From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search

"Apologist journal" critique[edit]

We include a critique from Ortega accusing CESNUR of being an 'apologist journal'. It was removed as SPS, which it is. I restored it because: 1) it verifies only a quote from the source and 2) this "CESNUR as 'apologist'/nrm-friendly" critique is found in other RSes. Additionally, Ortega is an "established expert" whose NRM-related work has been widely published, per past RS noticeboard discussion.[1]. Feoffer (talk) 19:53, 18 October 2019 (UTC)

Feoffer, I hope you don't take this the wrong way but you're operating under the same misunderstanding of WP:RS as you were in the discussion above. This relates specifically to point #2 in your comment. Just because Source A (in this case, a self-published blogger) echoes a sentiment in Source B (a reliable source) does not mean that Source A is a reliable source. It's also tautological to say that we should use self-published blog articles as sources because they "verify a quote from the source." The source is, still, a self-published blog. The fact that Ortega has published in the past doesn't make his blog a reliable source. May His Shadow Fall Upon You📧 13:05, 25 October 2019 (UTC)
Replaced with Introvigne source. Feoffer (talk) 01:02, 11 November 2019 (UTC)
I see this text was again removed even after resolving the above sourcing concerns: "rm ambiguous text - the text is written in a way that makes the reader think that this was criticism from 2019 but really, he's saying that he's been criticized in the past but the quote comes from a 2019 article. Also, does this really add anything given the above? It seems to be an unnecessary duplicate of what's above and gives no new information. Not totally opposed to inclusion but it should be worded more clearly and perhaps more interestingly.
The criticism of CESNUR as 'cult apologists' is not historic, it is ongoing, leveled as recently as 2018 and 2019 (as you know of course). If Ortega isn't your cup of tea, I'm sure we could find other NRM-critics who similarly made recent use of the label 'cult apologist' as a critique of CESNUR. It's not redundant, if only for the timing issues you yourself raise. We wouldn't want readers to think this criticism ended in way back in 1997; it didn't. Feoffer (talk) 00:21, 27 November 2019 (UTC)
Feoffer, Does the source indicate that it was a recent criticism? I don't think that it does. May His Shadow Fall Upon You📧 14:20, 27 November 2019 (UTC)
Our text doesn't claim the criticism is recent, it reports the verified fact that the rebuttal was recent. You removed it on the incorrect claim that label 'cult apologist' label might have be historic-only, which isn't the standard for inclusion. (It's also demonstrably false: in 2019 multiple anti-cults sources still use the label for CESNUR, and in 2019, Introvigne still feels the label is relevant to explaining why his recent project Bitter Winter is being attacked.) Feoffer (talk) 15:22, 27 November 2019 (UTC)
Feoffer, My point is that if all the source says is that CESNUR was called this in the past, then it's redundant because the section above describes in much better detail. It's not useful to the reader to explain multiple instances of how CESNUR was criticized and then cap it off with "CESNUR was criticized in the past." Show, don't tell. May His Shadow Fall Upon You📧 15:32, 27 November 2019 (UTC)
Well, I guess what I was trying to get at is: we do mention the anti-cult movement, but we never actually present their take on CESNUR, i.e. that they accuse the groups it supports of being "cults" and accuse the support of being outright "apologetic". What I'm getting at is there is this huge "cult debate" that does have people on both sides who have very 1-sided black and white views of new religions and that sort of 'fundamentalist hardliner' position probably merits a very brief mention of their position in some form. The scholarly criticism is most important, but there are people who just see things through the lens of religious orthodoxy and are going to oppose CESNUR just for supporting so-called cults. Feoffer (talk) 23:00, 27 November 2019 (UTC)
Put another way, it almost seems unfair to CESNUR to not make mention of the contingent of their opposition that take this hardline anti-CESNUR position. Introvigne's current attack of the 'anti-cult movement' might seem like a strawman-distraction without a solid presentation of the hardline "cults are bad" position from the self-identified anti-'cult'ists. Feoffer (talk) 03:38, 28 November 2019 (UTC)
Feoffer, I'm not necessarily disagreeing with you but compare and contrast the removed portion with the portion above. The remainder of the criticism section discusses events with detail. The part I removed is more of a conclusory statement and is of no help to the reader. Perhaps you're onto something but the text should be useful to the reader by providing hard specifics. May His Shadow Fall Upon You📧 14:41, 5 December 2019 (UTC)

About the CESNUR conference of 1997 in Amsterdam and New Acropolis[edit]

