I have always loved to read. Growing up, I would read any opportunity that I could. I would devour books and visit the library at least 2 or 3 times a month, lugging home around 10-15 books each time. Things changed after my parents joined a religious cult.
This cult, in essence banned the reading of anything that was not published by their publishing branch. While they didn’t EXPLICITLY say that you couldn’t read something, you were seen as “less dedicated” which was the worst way to be seen in an organization like this. Anything that was explicitly against them was forbidden. They allowed for no criticism and anything that disagreed with their teachings was off limits. Some examples are evolution, LGBT rights, the Big Bang, the practice of blood transfusions, associating with those outside the organization and many more. It mattered greatly what you thought on the issues. You were supposed to unquestioningly accept what you were given by “the organization.” You could not question beliefs or ask questions that made it seem like you had doubt.
Once I was out and did some research I came across a model developed by Steven Hassan, a researcher who studies the effects of coercive control, called the BITE Model. Each letter stands for a different aspect of control, B for Behavior, I for Information, T for Thought, and E for Emotional control. All of these work in tandem with one another, but I’m going to focus on the I, or information control. If you would like to read up on the other methods of control please visit Steven Hassan’s site here.
Cults don’t want their members to have access to outside sources, whether this be literature, movies, TV shows, and magazines etc because they don’t want their members to be able to find out the truth about the lies they are telling them. This unsurprising-ly works to keep members inline and unquestioning.
I was 7 or 8 years old when my parents had joined the cult, so I followed the rules. I limited reading about the things I loved: magic, fantasy, LGBTQ+ rep, and scientific topics. From then on, I lost my love of reading. I wasn’t reading as much and I was incredibly unhappy. I would feel immense guilt if I read a book that had any of these topics covered. It wasn’t until at least a decade later that I stumbled across this book:
This book was instrumental in changing my life. Carl Sagan was a scientists in the 1960s and 1970s who changed the way that the public viewed science. He was the Neil Degrasse Tyson of the 60s-90s. He had a love of science and was passionate about teaching others. This particular book, as titled, was about breaking the debunked fallacies of the past, witchcraft, UFOs, faith healing, demons, and many more. It stepped you through all of these different fallacies and critically analyzed them and why exactly they were debunked.
This made me question everything. This made me critically analyze every single thing I had been told and taught. I found many things to be lacking. After that, I found my love for reading again. I began reading voraciously again. I would question and critically analyze everything, and to this day I still do. I try to read widely… mostly science fiction and fantasy, but I also love to read books about science and the world around us. For so long I was raised to believe half-truths and outright lies. It was not all for naught because it has made me a skeptic who analyzes things in a scientific manner. I couldn’t live any other day.
Have a wonderful day and remember to keep reading!