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Hate Video: The 'Gay Atheist'

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The above still is taken from a hate video, posted on YouTube, (which has since been removed for copyright violation). The original photo of my mother, sister and I is from 2000 when we first found out our mom’s Alzheimers had caused her to lose the ability to recognize us. This painful moment for our family has now become the subject of hate by an anonymous troll.

A few days ago, this quotation popped up on my Google home page: “A wise man gets more use from his enemies than a fool from his friends,” attributed to Baltasar Gracian. And like it or not, I’ve made my share of enemies, both from my time with CUT, and now through my writing. Some such people who come to my blog either leave drive-by comments or we have a brief disagreement and that’s the last of ’em. Some email repeatedly even when asked to stop. But over the years, I’ve accumulated a few gold-plated trolls (previous post) who, for whatever reason choose to keep up the attack. And it’s not just a basic disagreement. We’re talking about wholesale character assassination. These people would (if they could) like to make sure that I am ruined in every way.

But sometimes these enemies also provide good motivation for me to refine my message and, I have to admit, sometimes I just enjoy making fun of them right back. ;-) My latest opponent (not so worthy) has been at it since 2005. And, thanks to him, I spent a lot of time refining the Wikipedia article on Elizabeth Clare Prophet.

Now, I’m pretty outspoken about the fact that my parents were most definitely not messengers of anything called the “Great White Brotherhood” as they claimed. First of all, if ‘god’ was going to appoint a band of his representatives to Earth, s/he wouldn’t name it something so reminiscent of the American Ku Klux Klan. But trying to balance my desire for truth with loyalty to my mother (yes, I may be outspoken, but I still love the human person who was my mom). I wanted her Wikipedia entry to be as factually accurate as possible. So imagine my surprise when I did a search on her in 2005 and found this poorly written diatribe:

Elizabeth Clare Prophet, one of the greatest American religious liars…ECP and her late husband Mark Prophet (original founder) were known by their numerous long “dictations” in which Ascended Masters or other deities would talk through them. A typical dictation would be something like this: “Beloved, more fallen ones and mean E.T.s are coming to earth…Did ECP go loony? Or was she loony all along?…In the late 90’s the Church fired most of their staff in Montana, being unable to pay for their food and housing (Even if their monthly salary wasn’t ever higher than 75 dollars a month, while ECP had swiss bank accounts).

[The rumors of “Swiss bank accounts” were never true. It was one of the few patently false claims made by Kenneth Paolini in his otherwise excellent (but now out-of-print) book “400 Years of Imaginary Friends.” My mom never ended up with any personal wealth beyond the substantial amount she spent on her living expenses. That plus her current health pension is all she has received from the church, ever. And that fact survived at least two extensive IRS audits over the years.]

The 2005 entry continued:

Now the sect, or whatever you wanna call it, is runned by a couple of exploiters…None of Prophet’ s sons or daughters took the rein of the church. All of them deserted, saying it was all bunch of lies, that “mommy was kinda cuckoo”, etc…Ironically, at this moment, her sons and daughters are using part of her false doctrine appealing old church members to collect money for ECP’s caring (she has advanced Alzheimer disease). It seems they want the past victims of ECP’s megalomania to pay for her health care as they paid for her diamond rings before…. Shame on them! “Mommy was so dedicated to God..and false ascended masters, but hey she was so kind with all of you….” How sweet.

At the time, I thought to myself O.K., this guy’s (we’ll call him RDF) pretty pissed off and not playing with a full deck. Probably a former staff member who’s bitter he spent too much time in the cult. A number of things he said were true, though, so when I modified the article, I tried to change it to the Wikipedia NPOV style, so the article would be more factual. For example:

This:

A typical TSL ritual would be decreeing a “rally” of 3 hours on Saturdays or even the serious “exorcism”, were you take a short machete with Archangel Michael’s name on it (sold in any TSL store near you for about $25) and move the knife around so you kill (bind or whatever) the demons or bad entities around you, and saying “The light of God never fails” (or any other facsimile decree) one thousand times at least, chanting 144 times the unending decree too the Goddess Astrea or one of TSL’s greatest hits: “Reverse the tide!!, roll them back, set us free!!!” 144 times too to help the angels catch and bind the fallen angels.

