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We See What We Want to See


Note: This article is of particular importance for new members and friends, who will almost certainly be warned by friends and relatives to stay away from us.

A study of experiments done with monkeys found that monkeys in America 'behave' like Americans and monkeys in Britain 'behave' like Brits; i.e. the scientists see their own traits in the monkeys, so that different scientists interpret the very same findings differently.

Another scientist administered a test to determine whether there is a difference in intelligence between men and women. But when women scored higher than men, he simply concluded that women conform to what the tester is seeking, while men are able to see other options. In other words, his gender bias meant that women were going to 'lose' even when they 'won'.

What both of these illustrations show is that even scientists who have been trained to be objective, can easily be influenced by their own biases, so that they end up seeing what they want to see. How much more can this happen with untrained people like ourselves!

A similar phenomenon is the 'self fulfilling prophecy'. If you predict that a business is going bankrupt, and if people believe you, employees will quit and others will refuse to give credit, until eventually the business collapses. All that is necessary for the prophecy to be fulfilled is for people to believe it. Similarly, when we go looking for trouble with other people, we often find it, simply by believing that it is there.

This is what cult busters do. Cults are groups that differ radically from the mainstream of society. And cult-busters are people who believe the worst about such groups. If a cult-buster says a group has a persecution complex, strong group conformity, and hatred for anyone outside their group, just by doing this, they create a feeling within the target group that at least the person making the claims is an enemy (the start of a "persecution complex"). The more the cult busters attack, the more 'paranoid' and united the group becomes, and the more the 'prophecy' is fulfilled. As the saying goes: "Just because we're 'paranoid' doesn't mean that someone isn't persecuting us!"

An irate mother demanded that her daughter leave us and come home with her. The daughter seemed unable to decide whether she should give in or not, so one of our leaders said to the girl, "I think you should go with your mother if that is what you want to do." The mother said it was a clever trick to make the daughter feel guilty. So we changed our advice and said, "We think you should stay here." Of course the mother was upset with this too; and in both cases we were accused of 'mind control' or clever manipulation. The truth is that we felt the daughter was being manipulated by the mother and needed to stand up to her; but unless the daughter could see that herself, there was no point in us copying the dishonest techniques that the mother was using.

Any good lawyer will advise you to remain silent when questioned by the police with regard to a crime that they think you have committed. This is good advice whether you have committed the crime or not. The mere fact that the police are questioning you is evidence that they suspect you. And what they suspect they also want to prove. So they are not looking for information that will prove you are innocent; rather they are looking only for information that will confirm their suspicions.

In much the same way, it is good advice not to talk to cult-busters, clergymen, 'friends', or even relatives who show by their words and actions that all they want to do is to confirm their suspicions about you or your friends. Don't be fooled; if they aren't being constructive, the more you do to appease them, the more destructive it is likely to be in your relationship with us.

The problem, of course, is that refusing to talk also creates more suspicion. So we have to take some risks if we want to stop this vicious cycle. But it is good for us to be united in discussing exactly how far we want to bend over backwards for such people. Lindy Chamberlain is a good illustration of what can happen if a person is too trusting in these kind of situations. The police saw what they wanted to see in her and her husband, and the media found the police version of the story much more sensational than the truth, so that even judges and juries were biased by the media to the extent that they saw what they wanted to see by the time the case came to court. The same chain reaction can happen with us.

It is important for the police or the cult-busters that you keep talking about anything. Even the most innocent scrap of information might provide them with the 'lead' that they need to hang you. If you won't talk about the crime that they suspect, then they'll start up friendly conversation about meaningless trivia. But little by little it slips back into the area of inquiry. So beware!

If cult-busters want to call us names, we can't stop them. But if they want to warn our members about potential dangers, then we insist that they do so constructively. We too want to overcome any dangers that come with living communally and/or taking the teachings of Jesus literally; but we are not prepared to throw away our faith or to disband our community just to satisfy our critics.

If that bothers them, then we can only recognise them for the enemies that they are, and cease all communication. They can't have it both ways. Friends who stab us in the back are the worst sort of enemies.

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