The article mentions Dutch criticism of CESNUR because in the program of the CESNUR conference of 1997 in Amsterdam one speaker, Maria Dolores Fernandez-Figares, was listed on New Acropolis who was discovered by investigative journalists to be a member of New Acropolis. I confess I never read the article mentioning the critiques of scholar Richard Singelenberg at Now I did and found somethingh I, and presumably other editors, were not aware of: that once the membership of the lady in New Acropolis was disclosed, her participation in the conference was cancelled ("inmiddels afgeblazen"). I believe this is not an irrelevant detailAidayoung (talk) 09:16, 30 October 2019 (UTC)

Done. Feoffer (talk) 01:01, 11 November 2019 (UTC)

James R. Lewis[edit]

Lewis is a well-known scholar but was never “CESNUR-affiliated” according both to CESNUR’s Web sites and his own publications. In his book “Falun Gong: Spiritual Warfare and Martyrdom” (Cambridge University Press 2018) Lewis mentions his own career. It does not mention CESNUR but it makes it clear that his is a different approach. For example, while CESNUR has always been a vocal critic of China, particularly on the Falun Gong issue, Lewis states that it has a long cooperation with Chinese authorities in fighting Falun Gong. Aidayoung (talk) 09:01, 1 November 2019 (UTC) Lewis has never published in The Journal of CESNUR, not in any book published by CESNUR. CESNUR’s Web site reports on CESNUR conferences but that doesn’t make Lewis a “CESNUR-published author”.Aidayoung (talk) 12:34, 10 November 2019 (UTC)

Per a source you added, CESNUR is "the largest international association of scholars specializing in the study of new religious movements". Yet simultaneously, you argue Lewis should not be construed as a member of this very same association? It seems improbable that this group's membership is so expansive in one context yet so narrow in another.
Lewis presents papers at CESNUR's conferences and is published on CESNUR's website, but you argue he should not be construed as CESNUR-published??? Such arguments seem quite forced. Nonetheless, 'occasional conference speaker', rather than member, can suffice as a Lewis descriptor for now. Feoffer (talk) 00:57, 11 November 2019 (UTC)

Alleged Defense of New Acropolis and Order of the Solar Temple[edit]

This very serious accusation comes, without any evidence, from a single sentence in a single source, an article in the Communist French newspaper L’Humanité. The sensational article is mentioned in the section “Criticism” but placing the accusation in the lead too is grossly unfair. The Dutch sources cited did not say that CESNUR “defended” New Acropolis but that a scholar who was a member of New Acropolis figured in the program of the 1997 CESNUR conference. When she was identified as a member of New Acropolis, her participation was cancelled. There is not the slightest evidence that CESNUR defended the Order of the Solar Temple. There are articles on the Solar Temple in CESNUR’s Web site but they are critical. Such a serious accusation, particularly in the lead, should be supported by some evidence. Also, a reader may believe that the article on the Solar Temple quoted mentioned that CESNUR defended it, while it didn’t mention CESNUR at all.Aidayoung (talk) 12:40, 10 November 2019 (UTC)

This material is well-sourced:
  • "defends cults such as Scientology, the Order of the Solar Temple and Heaven's Gate." [2]
  • "has distinguished himself in France by his systematic interventions in favor of sects brought to justice: Jehovah's Witnesses, Scientology, Order of the Solar Temple, etc. Moon, AUM sect (responsible for a deadly attack on the Tokyo subway in 1995), all sects can count on the CESNUR." [3]
  • "After the second wave of suicide by members of the Sun Temple, in Cheiry, Switzerland, in 1995, Introvigne declared that they had acted on their own initiative" [4]
Feoffer (talk) 21:35, 10 November 2019 (UTC)

Not so. CESNUR was accused of having “defended” the Order of the Solar Temple is the articles in L’Humanité and De Groene Amsterdammer, hardly major newspapers, which wrote in the context of a heavily political controversy . The third article, by the Swiss Broadcasting Corporation, does not mention CESNUR at all. As far as I know, the fact that an accusation has been published in a newspaper, the more so a marginal one, is not enough to accept it as a source in Wikipedia. Neither L’Humanité nor De Groene Amsterdamer offered anything as evidence for this very serious accusation. The only main article on the Solar Temple I could find published by CESNUR scholars, in a book edited by Cambridge University Press [5], does not “defend” the Solar Temple in any way and indeed deprecates its criminal activities. You added a quote from “Trouw”, an Evangelical Dutch magazine which intervened in the 1997 Amsterdam conference controversy to the effect that “After the second wave of suicide by members of the Solar Temple, in Cheiry, Switzerland, in 1995, Introvigne declared that they had acted on their own initiative.” Apart from the factual mistake, as the second wave of suicides occurred in France and not in Switzerland, if one reads the Cambridge UP article by Introvigne and Mayer one understands what “acted on their own initiative” means. Introvigne and Mayer dismissed the conspiracy theories that the suicides were really homicides organized by French or other secret services, and declared that those who commits suicide decided to do it for reasons connected with their ideology. Stating that the suicides came from the “own initiative” of those who committed them rather than from some obscure conspiracy is not a “defense” of the Solar Temple. Aidayoung (talk) 11:13, 13 November 2019 (UTC)

