Cults offer a lifestyle option

28th April 2000 at 01:00
I WAS surprised at the Friday magazine's feature "Possessed - The truth about cults in Britain" (TES, April 14).

I sympathise with the loss that Mrs Elliot has suffered, I also share in the shock and disbelief at the terrible occurrences in Uganda, but feel that your coverage of cults was largely misinformed and irresponsible.

The "shock-horror" approach was surprising for a magazine which is geared towards an educated and intelligent audience.

I realise that the approach encourages engagement with the text, but it also tends to reinforce the negative image of cults propounded by the anti-cult movement. Article 9 of the European Convention on Human Rights guarantees freedom of conscience and religion, yet yor article undermines this by encouraging the demonisation of cults.

Instances of mass suicides such as those in Jonestown and Uganda are horrifying and incomprehensible, yet compared to the numbers of cults and their membership are extremely rare. For all the negative accounts there are untold thousands of positive experiences of new religious movements, but these don't sell papers.

People generally join cults because they are in some way dissatisfied with their lives. It may even be that Mrs Elliot's daughter wanted to break the apron-strings and found religion to be a viable option.

Now - what is "the truth about cults in Britain"?

Chris Selway

2 Coleridge Road

Eastville, Bristol

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