Scientology 101

June 17, 2009 | By | 13 Replies More

I attended an Anonymous rally last Saturday. You know, Anonymous—the international internet-linked underground that protests Scientology. Anonymous sprang up on imageboards—notably Futaba and the infamous 4chan—in 2006. Project Chanology, the organized, ongoing protest against the Church of Scientology, began in 2008 with a press release and a famous YouTube video, and has since taken on a life of its own.

Xenu and friend at the June 13th Anonymous protest in Los Angeles (photo: Michael Pattinson)

Xenu and friend at the June 13th Anonymous protest in Los Angeles (photo: Michael Pattinson)

Scientology, as DI readers probably already know, is a scam masquerading as a sort of religion/self-actualization movement hybrid. The Church of Scientology (CoS) was dreamed up by a guy named L. Ron Hubbard, who used to write a lot of pulp fiction. In 1950, Hubbard published a book called Dianetics, in which he claimed that neuroses and other problems are caused by engrams. Engrams are like little negative scripts that get encoded into the unconscious mind (Hubbard called it the “reactive mind”). These engrams take root, supposedly, because when we’re unconscious, the reactive mind hears whatever’s being said around us, and takes it literally.  Even fetuses get engrams–from the moment of conception, they can hear everything that’s being said in their mother’s vicinity, and their little reactive minds are busy recording engrams which, without Dianetic treatment, will cause all manner of psychological trouble throughout their lives.

I’m not making this up. L. Ron Hubbard made this up.

And, sadly, he got some people to believe it. Enough people, in fact, that he was able to morph Dianetics from a mere self-help fad into a new “religion”–the Church of Scientology.

Church of Scientology members “audit” each other a lot. They also spend money—a lot of money–on books and tapes and seminars. These things are supposed to erase their engrams and advance them toward a goal known as “clear”, at which point they’ll have perfect emotional AND physical health and unlimited self-confidence and no more engrams and pretty much be perfect.

Scientology teaches these things, and lots more. There are Hubbard’s teachings on spirit and matter, which involve concepts called theta and MEST. And there’s Xenu. Ah, Xenu.

Xenu was an intergalactic ruler who, long, long ago, trapped a bunch of people in volcanoes and then blew them up. The souls of his exploded alien victims wound up inside other, unexploded people’s bodies, including yours and mine. They cause at least as much trouble as engrams do. Xenu’s evil exploits, though, are supposed to be a secret. Initiates into the CoS aren’t told the story until they’ve been in the cult for quite a while, at which point they’ve already spent tens of thousands of dollars—at least—on the CoS. Outsiders aren’t ever supposed to know about it. I guess the church is afraid it might sound, you know, a little silly.

So why does Anonymous protest CoS? After all, if folks want to waste their money on a cult started by a third class sci-fi writer and first class conman that’s their business, right?

Well, sure–except that Scientology hurts people. Their opposition to psychiatry in any form is well known and has been linked to a number of tragedies. Scientologists are told to break off all ties with family members and friends who question the cult’s teachings. Critics of the cult, and cult members who leave, or attempt to leave, the fold, have been harassed, threatened, defamed, subjected to nuisance lawsuits, and worse.

You see, Scientology is going to save the world. Someday all of us will be Scientologists, and then we’ll all be happy and productive and “clear”. That being the case, anything the Church does to silence critics is perfectly ethical. Anything. L. Ron Hubbard himself said so. They call it the Fair Game policy.

Oh, and did I mention that your tax dollars are helping to subsidize this?

That’s right;  the Church of Scientology is officially recognized as a  tax-exempt nonprofit organization by the U.S. government.

It’s hard to estimate the size of the church’s assets and the income generated by all those classes and books and AV materials members must buy in order to progress to “clear” status.  Scientology is not exactly a model of transparency and above-board business practice.

None of their self-reported statistics—regarding their finances, their “charities”, or their membership—are trustworthy.

But, thanks in part to some brave ex-Scientologists, online whistleblowers like Operation Clambake, terrific exposes by Rolling Stone and Time Magazine, Anonymous, and others, Scientology’s public image is battered and their membership—and consequently their bankroll–does seem to be dwindling.

Remember, though, Scientology in one form or another has been around since 1950, and its imminent demise has been predicted at least since 1952,  when Martin Gardner published Fads and Fallacies in the Name of Science.  In his chapter dedicated to Dianetics, which was was the original, non-“religious” form of Scientology, Gardner wrote

At the time of writing, the Dianetics craze seems to have burned itself out as quickly as it caught fire…

Fifty-five years later, the embers still smolder.

