The above analysis clearly shows that while there is a certain incidence of apostasy in new religious movements, the overwhelming majority of people who disengage themselves from these non-conforming religions harbor no lasting ill-will toward their past religious associations and activities. While they frankly acknowledge the ways their religious needs and hopes were disappointed, they were able to realize some positive meaning and value from their past experiences. By contrast, there is a much smaller number of apostates who are deeply invested in discrediting if not destroying the religious communities that once claimed their loyalties. In most cases, these apostates were either forcibly separated from their religious community through the intervention of family members and anti-cult groups, or soon came under the influence of anti-cult groups and literature after their own voluntary defection from a new religious group.
There is no denying that these dedicated and diehard opponents of the new religions present a distorted view of the new religions to the public, the academy and the courts by virtue of their ready availability and eagerness to testify against their former religious associations and activities. Such apostates always act out of a scenario that vindicates themselves by shifting responsibility for their actions to the religious group. Indeed, the various brainwashing scenarios so often invoked against the new religious movements have been overwhelmingly repudiated by social scientists and religion scholars as nothing more than calculated efforts to discredit the beliefs and practices of unconventional religions in the eyes of governmental agencies and public opinion. Such apostates can hardly be regarded as reliable informants by responsible journalists, scholars, or jurists. Even the accounts of voluntary defectors with no grudges to bear must be used with caution since they interpret their past religious experience in the light of present efforts to re-establish their own self-identity and self-esteem.
In short, on the face of things, apostates from new religions do not meet the standards of personal objectivity, professional competence, and informed understanding required of expert witnesses.
Lonnie D. Kliever
24 January 1995