Brainwashing or Conversion?

How tools to manipulate self are inherent to conversion.

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I recently read a blog where a woman was asking the audience if she should join Islam, the religion of her boyfriend of six years—his family didn’t know she was an infidel, and they were scheduled to meet the parents in a few weeks. Should she join with the Muslim faith to appease her boyfriend? I reviewed these steps to religious conversion after posting my reply.

In no precise order, and often overlapping:

1. New Identity—Although not always mandatory, a name change is required if her given name was an affront to Islam (Christina) It is common in many religions to assume a new name after conversion. Catholics, muslims, mormon, Hindus, and more. If no new name is officially or ritually given, aligning with the group is done voluntarily. Christian, Catholic, Muslim, Mormon, etc. Giving up your old identity and assuming a new, is just part of the program.

2. Guilt—You are bad. You are born a fallen sinner. Your sin is so grievous in fact, is as though your sin is driving the nails in Jesus’ hands and feet. As a sinner you are eternally separated from the presence of god. Your body is a temple that you have defiled with the ways of the world. You continue to make the lord suffer by your disobedience. He loves you.

3. Self-betrayal—Agree with me that you are bad. Once the prospect agrees that they are worthless without god, they can begin to see their own dilemma before the lord—not a highly evolved organism, but a child of god. Don’t you know what you are? You want to come from monkeys?

4. Breaking point—I am a sinner. I am not a good person nor could I possibly live a peaceful life knowing I am worthless. I need to be saved.

5. Leniency—You can be forgiven of all your sins if you simply believe, confess your sins, repent and be baptized. You want to be forgiven, don’t you? You want to return to god.

6. Compulsion to confess—Confess your sins, often to a clergy member, or authority. I am a sinner lord.

7. Channeling of guilt—the investigators guilt has lost all meaning—he’s not sure what he has done wrong, he just knows he is wrong. Things he didn’t know were wrong, are now wrong. This confusion creates something of a blank slate that lets the teacher fill in the blanks.

8. Releasing of guiltIt’s not me; it’s my beliefs. The embattled soul is relieved to learn there is an external cause of his wrongness, that it is not he himself that is inescapably bad—he was born this way because of the act of another. This means he can escape his wrongness by escaping the wrong belief system, or lack of one. All he has to do is denounce the people and institutions associated with that belief system, and he won’t suffer guilt anymore. The investigator has the power to release himself from wrongness by abandoning his old belief system. With his full confessions, the convert has completed his psychological rejection of his former identity. It is now up to the teacher to offer the prospect a new one. Scapgoating…placing your burdens on another to make you whole. Relief and salvation. I am saved, and I will now be a faithful follower.

9. Progress and harmony—Friendships and alliances form. New family, friends, phrases, I belong here. This is good. Backslapping, hugs and joy. You’re in!

10. Final confession and rebirthI choose good. Contrasting the agony of the old with the peacefulness of the new, the convert chooses the new identity, clinging to it like a life preserver. He rejects his old or non-belief system and pledges allegiance to the new one that is going to make his life better. At this final stage, there are often rituals or ceremonies to induct the converted target into his new community. This stage has been described by some brainwashing victims as a feeling of “rebirth.”

You may have guessed by now, but these are not conversion tactics listed in the numbered headings, but brainwashing techniques discovered by Robert J Lifton used on POWs in N Korean and Chinese camps. Conversion merely follows the same steps.

Here is one version of the sinners prayer. Don’t worry, I’m not fooling you into salvation…but it contains the elements.

Dear God, I know that I am a sinner and there is nothing that I can do to save myself. I confess my complete helplessness to forgive my own sin or to work my way to heaven. At this moment I trust Christ alone as the One who bore my sin when He died on the cross. I believe that He did all that will ever be necessary for me to stand in your holy presence. I thank you that Christ was raised from the dead as a guarantee of my own resurrection. As best as I can, I now transfer my trust to Him. I am grateful that He has promised to receive me despite my many sins and failures. Father, I take you at your word. I thank you that I can face death now that you are my Savior. Thank you for the assurance that you will walk with me through the deep valley. Thank you for hearing this prayer. In Jesus’ Name. Amen.

