How to brainwash someone in 4 easy steps from Professor Richard Wiseman’s chapter on mind control in Paranormality.
1. Get your foot in the door.
Use the power of conformity.
Make them suffer.
If people have invested a lot, suffered pain, made sacrifices, or been embarrassed, they are more likely to stay with a group, according to several studies. The Moonie church knew this and made it part of their recruitment strategy. After potential converts had been introduced to the religion, before they were completely convinced, they were asked to do street preaching. It is documented (see Marc Galanter’s Cults) that recruits encountered resistance and sometimes hostility but after the process had not only accepted the Moonie teachings but were much more dedicated to working in the church. Similarly, groups that prophesied the end of the world became more zealous in believing their prophet after the world did not end or aliens come down.
Perhaps suffering causes people to hold on more tenaciously because they must justify what they went through. This could explain why pointing out how women suffer in misogynistic religions doesn’t cause women to leave, or why poor people who are made poorer by their church’s tithing and family planning policies are so often loyal. This would explain why black slaves are known for being so devout to a religion which was used to justify their own slavery.
No one wants to suffer in vain. I think this is why many older Christians remain Christians. It hurts too much to realize that they’ve spent so many resources, perhaps hurt or lost friends and family all for a sham. Much easier to believe their pain was for a worthy cause.