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How a cyberphilosopher convinced followers to cut off family Add to ...

In the fall, Tom and his girlfriend posted candid comments on the FDR forum about their family problems. Mr. Molyneux offered to talk to them by Skype, an Internet telephone.

In one posting, Tom wrote about how he thought at one point that he was gay . "I'm quite worried about the ideas Stef has mentioned, suggesting I could have possibly been molested or flashed at or something which causes people to be attracted to the same sex."

By the spring, a distraught Tom spoke on an FDR call-in show ( podcast 1034 , starting at 1:37:00). He said he couldn't understand why he was so passionate about animal rights. "I think you as a child was treated like an animal by someone who was cruel to animals," Mr. Molyneux told him.

Tom said his father would scream at the family cats and throw things around when he was angry. "I'd be terrified. Just completely terrified."

"What you went through is staggeringly evil," Mr. Molyneux said. He suggested that Tom's mother became pregnant to placate an abusive spouse. "It's not that she failed to protect you from the devil. She created you for the devil."

"I can't remember the last time I got so angry," Tom said. Mr. Molyneux replied: "That's healthy anger."

Mr. Molyneux said in an interview that he wasn't trying to feed ideas into Tom's mind or attribute motives to his mother.

He said he just presented Tom a theory befitting the description of his father.

"All it is is a theory. I wasn't telling him what his experience was."

Ms. Weed denies there were abuses and said her son exaggerated the family conflicts. "The things he said, he was making them more dramatic than they were, making them worse than they were, for effects," she said.

"I had not understood until now the terrifying power of the World Wide Web as a tool to propagate lies and to cause suffering. Words seem so impotent in the face of the widespread and profound harm that the Freedomain Radio site is responsible for," Tom's father wrote on a site critical of FDR.

"I am one of those damaged parents, I have no chance of mending my marriage, no means of refuting the lies which have been circulated about me, and above all, I have lost a son."

Ms. Weed said she was willing to tell her story because she doesn't think Tom will come back.

Mr. Molyneux meanwhile says he wants to devote less time online. His wife is pregnant and due this month.

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