other topics and diverse points of view.
  • In the early 1990s ICSA research led by Drs. William Chambers and Michael Langone was able to benefit from ICSA’s evangelical connections by comparing the perceptions of former cult members with InterVarsity graduates and former Catholics. See report prepared for Boston University’s Danielsen Institute, a pastoral counseling program.
  • In 1992 ICSA conducted a one-day symposium addressing cultural implications of cultism with Dr. Johannes Aagaard, Professor, Faculty of Theology, Aarhus University, Denmark. An edited transcript of this symposium was published in Cultic Studies Journal.
  • ICSA’s 1993 book, Recovery From Cults (edited by Michael Langone), included a chapter by Rev. Dr. Richard Dowhower, “Guidelines for Clergy.”
  • In 1995 ICSA organized a joint conference with Denver Seminary, “Recovery From Cults: A Pastoral/Psychological Dialogue.”
  • Anticipating the dialogue with ICSA that was to come, Eileen Barker’s 1995 presidential address to the Society for the Scientific Study of Religion (SSSR) included a paragraph that signaled her interest in reaching out to the so-called “anti-cult movement” (ACM): “If we are to be honest and self-critical, we have to admit that several of us have reacted against the selective negativity of the ACM by, sometimes quite unconsciously, making our own unbalanced selections. Having been affronted by what have appeared to be gross violations of human rights perpetrated through practices such as deprogramming and the medicalization of belief, there have been occasions when social scientists have withheld information about the movements because they know that this will be taken, possibly out of context, to be used as a justification for such actions. The somewhat paradoxical situation is that the more we feel the NRMs are having untrue bad things said about them, the less inclined we are to publish true “bad” things about the movements.”
  • Two years later (1997 Philadelphia conference) Dr. Barker asked to meet with ICSA leaders. She approached ICSA apprehensively but was relieved by the welcome she received from Herb Rosedale and others. During a day-long meeting prior to the Seattle Annual Conference (2000), ICSA professionals met with Dr. Barker and three of her so-called “pro-cult colleagues,” Gordon Melton, Burke Rochford and James Richardson. That was the beginning of a dialogue that has continued to this day.
  • In 1996 ICSA conducted a joint conference with Iona College’s pastoral and family counseling department, “Recovery From Cults and Other Abusive Groups.”
  • Throughout its 40-year history ICSA has worked productively with evangelical organizations and individuals, such as the Centers for Apologetics Research, Craig Branch, Dr. Paul Martin, Rev. Robert Pardon, Evangelical Ministries to New Religions, and the Center for Youth Ministry in Boston.
  • ICSA’s 1996 book, Cults on Campus, included a chapter by Rev. Ronald Stanley, “The Role of Campus Chaplains.”
  • In the early 2000s ICSA worked closely with professionals from the Mexican Christian Institute and Religious Groups Awareness International Network (REGAIN) to help expose the cultic attributes of the Legion of Christ within the Catholic Church. ICSA’s 2013 annual conference in Trieste explored the theme of Catholic aberrations and included talks and discussions among loyal Catholics and critics of groups such as the Legion. In the 1980s ICSA’s Cultic Studies Journal reprinted the Vatican report on sects (the word many Europeans use to denote “cults”).
  • ICSA’s conferences have always been open to the public, and members of controversial or cultic groups have attended numerous conferences. ICSA’s leaders’ attitude has rested on the belief that by attending our conferences these persons, as well as ICSA members, may learn things that will help reduce stereotyping in both directions. In the 40 years ICSA has run conferences, there have been only a few instances in which interactions became heated, but never out of control.
  • In the early 1990s emeritus ICSA Director Carol Giambalvo designed and implemented pre-conference former member workshops that conveyed the message that an open conference can be an opportunity to learn how to cope with distressing feelings that an open conference may stimulate.
