4 ways a cult got me to stop thinking critically

Right before I graduated from college in 1981 I was looking forward to moving on and out into the world but had many uncertainties about relationships.  My roommate who was also my best friend most likely had a psychotic break and dropped out of school right before Christmas of her senior year.  I was left with a decision to make about whether I wanted to stay in the fog I experienced with her or move on to do something with my life.  I later learned that such experiences with human relationship are to be expected at this age.  I was  studying human growth and development and learned about the stage of development between ages 18-20 called  intimacy vs isolation.

Occurring in young adulthood (ages 18 to 40 yrs), we begin to share ourselves more intimately with others. We explore relationships leading toward longer-term commitments with someone other than a family member.

Successful completion of this stage can result in happy relationships and a sense of commitment, safety, and care within a relationship. Avoiding intimacy, fearing commitment and relationships can lead to isolation, loneliness, and sometimes depression. Success in this stage will lead to the virtue of love.

I also learned that  the average age for cult affiliation is 25.

People may get involved with cults at any age. ICSA’s research has found that the average age of affiliation is about 25 years old, although some people become involved as children while others join as senior citizens. (For more information, see  Prevalence and Research.)

I want to discuss 4 specific ways this group convinced me, a 21-year-old college graduate to follow a leader without question.  These 4 ways were recently discussed in a video by Lee Stranahan explaining how headlines, language, repetition, and omission work to trick you!  

These same four methods worked on me as I took a class called Power for Abundant by Victor Paul Wierwille.  I was not totally convinced to give everything at the completion of this class, but was well on my way to full surrender as I had already dropped out of my commitment to go to graduate school and signed up for a one year commitment of moving to another town where I would spend the majority of my time convincing others this was the class for them too.

The first specific thing that grabbed me was the title of the Class.    Power for Abundant Living perfectly describes what my goal was.  There couldn’t have been a better headline (#1) for me!  I wanted to be able to move on from a tough senior year and be able to figure out a purpose in my life.

Before this class could start there had to be a certain number registered but I was hungry to learn.  I read the collateral material given out for the class and was thrilled with the straight forward language used.  I was showed various specific ways the church had lied to me and not been true to the accuracy available in the Bible.  I learned that the Trinity is a lie as it is not in the Bible, abortion is not a problem as a baby is not alive until it breathes, and that there were 4 crucified with Jesus instead of 2! (Language is #2).  This class had 12 nights of lectures with each night lasting about 3 hours.  Every night a new truth would come up and we would remember another great truth that no church knew as they were not studying the Bible right as we were.  This class was later replaced in the 90’s by another one and more “truth” was learned.  Homosexuality was the original sin!  Of course this was not a surprise to me because I had already heard graphic illustrations in a leadership meeting describing homosexual sex in very disgusting terms.

Back to the length of this class, it was long!  There were an average of 6 segments in each class each lasting about 30 minutes.  I don’t remember many of the details and how they were documented in the Bible but I do know there was a lot of repetition (#3)  of the “important facts“ and when I was fresh many scriptures were shown then later in the evening other thoughts about the scripture were brought up without full factual analysis and we all believed it!  So while this class took a long time, important facts were omitted (#4) if they did not fully back up the principle being taught that evening.