Became this:

Prophet’s primary technique for exorcism of entities was invocations to the Archangel Michael and to the Elohim known as Astrea. Prophet also drew on teachings by Helena Blavatsky that the use of a stainless steel blade could be useful in exorcisms (Isis Unveiled, vol. 1, pp. 362-63). In the late 1980s and early 1990s, Prophet was known to spend four to six hours at a time on the altar of her church at the Royal Teton Ranch, swinging a sword with a four-foot blade in her battles with the ‘discarnate entities’. The sessions took place with hundreds of people chanting at top-speed and volume for the duration. These battles went on at such length that Prophet often became physically tired. A special ‘honor guard’ of the strongest men in the community would then take their turns on the altar swinging the sword. The organization also sold short scimitar-style swords with Archangel Michael’s name engraved on them, which members could use privately for the same purpose.

The rest of the article received similar treatment. None of the true things RDF had claimed were removed, just cleaned up and factually verified by myself and others. And he never came back to try to vandalize the article, so I figured he’d been satisfied with the edits and moved on. Then in July of ’06, he found my blog post where I talked about my mom’s apology and acknowledgement of her abuses. He had this to say:

Your whole story is laced throughout with pity for your mom. Poor ECP! She DID feel sorry and she DID write letters to everyone. Wow that just makes all the shit she foisted on everyone so much easier to bear…You make it sound like ECP was just misguided and not actually evil. She knew exactly what she was doing as did you father and together they created a monster which destroyed countless lives…I for one would like to hear more about how bad she REALLY felt; especially around those same years in the late nineties, just as she was telling everyone to build bomb shelters and buys guns…

Sue me for offering an olive branch of sympathy to my ailing mother. RDF failed to understand that the whole reason I started Black Sun Journal was to talk about those types of issues, and wake people up and prevent more of them from being hurt and fooled as CUT enters its second generation. But as a humanist, atheist, and scientific naturalist, I consider all churches to be somewhere on a spectrum between fraud and entertainment. We hear about the sex scandals, the misallocation of funds, and the intrigue in mainstream churches with increasing regularity. So the abuses I saw in CUT seem kind of run-of-the-mill to me at this point, though some of them do make for some interesting anecdotes.

Another important goal of starting BSJ was to dig into my own shadow. It was also a big part of my coming to terms with my past, the mistakes I’d made, and the people I hurt. I’ve also been quite clear all along that my mother indeed believed in the work she was doing, as I did at the time. I can bear witness to the fact that she justified her methods in the name of “the greater good.” (Which is why I have such a problem with most forms of utilitarianism–but that’s a story for another post.) Believing you have a mandate from god has led to some of the worst abuses in all of history. CUT under Elizabeth Clare Prophet was no exception to that rule. It happened “in the name of God.” And like religious corruption everywhere, it couldn’t have happened (previous post) without the symbiotic support of the believers.

But RDF’s bitter streak knew no bounds, and my every attempt to be candid about the things that really happened at the Church, (there’s a lot of that type of material on BSJ) even agreeing with him, was met with more bile and vitriol. From June of ’07:

Oh Sean, when I read your story about what your mom said to you, I almost cried. More like cried out loud: what a fucking bunch of shit! Who the hell do you think you’re fooling! Even after all these years Sean the best you can do is write a blatantly emotionally manipulative piece intended only to elicit our sympathy for your mom and for yourself. Just how fucked up are you Sean? There is no medication for your kind of mental illness and that of your mom, and do you know why? Modern medicine can do nothing to cure liars, cheaters, and sociopaths like your mom and yourself. Why don’t you try writing some pieces which describe your mom’s many outrageous misuses of power? Why don’t you tell us all how you treated other staff members when you were on staff. Yes, please Sean tell us all how much of a total asshole you were and be specific; give us all the sordid details will you. I mean obviously you and your mom are truly sorry for what you have perpetrated upon the former members of this church. Obviously you and your mom truly desire to make amends. So let’s have it Sean tell it all like it was and PLEASE spare us the sob-story bullshit about your mom feeling sorry about fucking everyone over for 30+ years because no one believes you or her. So please won’t you, your lying bitch of a mom, and your whimpy spneless sisters finally tell the world the truth about how you messed up thousands of people’s lives? Oh yeah, what am I thinking, that a bunch of genetic mutants such as yourselves would even know what the truth is?! I hope you all get back a million times the suffereing you caused others through your fucking church.