  • A landmark event occurred in 1999 at ICSA’s annual conference at the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis. Following extensive discussions among ICSA leaders, exit counselors, and members of ISKCON (International Society for Krishna Consciousness - Hare Krishna), ICSA organized a panel discussion with two ISKCON members (Anuttama Dasa and Radha Dasi), an exit counselor (Joseph Kelly), a mental health professional (Steve Eichel), and a moderator (Michael Langone). ISKCON was going through a reform, and ICSA leaders concluded that we could do more good encouraging that reform than “fighting” ISKCON. The positive response of the audience was gratifying.
  • To the credit of the reformers within ISKCON, the first scholarly treatment of child abuse within ISKCON was published in the organization’s own journal, ISKCON Communications Journal. ICSA reprinted this article, which was written by sociologist E. Burke Rochford with Jennifer Heinlein.
  • ICSA leaders over the years have engaged in dialogue with members of other groups, including the Unification Church, Scientology, Arkeon, Anthroposophy, Transcendental Meditation, and Falun Gong. Discussions have sometimes been passionate, but respectful. Members of such groups have also presented at ICSA conferences, including panels that brought together former and current members. In 2000, for example, Joseph Szimhart coordinated a panel on positive accounts from cult conversion experiences. In 2018 a panel on diverse experiences with Transcendental Meditation included presentations by people currently practicing TM.
  • In 2002 a panel, “Harm in New Religious Movements,” brought together scholars and professionals across the “pro-anti” divide: Arthur Dole, Jean-Francois Mayer, Philip Lucas, Eileen Barker, and Ben Zablocki.
  • For the past 10 years ICSA director Michael Kropveld, who is Director of Info-Cult/Info-Secte, has participated in an annual meeting that brings cult awareness and research professionals together with members of controversial, marginal, and cultic groups.
  • Other new-religious-movement (NRM – sociologists and religious studies scholars prefer this term to “cult”) scholars have attended ISCA conferences, including Massimo Introvigne, Willy Fautre, Amanda van Eck Duymaer von Twist, Jean-Francois Mayer, Irving Hexham, James Beverley, E. Burke Rochford, Nancy Ammerman, Dick Anthony, Phil Lucas, and Susan Palmer.
  • Two anecdotes illustrate the value of ICSA’s dialogue with NRM scholars. During lunch at ICSA’s 2000 annual conference in Seattle Burke Rochford thanked Michael Langone for inviting him to the conference because he was able, through conversations with parents and former members, to see the harm “up close.” During ICSA’s 2005 annual conference in Madrid, Eileen Barker, who had attended several ICSA conferences, remarked that she could finally understand why so many former members related to the “cult” concept. It helped them understand that their distress was largely due to what their group had done to them, not to grave deficiencies within themselves.
  • Although several ICSA professionals and scholars have presented at NRM scholars’ conferences, a noteworthy event occurred in 2010 when Michael Kropveld and Michael Langone presented at the Center for Studies of New Religions (CESNUR) annual conference in Turin. During a plenary, Dr. Langone stated: “Some groups may harm some people sometimes, and some groups may be more likely to harm people than other groups.” He noted that we could disagree in good faith on the causes, magnitude, and prevalence of harm in specific groups or across the range of groups. But that harm exists is indisputable. There was little if any disagreement with this common-sense declaration.
  • At the 2012 CESNUR conference in El Jadida, ICSA board member Dr. Carmen Almendros and colleagues presented three papers, one of which empirically rebutted the commonly held notion among some scholars that negative reports of former members are mere “atrocity tales.” The study further revealed commonalities in the perceptions and reports of victims-survivors of abusive groups and intimate partner violence.
  • In recent years INFORM, founded by Dr. Eileen Barker, invited ICSA members (Carol Giambalvo, Michael Kropveld, Michael Langone, Joseph Szimhart, Rod and Linda Dubrow-Marshall) to contribute to volumes in the Inform/Routledge series on Minority Religions and Spiritual Movements.

