“Holy Smoke, I’ve been blasted into belief!” Or: Deprogramming the Indoctrinated

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I was watching a movie the other night called “Holy Smoke”. A young Australian woman (Kate Winslet) travels to India with a friend. Ruth (notice the nice OT name?) attends a religious ceremony, becomes enthralled with the spirituality, and decides to stay with the guru in a “spiritual marriage”.  Alerted by the friend, her good Christian mother contacts an Australian anti-cult psychotherapist. Ruth’s mother travels to India where she psychologically blackmails her daughter to follow her home. Back in Australia, the girl is taken to a remote farm where a hired “deprogrammer”, Harvey Keitel, waits to begin “exit counseling”, as he calls it.

Naturally, this got me thinking: where had she been programmed? She traveled to India with a friend as a holiday, and chose to attend the service. At the age of 20, she knowingly studied this religion and chose to become an initiate.

But I actually know where she got programmed. It is the same with all monotheisms. Within days of her birth, without her knowledge or consent, a child will undergo indoctrination; the specifics will only change according to the religion.

With Christian sects, the rituals vary. In Catholicism, naming and christening follow within a few days after birth. While most Protestant sects postpone baptism, the baby dedication is a challenge to parents and grandparents to raise the child to serve God. God parents are appointed, certificates accompany the naming ceremony, bibles are often placed in the hand of the child, crosses, prayer books, etc.

With Judaism, naming ceremonies and ritual baths are also prevalent. Jewish boys undergo a brit milah (covenantal circumcision ceremony) on the eighth day after birth, or a brit bat (covenant ceremony for girls) where they are named. These “welcoming acts” involve scripture readings, prayers, songs, etc. and may include candle lighting, footwashing, or being wrapped in a tallit as part of the rituals.

In Islam, immediately after the new-born baby is bathed, the Adhan is recited in the right ear of the baby, and the Iqamah in the left ear. Shortly after, the sunnah is fulfilled: a date or some other sweet is applied to the child’s palate. While this is done so that the child may easily suck milk from the breast of its mother, a “pious and God-fearing scholar or a venerable saint may be invited to do Tahneek”; thus, it is a religious ceremony. The hair on the head of the new-born must be shaved (Aqeeqah) on the seventh day. The child is then named, and then comes the sacrifice: two goats on behalf of a boy and one goat for a girl, or their equivalent. Some Muslims believe that circumcision is obligatory, others that it is a sunnah.

In all cases, throughout their infancy the children are taken to the church, synagogue or mosque constantly where they are subjected to prayers, religious music, sermons, and the teachings of whatever holy book is used by that religion. There are more ceremonies as they get older. The dangers of lack of faith or other “evils” are carefully described to them.

What would any of these religions think of some professional “deprogrammer” kidnapping and psychologically badgering their children out of the indoctrinations they had to undergo from the first day of their lives? In the movie (and in real life), Ruth chose to adopt the religious beliefs of the Indian guru out of the full consciousness of an adult. Do they ever consider the irony–or hypocrisy–of their actions?

Therefore, which of these groups are really the brainwashers and coercers? Which of these groups are really dangerous to the mental health of young children?

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2 Responses to ““Holy Smoke, I’ve been blasted into belief!” Or: Deprogramming the Indoctrinated”

  1. Larry Says:

    Interesting. There are case studies of hypnosis (yes, hypnosis) being used to, in the real world, successfully deconvert people. Not sure what I think of the morality of that, but it goes to show that beliefs are NOT fixed. They are a fragment of our cognizance.

    • Don Maker Says:

      Absolutely. Our “truths” can change very quickly depending on the stimulus and the strength of our original convictions. That’s why I think it takes most people who’ve been raised in theism a long time to “deprogram” themselves.

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