What RDF has never explained in his angry outbursts is why he spent so much time in CUT in the first place. He has never taken responsibility for his vulnerability, desire for answers, and gullibility which led him to check his critical thinking skills at the door. He’s never owned up to how people like himself and other believers lent legitimacy to an organization like CUT which was promoting such patently false and outlandish fantasies.

It’s also been well over a decade since my sisters and I left the church and repudiated its teachings. Yet we’ve still become a convenient target for this latest venom. Though you’d think the above comment would have been sufficient, RDF wasn’t done by a long shot. He again tried to vandalize Wikipedia (it was quickly reverted, of course). A few days later, he sent me an email saying “…oh by the way try u-tubing your mommie;-)”

What I found was the most juvenile and pathetic hate video I’d ever seen. RDF took a couple of dozen pictures of my family pilfered from my sisters’ website, (including the one shown at the top of the article) and covered them with schoolyard insults in large red block letters. This is how I became the “gay atheist.” In one of my retorts to RDF, I remarked that it would be funny if I was actually gay, because “Gay Atheist” would make a great T-shirt.

After speaking with my sisters, we reported RDF’s video to Google as a copyright violation, and had it taken down. But I’m quite sure we haven’t heard the last from this irascible fruitcake. The fact that I agree with him, that the church was and is a fraud, doesn’t seem to temper his rage in the least. He won’t be happy until he has secured some pound of flesh. This whole episode demonstrates how truly difficult it is to put a cult experience fully behind you–whether member, leader, or the leader’s family. But at this point I’m resigned to the fact: Dealing with trolls like him goes with the territory.


Comments (28 comments)

Dennis Fisher / June 17th, 2007, 2:02 pm / #1

Sean, You have made many more friends then you know of and the nuts are in the minority.

BlackSun / June 17th, 2007, 2:32 pm / #2

Let’s hope so, Dennis :-)

Here’s another email I just got this morning:

History repeats. And those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it. The only reason anyone might care about reincarnation is to learn from the mistakes of other lives that they not be repeated.

Life is not random, but follows patterns. And you might wonder how it is that you were attracted to Black Sun when many others around you were not? Something to think about.

Your time spent at Northwestern was well spent. One of the things you learned while there is that there are such things as wrong answers. And if one wants to graduate, one must give enough right answers to complete the program. So when your instructor asks on a test, “Describe the Nyquist equations?” And you answer, I won’t because I don’t believe they exist, your instructor flunks you out of the course. This parallels your present spiritual situation. In the spiritual world, there are quite a few wrong answers. Your present course might be convenient, but it is not getting you anywhere.

I see you have managed to attract that nut-case Stephen Showers to yourself. You think that legal action is going to resolve this. But he is only a manifestation of what is going on within yourself. When you have resolved self, manifestations like Showers will disappear.

There is no peace when there is warring in the members. When the outer self is conquered there is peace. And putting one’s attention on things of darkness, leads to darkness in the soul.

So you see, true believers on one side–haters on the other. That’s what you get when you try to take the balanced, rational road.

Jeff / June 17th, 2007, 4:06 pm / #3

Sean, I’m sorry that you’re still being harassed after all these years. Thanks for sharing your interesting experiences throughout your blog. They have helped to solidify my own atheism. Years ago, I flirted with agnosticism, but now I consider agnostics to be atheists without balls. That makes me sound arrogant, but it’s honest.