Thus, many scholars and professionals who study and research cultic groups (what they prefer to call new religious movements) and who once dismissed ICSA’s reports of cult-related harm now learn from and engage in productive dialogue with ICSA professionals and scholars and the victims who inform ICSA’s perspectives. Members of the ICSA network also learn from this dialogue and continue to develop educational and treatment interventions that consider complexities and variations that were not appreciated during ICSA’s early days. Dialogue does not mean that abuses are condoned. On the contrary, dialogue makes more people aware of abuses in groups. Dialogue also makes more people aware of the ways in which simplistic thinking can generate confusion and unnecessary polarization.


For example, dialogue has made clear that NRM scholars ask different questions from ICSA professionals and scholars. The former may know that harm exists, but they do not focus on it. The latter may share concerns regarding the need to respect protected freedoms of minority groups, but they mainly see people whom such groups harm. Dialogue helps everybody better understand the phenomenon, including the potential for abuse.


To conclude: 

  1. Engaging in active dialogue with individuals with backgrounds in religion, sociology, academic psychology, and other disciplines enhances the understanding and effectiveness of mental health and other helpers.
  2. Academicians exposed to the personal stories of parents and former members of cultic groups and the clinical work of mental health professionals come to appreciate the nature and magnitude of harm that groups can cause.
  3. Former members, who in a conference may modulate their exposure to disturbing points of view by selecting which sessions they attend, can have experiences that, as Carol Giambalvo wisely pointed out many years ago, help them learn to cope with discordant ideas, rather than avoid them.
  4. By participating in openness and dialogue, members of the ICSA network distinguish themselves from cultic groups that suppress dissent, ostracize dissenters, control which information members are allowed to see or hear, and divide the world into the good “us” and the bad “them.”

International Cultic Studies Association, Inc.

PO Box 2265
Bonita Springs, FL 34133




Meth And Me

Whisper and Jemima
Butterflies and Bravery
May 20, 2021

In this episode Jemima bares it all and talks about some of her previous vices, focusing on her meth addiction. She holds nothing back as she takes you down the long dark road she walked. You'll be on the edge of your seat as we delve into the world of drug addiction. Find out how Jemima got clean without attending meetings or having a religious epiphany, and how she managed to stay that way. Sometimes there's not a why, there's not a way, there's just holding on.

Jan 28, 2022

The Dark Side of Mother Teresa Mother Teresa, A Saint or a Fraud?

Sal Writes
Mar 25, 2021

Anjezë Gonxhe Bojaxhiu, or Mother Teresa as she is now known throughout the world, was one of the most important Catholic Church figures when she was alive and even posthumously. Someone who Christians and everyone alike admired, she is best known for her work in uplifting poverty and helping the marginalized in the poorest regions of Calcutta, India. Her trophy cabinet is filled with multiple awards that ranged from the Ramon Magsaysay Peace Prize to the Nobel Peace Prize in 1979, cementing her legacy as someone who worked solely for the welfare of those suffering.

Even today, if her name is mentioned, the first thought that comes to mind is of a pious woman who had the purest intentions and a smile that welcomed everyone into her grace. However, the truth might be far from this perception. Many people have questioned Mother Teresa’s actions and motives over the years, deeming them as a romanticization of people’s suffering. From her questionable practices in the Missionaries of Charity to her dubious ways of handling the money granted to her by equally shady people, this is a deep dive into the dark side of Saint Mother Teresa.

Hell’s Angel.
By Christopher Hitchens — Christopher Hitchens — Mother Teresa:  Angel

In a 1994 documentary with the name “Hell’s Angel,” the first of many criticisms of Teresa’s work started to emerge. The documentary was spearheaded by someone who was a volunteer in Teresa’s missionary work. This meant that there was some credibility to the claims that were being made. In the documentary, the sanitation of the soup houses and hospices was critiqued heavily. It was claimed through various eyewitness testimonies that there was no regard for safety for terminally ill individuals under the watchful eyes of Mother Teresa. This disregard was seen in the form of reusing the same needles for various other patients who were receiving treatment.

There was no sterilization in the process, which meant that there was a very high chance of infection. Shockingly, these malpractices were happening at a place where there were patients of HIV/AIDS who are already immunocompromised. Another eyewitness claimed that no staff at these places of care were medically trained and had poor skills in handling patients already making peace with death. It can be concluded that Teresa was taking advantage of these people to boost her picture of being compassionate rather than actually caring for these people.

