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Book: The Insider/Outsider Debate

Chapter: Chapter 19: Moving Out: Disengagement and Ex-Membership in New Religious Movements

DOI: 10.1558/equinox.27467


The ex-member is a distinctive type of outsider. Particularly in the study of new religious movements, the vociferous hostile ex-member tends to gain most atttention in the media and the anticult movement. Such members are sometimes referred to as ‘career apostates’, engaging in writing and being interviewed about their experience. In this chapter it is argued that the career apostate is only one type of ex-member among several, and the author explores how other types of ex-member have positioned themselves regarding the movements they have left. The chapter discusses the problems that can arise in leaving a new religion, and assesses the degree to which credence can be placed on ex-member testimony. The author concludes that, although some ‘career ex-members’ can often be considered as being so preoccupied with the organisation they have left to the extent that they remain virtually insiders, while other ex-members often provide valuable evidence about such organisations, particularly if they have aspired to offices that allow access to restricted information.

Chapter Contributors

  • George Chryssides ( - gchryssides) 'York St John University'