And your honesty is to be commended. You could have easily tried to hide your past as a believer on this atheist blog, but in sharing it you provide further evidence of how easily humans are persuaded to believe in god in various forms. Thanks again for sharing.

Grandmahawk / June 17th, 2007, 9:27 pm / #4

Sean, I have been following BSJ with interest almost since its inception. Although I don’t always agree with your views, I defend you right to express them. And also the poor bitter blogstalker that plagues you. He certainly shows a complete lack of presonal responsibility, and is repetitive too. I think you can buy those insult books on ebay!
I am a believer, but but as long as you are faithful to your religion (athiesm :), you’re OK in my book,
Cheers from Down Under (Australia)

olly / June 18th, 2007, 8:18 am / #5

Sean — having my own fair share of internet nut job stalkers, first at Doubting the Fish, and even now at my new blog, you are handling this exactly as you should : yes, on the one hand they want to exposure, but on the other hand they also hate it when people like yourself out them in such a way so that the rest of us find them mildly amusing.

Every stalker wants to be taken seriously; laughter is the best medicine.

To comment on the Wikipedia page, have you considered asking to have it locked due to vandalism? There are quite a few pages that are like that, rather than having to re-edit it ever time.

Keep it up! :)

-olly

BlackSun / June 18th, 2007, 2:12 pm / #6

@Jeff, that’s what I’m trying to do. To some it may sound like a call for sympathy. But actually, I’m kind of volunteering myself as a case study. I’ve already been called every name in the book–so I’ve got a pretty thick skin. My main concern at this point is just to show what a trap and psychological meat grinder cults and religions are. It sometimes feels like the epitome of insanity. to paraphrase: “in a superstitious world, a reasonable man is considered unreasonable…” or something like that.

@Grandmahawk, thanks for reading. I have one semantic quibble with you. I’m not a believer at all. Atheism is a belief like bald is a hair color, (but I’m sure you’ve heard that before). I’ve posted about the tyranny of beliefs here.

@Olly, how’ve you been man! Thanks for stopping by, I think I owe you a visit! Wikipedia is not really a problem. They take care of vandalism quickly over there. It’s just funny, and it leaves a trail, which is even better. RDF’s I.P. address was the same at Wikipedia as when he left his comments on BSJ. Usually once the trolls figure this out, they are more careful the next time. But their hate and writing style always gives them away. It’s a psychological fingerprint that no amount of spoofing can erase.

Merci / June 18th, 2007, 2:22 pm / #7

No doubt part of the reason that this latest nutjob was in the Church in the first place was his total lack of ability to take responsibility for his decisions. And so it goes on! So many people say that they were “tricked” while not realizing that in seeking religion, they were asking to be tricked.

Thank you for bearing the brunt of abuse both from members and ex-members.

I think this will make you smile.

BlackSun / June 18th, 2007, 3:34 pm / #8

Merci, what UP? :-)

No problem, you’ve been at it a while too. Hey, did you know a Sarah Biggerstaff? She just wrote a comment. I think she’s having a really hard time growing up in CUT. Check it out:

http://www.blacksunjournal.com/elizabeth-clare-prophet/97_and-who-are-you_2005#comment-2540

Morgaine / June 18th, 2007, 4:01 pm / #9

Sean,

Just want to chime in with the others in support of your blog . You have been (repeatedly) courageous in your admissions of responsibility and words of regret with regard to your role in CUT. Throughout B.S.J. you’ ve been dedicated in owning responsibility and helping others learn from your mistakes and hard won insights. How anyone CAN’T see that is hard to imagine.

As you pointed out in this post, and others in comments, the anger directed at you from those like R.D.F.reflects their inability (for whatever reason) or unwillingness, to look at their own complicity in their participation in CUT. These outbursts reflect a classic victim mentality. This pattern of blaming probably shows up in other areas of their life as well. Unfortunately, in the work you are doing, it does “come with the territory.” I am glad you have been able to take it in stride.