Was it just a case of no funding?
Many people would jump to the conclusion that operating in an impoverished area like India meant that there was a lack of funds that made the conditions of the hospices terrible. However, this claim is false as Mother Teresa alone brought in over $30 million in funding from various donors across the world. There was more than enough money for the operation to run smoothly. Instead, there were no attempts made even slightly to make the conditions of the people better.

Teresa’s and the other missionaries’ refusal to install water heaters at certain camps is a testament to her caring about her persona rather than the actual freezing water with which the patients used to bathe. Donald McIntyre went undercover to one of her hospices to volunteer for Teresa and reported similar neglect and even cases of abuse. His reports claimed that children and the mentally ill were often tied up with ropes and clothes so that they could be fed or kept stationary. These clear violations of human rights were brushed off and never associated with the holier than thou personality of Mother Teresa.

Friends in High Places?

For someone who has been canonized in Christian literature, Mother Teresa sure mingled with the wrong individuals. She was known to have made friends with people that donated to her cause regardless of their actions. Teresa accepted donations and medals from people involved in large genocides of the Christian communities around the world. This included Ronald Reagan, the President of the US, someone who is alleged to have orchestrated the mass murder of catholic nuns and archbishop of San Salvador during the cold war.

For someone who dedicated her life to saving lives, this was very hypocritical. She was also involved with successful business tycoons like Charles Keating, who would later be convicted for fraud and racketeering for his dirty loan practices. This showed that Teresa had an inclination towards gathering money (which, by the way, was not even used for making the lives of the ill better) rather than actual altruism.

A Saint, or a Fraud?

In 2016, Teresa was posthumously granted the title of Saint, one of the highest ranks for preaching members, by Pope Francis I, and her life was canonized in the Roman Catholic Church. To be awarded the title of a Saint, the individual has to perform two known miracles that would then be acknowledged and approved by the Catholic Church. Teresa’s two miracles happened in 1998 and 2008. The former was Monica Besra, a woman in Bengal who claimed that her illness, caused by a tumor, was eradicated after praying to Mother Teresa. In 2002, the Church formally acknowledged this as a miracle.

However, various reports, including one of her own husband, claimed that Monica was cured by the doctors more than Teresa, and it was the regular treatment that saved her. This was backed up by various medical reports as well, but these statements were later retracted. It seems that the Catholic Church could care less about the science behind benign tumors but more about this miracle. After Teresa’s death in 1997, there was another report of a miracle in 2008 by a Brazilian man with multiple brain tumors. In just seven days, the Catholic Church completed its investigation, and Pope Francis would later grant Mother Teresa with the title of Saint.

Mother Teresa’s Life: A Gray Area.

Saint Mother Teresa of Calcutta is undoubtedly someone who spent her life trying to help out the poor and the ill. Her years of struggle are proof that she wanted to cultivate a narrative of helping other people. However, her altruism was not black and white; with all the eyewitness reports and criticism that her actions have garnered, it is safe to say that Mother Teresa’s life lies in a gray area that is far from perfect like many seem to claim.
Become a Medium member and get access to unlimited amazing stories.





CultNEWS101 Articles: 1/28/2022 (Bhakti Marga, Swami Vishwananda, Podcast, Germany, Islamic Marriage Laws, Conspiracy Theories)

Bhakti MargaSwami Vishwananda, Podcast, Germany, Islamic Marriage Laws, Conspiracy Theories

Torial: Just Love: Bhakti Marga's Guru and His Secret
"The Bhakti Marga sect has its headquarters in the Taunus, and its guru, Swami Vishwananda, is worshiped as a god. But again and again dropouts report abuse of power in the ashram - and sexualised violence. This podcast investigates the allegations.

