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Is intactivism a cult?

Published: June 8, 2019

Updated periodically

Intactivists may scoff at the notion that their movement has anything in common with cult groups. We provide the evidence and leave it to readers to decide for yourselves.

"The following list of social-structural, social-psychological, and interpersonal behavioral patterns commonly found in cultic environments may help you assess a particular group or relationship." This list was developed by Janja Lalich and Michael D. Langone for their book, "Take Back Your Life: Recovering From Cults and Abusive Relationships (Bay Tree Publishing, 2006.)

We have paired items from the list with evidence from the intactivist movement. Each post and comment represents a pattern of behavior that may include hundreds, thousands, or tens of thousands of examples.

The group displays excessively zealous and unquestioning commitment to its leader and regards his belief system, ideology, and practices as the Truth, as law.

Questioning, doubt, and dissent are discouraged or even punished.

"You may be asking yourself why more [intactivists] aren’t speaking up about the bullying, stalking, and misinformation. When someone speaks up, they get called an intactocop. They are effectively silenced when their comments are deleted and they are blocked. Criticism of intactivism is met with ostracism."

Mind-altering practices (such as meditation, chanting, speaking in tongues, denunciation sessions, and debilitating work routines) are used in excess and serve to suppress doubts about the group and its leader(s).

This item may not apply to intactivists.

The leadership dictates, sometimes in great detail, how members should think, act, and feel.

The group is elitist, claiming a special, exalted status for itself, its leader(s), and its members (e.g., the leader is considered the Messiah, a special being, an avatar).

The group has a polarized, us-versus-them [paranoid] mentality, which may cause conflict with the wider society.

The leader is not accountable to any authorities (unlike, for example, teachers, military commanders or ministers, priests, monks, and rabbis of mainstream religious denominations).

The group teaches or implies that its supposedly exalted ends justify whatever means it deems necessary. This may result in members’ participating in behaviors or activities they would have considered reprehensible or unethical before they joined the group (for example, lying to family or friends, or collecting money for bogus charities).

The leadership induces feelings of shame and/or guilt in order to influence and/or control members. Often, this is done through peer pressure and subtle forms of persuasion.

Subservience to the leader or group requires members to cut ties with family and friends, and to radically alter the personal goals and activities they had before they joined the group.

The group is preoccupied with bringing in new members.

The group is preoccupied with making money.

Here are 14 donation appeals over a three-month period. (They haven't raised one dime for victims of female genital mutilation.)

Members are expected to devote inordinate amounts of time to the group and group-related activities.

Members are encouraged or required to live and/or socialize only with other group members.

The most loyal members feel there can be no life outside the context of the group. They believe there is no other way to be and often fear reprisals to themselves or others if they leave (or even consider leaving) the group.

Other signs that intactivism is an unhealthy obsession

They go to extreme and absurd lengths.

They treat the foreskin as an object of veneration and worship.

They fantasize about torturing and killing people who disagree with them.

Their priorities are warped.

They avoid or delay treatment for a child's serious health condition.

They gloat about an airline disaster ... because the passengers included humanitarian workers battling an AIDS epidemic.

They track the genital status of celebrities - living, dead, and fictional - as well as the genital status of inanimate objects.

They act as if it's a matter of life-and-death, referring to an uncircumcised baby as “saved” and a circumcised baby as “lost”.

They value foreskin more than life itself.

They have master troll level ability to disrupt a discussion about any topic.


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