This week, we have a blog about a civil discussion I had with Jim Heller, a Canadian criminal lawyer and Trump supporter. After the release of my book, The Cult of Trump, Jim wrote me explaining that he was a Trump supporter who found my argument that Trump was a cult leader untenable and insulting. He expressed his interest in challenging my thesis but offered to do so with civility and respect.

Moreover, Jim felt that his opinion warranted extra weight given his own experience as a former cult member (a former follower of Guru Maharaji Ji, who now uses the name Prem Rawat). Jim Heller who was in the cult for ten years, after leaving spent years helping others extricate themselves from that group, deconstructing its mythos and dynamics and advocating against it. Ex-member Mike Finch wrote what I consider to be the best book about that cult, Without the Guru: How I took my life back after thirty years.

Essentially, Jim challenged me to debate the issue and record our conversation, if he read my book. We both agreed and even thought that our video might be “hugely interesting” to lots of people. We all hope that this conversation will prove to be provocative and interesting for many.

To facilitate the discussion on cult-like aspects of President Trump and his most ardent supporters, I asked David S. Ball to act as an impartial facilitator. Trained as a Moderator and Debate Chair by Better Angels, David serves as the State Coordinator for Massachusetts. Better Angels is a national, not-for-profit grassroots organization active in all 50 states which began just after the 2016 presidential election. It seeks to depolarize America by conducting workshops, debates, and alliances to find common ground, promote civility and engender respect.  David S. Ball did this as a private citizen and not as part of any organization.

From David S. Ball’s signature for Better Angels: We are not enemies, but friends. We must not be enemies. Though passion may have strained, it must not break our bonds of affection. The mystic chords of memory will yet swell the chorus of the Union, when again touched, as surely they will be, by the better angels of our nature. — Abraham Lincoln, 1861

Click here for a summary description of the stereotypical profile of destructive cults leaders that was used in chapter three of The Cult of Trump in which I compared Trump with Jim Jones, Sun Myung Moon, Hubbard, Lyndon LaRouche, and others. In email correspondence I had with Jim Heller, he told me he did think Moon, as well as Prem Rawat both, were malignant narcissists. The cult of personality surrounding religious, as well as political leaders, can be judged by the demand for absolute loyalty and obedience. Specific cult groups I discussed in Chapters Seven and Eight in The Cult of Trump book, it would be helpful to review the Influence Continuum below and my BITE model (Behavior, Information, Thought, and Emotional control) that shows concerning behaviors in authoritarian cult groups. Below is also the image I held up in the video of the destructive cult structure pyramid as well as a graphic of the Cult of Trump.

If you have not yet read the Mueller report for yourself, here is a link. The unredacted report has not yet been released. Recently, in Roger Stone’s trial where he was found guilty, information has come forward that implicates Donald Trump directly. Roger Stone was friends with Lyndon LaRouche. Check out this great web site about Lyndon LaRouche and the New American Fascism (Dennis King). Check out the lies Donald Trump has told and that have been identified. If you are interested in seeing a BBC documentary about my former cult, please watch The Emperor of the Universe. If you are interested in my work helping sex trafficking survivors, come visit For information about Opus Dei as a cult group, please see my interview with ex-member Eileen Johnson as well as the web site

Jeffrey Sharlet wrote two books about The Family and was the executive producer of the Netflix docuseries about this cult group. The New Apostolic Reformation is a group that consists of more than one thousand apostles or prophets who claim to get direct revelations from God, cast out demons, heal the sick and have “spiritual warriors” that seek to control governments and change laws. I interviewed a Bible scholar, Dr. André Gagné who was himself a pastor of one of these groups.

Used by Better Angels, the following media bias chart helps when analyzing media. The chart looks at two factors. Is the source of high quality? Original, fact-based. The opposite is true if heavy spin and/or misinformation. The other axis is partisan bias. Neutral sources occupy the middle while liberals and conservatives are found to the left and right. The ones at the bottom in red are propagandistic, misleading, fabricated information.

You can use the interactive media bias chart here.


Video Discussion

The following discussion is between Steven Hassan and Jim Heller and concerns how we view the Trump presidency and those who support him. It is facilitated by David Ball.


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Infographic: How To Free Your Loved Ones from the Cult of Trump


During the video, I went off-camera for a moment in an effort to find the religious tract below. This was given to me by a Trump true believer.

Click here for PDF download

Images from The Cult of Trump Book


Assessing Whether Organizations Exert Undue Influence

Power of Influence Structure

About The Author