When manipulation becomes a religious instrument

The word "sect" brings to mind occultism, esotericism, magic and Satanism. However, there is a whole world of "new religious movements" that function as such, subjecting their followers to psychological and physical abuse.

Cinzia Sciuto
Cinzia Sciuto MicroMega, Italy
Source: MicroMega
When manipulation becomes a religious instrument - NewsMavens
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Why this story matters:

They do not practice occultism or cartomancy, but they treat addiction and promise paradise. They claim to free their followers from evil, offer a path to holiness in daily life, and many people looking for existential answers become involved with religious movements such as Scientology, Jehovah's Witnesses, the Children of God, Arkeon, the Pentecostals etc.

In 2006, the Italian Department of Public Security of the Ministry of the Interior established the anti-cult team (SAS), which is meant to investigate groups that commit abuses and crimes against the person (murders, gender violence , sexual violence). Their activity, however, exclusively focuses on esoteric, magical and satanic sects, while the "new religious movements" are almost always immune. Much like the Catholic world of exorcism, even if there are already many sentences against priests who abuse women during exorcisms.  And the paradox is that Aldo Buonaiuto, one of the most important Italian exorcists, is a consultant for SAS.

There are now also various associations of victims of these groups, who denounce the psychological and sometimes physical abuses they underwent.

Perversely appealing to religious freedom, these new religious movements create real "dictatorships" within communities, where those same freedoms are systematically denied.

And they do so with the paradoxical support of secular institutions who -- in the name of a misunderstood religious pluralism -- contribute to legitimizing manipulation as an instrument of persuasion, "normal" for every faith. But secularism should not mean shelter for different religious sects, but rather a guarantee of protection from any abuse, psychological or physical, which any "God" inflicts.

Details from the story:

  • While magic, esoteric and satanic sects are under investigation in almost every country, many religious movements that use similar manipulative practices are left undisturbed and their representatives often sit at institutional tables, along with exorcists.
  • Last May in Turin the FIRMA (International Festival of Religions, Music and Arts) awarded a prize to the "apostle of Christ" Naasón Joaquín García, as "promoter of human rights and religious freedom". A few days later, the same García -- leader the Luz del Mundo Church since 2014 -- was arrested by the Los Angeles police and charged for child abuse, possession of child pornography, and human trafficking.
  • In other countries -- like France, Belgium and Luxembourg -- there are specific laws that are better able to counteract this phenomenon. 
  • On May 10, an important conference was held in Turin, organized by the Center for Studies on Psychological Abuse (CeSAP), entitled "From faith to dependence: sectarian excesses and manipulation", in which witnesses escaped from abusive groups and scholars spoke about the phenomenon of mental manipulation and coercive deception in the context of new religious movements.
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