I thoroughly agree with Olly that they are making the case worse for themselves, and that their outbursts are sadly amusing. And I know if you were gay you’d be proud to wear such a t-shirt!

Although I obviously don’t hold high hopes, what would really be an impressive reflection of maturity in character, would be if one or two of these folks could step out of the ‘poor me’ mindset long enough to open up to some genuine self reflection, realize they’ve had blinders on, accept your words for what they genuinely are and realize the fruitlessness of their maliciousness toward your brave apologies. This is not to imply that folks don’t have reason to be angry. No one has suggested that. But again, to maintain this anger at you in this way, is just a way of deflecting attention from their own responsibility. And it doesn’t imply a healthy self esteem when the finger of blame is always pointed outward.

RDF and others like you: you can choose to hold a double edged stance of your right to your anger and clarity about the wrongs done to you, while also owning the part you played in your receptivity and need for such a phenomenon as CUT. The kind of self awareness that would support such a position would behoove you and be a position of true strength. Only with brutal honesty with oneself can anyone ever hope to truly understand their motivations and protect themselves from future charlatans. Only through deep insight can you experience the self forgiveness that you need for healing. And it is clear from these outbursts that their is a part of your psyche which you have not forgiven. If you had this self forgiveness you would be able to hear Sean’s words as genuine, and accept them instead of projecting what seems to be (self hatred) all over them.

Try looking in the mirror for a while. It’s often a painful process, but it’s the only way to grow Learn what made you suceptable to the likes of CUT. That would be beneficial to know. You stand to gain self knowledge, self respect and self forgiveness as well as the respect of others if you have strength to do this. This ability for brutal self honesty is part of what we all respect in Sean.

Keep up the good work Sean! Your allies abound. I don’t hold any illusions about the likelihood of these folks taking in such advice, ( or necessarily having the capacity to) but hey, I’ve seen the most hardened people wake up. They are few and far between, but for those that do, it’s a victory for everyone.

BlackSun / June 19th, 2007, 1:08 pm / #10

Thanks Morgaine, you should be my publicist! Just joking :-)

But you always have insightful things to say! Looking forward to your next post.

Aaron Kinney / June 20th, 2007, 10:30 am / #11

What a pathetic, sad troll. True, when you have an important message and challenge the status quo of a lot of people, there will be personal attacks levied against you.

Youre a brave man, Sean. And your perserverance is admired. Fortunately, there ARE good people in the world who are here to support you. And you ARE reaching people with your message in a positive way.

These troll attacks, I think, can be used as some kind of measure of the success of your efforts. The more effective you are, the louder their screams and taunts become.

BlackSun / June 21st, 2007, 7:03 pm / #12

Thanks, Aaron. You’ve been there since the beginning, and you didn’t even grow up in CUT. Much appreciated.

Adron / June 23rd, 2007, 1:56 pm / #13

“Sean, I have been following BSJ with interest almost since its inception. Although I don’t always agree with your views, I defend you right to express them.”

DITTO!

btw – what state do you live in? You should move to PDX. You’ll be less impacted by fuel issues than anywhere else in the country. I step in my car approximately once a week to go to the race track, but that is it, it is for recreational purposes. Something that if everyone else realized cars should be limited to we in the US wouldn’t have the damnable problems we face today.

But I digress, to my point. You should move yer azz to Portland. Beautiful place, nice electric trains that are powered primarily from hydro, etc., etc. Oh yeah, did I mention the air is perty breathable too!!!! We have alittle Benzine issue because of the crappy oil we get from Alaska here but hopefully we’ll push back enough to either get the oil companies or get the city to cap the refineries up here to clean that crap up. The push has been somewhat effective so far. :)

Anyway, I’m in support of your blogging, and if I’m ever with ya anywhere I got yer back!

Keep up the good work, latz.

BlackSun / June 24th, 2007, 2:20 pm / #14

Adron,

I’m pretty dug in down in LA, got my business here, etc. But I do love the Pacific Northwest–spent a vacation there a couple of years ago. I’ll definitely let you know if I get up to Portland–drinks on me! Tell me if you get down to SoCal, OK?

if I’m ever with ya anywhere I got yer back!

back atcha! Thanks for your support.

