I realized there was a larger problem. When, as the writer of a piece about religion, you get too caught up in trying to color things one way or the other, when your allegiance to documented (and fact-checkable—this is The New Yorker, after all) facts takes precedence over everything else, you become blind to your own assumptions. A glaring surprise: “The Apostate” tosses around the world “cult” quite freely, and never even suggests what it might mean by the word. The piece relies on its own assumptions, and its readers’. In other words, there’s really no larger canvas that “The Apostate” seems to want to consider. It’s not going to tell us anything about cults, or religions, or, ultimately, people. It’s just a long news story.
Any time you say "I realized. . . ." there's a mind turning corners, tracking down a lead. And then there's a nice natural mystery set up (What?? What did you realize?) which creates built-in interest for the reader.
Some of the article is a bit messy and confusing, but I'd rather have a mess than a straightforward and unprobing piece.