Cults are bad for your health

Cults kill. It’s really that simple. But different cults kill in different ways. It’s not just Jonestown and Killer Kool Aid (OK, Flav-r-Aid). The so-called mainstream cults that are particularly dangerous, because we tolerate them.

Jehovah’s Witnesses have their own brand of craziness. It’s not bad enough that they come to your door to annoy you in person, but they forbid their members life-saving medical interventions—for no good reason.

Christian Scientists decline medical care because some lady 150 years ago got better despite the interventions of 19th century quacks.

Then there’s Scientology. This is a particularly pernicious cult. It preys the most vulnerable—those least able to make rational decisions, and often denied access to health care—the mentally ill. Instead of offering real mental health care to those in need, they inculcate them into their cult, convincing them to avoid modern psychiatry, often with tragic results.

Look, I’ve got nothing against religion. I’m not religious, but I know it’s possible to be a rational thinker and still be a believer. Unfortunately, it’s also possible to be religious and avoid rational thought completely.

We often hear that “religious education belongs in the home”, a sentiment with which I’d agree. What’s less often said, but needs to be, is that critical thinking belongs in the classroom, even if it insults a family’s religions sensibilities. Kids need to learn to evaluate evidence and make good decisions. If this means they learn about evolution against their parents wishes, good. If it means they learn to doubt their parents beliefs on transfusions, that’s good too.

Religion can be comforting, uniting. But in the marketplace of scientific ideas, religion is bankrupt.


  1. natural cynic

    Then there’s Scientology. This is a particularly pernicious cult. It preys the most vulnerable—those least able to make rational decisions…

    You mean celebrities who are full of themselves and want to be even more so?

  2. law and order Special Victims Unit season 7 episode 22: Influence

    A young girl ceases her bipolar medication because her favorite rock star denounces psychiatry. When she wrecks her car into some students on her campus, killing one girl, the rockstar comes to her trial and testifies.

    Norman Reedus played the rockstar (which is why it sticks out in my memory – he was the other brother in boondock saints, as well as a bunch of other good movies he’s been in) – and you can see the arguments they present as being similar to those of scientology.

    The difference is (yet it goes to show) her parents are really trying to help her get better by being there for her and taking her to the doctors and stuff, and the rockstar guy convinces the girl that her parents are trying to harm her, etc.

    I’ve been awake > 30 hours, so for some reason i felt like relating this.

    L&O rules.

  3. Jehovah’s Witnesses beliefs:

    A) They are at your door to recruit you for enslavement to their watchtower corporation,they will say that “we are just here to share a message from the Bible” this is deception right off.

    B) Their ‘message’ is a false Gospel that Jesus had his second coming in 1914.The problem with this is it’s not just a cute fairy tale,Jesus warned of the false prophets who would claim “..look he is here in the wilderness,or see here he is at the temple…”

    C) Their anti-blood transfusion ban has killed hundreds if not thousands

    D) once they recruit you they will “love bomb” you in cult fashion to also recruit your family & friends or cut them off. There are many more dangers,Jehovah’s Witnesses got a bad rap for good and valid reasons.

    99% of the world has rejected the teachings of the Watchtower Jehovah�s Witnesses, the darker truth is they are a destructive and oppressive organization.

    Danny Haszard Jehovah’s Witness X 33 years

  4. The Jehovah’s Witness blood transfusion issue is still a hot item, even though the Watchtower has practically allowed all ‘parts’ of the blood individually, just not together!

    Their entire doctrine is senseless and deadly.

    The Bible says nothing about blood transfusions. They didn’t exist when the Old Testament and Acts were written. The Bible passages in question (kosher law) have to do with diet. Neither the Jews nor other groups oppose blood transfusions because they don’t try to put a spin on something that isn’t there. If the Watchtower had not issued this prohibition, no Jehovah’s Witness would oppose them on Biblical grounds.

    Danny Haszard Will you die for a lie?

  5. Pal, I’m glad you put the correct brand of powdered drink in there, I hate when people talk about Jonestown and Koolaid, and it’s FlavorAid.

  6. chezjake

    Hopefully, Scientology is on its way out. Wikileaks just posted the complete contents of their Operating Thetan manuals. Cruise is supposedly an OT 8.

  7. Julie Stahlhut

    I don’t blog much myself, but this one will keep percolating through my head until I get inspired to write about it. The terrible death of Kara Neumann is a perfectly instructive example of what can happen when people use religion (or politics, for that matter) to deny the existence of material reality.

    I’m neither religious nor anti-religious, but I find the denial of reality to be appalling, no matter what its cause.


    The following website summarizes over 500 Jehovah’s Witnesses Employment related lawsuits, etc., including DOZENS of court cases in which JW Employees refused blood transfusions, and/or other cases involving Worker’s Comp, medical, health, and disability issues:


    The following website summarizes over 500 U.S. court cases and lawsuits affecting children of Jehovah’s Witness Parents, including 370 cases where the JW Parents refused to consent to life-saving blood transfusions for their dying children:


  9. My grandmother died b/c she refused the possibility of a blood transfusion.

    I have no love for the JW.

  10. CoS isn’t dead yet. There is a rumor going round the internet, unverified (Ok, Digg comment) that CoS has stepped up their translation programs – realising that their credability in the english-speaking world is almost destroyed, they are preparing to spread to non-english countries where the language barrier will keep their critics from campaigning against them.

  11. If you would like more REAL and accurate info about Jehovah’s Witnesses on the web be sure to check out the official web site at

  12. Thanks for knocking at the door…I’m sure we’ll all find it convincing.

  13. PalMD and commenters,

    I think you are too hard the the JW. We owe a lot of the religous and freedom of conscious rights due to the fact that JWs were willing to stand up and fight for them.

    I think that the JWs’ ideas are crazy, but they have every right to knock on your door and distribute their literature and information (and you have every right to slam the door in their face). As a religious organization, they have every right to set rules for membership, and shun those that don’t follow them (as cruel and as stupid as that is). As long as they are of legal age of consciousness, they have every right to refuse life saving treatment (as stupid and as foolish as that is).

    We in the US, at least ideally, live in a free society, where people have the right to hold whatever beliefs they want, as long as they don’t harm others (I know, I know, “harm” is a vague word). This applies to JWs and other groups with weird beliefs (even for religions), such as the Moonies and Scientologists. Sometimes, I think people forget this too quickly.

  14. Hardly the point. Americans have been enjoying unprecedented religious freedom for centuries. I never argues that JW’s should be forced to give up their practice. I also made clear that many of my patients are JWs, and while I think their beliefs are bat-shit insane, I respect their wishes.

    That being said, it’s a cult that teaches dangerous practices, and no other actions of theirs can really atone for that.

  15. hardindr

    Hardly the point. Americans have been enjoying unprecedented religious freedom for centuries. I never argues that JW’s should be forced to give up their practice. I also made clear that many of my patients are JWs, and while I think their beliefs are bat-shit insane, I respect their wishes.

    I don’t think you mentioned in the above post, or in any link in it, that you had patients that were JWs or that you respected their right to hold their beliefs. Your comment that “[t]he so-called mainstream cults are particularly dangerous, because we tolerate them” could be open to many different interpretations, but I will take you at your word. My apologies.

  16. It appears that you are correct…I believed I spoke about JW patients in previous posts.

    And to clarify, as you’re correct, I left a lot of room for interpretation, when I say we are too tolerant of these beliefs, I mean to say that we need to speak out against stupidity, and not cordon-off religious-based stupidity as a protected type of insanity.

    That doesn’t mean burning churches and such.

  17. hardindr


    Fair enough.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *