I first heard about "deprogramming" around 1974 when I was a 15 year old member of what many considered to be a Christian "cult" (Coniah, San Diego), and we heard some of our members had suffered that process. I was never deprogrammed, but my parents did cut off my contact, and eventually learning physics ended my religious leanings. Here is how advocates describe deprogramming:
There is nothing quite so impenetrable as a human mind snapped shut with bliss. No call to reason, no emotional appeal can get through its armor of self-proclaimed joy. … How do you reach such people? … A man named Ted Patrick developed the first remedy. … His first-hand experiences with cult techniques and their effects led him to develop … "deprogramming," … Through the seventies, he made front page headlines in the east for his daring daylight kidnappings of Ivy League cult members. … In many courtrooms, however, Ted Patrick lost his case for freedom of thought, gathering a stack of convictions for kidnapping and unlawful detention. … "When you deprogram people," he emphasized, "you force them to think. The only thing I do is shoot them challenging questions. I hit them with things that they haven’t been programmed to respond to. I know what the cults do and how they do it, so I shoot them the right questions; and they get frustrated when they can’t answer. … They realize that they’ve been duped and they come out of it." …
In the new climate, judges were deaf to the pleas of the parents and families of cult members, and the precarious deprogramming profession was largely eclipsed by the efforts of the new generation of cult "exit counselors." Exit counselors … were testing a wide range of eclectic approaches, some more successful, some less so. … Most confirmed a pattern we, too, had noted: the new methods of voluntary deprogramming and exit counseling, while far less controversial and much safer from a legal standpoint, prompted fewer cult members to experience a sudden "snapping out" of their controlled states of mind. Instead, most experienced a slower process of emergence.
It is plausible that people could get "locked into" bad ways of thinking, coming not only from small unpopular religions, but also from large mainstream ways of thought. And it is plausible that an intensive session of questioning might break through that lock. On the other hand, there is little to praise if the technique just relies on lack of sleep to wear down a weary mind.
It seems to me that I should be willing to be "deprogrammed" by any group willing to pay for my time to try, in cash or perhaps a pleasant vacation location. I’d agree to stay isolated with them out of contact from others, as long as I got enough food, sleep, bathroom privileges, etc. I’d even refund them a multiple if they convinced me to change my mind.
Hey, in the best case they might be right, and I’d break out of my mind lock. And otherwise I’d be compensated. Any creationists, or mainstream economics skeptics, want to give it a try? I don’t think I’ll get any takers, probably because this stuff only works on young, insecure, weak minds. Does that suggest that it is more about brainwashing than reasoning?