Is cult author Steven Hassan embellishing and/or exaggerating his bio?

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Author Steven Hassan, who writes and speaks about groups called “cults,” has a personal history of cult involvement. Hassan was in the Unification Church (“Moonies”) founded by Sun Myung Moon for two years in the 1970s. And his origin story includes a dramatic “deprogramming” intervention arranged by his parents.

However, it seems some of that story has been obscured or may have been somewhat changed over the years.

According to James and Marcia Rudin, authors of the book “Prison or Paradise: The New Religious Cults” (1980 Fortress Press page 37), “Steve [was] bitter when he [remembered] how quickly the church deserted him after an automobile accident.” The authors recount how “Steve fully expected the ‘Family’ to assist him in his recovery, but instead the Unification Church leaders contacted Steve’s sister and parents and informed them of the accident.” Hassan stated, “The Moonies couldn’t get rid of me fast enough.” And it was “during the long period of recuperation he was deprogrammed.”

So, it appears that at the time of his deprogramming Steven Hassan was no longer a member of the Unification Church and was already apparently disillusioned with the organization.

Hassan who once studied creative writing seems to have embellished, exaggerated and/or spun his deprogramming story over the years.

For example, Slate reported (2021) that Hassan had supposedly dark and violent thoughts during his deprogramming that reflected his fanatical commitment. They quote Hassan stating, “While it might seem hard to believe, my first impulse was to kill my father by reaching over and snapping his neck,” Hassan reportedly wrote, “As a member, I had been told many times that it was better to die or kill than to leave the church.”

But these expressions of extreme and violent commitment don’t exactly line up with the sentiments expressed within the book by the Rudins published in 1980. Rather, it seems that Hassan was predisposed to leave the church after it dumped him and he became bitterly disillusioned.

Another interesting contradiction is that Hassan apparently told the Rudins that he was “a former Unification Church high official who was a national leader at CARP” (Collegiate Association for the Research of Principles).

But the Rudins also write that “he rammed his car into the back of a truck on the Baltimore Beltway after seventy-two continuous hours of fund raising” (“Prison or Paradise: The New Religious Cults” page 38).

Why was a “high official” and “national leader” within the Unification Church relegated to such menial work? Grueling hours of fund raising is most often delegated to regular members within fund raising teams and not prominent national leaders.

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