The Bhakti Marga sect has its headquarters in Springen / Heidenrod, a rural area in the Taunus. Her guru Swami Vishwananda is worshiped as God by his followers. What he promises is unconditional love - Just Love. But for many years, dropouts have repeatedly reported manipulation, brainwashing, abuse of power - and sexualized violence that Vishwananda did to them. These warnings are not taken seriously - and the Hindu-Christian faith community continues to grow rapidly, worldwide. In August 2021, Bhakti Marga bought the "Seepark", an old conference hotel, in Kirchheim, Hesse. The communities of Heidenrod and Kirchheim are happy about the ashram operation. Also because the international guests who visit the two German ashrams to be blessed by the guru, flush money into the community coffers. In six episodes, Marlene Halser and Stefan Bücheler investigate the allegations, talk to those affected and ask those responsible why the warnings are not taken seriously. Also they ask: who is this guru, who is Vishwananda? And how did a small religious community become a huge, international company?

A six-part documentary podcast by Hauseins and Hessischer Rundfunk."

Washington Post: For the sake of a visa, I was forced into marriage in Arizona — at age 15
" ... Soon everyone started hugging and saying "mubarak" — congratulations. My heart sank. I realized I had just been forced into a marriage proposal, or "rishta" — a prelude to a "nikah," or Muslim wedding — to a man who needed to stay in the United States when his visa expired. He was seven years older than me. I'd never met him.

The nikah, a religious contract, is not legally recognized under U.S. marriage law. But Arizona's marriage law and loopholes in U.S. immigration law meant my family still had avenues by which they could exploit and force me — a U.S. citizen and a minor — into marriage.

Marriage before age 18 is legal in 44 of 50 states, according to Unchained at Last, an organization working to end child marriage in the United States. In states with no age minimum, children as young as 10 have been forced into marriage. At the time of my engagement, the legal age of consent to marry in Arizona was 15. (Now it's 16 with parental permission or legal emancipation.)"
" ... How do people come to believe in conspiracy theories? It's a question Penn Integrates Knowledge University Professor Dolores Albarracín has been thinking about for decades.

"I grew up in Argentina in the '70s, during the Dirty War that eventually led to the disappearance of 30,000 Argentines. The climate within the dictatorship was such that you couldn't really speak, and for a family that was politically involved such as mine, you were instructed to not say anything," recalls Albarracín. "That piqued my interest in secrecy, and in how people make inferences about events that have presumably been covered up, particularly when there is no evidence."

As a social psychologist and communication scholar who studies attitudes, persuasion, and behavior, Albarracín has researched what happens when fringe ideas become consequential for society. "That's what we're seeing with conspiracy theories today," she says. "Nobody can deny now that these are wildly impactful and really problematic."

In a new book, "Creating conspiracy beliefs: How our thoughts are shaped," Albarracín and co-authors Man-pui Sally Chan and Kathleen Hall Jamieson of Penn and Julia Albarracín of Western Illinois University drill down into the phenomenon. Analyzing empirical research conducted on real-world examples of false plots—the alleged sex-trafficking ring Democrats ran out of a pizza parlor, the so-called deep state that undermined Donald Trump's presidency—the team pinpoints two factors that have driven recent widespread conspiracy theories: the conservative media and societal fear and anxiety."

News, Education, Intervention, Recovery



Intervention101.com to help families and friends understand and effectively respond to the complexity of a loved one's cult involvement.

CultRecovery101.com assists group members and their families make the sometimes difficult transition from coercion to renewed individual choice.

CultNEWS101.com news, links, resources.





Cults101.org resources about cults, cultic groups, abusive relationships, movements, religions, political organizations and related topics.

Selection of articles for CultNEWS101 does not mean that Patrick Ryan or Joseph Kelly agree with the content. We provide information from many points of view in order to promote dialogue.

Please forward articles that you think we should add to cultintervention@gmail.com.

Jan 27, 2022

'Gone by 2040': Why some religions are declining in Canada faster than ever

Ashleigh Stewart 
Global News
January 8, 2022

It’s Advent Sunday and snow is falling thick and fast outside the front doors of the soaring, neo-Gothic bell tower of the Metropolitan United Church in downtown Toronto.

A tiny crowd huddles around a black Weber grill, emitting brief puffs of smoke as a crackling fire battles the elements.

“Come, gather around the holy barbecue,” Reverend Jason Meyers jokes.

It’s a modern scene amid very modern challenges facing religious institutions in Canada.

