Critical thinking

Breaking Chains with Brains: How Critical Thinking Can Help End High Control Religious Mandated Shunning


By Robert U. Rational

In a world where conformity is often prized over individuality, the role of critical thinking becomes paramount, especially in the context of high control religious groups. These groups, which include but are not limited to Exclusive Brethren, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Scientology, Haredi Jews, Amish, and the Bahá’í Faith, often employ stringent measures to maintain control over their members, one of the most severe being mandated shunning. This blog explores how empowering individuals with critical thinking skills can be a potent tool in challenging and potentially ending the practice of shunning within these communities.

Understanding Mandated Shunning

Mandated shunning is a practice where members of a religious group are instructed to avoid all contact with individuals who have been excommunicated or who have left the group, often for questioning doctrines or practices. This can lead to severe psychological and emotional distress for both the shunned individuals and their families, tearing apart the social fabric that once supported them.

The Power of Critical Thinking

Critical thinking involves the objective analysis and evaluation of an issue in order to form a judgment. It is about being an active learner rather than a passive recipient of information, which is crucial in environments that demand conformity. Here’s how critical thinking can challenge the practice of mandated shunning:

  1. Encouraging Questioning: Critical thinking encourages individuals to question the status quo. In the context of high control groups, it emboldens members to ask why certain practices, such as shunning, are in place, who they benefit, and at what cost.
  2. Fostering Empathy: At its core, critical thinking is about considering multiple perspectives. Understanding the profound impact that shunning can have on an individual’s mental and emotional well-being can lead to a more empathetic approach, where compassion overrides the need for control.
  3. Promoting Independent Thought: High control groups often rely on their members not questioning their directives. By fostering an environment where independent thought is encouraged, members can start to see the flaws in practices that are designed to control rather than nurture.
  4. Building Resilience Against Manipulation: Critical thinking equips individuals with the tools to recognize manipulative tactics. This awareness can make it harder for groups to use fear or guilt to enforce practices like shunning.

Strategies for Promoting Critical Thinking

Promoting critical thinking in environments that may be hostile to it is challenging but not impossible. Here are some strategies that could be employed:

  • Education: Providing access to education that emphasizes critical thinking skills from a young age can plant the seeds of independent thought.
  • Support Networks: Creating safe spaces for individuals to discuss and question their beliefs without fear of retribution can foster a culture of open dialogue.
  • Access to Information: Ensuring that individuals have access to a wide range of information sources can challenge the echo chamber effect that many high control groups rely on.
  • Encouraging Dialogue: Promoting discussions within the community about the ethical implications of practices like shunning can lead to a reevaluation of their necessity and effectiveness.


The journey towards mandated shunning in high control religious groups is undoubtedly complex. We at would like to see it be made a crime worldwide. While we work toward that end, we should arm ourselves and encourage others to arm themselves with the tools of critical thinking. This way we can begin to dismantle the chains of control, thought by thought, question by question. It is through the power of our collective brains that we can break these chains, fostering communities built on understanding, compassion, and respect for individual autonomy. Please visit to learn more and support this effort.