Gordon Neufeld is a former member of Korean Rev. Sun Myung Moon's Unification Church, which has often been called a "cult."
The followers of Rev. Moon were once commonly called the "Moonies," a moniker they now regard as derogatory.
Neufeld a Canadian from Calgary was recruited in 1976, while visiting the United States in San Francisco. His introduction to the purported "cult" was innocuous. It all began when friendly strangers struck up a seemingly innocent conversation with him in Ghirardelli Square.
Neufeld was then an unemployed university student.
Identifying themselves as members of the "Creative Community Project" (a front group for the Unification Church) they invited the Canadian to visit their commune. He eventually decided to go and loaded onto a group bus provided for transporting prospective new recruits.
"They were so friendly and attractive young women...paid eager attention to me," recalled Neufeld.
His book "Heartbreak and Rage: Ten Years Under Sun Myung Moon," is a personal account of life within the Unification Church.
Neufeld lived largely on the road moving from one city to another mostly working as a fundraiser and eventually attending a Moon controlled seminary.
The Unification Church is based upon Rev. Moon's book "The Divine Principle," which teaches that Jesus failed in his mission, but Moon will fulfill it as the God's new designated "messiah."
Moon also instructs his followers that singles cannot enter heaven. Accordingly, Moon supposedly married Jesus to a female in "spirit world" so that he could gain entrance.
In the 1970s the Unification Church was one of the most notorious "cults" operating in North America. Allegations were reported repeatedly that the group "brainwashed" and manipulated its members. Moon would stage sensational mass wedding ceremonies for his devoted followers that at times included hundreds of couples in a single service.
And "Moonies" paid for the privilege of being married by their messiah.
Many of the same practices continue today, but it seems, as society perhaps has become more accustomed to bizarre "cults" the Unification Church is seen as somewhat less sensational.
Moon was convicted for felony tax fraud and served a 14-month prison term in 1983.
Neufeld walked away from the Unification Church and earned a master's degree. He is now 50 and lives in Calgary.
Today "the Unification Church...[is]...garnering influence by holding conferences for ministers, politicians, religious figures and even media personalities," says Neufeld. He adds that "Moon decided to work behind the scenes...founding the Washington Times newspaper [and] he is now the owner of the UPI news service."
Neufeld said, "Cults...are no less active."
"In the 1970s, several large cults became prominent: the Unification Church, the Hare Krishna, Transcendental Meditation [and the] Church of Scientology...these groups are still around, but operating more quietly," the former Unification Church member said.
Neufeld described what he calls the "primary vulnerability" of people that get into cults. He identified this as the "state of transition," when particularly young people are open to "new directions in life."
He warned, "Anyone can get caught up in a cultic group if they allow the group enough time to go to work on them."
Neufeld explained this by citing the seminal book by Robert Jay Lifton's titled "Thought Reform and the Psychology of Totalism." Within this book the famed psychiatrist explains in detail the process of thought reform, which has often been called "brainwashing."
Note: This news summary was based upon the article "Exorcising the Demons of Thought Control," by David Hedley, Calgary Herald March 28, 2004