The belief business

There are some 54,000 cult members across Catalunya, according to an estimate by Atención e Investigación de Socioadicciones (AIS), a nonprofit organisation, with no religious, political or philosophical connections.

AIS has at least 90 well-established “coercive groups” under observation, according to Miguel Perlado, a clinical psychologist with the organisation. He said the groups that generate the most demand for help are the Jehovah’s Witnesses, the Gnostic Movement, Nueva Acropolis and Scientology.

Also known as a ‘sect’, a cult can be defined as a group or movement exhibiting a great or excessive devotion or dedication to a person, idea or thing, employing unethically manipulative techniques of persuasion and control. These include isolation from former friends and family in addition to the use of specific methods to heighten suggestibility and subservience.

Cults also typically exploit powerful group pressure, which results in the suspension of individuality and critical judgment. They make use of strategies that eventually lead to nearly total dependency on the group and fear of leaving it. These techniques are designed to advance the goals of the group’s leaders, to the actual or possible detriment of members, their families or the wider community.

The Church of Scientology has about 10,000 members in Spain, according to a spokesman at the church’s Madrid headquarters, who declined to provide his name, and who said that figures for individual cities were not available. A recent decision by the Audiencia Nacional in Madrid to allow Scientolgy to be registered as a religion was long overdue, he said.
Jordi, a spokesperson from the Scientology centre in Sant Just Desvern, who declined to give his last name, commended the decision. “Of course we are happy about it. It was a good idea and the right thing to do.”