Religiosity in Canada is at an all-time low, with recently released data from Statistics Canada showing only 68 per cent of Canadians 15 or older now report having a religious affiliation. It’s the first time that number has dipped below 70 per cent since StatCan began tracking the data in 1985.

In response, Global News has spent the past two months speaking to members of religious communities across the country and looking at historical data to determine why this is happening. This is part one of that series.

It’s important to note that this decline is not across the board; the number of Muslims, Sikhs, Buddhists and Hindus is increasing, and StatCan predicts the number of Canadians reporting a non-Christian religious affiliation could double by the year 2036.

Christianity, however, is in sharp decline. In 2011, 67.3 per cent (about 22.1 million people) of Canadians said they were affiliated with a Christian religion. In 2019, that number had dropped to 63.2 per cent. Catholicism, Canada’s largest denomination, now accounts for 32 per cent of Canadians over 15, down from 46.9 per cent in 1996.

The decline is even more precarious for Canada’s United and Anglican churches.

In 2021, the first Sunday in Advent — the season that commemorates Christmas, or the birth of Jesus Christ — has fallen on Toronto’s first snow day, Nov. 28.

Just six people have come to congregate around the Weber grill, for Metropolitan’s Taddle Creek Wild Church, a more modern and nature-based service than the traditional Sunday service.

Being experimental, it tends to attract smaller numbers than the standard Sunday service held an hour earlier. But that one too had barely 50 people in attendance; two to three people per pew scattered across a cavernous church.

But United members have been decreasing for decades, far before a snowstorm and a global pandemic.
'We lose a church per week'

United, the country’s second-largest Canadian Christian denomination, accounted for 14.6 per cent of Canadians in 1985. In 1996, that number had declined to 9.7 per cent and to just 3.8 per cent in 2019. Islam, considered a minority religion, now sits at 3.7 per cent.

Nowadays, Meyers says, on average, United loses one church per week across Canada and he expects that to accelerate.

He acknowledges that many people are brought up religious but lose interest, but says some come back of their own volition later in life. Meyers did so himself, turning to the church in his 30s after the breakdown of his marriage.

It’s for these reasons that he says, despite the membership decline, he’s optimistic United will not die out completely.

“There will be fewer churches and yet, the ones that are able to build belonging across lines of difference — whether that is racial or economic, or like literal space, or somewhere here, somewhere online — they’re the ones that are going to stay and grow.”

It seems optimistic after a service of 50 people in a church built to house 2,000. But Meyers believes the pandemic has strengthened many Christians’ resolve.

“The deep desire for connection has not gone away. It has accelerated, I would say, and in a traditional church like this, or small group gatherings, we are hardwired for community. We’re hardwired for spirituality,” Meyers says.

“There’s more of a yearning, and people are looking for hope.”
The generational gap

But it’s hard to ignore the demographics of the congregation — the vast majority of whom have grey hair.

Statistics Canada data confirms the generational gap, finding that religious affiliation was at 85 per cent among older Canadians born between 1940 and 1959, compared with 32 per cent for those born between 1980 and 1999.

Gunn Wongsuwan, 28, knows, at his age, he’s in the minority as a regular Metropolitan churchgoer. The Toronto resident was brought up Roman Catholic but stopped attending church as a teenager. When he returned, in his late teens while living in Scotland, his friends thought he was “crazy.”

“I went back into church looking for structure, and then just realized there was a lot more to it than that. There’s a whole side of wanting to be still for a bit, to think on the eternal, to appreciate the art and the music and to contemplate the whole narrative,” Wongsuwan says. He joined Metropolitan upon moving back to Canada.

When asked his views on the role religion plays in 2021, given the changing times, Wongsuwan says perhaps now it is more important than ever.

“Aristotle said that man is a political animal. I think we’re also religious animals. A lot of us try to see meaning, to have a sense of spirituality. We want order, we want knowledge, and I think we have this sort of longing to be something that’s bigger than ourselves.”