Chris / June 26th, 2007, 12:43 pm / #15

Oh my fucking god. Dad, we have to make “GAY ATHIEST” T-shirts!!! Everyone would wear them. Gay or not. I’d wear one for damn shure! OOOO and bumperstickers.

BlackSun / June 26th, 2007, 11:38 pm / #16

Chris, if you can convince Nate to design them, then it’s a go. But I’m not promising to wear one ;-)

JLG / August 4th, 2007, 2:54 pm / #17

Sean, I’m sorry to say that RDF is not completely the person you think he is. I was the person who wrote the first wikipedia article you quote back in 2005. I have to say that when I did it, I was just having a ball. It was awfully written, because it was all improvised (you can tell). I even thought it wouldn’t last too long there. Then I saw the corrections, and I was surprised that the content of my original article was not altered. I thought, wow, this guy came here and pulled a good objective sounding article off my shitty one. I never imagined it was you.

I still think ECP was “one of America’s greatest religious liars”. But you proved you know better ways to say the same thing, without sounding so fanatical. (It did sound like that.)

I understand now why you say the the article was like full of hate, especially when you asume that this other guy who trolled over here is the same person. Well, its not. That “July 06” thing wasn’t me.

I really enjoy your website. I think you are doing a great job. I apologize if I treated this matter too lightly in that article. Thank you for editing it, and respecting the content.

I was a CUT member for 4 or 5 years. Today I’m an atheist. I also run an atheist website in Spanish… sometimes I receive hate mail too. Well, that’s part of the job, I guess.

BlackSun / August 4th, 2007, 6:26 pm / #18

Hi JLG,

Well I guess you can’t win ’em all. I thought I had him pegged. It was similar language, and then when he came back in May of ’07 to Wikipedia it was definite because he had the same I.P. address as his comments and emails.

But anyway, I’m glad to make your acquaintance, and that the mystery is solved. Thanks for your support about the blog. Please email me a link to yours, I’d like to check it out. You should also see about providing an english language feed of your blog to Planet Atheism, which is run by Pedro Timoteo in Portugal.

Cheers!

Andy from Walmart in Bozeman / August 13th, 2007, 7:58 pm / #19

I was approached by a CUT church person. I’ve never been involved but only heard about them going to school at MSU Bozeman from my friends. I worked as a Walmart cashier and enjoyed the 10 months that I did. During that time, I was cashiering a lady a lady offered me a card. It was something to do with a Violet Flame. I remember it distincly, and I think she gave it to me because I was wearing a St. Christoher medal. I wasn’t Catholic at the time nor am I now, but my personality must have shown that I looked homosexual and all that. This all happened in 1999, my first year in college. But anyways, I heard nothing but bad stuff about this church. But I hope all is well with you and I don’t say I agree, but damn, I bet you got a lot of flak for it. Take care and I’ve read your post once, I think, last year or so. You should add your link to the Wikipedia site for all to enjoy. But that’s a personal choice. I’ve had a hell of a time trying to find it again. Take care, and the CATS are by far better than the GRIZ!!

Andy from Walmart in Bozeman / August 13th, 2007, 9:07 pm / #20

Shoot, forget my spelling. I should have proofread it to begin with. ( With the above message)
I know you aren’t gay, but I am and if you don’t mind, I’ll leave this message behind…..

” ======> (*)
o]

Gay Pride all the way….

BC / October 14th, 2007, 1:01 am / #21

“…check his critical thinking skills at the door”. Well, maybe. I’d guess this guy is so angry because he considers that your mom took those skills (call it hypnosis, brainwashing or whatever). I saw her do it to a girlfriend of mine in the ’70s: her “conversion” experience was nearly instant, involved personality changes and her life was never really hers again. There’s no way to explain this except as a direct influence of E. Prophet. (She was up in MT in ’90, don’t know what became of her since.)