Author: jim-

One minute info blogs breaking the faith trap.

69 thoughts on “Brainwashing or Conversion?”

  1. This personally resonates with me quite a bit Jim. Without going into all the various factors involved, my ex-wife and mother of my 2 kids, was and still is a staunch Evangy-Fundy Christian, a preacher’s/missionary’s daughter of 5-generations, and is now a full-time staff member of The Ark Church in Conroe, TX — a split-off church of Joel Osteen’s Lakewood Church in the very wealthy area of Montrose, Westheimer, and Rice University of west Houston — when she married me, a publicly proclaimed 3-year Christian deconvert. Why did we marry each other in 1998? Well, that is a FASCINATING question. Hahahaha! 😆 Probably too long to go into here.

    But in hindsight I think she felt/thought she might be able to lure me back into “the fold” if I’m honest, reconvert me so to speak. It never happened. But what was critically important to me was being at least a good/great FULL-TIME Father to my kids. This had always been a major, paramount ideal/belief in my families, especially my paternal family — all of which were phenomenal fathers/husbands. In the end, and after only 4-years of marriage, the Evangy-Fundy Christian woman/wife divorced me. HAH!!! Riddle me that one. 😉

    The moral of my story?

    It’s (very?) unlikely an already opposed, polarized(?), and foundationally different of family and life backgrounds can happily workout in the long-term IF both spouses remain true to themselves and their personal convictions. And yes, SADLY that includes opposed and closed-off (religious) ideologies that literally have no factual or historical basis in truth. 😦

    Liked by 5 people

    1. I think it a disaster waiting to happen, as you have astutely pointed out. 4 years cost you twenty, and one day… I have an ex that went the opposite way. 3 kids into it and she decided to go back to her partying ways and boyfriends, hardcore alcohol and drug abuse, 5 kids with three different husbands—and of course she got the kids $$. She made a lot of peoples lives a living hell for 30 years, then she made a turn around. 3 years ago she found god, and she carries on like nothing ever happened. No apologies, nothing. She’s been forgiven by a third party that has no stake in it. I forgive her too, but the way it plays out in religion, is the real victims get to keep struggling while the believer goes on their way with support from YOU, and unaccountable. Ridiculous. I’m sure your ex is just fine with all the torture she has inflicted—because in her mind she’s forgiven, but really it’s a cop out on accountability.

      Liked by 3 people

      1. Yes. Not just “a cop out on accountability” Jim, but further cop outs after the first cop out — this sort of Christian “theology” is mind-numbing — when my then 11-12 yr old daughter (2-yrs after the divorce) suddenly tells me out of the clear blue one weekend, “Dad, the divorce of you and Mom was a very good thing for everybody.” When she shocked me with that I felt like there was no more oxygen in the air to breathe! 😦 I took a brief moment to gather myself, not sure if she noticed my dismay, and realized for MANY reasons I should not respond with any words. So I didn’t.

        Apparently God, via the blood of Christ, offers and gives unaccountability cop outs ad infinitum and therefore also means a “story-line” that suits best the image of the True Believer ™ . Another form of endless Whack-a-Mole I think. 🥴

        Liked by 2 people

        1. Whack-a-Mole always gets an lol! Sorry that happened to you. I was reading about this very thing today, how children are brainwashed by hintive parents and suggestions. It goes a lot deeper than that though. Pretty sure she didn’t make that up on her own. But repeated suggestions become familiar, then become ingrained as truth. Another example of how repeated exposure to anything can skew reality.

          Liked by 2 people

          1. It reminds me too of all the widespread pedophilia and bilateral gender abuses of the Catholic Church as well as many Protestant pastors/ministers: indefinite unaccountability. And those are just the REPORTED cases!