Statistics Canada, however, also found that religion was becoming less important for Canadians on the whole. Those who reported religious or spiritual beliefs were “somewhat important” or “very important” to their lives was 54 per cent in 2019. In the mid-2000s, it was around 70 per cent.
Anglicanism: gone by 2040?

Anglicanism shares a similarly bleak outlook. StatCan data shows that in 1986, 10.4 per cent of all Canadians were Anglican. That dropped to 7.0 per cent in 1996 and to 3.8 per cent in 2019.

That year, Neil Elliot, the Anglican Church of Canada’s statistics and research officer, produced a report intended to show church elders what this would mean for its future.

After a membership decline between 1961 and 2001 of 50 per cent, and a similar decline between 1991 and 2015, Elliot projected the Anglican Church would run out of members completely by 2040.

Baptisms and confirmations had showed churches were “not drawing in substantial quantities of new members” and figures for funerals showed “we are not just losing members, we are losing the opportunities to draw in members, we are losing contacts with our communities.”

“These figures are therefore arguments for an increasing rate of decline in the next decade,” the report said, also stating that it was “unlikely that we are going to turn it around in the next 20 years.”

Two years later, Elliot’s outlook has changed somewhat. The pandemic had brought about an impetus for change, he says, but it remains to be seen if that will result in an influx of new members.

He says modern culture has been “pushing people away from the church” for decades.

“The idea of modernity, which is based on science, is somehow intrinsically against religion. There is a view that is out there, not one that I agree with, that science and religion can’t mix,” he says.

Elliot says the Anglican Church must adapt to survive. He says that his role is to try to drill this into the minds of clergy across Canada.

“I think of it very much like climate change, and people’s responses to climate change,” Elliot says.

“There’s three main responses to climate change: there’s denial … then there’s people who say we can stop it. And then there’s people who say, we can adapt…that’s what I’m trying to get us to do within the Anglican Church, it’s how do we adapt to it?”

Pivoting to more modern ways of delivering church services was crucial for future survival, he says, and to ensure active engagement. He’d done so for his own parish, St Andrew and St George in Kootenay. He now builds bulletin-style services, complete with YouTube videos.

Not only is there a decline in those who consider themselves religious in Canada, but participation in religious activities is also on the decline.
50% 'never' partake in religious activities

The number of people who answered “not at all” to the question of frequency of attending group religious activities in the StatCan survey, was an overwhelming 53 per cent. Only 23 per cent of Canadians said they attend group activities at least once a month. Between 2000 and 2009, that figure was around 30 per cent.

However, some denominations were well above this average — mostly more evangelical groups. Jehovah’s Witnesses (86 per cent) reported the highest participation rates.

Canadian Jehovah’s Witnesses spokesman James Dumeignil says the number of Jehovah’s Witnesses is increasing year-over-year — with 3,000 more members in 2021 than in 2020. StatCan data, however, shows a decline in Canadian membership to 137,775 from 168,370 in 1991.

Dumeignil says participation rates are so high because their religion — which differentiates itself in its belief in only one God, Jehovah, rather than the Holy Trinity (the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit) of Christianity — underpins their entire lives.

That, and for the religion’s well-known, often relentless, advocacy of itself, through door-knocking and outreach programmes. But Dumeignil says that only plays a small role in persuading people to attend meetings, and people are more likely to be drawn in by its optimistic outlook and a mantra that “it’s inevitable that things will improve.”

Some Christian congregations say they are also bucking these trends. A spokesperson for the Archdiocese of Toronto, home to Catholics in the GTA, says while city locations were suffering, churches in smaller towns and communities continued to pull in big numbers.

Father Liborio Amaral, pastor of St. Mary’s in Brampton, a Catholic church, says it is rare for his 800-capacity church to be less than 75 per cent full on a Sunday. Amaral thinks, anecdotally, that attendance is increasing — especially in younger people.

“Normally now, when you see a line-up of people going to confession, they’re younger people — in their teens or early 20s. Within the last 10 years or so, something is happening and the youth are realizing that they need God. I think it’s about the shallowness and emptiness in sometimes what people think will bring them joy — the job, the career, the house, the car. So they’re looking at the spiritual part of their life,” he says.

