Rookie Mormon

Do Mormons realize they are brainwashed?

I was once driving to a work meeting with a colleague when the subject of religion came up. During our conversation, he casually stated that, as a Mormon, I had been brainwashed.

I was deeply pierced by the ignorance behind this statement. To put it in context, not only did this colleague know next to nothing about my religion, but he barely knew me!

Brainwashing is also known as "mind control," and these days is an idea that is heavily pressed by anti-cult movements. Some of these movements are religious movements, others are encouraged by government bodies (such as the movement in Russia that really started growing in the 1990s), and some are considered "entreprenurial"--in other words, the anti-cult movement has money to gain because it is in the business of getting people to worry about cults. This could include journalists or news organizations. If you've been in a newsroom before, or around people who produce news, you probably understand that one.

There are very strong viewpoints around the topic of mind control, and while I've read a lot about it, I'm not really impressed by what I read. The anti-mind-control community comes across as a tiny, self-absorbed world awash in black-and-white thought.

You are certainly allowed to think I'm crazy, but for my part, I'm not at all worried about being (present tense) or becoming (future tense) brainwashed. The Mormon religion is far too excited by the idea of "free will" and its importance in God's plan to go down the path of forcing people to believe.

A disrespectful term?

I was intrigued to learn that a group called FIRM (their website is fascinating, though I admit I don't know much about them) has taken a stance against the word "brainwashing" being applied to what they call religious minority groups:

The Foundation against Intolerance of Religious Minorities, associated with the Adidam NRM, sees the use of terms "cult" and "cult leader" as detestable and as something to avoid at all costs. The Foundation regards such usage as the exercise of prejudice and discrimination against them in the same manner as the words "n****r" and "commie" served in the past to denigrate blacks and Communists.

I think I've felt the disrespect they speak of. The sad part is that it mostly communicates ignorance. If you're considering informing someone that they are brainwashed, I think it's a good idea to make sure you understand as much as possible about their situation beforehand. Discussing things with them in depth and listening to their point of view should probably be a part of that.

As for my own mind: I'm just not the type of person to let myself be brainwashed. (They all say that, don't they?) My specialty is researching and comparing viewpoints, running opposing ideas through my head, and constantly taking my bearings in this busy world.

For those reasons I absolutely refuse to entertain any off-the-cuff diagnosis of mind control.

Finally, some researchers think that consumers today are the ones who are actually brainwashed. This seems more likely to me, and it's sad that this issue gets very little press.