            Liked by 3 people

            1. Absolución is a crime against humanity. And in my own personal experience, it hasn’t made anyone a better person, just relieved the symptoms they created.

              Liked by 3 people

  2. Hello Jim. As I understand the post, religious groups ( cults all of them ) would rather you pretend to be a false version of yourself. They would rather you pretend to be someone you’re not in favor of honoring their doctrines. They would rather you be anything promoting them than really doing the work of making yourself a better person. Granted there are some people who really need to work on improving themselves, and I think most of us do try to be better people today than we were yesterday, but we are being ourselves, not a plastic manikin for showing the exterior dressings, hiding the true inner self. So I guess you could call religions the original “fake news” ? Be well. Hugs

    Liked by 3 people

    1. I guess you just summed up Alan Watts meme very well. The truth is, you can do it better in your own, we’re just indoctrinated with doubt and convinced we’re evil beings. I haven’t committed any crimes. I can chart my own path.

      Liked by 2 people

    1. I was told yesterday I have sin in my life and need Jesus. I told the caller he was pretty ballsy to accuse me. He doesn’t even know me. Then he went in to deprecate himself as a shiny example and “first in line” as a sinner. Suppressive my ass! 🎯hehe

      Liked by 3 people

    1. Whether intended or not, it has evolved into this. Jonathon Edwards stumbled upon this in the 19th century and others have coat-tailed off it ever since. Before that they just used a sword.

      Liked by 3 people

  3. Without brainwashing, books like the Bible would remain just books. The information contained within would be used for entertainment purposes only. But with a little coercion and some twisting of truth, books can transform your life and get you to believe in magic. So many people who have been convinced (brainwashed) that the Bible is true have bought the stories told by gifted storytellers. Most don’t take the time to verify the information and look for evidence to back up the stories. When a storyteller is convincing, that’s usually all the evidence that is required for the story to be true. When you trust your source of “truth” you don’t need to dig deeper and look for errors. That’s what got me believing so many years ago.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. I agree. We’re on the same wave length. Been about a year for me as well. Some of it is a little broad, but he seemed to easily put into words what had my brain tongue tied.

      Liked by 2 people

    1. I’m not sure. The comments went to moderation, then published for a short time. There were many other comments as well, but she never responded. Regardless of the religion, I told her she should never compromise her true identity. The number one thing hospice patients say they regret, is they lived life on someone else’s terms, basically behind a mask or facade to please others. Converting to Islam for the family? She had no idea what she was signing in to

      Liked by 4 people

      1. You never know how far the ripples of a single act of kindness will flow and reverberate. That said, on behalf of the entire human race, thank you for taking the time and energy to help another human being to be, above all, true to her/himself. Alas, as your work with hospice patients teaches, most people learn the lesson too late… the ULTIMATE existential regret and pain imaginable. I know… I experienced it myself thirteen years ago…. one of the best things that ever happened to me. Thanks and peace, brother.

        Liked by 3 people

  4. In separating the forcefulness, manipulation, politics and poison out from religion, it’s possible to reconsider God as life in the process of creation, of which we are all a part. I see religions as often crude ways of trying to convince us into the fold, often through fear. I see ‘sin’ as our departure from an authentic alignment with life in a moral way, and sin a departure from the truth of our Being as a manifestation of that bigger, wider life.

    From this position, it’s possible to read religions attempts to convince us to return to God, and the crude way in which it tries to do this: ways that can often turn us away from God. It doesn’t help us to understand God and life in existential terms, but in mundane terms. And its methods are an appeal to us to conform to a set of man-made rules that are terribly politicised. This is the reason I haven’t found a religion that convinces me yet. But yet I have faith in God and do my best to do what is right. I fail, I feel bad for a little bit, and the feeling bad can help me try to be more faithful to the life I am a part of.

