Is it Easier to Escape a Cult, QAnon, Religion, or a Freethinker’s Convention?

Is it Easier to Escape a Cult, QAnon, Religion, or a Freethinker’s Convention? November 4, 2021

Which is Easier? Escaping a cult, QAnon, religion, or a freethinker’s Convention? I don’t have an answer to this question, but I thought it would be an interesting thought experiment.

Just off the cuff, I’d say it’s easier to leave a freethinker’s convention. Just head towards the exit.

Escaping the cult QAnon is undoubtably the most difficult. It’s a movement comprised of many psychologically manipulative components. It possesses elements of fascism; an idolization of political figureheads, an appetite for violence and lawlessness; a loose connection to Christianity; and a complete disdain for factual truth. . / Image by Jordy Meow from Pixabay

As for the other three choices, there is no easy method of escape. This is because cults, QAnon and religions all hold people psychologically captive to following a systemized way to live. Freethinkers, on the other hand, have no interest in being held captive. Instead, freethinkers are captivated by the freedom to think with an open mind.

The question is also hard to answer because every religion and cult is different. Cults and their leaders can be incredibly psychologically addictive, while religions can be as benign as the local non-denominational church.

So far, QAnon is proving itself to be an extraordinarily tough cult for people to escape. I classify QAnon as a cult, but it’s a movement comprised of many psychologically manipulative components. It possesses elements of fascism; an idolization of political figureheads, an appetite for violence and lawlessness; a loose connection to Christianity; and a complete disdain for factual truth.

If you are trying to escape the QAnon cult, there are many resources to help like this link.

Is it easy to escape atheism?

To be fair we should add atheism to our query. Is it easy to escape being an atheist? You can put me down for a definite “that depends.”

For individuals who fought long and hard to escape their previous religions and consequently became atheists, I’d say probably not. Once a person understands the value of preserving a free and open mind, they will not want to go back to being forced to follow a systemized way of thinking.

For others who grew up as an atheist I can see the attraction to joining a religion. Atheists don’t have a set of teachings to follow or official churches where members can enjoy each other’s company. So, having a social network to participate in is one reason an atheist might join a church.

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About Scott R Stahlecker
Scott Stahlecker is a former minister, a member of the Clergy Project, and writes for Thinkadelics about the joys and benefits of living as a freethinker. He is the author of the novel Blind Guides, Picking Wings Off Butterflies and How to Escape Religion Guilt Free. You can read more about the author here.

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84 responses to “Is it Easier to Escape a Cult, QAnon, Religion, or a Freethinker’s Convention?”

  1. Just one slight quibble for you: where I live, non-denominational churches are typically cults led by one charismatic (but not necessarily educated in the bible) pastor. It’s not just the little storefront stripmall places with 20 followers, either. Many of the megachurches around me are like this, too.

    As for atheists in churches, the Unitarian Universalist churches around me are openly accepting of atheists, pagans, and others. I went to one for awhile before I moved to a place where the nearest UU church is more than I care to drive to on a Sunday.

  2. Actually, atheism isn’t something one would have to escape. One would just decide to leave and the other atheists of the group would not coerce that person into staying. Rather, most of them would probably wish the person well. Ostracizing people for thinking outside the box has always been a religious thing, primarily among conservative and reactionary religionists.

  3. The megachurches do have a lot of influence, and many of those are non-denominational…I mean, you can tell they’re some kind of Protestant spinoff, but it’s not obvious which spinoff they evolved from. If you ask, they invariably tell you they are “the one and only church that follows the Bible.”

  4. I agree because I’m an atheist. But Christians sometimes think of atheism as a belief system. When I was a Christian I thought of atheism as though it was something akin to satanism.

  5. There were a few denominations that started in the 1800s and are still running on the marketing platform that they represent the one and only true church. The Church of Later Day Saints, and my old church the Seventh-day Adventists are among them. The Mormons put their slogan in their name. Adventists believe they are the “remnant of God’s people” on earth.

    I suppose believers feel that making this claim gives them more credibility in dismissing the relevance of other religions, churches and denominations.

    I’d like to be around in 10,000 years to see how these churches tweak their slogans.

  6. Scott, the whackadoodle sects also consider themselves “the only ones who follow the Bible”. It’s been my experience that whenever a friend joins one of the megachurches in my area, they immediately cut off ties with “non-believers” (in this case meaning “doesn’t go to this church” vs “isn’t a Christian”). It’s very cultlike.

    As for atheists, non-Christians, and other Christian sects, a lot of Christians are completely uneducated. I was reminded of this just this past Halloween, when an otherwise-congenial coworker threw an absolute fit over the office “secret Halloween” game. A few pieces of candy would appear on a desk with a photocopied Casper-the-Friendly Ghost and the message, “You’ve been Boo’d!” The person who’d been boo’d would be expected to Boo someone else. Sounds harmless, right?

    Nope, the coworker lost her mind because Halloween was Satanic and Pagan. I pointed out that it couldn’t be both (you wouldn’t say Diwali was both Hindu and Cherokee). I pointed out that Halloween was, in fact, a Christian holiday with many ideas taken from other people’s holidays–just like Christmas. You know, it says in the Bible to NOT put up a decorated tree, just for example.

    She couldn’t grasp the distinctions.

  7. That’s very cult like. When I was in the Adventist church we used to talk about other churches. But we thought that the members in these churches had some of the truth but just not all of it. So we didn’t think of them as non-believers.

    I liked your Halloween story. It made me laugh. But it also offered a scary realization. I consider myself to be a reasonably smart person, but when I was in a religion I used to think a lot of stupid things like that. I could mention a few stories, but they are too embarrassing.

  8. I don’t think offering assistance to people trying to escape QAnon or other cults is going to help, because people who are in cults generally don’t *want* to escape them. This is what makes cults so dangerous: they trick people — especially, but not exclusively, the uneducated and socially isolated — into fervently believing things that are both false and contrary to their own interests. Unlike with many other cults, which often have a grip on their members through financial and social [the threat of being shunned by everybody you know because you were so entrenched in the cult you don’t have any outside connexions] extortion and even the threat of violence, to the best of my knowledge, people who want to escape from QAnon can simply stop participating.

    Regarding cults and religion: it’s not always so easy to distinguish between the two. Many fundamentalist/evangelical churches also arguably qualify as cults, and even the somewhat less culty ones often have at least some of the defining features of cults. Yet we are expected to treat this vat of dishonesty, bigotry and hatred, glorification of violence, and disrespect for the law as a “legitimate” religion simply because it has enough members to be politically influential.

    We need a useful legal definition of “religion” that distinguishes it from cults and political organisations and that clarifies what type of speech and actions are and are not covered by religious freedom (belief is not the issue; behaviour is). Otherwise, religious extremists will continue to demand that they be able to opt out of obeying any law they don’t like by claiming it is contrary to their “religion.” It is clear that no religion — with the possible exception of anti-science ones such as Christian Science — has any tenet forbidding vaccination; likewise, it is clear that while Christian fundamentalists have in common that many of them have eagerly embraced the climate change denialism that has been propagated by the fossil fuel industry [particularly, oil companies], this is *not* part of their religion. Even if it were, though, it would not be an excuse for antisocial behaviour. This should be obvious, but apparently it’s something that needs to be made explicit.

  9. All good points Gwen.

    You said: “Regarding cults and religion: it’s not always so easy to distinguish between the two.” I left religion back in 1990. My old church Seventh Day Adventism, still qualifies as a legitimate religion. But each each year passes for me it seems more and more cultish. In other words, more irrational and sensical. So, there is a fine line between what some consider cults to what some consider as a bonafide religion.

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