CICNS - Questions and Answers (FAQs)
This paper answers some of the most frequently questions asked about the CICNS and cults, or sects, in general.
Q1. Why have another point of view on sects?
We need an open, honest and tolerant view on spiritual minorities.
Q2.According to you it seems that sects (or cults) do not exist?
The members of our association are aware of the damage that can be caused by religious fanatics or the temptation that some fanatics have to use spiritual principles to gain personal power over other individuals. However, healthy spiritual minorities exist in France and in other countries. There are many groups that have a spiritual vocation, albeit distinct from mainstream religion, that are not involved in destructive behaviour. These groups aspire to answer the essential questions that humans ask, for improving life and the society we are living in.
Some tragic events have been used by the media to stigmatise these minorities, to turn them into scapegoats - putting all groups in the same bag. The word “cult” (or “sect”) is the expression of that stigmatisation. One of the objectives of the CICNS is to end the ridiculous association between criminality and spiritual minorities. Criminality exists everywhere and it has nothing in particular to do with spiritual minorities. We feel that these minorities deserve to be defended.
Q3.But the danger exists?
There are no more dangerous individuals within spiritual groups than anywhere else. Actually, people who are associated with spiritual groups generally lead lives that are oriented towards friendship, and internal peace. Rare instances of unsavoury behaviour by particular individuals in spiritual minorities should no longer be used to condemn all new age spiritualities, as has been the case to date in France.
Q4. If you are not denying the existence of such behaviour, how do you suggest condemning it?
Criminal acts are committed by unbalanced human beings, independently of their association with a group either political, religious or other. The Judicial system is geared to manage these situations, to deal with criminal acts by all citizens independently of their associations.
Q5. Are you denying that there is a link (cause and effect) between being part of a spiritual minority and a criminal act?
Spiritual minorities do not invite their members to be criminal or to engage in an antisocial behaviour. If such actions occur, the group involved cannot be considered to be a spiritual minority. This is the reason why we are denouncing the association between criminality and spiritual minorities. The myth of a terrorist, antisocial sect is cultivated by the media and some authorities, and hence is well rooted in the mind of the public.
Violent and antisocial behaviour can manifest in any individuals. When a person who belongs to a political party or any other professional or social group commits a crime, no association is made between the crime and the group to which the person belongs. This association between the individual and the group is made only if that person is or has been part of a spiritual minority.
When a fireman lit a fire in a forest a while ago, no one came up with idea that the fire association is a sect. Associating spiritual groups and reprehensible acts is a crime in itself. Today more people are victims of the antisect hunt in France, than are real victims of “sects”.
Q6. Aren’t newspapers talking about sects suicidal tendencies?
The police and educational institutions are those that have the greatest number of suicides. Once again no one dares to even consider that these institutions are legally responsible for that situation. No one concludes that police or educational institutions are sects.
In fact, all human groups exhibit one or more criteria that anti sects activists use to describe a sect. Making such associations is disrespectful to “mainstream” groups. We are asking that the same respect is given to spiritual minorities in France, a country that claims to be a democracy.
It is clear to the CICNS observers that the intention behind this identification is to discrediting spiritual minorities.
Q7. Are you exaggerating? Why would people want to discredit spiritual minorities?
Remember the unforgettable “Essentiel “affair. We think that a true witch hunt is happening in France, and the purpose behind it is to revive old passions and prejudices to take people’s attention away from the real problems in our society.
Q8. What is your comment on the collective suicides that have made the headlines?
Go to the page of our website that discusses this topic. You will certainly be surprised by its content, if you are aware of one side of the story.
Q9. Aren’t there actual cases of abuse in our region?
At the CICNS we are open to discussing such abuse. However we are continually shocked when we observe questions and allegations raised by the media in a superficial flimsy premises and when we see biased official declarations made by the government. Abuses do exist and are present at all level of our society; they are not necessarily handled fairly by the Justice system.
The word “cult” or “sect” that the media and the public use when addressing the subject of spiritual minorities, is a striking example of a successful collective manipulation to associate one thing with another. The result of this conditioning is that people start to believe anything that is said about spiritual minorities.