    In concrete terms it’s about things like trying to treat people fairly, avoiding cruelty, seeing the futility of revenge, doing my best to be kind without being a doormat, trying to keep a check on my ego because it’ll take me to unhelpful places, trying to address social injustices, trying to help people find an authentic way through the work I do. These are all in some alignment with Christian morality without my joining a church. I see truth in the things Jesus is alleged to have said, without calling myself a Christian.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I agree with a lot of this. The key point would be we have the ability to find our own way. There are many sources of morality, but obvious through everyone’s tendency to choose the best parts is proof we got this without a religion.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. The point I would add is whether the system or list of morals helps us align ourselves to a good and honest relationship with ‘God as life being created’ or whether it simply serves our own self-interest at the expense of others. That’s where moral nihilism (making right and wrong up as we go along to suit our individual needs) falls down in my view, and turns away from cooperation for the good of all, towards competition and dog-eat-dog and the fragmented world we live in now.

        Liked by 2 people

        1. But if we didn’t make it up as we went along we’d still be in Old Testament morality. Man has trumped gods morality at every turn. Religion is constantly dead weight, fighting every moral advance and equality. Mostly over sex which is strongly coded as the basis for Christian morality. Even today.

          Liked by 4 people

          1. I would question whether ‘God’s morality’ is the same as ‘Old Testament morality’ or ‘religious morality’. For me, they aren’t necessarily the same. It would be good at some point to actually have a discussion about what we think is right and wrong…

            Do you think it’s possible for everyone to live peacefully and cooperatively within a morally relative culture where everyone has their own idea of right and wrong (bearing in mind that many people only see right and wrong in terms of whether it gets them what they want)?

            Liked by 2 people

            1. Sure. Through consensus we already have secular laws that out-perform any religion. It’s not hard to see that historically either. Religion has forced its way-in dismantling equilibrium, using realigning to divide whole continents. They were however, expert at gathering people together to unite. Unions gave workers rights, not religion. The world currently is the safest time that we can recall to be alive, and it’s less religious, not more. Interestingly little tidbit…the US prison population is between .1 and .3% atheist. Think about that. Godless people are self empowered with personal responsibility.

              Liked by 3 people

            2. I think it’s the misuse of religion that has caused the pain and suffering in the world. Most religious teachings that I’m aware of (with some exceptions) teach about love and peace, not hate and war. I’ve met decent people who were religious and not so decent people who were religious. Same with non-religious people. But the misuse of religion is another matter, and that’s what most people have a problem with I think. In any case, I would defend religion other than to say that it brings a lot of people comfort and peace in troubled times, and to that extent I wish those people well, whether in prison or not. the church is another matter. And God another matter still. All three don’t necessarily connect with one another.

              Liked by 1 person

            3. I’ll try to put some words together to capture what God is in my humble understanding Jim. Will get back to you at some point. In the meantime, religion goes in one box (think of it as a political ideology that can sound great but ruin the lives of many when misused. It can be great I guess when used wisely), the church goes in another box (think of that as a political party) and then God is separate from all of it. Religion is supposed to help us love God and it ends up being used to divide us because of those who misuse it. Just like a hammer can be used to build a house or to kill someone.

              Liked by 2 people

            4. Stephen, I’m about half-way through your “novel” — and while I think you are an above-average writer, the length of your discourse (for me anyway) is a turnoff. Having said that, I do plan to go back, as time allows, and finish since I find the contents quite interesting.

              Question … why no place for comments?