“When you’re younger, you are carrying your parents’ faith. But they get to a certain age and they say, ‘It’s no longer my parents’ faith. It has to be mine.’”
'You don't have to be religious to be Jewish'

The United and Anglican churches and Judaism report the lowest numbers of those who engage in religious activity at least once per month — at 19 per cent, 19 per cent and 24 per cent, respectively.

Judaism has unique challenges. For example, Shabbat (Judaism’s day of rest, observed from sunset on Friday to nightfall Saturday) is when many school sports are played, prompting a choice between religion and extracurricular activities from a young age.

“The society we live in discourages adherence to religious precepts,” says Stan Grossman, chair of the ritual committee for the Beth Sholom synagogue in Toronto.

The proportion of Jews in Canada has fallen steadily over the years. In 1985, 1.6 per cent of Canadians were Jewish, according to StatsCan. That number fell to 1.1 per cent in 1996 and in 2019 is about 0.8 per cent.

For the non-Orthodox community, participation in weekly and daily services pre-COVID had been “somewhat disappearing,” Grossman says.

“We’ve been impacted just across the board as this whole generation has grown. And religion has not become a way of life for this generation.”

Five years ago, a Shabbat service would have pulled in 150 to 200 people, Grossman says. At a service in early December, during Chanukah, about 80 well-dressed people are scattered around the expansive Beth Sholom synagogue. But about half of them are not members — they’re friends and family of a young girl celebrating her Bat Mitzvah.

Cantor Eric Moses addresses the congregation as he would a full congregation — tearfully recounting his own journey as the only Jew at his school in Sudbury, desperately trying to fit in.

“I was the boy who knew all the Christmas songs by heart, who left milk and cookies out for Santa, but Santa never came.”

Speaking after the service, Grossman says Moses’ story is typical of many. But these days, young Jewish children were given a choice about going to the synagogue, when that choice didn’t exist for previous generations.

“As a next generation, I’m guilty, because I didn’t do to my children the same thing that my parents did to me,” Grossman says.

Beth Sholom had been working on youth outreach programmes to get their attendance up. But Grossman accepts that declining membership and attendance shouldn’t directly translate to a decline in Jews in Canada.

“You don’t have to be religious to be Jewish,” he says.
Why life no longer revolves around church

Sarah Wilkins-Laflamme, who teaches sociology at the University of Waterloo, has been tracking changes to Canada’s religious landscape for years. However, she subverts the question of decline: “I say, ‘Why were so many people involved with Christianity?’ rather than saying, ‘Why are so few involved now?’”

Wilkins-Laflamme says Western Christianity in Canada was not receiving an influx of new immigrants to boost their rolls, unlike Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism and Sikhism.

A societal shift was also propelling Canada toward secularization, in a world where daily life no longer “revolves around the church.”

“There’s a series of factors at play. We’re just not in the same kind of society we were at the end of the 19th century, or start of the 20th century, when a Christian church went with a set of other social factors. So you think back to the 19th century, the hub of social life was the village and in the centre of the village was a church or multiple churches,” she says.

“We’ve shifted to a different society where there are alternatives. There’s alternatives in terms of who’s providing the social services, schools, health, education and entertainment.”

The past few decades had been about “consolidating” an “unsustainable number of churches” across the country, she says.

“There were a lot of churches in downtown Toronto. A lot of those have sold and become condos or high-end restaurants. It tells you something about our society, what these places are becoming. We’re desperate for housing and we’re not desperate for places of worship.”

The lack of affiliation had been most pronounced in younger age groups, due to how people are being brought up, Wilkins-Laflamme says.

However, the religions that have remained are “so much more diverse,” she says. Questions around exclusivity to one religion will now need to be addressed, where people can report being part of more than one, “like a multi-choice answer,” she says.

“We’re currently in a society that highly values things like personal choice … where you’re finding your own way rather than relying on a religious leader or an institution,” she says.

“So will the United/ Anglican Church completely die out? Probably not there’ll be some form leftover but it’ll be quite small. They’re going to be a small minority.”