Honestly ask yourself the question: what do you actually know? Consult our archives and participate in a more open reflection on this phenomenon. Although most of us are aware that the media rarely gives accurate information, we have a tendency to accept everything that they promulgate as the truth. This paradox leads to a false view of the reality, and particularly on spiritual minorities.
Q10. But what about the weird gurus surrounded by many wives, hanging on to power and whose pockets are full of money?
Bravo, you have verbalised one of the archetypal caricature that has been built in the public mind over the past twenty years. Look at this description. The exaggerated human weaknesses are projected onto a scapegoat, to create a hostile narrow-minded reaction; then recognise oneself being on the good side, that is to say the side of the “normal people”.
It is a gross, false and intentionally destructive caricature of the values essential promoted and lived by spiritual minorities. Nevertheless, to be a weirdo, rich and even surrounded by women is not an offence in a democracy; it does not justify the stigmatisation of spiritual minorities. The fact remains that most spiritual minorities are much more discreet.
Q11. Let’s take away the word “caricature”; isn’t spirituality often a label used to mask shameful intentions?
Many things can be twisted towards shameful intentions. Secularity can be used as a mask to antireligious behaviour, politic to mask an immoderate taste for power, and freedom and democracy are often used to justify banning spiritual minorities in France! Adult French citizens have to use their own judgement right throughout their life; it is not up to the government to do it for them. Each one has the right to take a path that may seem unusual to others, and each one has even the right to make a mistake. All the swindles that sects are accused of, not those created by the anti-sect activists, are derisory when compared to the legal swindles unfolding across our consumer driven society.
If you sincerely wish to denounce swindles in our society, know to recognise them everywhere and do not stigmatise a minority group. It is a fundamental democratic principle. The opposite attitude is endangering individual freedoms, including the freedoms of those who are not associated with spiritual minorities.
Q12. What is your viewpoint on brain washing?
Brain washing is a vague and
demagogic concept that is used by the anti-sect movement in order to
condemn spiritual minorities rather than thorughfully going into the
questions about them. If brain washing exists, spiritual minorities
are not the only ones concerned by this phenomenon. Advertisement
campaigns use very powerful and efficient tools of persuasion; our
daily relationships have at times features that resemble brain
washing. Most of the programs seeking discredit sects on TV use
processes that are similar to brain washing. One way or the other,
the human tendencies in abusing small or great powers should not be
associated to spiritual minorities. Such minorities are one of the
rare places where great human questions are treated with attention
and sincerity. Humanism has been absent of the official structure for
a long time; that is why the CICNS has decided to help spiritual
minorities be heard and get the value of their journey known.
Q13. What are your objectives?
The CICNS suggests a new point of view on spiritual minorities, away from common place comments, away from the most revolting generalisations that have affected the life of thousands of people in France over the past twenty years; this has been caused by the anti-sect campaign.
We are working towards providing the public with factual information that has been occulted so far from the debates on the spiritual minorities phenomenon.
We are waiting for the minorities themselves to come out of a yoke of fear caused by the anti-sects campaign; that minorities stop believing that the “sect is the other group, not them” and that they creatively participate to the CICNS action, by demonstrating that they are not the scourge of our society - instead they are an opportunity for our society, and they let the public know of their spontaneous and deep respect of the fundamental principles that make the foundation of our great constitution.
We are waiting for the authorities to create a more genuine awareness of spiritual minorities, that would include academics and spiritual leaders who have been voluntarily kept away from the debates.
Q14. Who is hiding behind the CICNS?
No one is hiding. The
co-founders of the CICNS have either diverse personal orientations or
none. We are not linked to any specific groups that have made the
headlines or to the groups denounced on the parliamentarian sect
lists. Some of the co-founders are not on a spiritual journey as
such; they are simply anxious to defend the fundamental right of a
human being in a democracy. It seems that these rights cannot be
taken for granted, and we have to work at it daily, so the instincts
of despotism and ostracism do not return and settle again in our
Q15. You are quite virulent towards the anti-sects movements; isn’t their aspiration the same as yours?