CESNUR lobbies for the legitimacy of new religions, and the primary well-sourced criticism against the organization is that it has defended controversial groups. Its understandable that the legitimization of Aum or Solar is embarrassing to CESNUR, but that doesn't mean it didn't occur -- it is documented in multiple reliable sources. Likewise, your argument that Introvigne or Melton cease to be members of CESNUR during their legitimization efforts is similarly found to be without merit -- RSes do connect CESNUR to these groups. Wikipedia policy does not allow us to delete reliably sourced criticism simply because it is embarrassing to the subject: Wikipedia is not a soapbox or means of promotion. Feoffer (talk) 14:42, 13 November 2019 (UTC)

I am willing to consider your argument but can you explain in simple words what evidence do you have that CESNUR defended the Order of the Solar Temple, except that two left-wing journalists said so but did not explain when, how, and where? Aidayoung (talk) 15:34, 14 November 2019 (UTC)

'What sources do you have, aside from the RSes you've already provided"???
Based on the three RSes already included, it's virtually guaranteed that Introvigne did in fact make public statements somewhere doing what he always does -- rejecting the thesis that Solar Temple members were brainwashed by their guru and instead defending the sect as a religion, albeit an extreme one, whose adherents were free people who simply chose death. The Trouw source basically says as much.
But what good would it do me to go through all the trouble of digging up such a source for you? If three reliable sources didn't convince you, a fourth would be dismissed just as easily. "That doesn't count as a defense" you'd say, perhaps. Or maybe you'd attack the source for its biases, just as you currently dismiss the existing sources as Evangelical, leftist, and Communist. If three such radically different sources all reporting on the defense have not convinced you, surely a fourth source wouldn't persuade you.
That's the problem of editing patterns consistent with a conflict of interest -- Wikipedia really benefits from the Assumption of good faith, and as many at ANI have discussed, faith in you is minimal I'm afraid Feoffer (talk) 22:54, 15 November 2019 (UTC)

Apart from your usual name-calling, you imply that arguing that someone committed a crime out of his/her own will rather than because of brainwashing amounts to defending both crime and criminal. The entry makes it clear that CESNUR scholars share the (majority) opinion of NRM scholars that brainwashing does not exist. But stating that an evil deed was committed freely rather than under the enterprise of brainwashing is not a defense of that deed - on the contrary, it magnifies the responsibility of the perpetrator. Aidayoung (talk) 13:08, 16 November 2019 (UTC)

I don't necessary disagree with anything you say. It might help you to remember that this article does not say anyone endorsed any crimes, and no one reading the article would see this text and believe the cited scholars are criminals.
But the fact remains: When a CESNUR scholar says "we studied group X and it's a legitimate religion that doesn't use brainwashing", they're met with the valid and well-sourced rebuttal: 'that's what CESNUR _always_ says, even about very very very extreme groups who have done awful things. A doctor who gives a clean bill of health to all his patients, even the visibly sick ones, may be entitled to his opinion, but its of limited utility to the rest of us.' Feoffer (talk) 22:01, 16 November 2019 (UTC)

I don’t necessarily disagree either but I believe the position of CESNUR was more precisely stated here, in one of the first issues of their journal: [6]. Some groups are “criminal” even if they are “religious,” not because they use “brainwashing” (most CESNUR scholars believe, rightly or wrongly, that brainwashing does not exist) but because they commit horrible crimes. Aidayoung (talk) 23:54, 23 November 2019 (UTC)

While leaving the part about the accusations intact, I included CESNUR's response about Aum and the Solar Temple etc. I believe it is just fair to represent both positions. Aidayoung (talk) 16:06, 5 December 2019 (UTC)

Criticism in the Lead[edit]

Hello, Feoffer. I thought it would be better to explain here, and not in edit summary. I am opposed to breaking the information from the Stephen Kent's article into two parts. In my opinion, it describes the situation with CESNUR rather well. It is wrong to take from it only a critical part. I would suggest leaving only this sentence in the Lead (CESNUR has been described as "the highest profile lobbying and information group for controversial religions"; many scholars, however, see it in a favourable light and share its criticism of the "sect-monitors".), and transfer the next sentence ("CESNUR's scholars have defended such diverse groups as...") to the "Criticism" section. Because there are, as I see, disputable statements, such as "neo-Nazis" from the New Acropolis.--Nicoljaus (talk) 08:21, 26 November 2019 (UTC)