I understand where this guy’s coming from (although I don’t share his anger): Your mom had this power; she used it irresponsibly for 30 years, destroying many people’s lives; and now she (and you) want to blame the victims for what they suffered.

Maybe you have a hard time seeing this because you were so close to it — you grew up with her, after all. But surely you can see that your mom had more than just normal (or even excellent) persuasive powers — after all, how many people do you know that can rustle up a bunch of lifetime disciples by giving a couple of speeches? Can you? Her power was clearly coercive — the fact that not everyone was vulnerable (I wasn’t, for example) doesn’t mean that those who were deserved what happened to them.

BlackSun / October 14th, 2007, 11:13 am / #22

BC,

Clearly, I’m not defending what my parents did. In fact, you could say this entire site is an indictment of everything they stood for.

But when we see the large numbers of people who follow leaders and who seemed to be falling all over each other trying to be more submissive to the guru, we have to assign at least a portion of the blame to the followers.

As I stated in detail in this article, the followers wanted something in return for their loyalty and obedience: spiritual guarantees and a hedge against the uncertainties of life and the fear of death. They got that alright, but they got a whole lot more in the bargain.

You can’t turn someone around with “a couple of speeches” unless that person already is ripe for the picking. Unless they already have the seeds inside themselves of abject submission.

I think the lesson here is to expose these submissive tendencies so that we all become stronger human beings. Because if you place all the blame on a given charlatan, you will just be “victimized” by the next charlatan down the road.

BC / October 14th, 2007, 5:31 pm / #23

BlackSun,

I’m obviously not going to change your mind, and that’s OK with me. I would only like to point out that the arguments you set out in your response are the same justifications that all con men have been using since time immemorial: “I only could take advantage of them since they were already vain, weak, immoral, willing to break the law, etc., etc.” Always, the victim shares the blame. (Please note: I’m not accusing you of being a con man, only of defending your parents with their tired justifications.)

Anyway, lets keep a sense of proportion here: One the one hand, your folks essentially took over my friend’s life, her worldly goods, her productivity, everything — and used it up in trivial and vain pursuits for their own aggrandizement. This is a whole different scale than, say, jacking up a car repair bill by replacing parts that aren’t bad. One the other hand, her crime was to be stupid enough to believe and trust your mother. Somehow, I don’t think that, if these are placed on the scales of justice, they will balance.

Any civilization worth anything protects the weak and preserves their rights. Anyone who preys on the weak is a parasite. That’s the bottom line, and it can’t be argued away.

(And yeah: in writing this down, I realize that I do still feel some anger and I am being unecessarily blunt — but I really do admire what you are trying to do here, and I really don’t wish any of your family ill. You have a lot of stuff to work out, and I wish you well.)

BlackSun / October 14th, 2007, 7:44 pm / #24

BC,

I gave you a link to read, and I don’t think you read it. The article on “The Complicity of Members in Cultic Social Manipulation” presents an important perspective that I think you need to consider. My parents would not have had the power they had over anyone if it hadn’t been for their circle of followers. Right or wrong, these people came in and they wanted what my parents offered. Through the creation of a popular organization, my parents became authority figures, which increased their powers of persuasion. It’s like if people are standing on the street corner looking up at the sky, other people will stop and look up, even if there’s nothing to look at.

Later I can remember my mom having specific troubles in the community, because her position had become politicized. She had set up certain expectations, and no longer had the freedom to change her mind or change the way the community was run. Essentially, she relied on her power base of followers, and like any politician with a constituency, could not deviate too far from what they wanted.

I understand your frustration, but believe me, no one would have been taken advantage of if they hadn’t wanted something in return. It is greed or spiritual hunger that opens people up to this kind of thing. I don’t see what Elizabeth Clare Prophet offered as that different from other cults and cult leaders–or even larger religions for that matter.

As far as protecting the weak from their beliefs, the only way you could do this would be to take away freedom of religion. As long as people are free to believe, the gullible always will find a way to latch on to leaders who offer quick answers. I’ve spent a great deal of time speaking out against belief without evidence, and I think critical thought and self-awareness are the only antidote to falling prey to charlatans.

