Black and White Thinking
One of the hallmarks of a cult (or any fanatical, extremist group for that matter) is black and white thinking. Things are either black or they are white. They are good or they are evil. There are no shades of grey, no nuances.
In his book Overcoming Cult Mind Control, Steve Hassan says, “Even the most complex cult doctrines ultimately reduce reality into two basic poles: black versus white; good versus evil; spiritual world versus physical world; us versus them” (And for those who believe “all psychologists are bad”…read on).
To give a silly example that won’t upset anyone, let’s say that there is one group that is violently against plumbers. They hate them. All plumbers are bad. Opposing them is a group that is fanatically pro-plumber. Plumbers are always good. They can do no wrong. These two groups get on plumbing chat groups and argue and argue and argue.
Of course, neither side has a valid argument. Because life isn’t like that. Life has shades of grey. You can’t make a statement about “all plumbers.” Some plumbers are good, some are bad, most are somewhere in between.
But don’t go on the plumbing chat group and say so. Because you’ll get attacked from both sides. The anti-plumbing group will call you a “plumber-lover” and claim you are spouting pro-plumbing propaganda. The pro-plumbers will call you a “plumber-hater” and claim you are forwarding the anti-plumbing propaganda. Because things just have to be black and white. If you’re on the “white” side, grey looks like black to you. If you’re on the “black” side, grey looks like white.
And of course each side sees the other side as pure evil. The anti-plumbers will tell you that the pro-plumbers are brainwashed sheeple who are being manipulated by the corrupt plumbers union. The pro-plumbers will tell you that the anti-plumbers are just evil haters who will attack anyone doing an honest day’s work.
Each group sets the other one up as a straw man.
You say, “Well, my plumber did a decent job at a fair price.”
“Why are you siding with the pro-plumbers? Don’t you know they are all in the pay of the corrupt plumbers union?”
Or “Well, I was cheated by a plumber once who used shoddy materials.”
“That’s just malicious anti-plumber propaganda! Why are you attacking hard-working people?”
It’s near impossible to have a rational conversation when you have black and white thinking present.
We see Scientology examples all the time.
“Anyone who criticizes Scientology is Suppressive.”
“Anyone who criticizes LRH is Suppressive” (or a “hater”).
“David Miscavige is always good and never makes mistakes.”
“All psychologists are bad.”
“Anyone who leaves Scientology is evil – they have overts.”
“People who criticize Scientology can’t stand the thought of anyone getting better.”
“People who criticize Scientology are materialists who don’t believe in spiritual things.”
Or, on the other side: “All Scientologists are brainwashed.”
“L. Ron Hubbard is perfect and never made a mistake.” Or, conversely, “Hubbard is an evil con man who never did anyone any good.”
“Scientology tech always works.” Or, conversely, “Scientology tech never works.”
And yes, anyone who disagrees with the fanatic is an evil person, with the basest motives.
It’s good to remember that life has many shades of grey – it’s never black and white. No one is perfect. No subject is flawless. Nothing is absolute. People who disagree with you are not evil.
Take a look at some of the black versus white arguments you hear. Or even some of your own closely held black-and-white viewpoints. Is there just possibly room for a few shades of grey?