              Liked by 2 people

            1. Do include other species and do exclude vestigial, intransigent and/or recalcitrant speciesism of any sort, Jim! We need panspecies and interspecies LOVE, and you can only convince such a special entity (and specimen) like SoundEagle that you have finally been able to rid yourself of your human mantra of speciesism once you have fully read, understood and commented at https://soundeagle.wordpress.com/2013/07/13/soundeagle-in-debating-animal-artistry-and-musicality/

              Liked by 2 people

            2. I really like the idea of the biomusic. I just love that post! It keeps crashing my iPad, lol. Have you heard the crickets chirping slowed down clip? It sounds like a symphony. I’ll try again to leave a comment over there. I need a computer! My daughter is doing homework on it…

              Liked by 2 people

            3. Yes, I did mention that many of my websites require decent computing power and screen size as afforded by desktop or laptop computers. The said post actually ventures far beyond whatever its title may suggest or mean to any reader, especially in the very long “Conclusions” section. Please note the ISEA Model that I have devised to analyse and describe the Instrumental, Spiritual, Pro-Environment and Pro-Animal/Plant perspectives.

              There is even a poll for you to vote on. May you enjoy reading the post and leaving your most superior comment there, all the better if you were to find your eureka moment or earth-shattering epiphany!

              Liked by 2 people

            4. I’m tryin’ man! My daughter has been doin all her college apps and essays. Upward Bound essays for two kids. I can’t open it on the tablet. I was able to get through it and like a couple comments, but whenever I get halfway through it crashes. I haven’t forgotten

              Liked by 1 person

  5. What happens is that people are already conditioned to believe in certain things through the culture. In AA and other 12 Step programs, it is assumed that even atheists will obtain a Higher Power to help them. I have been to meetings years ago and saw this go on. One could have the group be the Higher Power, etc. The point was that everyone needed a God. AA and Chinese indoctrination programs under Mao have the same source – Frank Buchman, a missionary to China. He founded the Oxford Group that Wilson and others attended.

    Quotes from Wikipedia article:
    “The Oxford Group is a Christian revolution for remaking the world. The root problems in the world today are dishonesty, selfishness and fear – in men and, consequently, in nations. These evils multiplied result in divorce, crime, unemployment, recurrent depression and war. How can we hope for peace within a nation, or between nations, when we have conflict in countless homes? Spiritual recovery must precede economic recovery. Political or social solutions that do not deal with these root problems are inadequate.”

    In order to “remake the world”, people had to change:
    “Everybody wants to see the other fellow changed. Every nation wants to see the other nation changed. But everybody is waiting for the other fellow to begin. The Oxford Group is convinced that if you want an answer for the world today, the best place to start with is with yourself. This is the first and fundamental need.”

    This follows your list of conversion. The group aids in convincing the person that they want what the group has. It will solve your problems….. whether you want your boyfriend’s family to accept you or stop drinking….. The answer is here!

    Liked by 4 people

  6. Holy shit! No other comments. I gotta say somethin’. This post brings to mind something I’m working on. The cleverness of those doing the laundry in mind control is amazing (captive audience helps). My POW training can now be looked at so differently. I never thought of the parallels. As far as the title of this post, the answer is YES.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. I got this idea from Victoria a few years back. She listed several items and I thought it was an expose’ on my church. Really! Then I saw the sources and I just had to chuckle. The techniques are literally a mirror image—with love, of course.

      Liked by 3 people

      1. Jim, thank you for posting this information. That post I made still gets heavy traffic, daily, and I am glad it does as this info should be disseminated as much as possible (IMO), especially because, as you mentioned, the techniques are literally a mirror image. The scriptures I posted along-side of each technique mentioned above bear witness. to this fact.

        Liked by 4 people

      2. When I think about it (trying not to get too biblical), when I look back to ‘then’ and how I felt after saying ‘I am atheist,’ it was like scales fell from more than my eyes. I can’t say that I no longer carry a burden of being brainwashed, but the relief of seeing the brave new real world for the first is hard to describe.

        Liked by 3 people

        1. It happened to me in a day! What’s interesting though is the case is not dismissed with prejudice. If in the realm of slim possibility, new or real evidence were considered, I’d give it a look. After 2000 years though, I’m no longer holding my breath.

          Liked by 3 people

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