I have also made a point of discussing my parents abuses of power. My mom made her admission to me about ten years ago, and I printed it here (please read before responding, otherwise you won’t have the full story).

I don’t know what else people like you want from me. On one hand, the believers think I’m being too harsh on my parents and you think I’m being too soft.

It’s all about individual responsibility. I’ve taken responsibility for my part, and I’ve spoken out against my parents. So I think I’ve “worked out” everything I can. It is up to former members to take the lesson and don’t be so gullible next time.

Best wishes to you…

BC / October 15th, 2007, 4:42 pm / #25

BlackSun,

You say: “I don’t know what else people like you want from me. ”

(I hope you’re not equating me to the scum that is attacking you on the net — I think his actions are completely unjustified and despicable.)

But, just to be completely clear:

What do I want from you? Absolutely nothing. What happened occured before you were born. It has absolutely nothing to do with you. You didn’t ask to be here, and it is completely unjustified for people to blame you for your parents actions. Believe me, I’m not doing that. I admire the fact that you have this website and are trying to help people.

That said, (and I have read your links, thanks) I believe that the idea that being sophisticated (i.e., not naive) protects you from cultic manulipation is a dangerous illusion — stage hypnotists have no trouble getting folks who think this to act like fools for the entertainment of their audiences. See Derren Brown’s videos on the web for some concrete examples: (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2Sq-YUdq1OI ) It is better to learn effective defense mechanisms.

As to freedom of religion: If a stage hypnotist took advantage of his subjects (by asking them to hand over their money and credit cards and keeping them, for example), no one would have any trouble identifying this as a criminal act — even though the victims apparently acted freely at the time. Freedom of religion is the smoke screen behind which cults hide similar crimes. The few times I have observed cult recrutment in action, the parallel with hypnotism (and yes, brainwashing techniques) was clear.

It should be no suprise (and, indeed, this was the only point of my first post) that some people, when they recover from this kind of manipulation, will feel very angry. (This does not, of course, excuse them for directing their anger at innocent bystanders, or from the requirement to act in an appropriate manner.)

While the US Constitution prohibits the govenment from establishing a preferred religion, or prohibiting the free excercise of religion, it does not prevent the outlawing of crimes committed in the name of religion. It will come as no suprise to you (by now) that this is what I think that many cults are guilty of.

Best wishes to you also; and unless you have a specific question for me, I think I have said enough — some memories are best left alone.

Ulla Bulla / November 9th, 2007, 9:12 am / #26

It’s not the victims fault. Shame on you.

cj / February 20th, 2008, 5:54 pm / #27

Question: Was ECP, and church leaders, criminally responsible for conning their followers? That statement assumes that the church knowingly mislead people in order to profit, and that the followers believed they were conned and can prove damages. I’ve seen stings on TV in which so-called psychics extorted money from people who thought that burning a candle, and handing over hundreds of dollars, would in some way fix their problem. How is this different? Can anyone place this in a legal context? Not trying to be niave, but….how come no one went to jail?

BlackSun / February 24th, 2008, 3:53 pm / #28

Well, the only difference I see between a con scheme and a religion is the mind-set of the leadership. I think religious leaders first have to con themselves into thinking they’re doing something right or ethical. Then they work overtime to maintain that cognitive dissonance even when confronted with obvious evidence of their folly: that their prayers don’t work, that their advice given to parishioners is weak or flat-out harmful, that there’s no faith-healings, and that there’s no evidence of an afterlife.

Why did no one go to jail? Since you can’t get inside someone’s head to assess their motivation, there’s legal leniency in this country toward people who profess true belief.

Only when religious crimes cross over into murder do authorities usually get involved, and sometimes not even then.

Religion is the best con-game around. 85% of all people are pathetically susceptible to it, and governments are therefore reluctant to take any action. Even less so when you have a blatantly religious president such as GWB.

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