Welcome! this page can use more eyeballs!
You're right! 'purported-neo-nazi' is indeed disputable and out of place in the lede. Thanks for point it out, its been excised.
With that in mind, see if you prefer the flow with kent split into two parts: so that "CESNUR's relationship with controversial groups" is followed immediately by an "e.g." list of groups, and the scholar worried about bias is immediately followed by the scholars who agree with CESNUR. Feoffer (talk) 08:45, 26 November 2019 (UTC)
Thanks, this edition is acceptable. And here's another issue: "Chinese sect Eastern Lightning (famed for its alleged role in the Zhaoyuan McDonald's cult murder)". I read the mentioned article. As I see, in 2015 it was shown that the murders founded their own cult, which has little to do with the Eastern Lightning movement and, in any case, they did not belong to it at the time of murder. How about the wording "Chinese sect Eastern Lightning (initially mistakenly associated with the Zhaoyuan McDonald's cult murder)"?--Nicoljaus (talk) 09:25, 26 November 2019 (UTC)
Nicoljaus, In general, the lede is slanted toward being almost 100% critical of the organization. I think it could use some tweaking in general. I'll be looking at it this week. May His Shadow Fall Upon You📧 18:41, 26 November 2019 (UTC)
Thanks, that would be great.--Nicoljaus (talk) 18:52, 26 November 2019 (UTC)
If it was a case of mistaken identity, I'm comfortable dropping all reference to the murder. I've done so. Feoffer (talk) 20:51, 26 November 2019 (UTC)
Upon inspection, the only one claiming mistaken identity is Introvigne himself, so the reference to the murder had to be restored. Currently the parenthetical reads: 'accused of ties to the 2014 murder of Wu Shuoyan'. Also, changed the title of the article, as "Zhaoyuan McDonald's cult murder" was decidedly non-NPOV. Feoffer (talk) 11:11, 30 November 2019 (UTC)

I frankly hope somebody else also edits Eastern Lightning but would just alert Feoffer that he needs to read Emily Dunn's book if he wants to quote it and on this I will intervene.

Emily Dunn explicitly stated that the CAG did not predict the end of the world in 2012: "some members" did, but these rogue members "appear to have done so without sanctions from the group self-proclained authorities," who declared theories about end of the world "mistaken" and expelled those promoting them (Dunn 2015 book, page 95; Feoffer's revisions have left a reference to an article by Dunn about reincarnation published in 2016 that is not about the 2012 incident).

In the same book (by no means favorable to The Church of Almighty God), Dunn noted about the McDonald's murder that "international media outlets repeated Chinese assessment" about the murder in the McDonald's but "what they overlooked were Lu Yingchun and Zhang Fan [the two leaders of the group who committed the murder]'s statements to the court that although they started out as members of Eastern Lightning... they had outgrown it" and regarded The Church of Almighty God led by Zhao Weishan as "the false 'Almighty God'," while they called their (small) group "the true 'Almighty God.'" ([Dunn 2015, page 151). Thus, long before Introvige wrote on the matter, Emily Dunn had written that it was a different group. In footnote 34, also page 151, she explains that she did not create this theory as it was presented in Chinese journalistic sources, included in a detailed article written by a journalist called Yang Feng, as early as 2014.

The only "novel theory" by Introvigne and David Bromley is that, contrary to Dunn's statement, they claimed Lu Yingchhun and Zhang Fan had not even "started out" as members of Eastern Lightning. This is based on statements by Lu Yingchun that already as a very young woman she claimed to be God (something incompatible with being a member of Eastern Lightning, which regards a different lady as God and considers highly blasphemous for other human beings to claim they are God: see [7]: "I grew up knowing that I was ‘God Himself'") and on a televised interview the Chinese authorities allowed Zhang Fan to grant from jail where she stated that she has never be able to contact The Church of Almighty God. You can hear it from the voice of Zhang Fan at [8]: "I never had contact with The Church of Almighty God because they were very secretive, and I could not find them." Aidayoung (talk) 05:30, 6 December 2019 (UTC)

Aidayoung's continuing promotion of Introvigne[edit]

this edit

  • introduces Introvigne as an 'independent scholar'
  • dismisses Kent's quote by describing it as the opinion of a 'cult' critic.
  • inserted more CESNUR material without first building a consensus for its inclusion.
  • though reliable sources report CENSUR has defended various groups, has changed this to "Been accused"
  • continues to misrepresent the views of others like Thomas above.