So thanks be to Anonymous, that motley group of prankster-protesters who’ve dedicated themselves to protesting Scientology’s numerous abuses against free speech, human rights, and common sense, and to pissing off the cult’s upper echelons.

And what’s every bit as cool as that—they manage to have a hell of a lot of fun doing it.

If you’re ever in the vicinity of an Anonymous protest, I highly recommend that you go over and express your support. You’ll find a friendly, witty, and articulate group of unrepentant trouble-makers. If you choose to join them, though, you may want to wear a mask, because, rest assured, Scientology will be watching you.


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Category: Religion, snake oil

About the Author ()

Stacy Kennedy was born and raised in Southern California and currently lives in Los Angeles, two blocks from MacArthur Park. She is a secular humanist, a skeptic, and an atheist with pantheistic sympathies. She tells people that she is a writer.

Comments (13)

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  1. RrRrR says:

    Give us back Katie Holmes and then we might consider stoping…might…

  2. WolfyRik says:

    Great article, I like it. It's a stark difference from scientology's claims that Anonymous are teorrists. I've never seen or heard of terrorists handing out cake (queue Eddie Izzard) for one thing.

    Scientologists are always quick to label people with extreme names. People who question are "hate-mongers", people who speak out are "religious bigots", protesters are "terrorists" and "anti-religious extremists", critics are criminals etc. Critical thinking inside the "church" is called a high-crime. All of which really demonstrates the mind-set of this organisation I think.

    Paranoid, secretive and elitist, this group shows all the warning signs to people who know anything about history. The CofS fosters the belief that scientologists are superior beings and that others are degraded, Fair Game policy says that SPs (people who leave/question) can be "tricked, sued lied to or destroyed" without any punishment of the scientologist, who can also steal from them of course.

    They have a scapegoat, psychiatrists and SPs are responsible for all the wrongs of the world and everything that goes wrong in scientology. Psychiatrists pay the protesters and caused the holocaust and 9/11. If dianetics doesn't cure your illness it's because you have an SP in your life who should be gotten rid of. RPF a labour camp for members who want to leave or commit "crimes" against scientology. And the belief that 2.5% of the world's population (about 33 million people) should be "disposed of quietly and without sorrow" or quarantined indefenitely.

    Sound familiar yet?

  3. anonymous says:

    Well said and well researched. I hope you keep up the good work and continue participating through your writing. (And please join us again for more fun)

  4. anne says:

    very nice overview Stacy..well done

    The many front groups of scientology are of primary concern to me: Narconon (not to be confused with the legit Narcotics Anonymous), Crimonon, Applied Scholastics, Youth for Human Rights International to name just a few. Constant vigilance is necessary to prevent those organizations from popping up in YOUR neighbourhood.

    Here's an example from Vancouver BC:

    It behooves government agencies to thoroughly research organizations they fund and allow into our schools. Teaching our educational leaders how to Google might help.

    Thanks Stacy.

  5. In many ways, Scientology is very like Mormonism—even the interstellar connection (god lives on a planet called Kolob). You can find some more in a big fat pseudo-religious book called The Book of Urantia, as well.

    The "test" they administer to potential converts is actually a thematic aperception test in disguise, which can provide a lot of psychological buttons for them to push—which is one reason they denounce mainstream psychiatry.

    Beyond that, though, it's just…bullshit.

    But clearly that has never stopped people from believing in a thing.

  6. G Allen says:

    Thank you for writing this. I live in the epicenter of Scientology, Clearwater Florida and I can tell you, they mean business! After driving away anyone in public office who opposed them they have created a virtual no mans-land in the downtown area. Every road in or is monitored by their cameras, they have guards who show up if someone simply takes a camera out of their pocket and they call the police for nonsense to the point where the police have stopped paying much attention to them.

    I attended the first Anon protest as an observer and they immediate tried to slap my with a bunch of nonsensical legal junk. The local judges were wise to them and thankfully their motions to restrict myself and about fifty other people in this area from visiting Downtown Clearwter failed.

    There is saying in the critical community about Scientology, "it's worse than you imagine" I say "Scientology is worse than you can imagine."