The words and action of the ADFI and of the CCMM have shown what motivates them; they are not motivated by the values of democracy, and their members are not inspired by tolerance and freedom of conscience. Their obvious determination in refusing dialogue, the systematic demonization without exception, of all spiritual trends, their encouragement to hate which are clearly expressed in public communication shows that they are incapable of observing spiritual phenomena in France with a sociologist or human perspective. This make them primitive and anti- religious activists, although they are subsided by the government, who do not deserve to be listened to the way they are today in the debates.
The credibility given by the
government leads to seriously questioning the willingness of the
authorities to responsibly avoid inciting passions of vilification
Q16. You do not seem to be defending secularity?
The secularity that is backed today in our country is a secularity that excludes; even if everyone denies it publicly.
Spiritual minorities do not have the intention, or the mean to destabilise the secular Republic.
Whatever a wise experiment secularity was at the time of its formation, today it is unfortunately used by rationalists and anti-religious extremists in order to impose a particular point of view on the world. Such secularity is not democratic; it abuses it the fundamental principles of democracy.
The religious and spiritual
minorities’ point of view on the world has a legitimate place in our
society and should be respected.
Q17. What kind of actions are you undertaking?
The CICNS offers little and
often disturbing information about the characteristics and
experiences of new spiritualities. Our
volunteer team is in daily contact with the media, the authorities
and spiritual minorities in order to balance the shorthand debate on
“sect”. We are also gathering testimonies of discriminations as well
as the fabricated stories about excess, perversion and repression
that feed the fires of a delirious witch hunt. We are regularly
organising tours in France. You can find more information on this
question at the CICNS Charter page, and on the page that introduce
Q18. A spiritual minority point of view: don’t you think that it is better avoiding committing to an action like yours, which is playing the game of polemic and values which is not ‘spiritual’? And that would attract problems rather than avoiding them?
The CICNS view points is that the problems are already there. They can’t be avoided. It is therefore more efficient not to wait for a more direct attack before raising awareness of the progressive slide of our democratic society towards a form of totalitarism that will not allow religious diversity. A spiritual process can also include a look at society, defending its values and not being compromised in a war. The CICNS is determined not to enter into militant combat. We will preserve and observe the peaceful values that we are defending, but we do not resile from necessary debates and actions that are required to match our commitment. If spiritual minorities had more a sens of solidarity in the defence of their rights, they would be heard.
In France, the percentage of the population that is oriented towards new spiritualities and choosing a less classical life style is significant- so we could straight away get ourselves known beyond differences, as a living force, respectable and pacifist, that is part of our society.
Building a new relationship
between society and minorities is the way to avoid the possibility of
minority group’s corruption. Isolating a group, whatever the group,
leads to unproductive confrontation.
Q19. It is damaging that you avoid talking about the drifts of the minorities in your presentation. This does affect the relevance of the other aspects that you are developing.
Doing lists of minorities that have drifted (moving away from human practices and values) is not the action of our association. The anti-sects activists are already taking care of that and the media are greatly amplifying their viewpoints. Also, we maintain that the groups which drift do not constitute spiritual minorities. The drift of the “human race” do not justify the stigmatisation of spiritual minorities as a whole. According to research in our project “Commission d’Enquête Citoyenne” “Citizens Investigation Committee” the phenomenon of these minorities drifting is in fact very rare.
Why should we give up under the pressure of a pervading psychosis; it gets many citizens to have a superficial approach to the questions that are raised and to react to unfounded sensationalist rumours?
Consider wether your assessment of the situation may be the consequence of the twenty five year campaign that has marked people’s minds (a true brain washing if the latter exists at all) and – in spite of the detailed content of our website- obscured your capacity to objectively assess the excess of the situation; May be, in subtle ways, you have been taken in by the anti-sect argument.
It is saddening to realise that those who are in a position to better understand the importance of what we are communicating, (e.g, those who are very talkative about the subject) still quickly adopt the viewpoint that “sects exist anyway”!. Society suffers much more from multiple prejudicial associations than from actual harm caused by spiritual minorities.
To read a study of preconceived ideas about sects.