widespread agreement that Aidayoung has a conflict of interest on this topic

We hoped Aida might follow a self-imposed topic ban to dissuade COI concerns, but that seems not to be the case. The solution to Aida's behavior issues should not be a 2-person revert-war, so perhaps wiser minds can find a better solution. @Thomas.W:@Grayfell:@4meter4:@Nblund:@Nat Gertler:@TomStar81:@Ymblanter:@Nil Einne:@Drmies:. Feoffer (talk) 01:17, 6 December 2019 (UTC)

  • Are you just going around pinging random people? What do I have to do with this? Please post on the appropriate noticeboard. Drmies (talk) 01:21, 6 December 2019 (UTC)
No, each of those folks who have commented on this issue before in one of many other venues. Posting to ANI instead. Feoffer (talk) 01:32, 6 December 2019 (UTC)
  • The article is not in good shape, but Aidayoung's edit made things worse, not better. I have been reluctant to tackle this topic for a lot of reasons. While I think behavioral evidence makes it hard to deny that CESNUR has been directly involved in this article, that's... only one part of the problem. As I said at the ANI section linked above, there are legitimate reasons Aidayoung would be concerned with privacy, but their behavior is disruptive and, regarding their uploads to Commons, also nakedly manipulative. This editor is a SPA who only seems to defend CESNUR and personalities affiliated with CESNUR, specifically Introvigne. If they have provided a plausible or compelling explanation for this behavior on some talk page or noticeboard, I haven't seen it. Grayfell (talk) 01:51, 6 December 2019 (UTC)
perhaps a good first step would be to undo the edit you agree was unhelpful. Feoffer (talk) 04:35, 6 December 2019 (UTC)

I have edited on new religious movements and many other topics, not only CESNUR. Since continuous slander is inserted on a major scholar of NRMs (qualified as such in academic sources I have quoted), and a group described in a recent scholarly book as "the largest outlet currently supporting research on NRMs," I try to restore some balance. I would love to move on and devote my Wikipedia time to other matters, but it is difficult to see why criticism in non-mainline daily newspapers published decades ago should be included here as "reliable resource," while the assessment of CESNUR in a (perhaps "the") leading academic history of the scholarship on new religious movements should not be included. Ashcraft has no association with CESNUR and his book was reviewed inter alia by University of Sydney's Carole Cusack as "highly recommended to all interested in the history of the academic study of religion and in new religions in particular. It is warmly commended as an excellent work." See [9]. Btw, Ashcraft's book also describes Kent as part of the "cultic studies" field, i.e. the one with an anti-cult approach to the matter, although a particularly articulated one producing good work, which I don't deny (p. 8 of Ashcraft's book). I have quoted several academic sources describing Introvigne as a scholar, and "independent" means a scholar not currently affiliated with any university. When serious accusations against some persons or group are made, including how they have responded to accusations seem just fair. Aidayoung (talk) 04:32, 6 December 2019 (UTC)

You are changing the subject, and bloating the discussion with yet another tedious wall of text which has nothing to do with the issues other people are trying to discuss.
Since 2007, you have been adding blatantly promotional content and totally unacceptable external links, to Massimo Introvigne. You were doing this, and very little else, for over a decade from 2007 to 2017. YOu only have a few hundred edits on English Wikipedia, and it's not difficult to see that Introvigne has been the main focus of your activity for a very long time. Grayfell (talk) 05:45, 6 December 2019 (UTC)

What is the problem with Ashcraft book, Feoffer? W. Michael Ashcraft seems quite a reliable scientist [10].--Nicoljaus (talk) 10:20, 16 December 2019 (UTC)

It was promotional WP:PEACOCK introduced by blocked sockpuppeteer, objected to by others e.g. [11]. Feoffer (talk) 04:08, 17 December 2019 (UTC)
Well, the text added to the article was this: has been described in 2018 by American scholars W. Michael Ashcraft as "the largest outlet currently supporting research on NRMs" As for me, this is consistent with the example in the section "Just the facts" of WP:PEACOCK[1]. So this is a direct quote from a fairly competent author, or I don’t understand something here. Next, where is the SPI on Aidayoung? The one that I found testifies in favor of Aidayang.--Nicoljaus (talk) 07:01, 17 December 2019 (UTC)


  1. ^ Dylan was included in Time's 100: The Most Important People of the Century, in which he was called "master poet, caustic social critic and intrepid, guiding spirit of the counterculture generation". By the mid-1970s, his songs had been covered by hundreds of other artists.