  7. AnonLover says:

    Great post! Thanks for your support, but you might want to carefully configure your google adwords to block scientology related ads, the cult is known to lodge complaints against critical sites & blogs where their ads show up and get the site owners google advertising accounts canned.

  8. Lynne says:

    Interesting and funny, Stacy! Ya can't make this stuff up, eh?

    It's ironic that there are two ads for Scientology at the top of the web page here. Why does Google Ads accept ads from them?

  9. Erich Vieth says:

    According to the St. Petersburg Times, there are new unseemly tales to be told about scientology:

    The leader of the Church of Scientology struck his subordinates numerous times and set an example for physical violence among the tightly controlled religion's management team, four former high-ranking executives told a newspaper for a story published Sunday.

  10. Erich Vieth says:

    The story of Xenu is covered in OT III, part of Scientology’s secret “Advanced Technology” doctrines taught only to advanced members who have undergone many expensive hours of auditing and reached the state of Clear. It is described in more detail in the accompanying confidential “Assists” lecture of October 3, 1968 and is dramatized in Revolt in the Stars (a screenplay written by L. Ron Hubbard in 1977).

    Jerry Coyne, on "Which theology should we respect?"

    Coyne then asks this question:

    [A]m I supposed to respect this view? Do you? If you respect the theologies of Catholicism, Judaism, or Islam more, or give their adherents more credibility than you do Scientologists, why?

  11. Stacy Kennedy says:

    Erich, I know a lot of atheists have asked Coyne's question. It's a good one; but I have to say that, yes, on the whole I do respect Judaism, Christianity, and Islam more. That's not to say that I respect everything about those religions–I emphatically don't–

    –But I think it's apparent that humans evolved to respect authority and tradition. We're all familiar with the problems that that respect can cause, particularly when it's unquestioning. Nevertheless, it's a part of us, and it has its good side.

    So when I look at the "Big Three", I see religions that began and flourished for years in a time when everybody's view of the world was mythological and magical, and have been passed down ever since. Being old, they have that cultural and psychological imprimatur. Mind you, I am not saying that because they're old they're right, or anything like that. I'm just saying that they originated back in a day when their claims would've seemed more plausible, and it's normal and human for people to imagine that there must be something to them (and according to evolutionary theory, there probably is–not in their theological claims, but in their social effects.)

    And we have centuries' worth of theologians who've tried to make sense of the world within the framework of those doctrines. Some of them even had worthwhile things to say. I'm rather fond of Paul, myself (with Elaine Pagels, I think the misogyny attributed to him is based on forgeries). Someone like Simone Weil, a Jew who was attracted to Catholicism, used Christian theology to arrive at some startling and meaningful insights.

    But in Scientology, we have a new religion, started by a pulp writer who (according to multiple witnesses) made a comment on more than one occasion something like this: If you want to make real money, you start a religion. He then dreamed up a theology saturated with sci fi motifs and implausible pop psychology.

    Furthermore, the Big Three religions contain few esoteric teachings. They don't hide their beliefs; if you ask them (and, in the case of the evangelicals, even if you don't) they're all too willing to tell you all about it.

    Scientology is secretive; even within the cult, as we've both noted. And they rely on stealth to keep their members in line and critics at bay. I doubt that without that stealth they'd have lasted as long as they have.

    • Erich Vieth says:

      Stacy: I think you're right about the secrecy with Scientology. If they are not willing to simply put their beliefs on the table to be freely judged, it raises many red flags.

      Here's another distinction, though. The ends justify the means, at least to an extent. I don't believe in pregnant virgins, resurrections or infallible Popes, but it is clear that many Catholics take the teachings of the Catholic church to boil down to a message that they need to be involved in their community with good works that are not necessarily aimed at helping ONLY members of their church. Same thing with many other established churches. Many Christians take those teachings that perplex me and interpret them to mean that they need to act with kindness. They even have a requirement to love their enemy (even though Robert Wright demonstrates that this passage was added by a scribe long after the original gospel manuscripts were written).

      Where is Scientology's version of love your enemy? To the extent that Scientology stresses community outreach, I'm not convinced that it has communicated that duty to outsiders. Instead, it seems to be a practice geared to one's own satisfaction. In this way, it reminds me of many versions of new age religion.

  12. Robert says:

    For a fairly brief yet detailed description of what exactly Scientology is and what one can actually experience in the cult I compiled

    I hope it helps a few people 🙂

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