Diane Benscoter spent five years as a “Moonie.” She shares an insider’s perspective on the mind of a cult member, and proposes a new way to think about today’s most troubling conflicts and extremist movements

Why you should listen:

She recently completed a memoir describing her years as a member of The Unification Church and as a deprogrammer.

Furthermore, she has embarked on a new project to define “extremist viral memetic infections”. She believes that defining extremism as a memetic infection, from a cognitive neurological perspective, might allow us to develop better memes that would inoculate against the memes of extremist thought. These inoculating memes could prevent the spread of extremist viral memetic infections and their inherent dangers.

Who is she:

At 17, Diane Benscoter joined The Unification Church — the religious cult whose members are commonly known as “Moonies.” After five long years, her distressed family arranged to have her deprogrammed. Benscoter then left The Unification Church, and was so affected by her experience that she became a deprogrammer herself. She devoted her time to extracting others from cults, until she was arrested for kidnapping. The shock of her arrest caused her to abandon her efforts for almost 20 years.

Now, after decades of research and study, Diane has begun to speak about her experiences.


1) What documentary came out that had a significant effect on Benscoter?

2) What is a meme?

3) What does Benscoter mean when she says she was effected by a viral memetic infection?

4) Why is it that if you compared Bencoster’s brain to the brain of someone who uses critical thinking on a regular basis, that they would look very different?

Relating to the real world: ABC News Jonestown mass suicide

How cults rewire the brain with Diane Benscoter


You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>