The Right to Believe Anything vs. Reality-Testing
Freedom to believe is only a real freedom if you also have the freedom not to believe. Having the right to believe something carries with it a presupposition of the right to not believe it, too. When recruiters deceptively ensnare people into a closed belief system, it violates informed consent. If a person wants to believe that David Koresh is the Christ, that is his right. If people want to believe that Sun Myung Moon and Hak Ja Han are the perfect True Parents, they are entitled.
However, my religious freedom was violated when I was lied to by Moonie recruiters. They did not tell me up front who they were, what they believed, and what would happen to me if I came to dinner and, eventually, a workshop. If they had told me that they believed the Holocaust was necessary because the Jews did not accept Jesus as their Messiah, I would have been insulted and told them to “get lost.” Yet, when I asked them if they were involved in a religious group, they smiled and told me, “not at all.” In a free society, people are free to believe whatever they like, but at the same time, they should be protected from undue influence processes that make them believe something and prevent them from re-evaluating their beliefs.
Illusion of Choice vs. Actual Choice
As we have seen, cult mind control makes it seem as though members are exercising their own free will, but this is only the illusion of choice. When people in a controlled environment are subjected to psycho-social influences—like group conformity or behavior modification techniques—they can be manipulated and indoctrinated into accepting a completely different belief system. Social psychologists have conducted experiments that graphically demonstrated how a person’s beliefs can become extremely pliable under the right set of social circumstances. Because cult mind control techniques are more sophisticated and invasive than the methods used in these studies, cult indoctrination is even more effective in suppressing a person’s free will.
If a person insists that he has freely chosen his beliefs, especially if they are contradictory to his previous beliefs, then he should be willing to engage in an in-depth questioning, to demonstrate that he was making his own decision when he adopted his new beliefs. For anyone born into a belief system, religious, political or otherwise, there always comes a time in that person’s maturation into adulthood when he should be able to question his beliefs and challenge assumptions these beliefs are founded upon. This is more than just a one-time process. It should be done by all of us, as we mature into responsible people. When family and friends are asked to participate in a two-day preparation meeting to learn more about undue influence (meet with former members and an expert of the concerning group or relationship) and consider engaging in constructive interactions, it is morally defensible. The goal of the effort is indeed an ethical influence campaign aimed at “empowering the person to think for themselves and make their own opinions.” If the individual later decides they wish to remain in the group, it is their right and will be respected. The family and friends will be reassured that they did the correct thing by giving the person an opportunity to reevaluate by learning the specifics of how mind control groups operate, along with the beliefs and actions of their group’s leadership.
Universal Declaration of Human Rights