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Combating “Cults” and “Brainwashing” in the United States and Western Europe: A Comment on Richardson and Introvigne's Report

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The surge of harsh anti-cultism in parts of Europe may be generally contextualized in terms of recent spectacular violence involving new movements as well as globalization, which transplants esoteric, aggressive movements to societies with antithetical values. The notion of “brainwashing” as an anti-cult rationale was pioneered by American activists but is now more influential in continental Western Europe than in the United States due in part to the greater influence of secular humanism, the greater European tendency toward activist, paternalist government, the shock of the Solar Temple killings, American deference to religious “free exercise,” and problems of national unity and cultural assimilation in Europe that enhance distrust of what are perceived as alien spiritual imports. Nevertheless, the legal climate regarding religious movements may conceivably become less favorable in the United States. In general the “brainwashing” controversy has been characterized by pervasive confusions of fact and interpretation and of process and outcome.
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Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: [email protected]

Publication date: 2001-06-01

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