I am writing a story, based in part on an incident that occured to a friend of mine. He spent two years in a Cuban prison and was released during the Mariel Boat Lift in 1980, and emerged an evangelical Christian. Prior to that he was a non-believer. I'm wondering if you can point me toward data concerning 20th century atheists who have endured cruel imprisonment and torture and not become believers. I'd like to believe that I wouldn't, but I've never been there.
From: "Positive Atheism" <email@example.com>
To: "Gil Gaudia"
Subject: Re: Positive_Atheism_Letters_Section
Date: September 30, 2001 6:52 AM
I don't know much about what you are specifically asking about. Elie Wiesel did write a little about what you describe, how victims of the Holocaust were able to keep their heads about them. But then, the Nazis weren't trying to indoctrinate anybody, so Wiesel's accounts might not apply. But I doubt you'll find much because I think it is probably very rare.
I do know that captivity can do strange things to people. The case of Patricia Hearst woke us all up to that one: she was kidnapped by the Symbionese Liberation Army, an extremist political cult, and ended up robbing a bank. We saw the photo of her holding an impressive machine gun of some sort. This is the newspaper heiress, I'm talking about! Daddy's pocket change could have bought the bank itself!
The infamous "cult deprogrammer" Ted Patrick told me that when he infiltrated the Children of God group's compound in San Diego in order to try to rescue his son, he had to climb a tall cyclone fence to escape. He said that had he spent another six hours there, he would still be there. That's how persuasive these quys were when they had him in captivity 24 hours a day: the man who figured out how to snap you out of your cultic state couldn't defend himself against the indoctrination technique involving a closed, all-encompassing environment.
I had a rather humorous exchange with a Christian who was converted at one of Billy Graham's youth camps. He had tried to trick me into giving him the e-mail address of a youngster who had written to our Forum, who was being hoodwinked by a Christian apologist. I set the young fellow straight on the apologist but this Christian was (apparently) friends with the apologist and wanted to work on him again.
After I busted him (and without even apologizing or showing anything resembling remorse over his act of deception -- it apparently being okay to deceive atheists as long as it furthers the Lord's agenda), the Christian asked why I had a problem with sending teenagers to Evangelism camps such as the ones run by Billy Graham. I responded by describing what I know about such indoctrination "machines" -- and, not surprisingly, he offered zero in the way of challenging or contradicting my description of how Graham's indoctrination compounds are run, even though I've never been to one!
the target is removed from contact with the outside world and placed within a strictly controlled environment where a single ideology dominates. This opens the door for the group's less realistic beliefs to eventually appear more and more natural to the target. The already innocuous-sounding tenets thus get shifted well within the realm of believability and acceptance in the mind of the target.
Time after time, any doubt is "answered" or otherwise suppressed ... There is no way for the target to get a "second opinion" or to bounce her or his doubts off a number of individuals with differing backgrounds and viewpoints to try to find that one clue which might solve the puzzle.... Peer-group pressure is crucial to this process, taking advantage of a human's natural desire to fit in and become an active part of the community. In the Christian community, more than most, becoming an active part involves becoming a missionary, learning to "help" others "enter the fold."...
Making the target temporarily dependent on the group both for emotional support as well as one's physical needs is a classic method for gaining that target's trust, and eventually, the target's allegiance.... But ... even the strongest among us would find it difficult if not impossible to withstand the rigors of high-pressure recruiting techniques (however gently they are presented) when practiced within an isolated environment....
So, I know quite a bit about how they indoctrinate people, but I know very little about how one would withstand such indoctrination in the atmosphere of a closed environment. I especially don't see how a naïve and trusting youngster could possibly withstand the very high-pressure evangelization tactics developed by Billy Graham in such an environment. Graham's methods are hard to withstand by themselves, but to fend them off in a closed atmosphere would, in my mind, be next to impossible. I bet even I would have a tough time in one of Graham's camps.
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