, Volume 33, Issue 1, pp 29-43

Misattribution and social control in the children of god

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This article argues that deviant religions use supposedly godly justifications for their punishment systems by establishing theologies in which members misattribute divine authority to leaders whom they relate to emotionally as to demanding parents. These misattributing theologies “sanctify” the harsh suffering that members often experience. Illustrations of the theoretical points come from texts published by the Children of God in its early period (the 1970s), supplemented by accounts given by two women who have left the group.

Earlier versions of this paper were presented at academic conferences in Vancouver and Washington, D.C.
Professor Kent's research was supported by a grant from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada.