Cowan on Hein... Hein on Cowan
Cowan on Hein... Hein on Cowan
On Steve Hassan's Freedom of Mind mailing list, cult expert Jan Groenveld noted a paper presented by Douglas Cowan at the April, 2001 CESNUR conference. In response, I pointed out some of the flaws and misrepresentations in Mr. Cowan's references to me (Anton Hein) and my site (Apologetics Index). I will, in time, post a more extensive response to Mr. Cowan's paper.
Subject: Cowan on Hein... and Hein on Cowan
From: Anton Hein - www.countercult.com <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Date: Sat, 12 May 2001 22:14:49 +0200
On Sun, 13 May 2001 01:08:58 +1000 (GMT+1000) Jan Groenveld wrote:
>They sure have noticed us ..... check to see if you got a mention ....
>Love this type of free publicity for our sites <G>
Cowan is a rising cult apologist considered by many Christians to be a wolf in
sheep's clothing (pretty much the same way they are skeptical about J. Gordon
Melton's claims of being an "Evangelical" - which, considering his peculiar
views, is a group he clearly is not part of).
Cowan uses all the tactics described here:
About cult apologists
Speaking of that page: just how difficult can it be for an academic to quote correctly?
''Cult apologists,'' by the way, are those ''claiming to champion religious freedom
and religious tolerance.''7
The footnotes are screwed up. In the text, they go from 7 to 8 to 7 to 9 and
10. The note corresponding the 7 in the quote above does not refer to my site.
However, he took the phrase that starts with "claiming" from this page:
Note how *I* define cult apologists:
A cult apologist is someone who consistently or primarily defends the teachings
and/or actions of one or more movements considered to be cults - as defined
sociologically and/or theologically.
- About Cult Apologists
Then compare Cowan's cut-and-paste material. I wonder why neither the version
posted at CESNUR or the version posted at Jeffey K. Hadden's site
(http://religiousmovements.lib.virginia.edu/cesnur/cowan.html) refers to the
Anyway, I have an Apologetics Index entry on Cowan:
Douglas Cowan http://www.apologeticsindex.org/c57.html
Apparently, he's none too happy with it. Fine by me, as long as he spells my
name correctly :)
Incidentally, at one point Cowan called his site, ''Countercult.com.'' However,
he did not register the domain name. So I did. As you probably know,
www.countercult.com points at Apologetics Index.
Now he calls his site ''Christian countercult.org.'' Deceptive - but then that's
par for the course for cult apologists.
Incidentally, ''countercult.org'' belongs to a quasi-religious group.
From what I have seen of Cowan's site, he over-analyses, and altogether does not
appear to understand the history and current situation of the very subject he is
trying address (countercult ministries).
I may in time post a more formal response to Cowan's paper, but I will here note
just four items in his diatribe on me:
1) Freedom of religion
While he purports to support ''freedom of religion,'' Hein interprets that concept
to mean the ''freedom to present research information that helps people make
informed decisions about various movements, belief systems and world views.''
As anyone familiar with me, my site, and my online actitivities knows, Cowan
misrepresents my views.
At my site, I state the following:
AI's publisher supports freedom of religion in thought and expression, as well
as the freedom to present research information that helps people make informed
decisions about various movements, belief systems and world views.
The publisher operates from an evangelical, Christian point of view. However,
Apologetics Index evaluates cults both theologically and sociologically.
This site points out significant doctrinal differences between the teachigns and
practices of historical Christianity and those of religious movements that claim
to be compatible with it. Apologetics Index also addresses abusive movements, as
well as a variety of other cult research issues and controversies. As a service
to researchers, we also provide up-to-date news about religious cults, sects,
and related issues.
As explained in How To Use This Site, Apologetics Index contains links to
Christian, non-Christian and secular research resources.
- About Apologetics Index
In the first sentence, the phrase ''freedom of religion'' links to this entry on
The freedom to believe in, practice, and promote the religion of choice without
(government) interference, harrassment, or other repercussions.
Some groups try and abuse the concept of ''freedom of religion'' to prevent or
attack critical evaluations of their teachings and practices. Not surprisingly,
this cause is currently championed by a number of cultic movements and cult
apologists. Examples: Scientology vs. Germany, the Scientology-backed CAN, and
That section, in turn, links to
Religious Freedom, Tolerance, and Intolerance http://www.apologeticsindex.org/r04.html
2) The NUREL list
It is hard to imagine how someone who claims to be an academic can miss the
message here. Then again, seeing how he deliberately misrepresents what took
place on Irving Hexham's NUREL list, it is easy to see that Cowan is simply
doing what cult apologists do best...
About the NUREL list: http://www.apologeticsindex.org/h07.html#list
Some people on this (the Freedom of Mind) list are familiar with Tilman
Hausherr's excellent counter-Scientology work (e.g. in alt.religion.scientology,
and at his own site: http://home.snafu.de/tilman/). Since Tilman was also
subscribed to the NUREL list, I'd encourage you to ask him for his comments on
Misrepresentation and other forms of dishonesty are cornerstones of cult
3) Movement for the Restoration of the Ten Commandments of God
In that regard, it is perculiar to see Cowan's comments regarding my page on the
''Movement for the Restoration of the Ten Commandments of God'' - the Uganda
Note Cowan's description of that page. Compare it with the page itself. Those
who have read my editorial comments (''Cult apologists rush in'') know that it is
an accurate description of what happened at the time.
He must have earned some credibility within the Countercult community, however,
since he is now the co-moderator of Rich Poll's AR-talk and AR-vent discussion
lists, and one of the most frequent contributors. A review manner in which he
discharges his moderatorial duties-especially when confronting the few NRM
members who post to AR-talk-reveals clearly the cyberpolitik of his approach.
Those familiar with the AR-lists know that AR-talk is meant solely for
requesting and posting research resources. Little discussion is allowed, and
then only that which directly speaks to the resources presented.
The AR-vent list was created with extended discussions. Two NRM members post to
AR-vent: Scientologist Cathy Norman, who is a member of OSA and thus charged
with PR work and lots of other activities (on OSA, see
http://www.apologeticsindex.org/o02.html), and Mark Kellner, a
Christian countercult experts do not agree on whether or not to consider
Seventh-day Adventism to be, theologically, a cult of Christianity. I am among those who do consider SDA to be a cult (theologically):
For those interested in the SDA controversies, I recommend this site:
Scientologist and OSA members Matt Bratschi also used to post to AR-vent, but he
left long before Cowan showed up. Matter of fact, Cowan subscribed to AR-talk
on March 31, 2001. The CESNUR conference ran from Apr. 19 - 22. Thus Cowan
does not have much material on which to base his views (no archives on AR-talk
or AR-vent are available - yet).
On AR-vent, I did take Cathy Norman to task for, among other things,
misinformation in Scientology press releases (which, as a member of OSA, she is
well aware of).
I also repeatedly asked her to comment on Scientology's growing record of hate
and harassment practices. Naturally, she has been unable to formulate anything
close to a logical response. The pattern of her responses is familiar: we don't
quite understand Scientology (even those things gleaned and quoted from the
books she freely offers to all who will email her... :). More serious or
persistent challenges are frequently met with an ''I currently have no time''
message (though there usually appears to be plenty of time for the posting of
PR's 'this-is-what-we-believe-and-have-a-good-day' type messages).
I have also consistently confronted Mark Kellner on what I consider to be his
misunderstandings and misrepresentations of European politics, his use of
slippery slope arguments (which pretty much amount to suggesting that
cult-crimes laws - which he of course describes in terms of religious freedom
and persecution - will not give way to, essentially, lack of freedom for all but
a select few. References to such anomalies as the Nazi era round out those type
Cowan clearly disagrees with my approach, and claims that it reveals my
In a footnote on cyberpolitik, Cowan writes:
If realpolitik is the
ruthless and opportunistic reality of politics, as opposed
to the idealist vision of the great state, then cyberpolitik in this context
speaks to the underlying ideology of the Countercult. That is, for all the talk
about freedom of religion, the world is divided dualistically-the saved and the
damned. It is only those more enlightened states that prevent the cyberpolitik
from being legislated.
It is ironic, or indeed sad, to see Cowan miss the fact that countless NRMs also
divide the world dualistically - the saved and the damned (some of these cults
have shown themselves all too willing to force people into a decision either
But his comments again reveal his lack of understanding of the issues he is
trying to address, as well as the shoddiness of his research.
To wit, some Christians adhere to so-called ''Dominion theology'' (which goes by
many other names, including Latter Rain, Kingdom theology, etcetera):
Basically, they want to establish a theocracy - with the kind of legislation
Cowan appears to suggest. Again, those who know me, my site, or my viewpoints
expressed in discussion lists such as these, know that I strongly oppose that
Just in case Cowan is making some offbeat, unexplained reference to cult laws: I
support France's efforts to address *crimes committed by cults.* I also support
the German government's policies with regard to Scientology, and agree with its
view that Scientology is not a religion and should therefore not be treated as
In closing, I have additional thoughts on Cowan's paper, his research
methodology and his views. More on this later...
Anton (Amsterdam, Netherlands)
Apologetics Index: http://www.apologeticsindex.org/ / http://www.countercult.com
1950+ pages of apologetics and countercult information about cults, sects, and
alternative religious movements.