“Going Clear”: Suppressive Persons vs. Xenu’s Defenders

Michael Kinsley was no doubt delighted to get his latest NYTimes book review assignment:

… Wright’s book, “Going Clear: Scientology, Hollywood, and the Prison of Belief,” makes clear that Scientology is like no church on Earth (or, in all probability, Venus or Mars either). The closest institutional parallel would be the Communist Party in its heyday: the ruthless struggles for power, the show trials and forced confessions (often false); the paranoia (often justified); the determination to control its members’ lives completely (the key difference, you will recall, between authoritarian and totalitarian regimes, according to the onetime American ambassador to the United Nations Jeane Kirkpatrick); the maintenance of something close to prison camps where dissenters, would-be defectors and power-struggle rivals were incarcerated in deplorable conditions for years and punished if they tried to escape; what the book describes as mysterious deaths and disappearances; and so on. Except that while the American Communist Party, including a few naïve Hollywood types, merely turned a blind eye to events happening in faraway Russia, Scientology — if Wright is to be believed, and I think he is — ran, and maybe still runs, a shadow totalitarian empire here in the United States, financed in part by huge contributions by Tom Cruise and others of the Hollywood aristocracy. ­“Naïve” doesn’t begin to describe the credulousness and sense of entitlement that has allowed actors, writers and directors to think they were helping themselves and the world by hanging around the Scientologists’ “Celebrity Centre,” taking “upper level” courses and gossiping about who was about to be labeled a “Suppressive Person” (bad guy).

Wright’s last book, “The Looming Tower,” a history of Al Qaeda, won the Pulitzer Prize. He is also the author of, among other books, a charmingly presumptuous premature autobiography, “In the New World,” published in 1987. He belongs to a small cult of his own — an Austin-centered group of writers dedicated to preserving long-form narrative journalism. With this book, he’s certainly paid his dues for a few years…

As a person of faith (animist) on a largely pro-secular site, here’s my personal theory: For whatever cultural-social-biogenetic reasons, quite a significant portion of the existing human population has a bias towards “faith”. Since America no longer has a generally accepted state religion — just a strong political bent towards a bland and broadly misunderstood patriarchal monotheism — people biased towards “faith” are presented with an enormous potluck Religion Buffet from which to pick and choose. Of course, while most adults know what to look out for at your communal potluck (never eat anything in a mayonnaise dressing, especially Aunt Mae’s tuna surprise; never join a religion that requires a monetary subscription up front) community newcomers & the susceptible are going to get some nasty surprises. (Also, some of the less popular cooks are deliberately using salmonella as a food ingredient.)

While most of us understand Scientology’s roots as a particularly “modern”, all-American grift, that doesn’t mean the average Scientologist isn’t perfectly sincere in their faith, or at least their faith community. So the ordinary Scientology donor is probably as interesting to read about as any other orthodontist or real estate agent. But the church’s origins are so recent — and so voraciously capitalistic — that there’s plenty of jawdropping material to be mined, by the right researcher. Here’s an earlier NYTImes article on author Lawrence Wright:

In a statement, Karin Pouw, a Scientology spokeswoman, said Mr. Wright and his publisher refused to provide a copy of the book in advance and “showed little interest in receiving input” from the church. “The portions you cite from the book are preposterous lies,” she said, adding that “the allegation about Mr. Miscavige is false and defamatory.”

But Mr. Wright insists that he did not set out to write an exposé. “Why would I bother to do that?” he said. “Scientology is probably the most stigmatized religion in America already. But I’m fascinated by it and by what drives people to Scientology, especially given its image.”

He added: “There are many countries where you can only believe more or you can believe less. But in the United States we have this incredible smorgasbord, and it really interests me why people are drawn to one faith rather than another, especially to a system of belief that to an outsider seems absurd or dangerous.” …

In 2011 Mr. Wright published a profile of Mr. Haggis in The New Yorker, and in the course of the fact-checking process Tommy Davis, the international spokesman for Scientology, did Mr. Wright an unwitting favor. He showed up in The New Yorker offices with four lawyers and 47 white binders full of material about the church.

“I suppose the idea was to drown me in information,” Mr. Wright recalled, “but it was like trying to pour water on a fish. I looked on those binders with a feeling of absolute joy.”

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164 replies
  1. 1
  2. 2
    BGinCHI says:

    I have zero experience with Scientology, though it sounds like a 20th-century version of Mormonism.

    If you read the wiki page on it, you only get a few sentences in before it just sounds completely crazy.

    Although it does sort of recycle the transmigration of souls idea.

    Who falls for this shit?

  3. 3
    greenergood says:

    A sad day in my adult life was when I found out that one of my favourite musicians, Beck, had embraced Scientology. I still listen to his music, but there’s always a little voice in my ear going ‘why? why?’

  4. 4
    Comrade Carter says:

    I’m an Atheist.

    I’m pretty securely out of the Scientology mainstream, and I look to be there for the rest of my life.

    It’s pretty interesting you’re an “animist”, whatever that means to you.

  5. 5
    Mnemosyne says:

    @greenergood:

    IIRC, Beck did not embrace Scientology — he was raised in it. The religion is now old enough that you have a whole generation who were raised as Scientologists just like other people were raised as Catholics or Lutherans. If you know who the actor Giovanni Ribisi is, he’s also a second-generation Scientologist.

    Not to freak you out more, but Neil Gaiman’s father was really big in the Church of Scientology in Great Britain and raised his kids in that religion. Gaiman doesn’t talk about it because he doesn’t follow that religion, but you will occasionally see people online accuse him of being a “secret” Scientologist.

    What’s really fascinating to me is that Scientology pretty obviously started off as a scam fueled by the paranoid delusions of L. Ron Hubbard, but it has now developed into an actual belief system for some people. The proof? There are breakaway sects from the main church.

  6. 6
    Violet says:

    Scientologists are very touchy if anyone even makes a rather straightforward observation like “Scientology has something of an image problem.” The push back to a statement like that is incredible. It’s not their fault they have an image problem; it’s the fault of The Media/The Drug Companies/Disgruntled Former Members, etc. Always be attacking.

  7. 7
    Maude says:

    It’s kind of like the Moonies. Same level of control.

  8. 8
    Napoleon says:

    @greenergood:

    Really!!!

    [having a sad]

  9. 9
    aimai says:

    I think one of the most fascinating and creepy things about scientology is the way they gleefully and self consciously exploited the credulity of “important” grabs like Hollywood actors to attract lower level people into the system. The thing is that most religions-Catholicism is certainly one–cater to upper class people and give them benefits and treatment that the average member doesn’t get but Scientology has taken this to great heights–and the actors and leading lights don’t have the faintest idea that their scientology and the run of hte mill scientology of the lower orders are completely different.

    They always remind me of the old ad campaign “I’m not just the chairman! I’m a customer!” or whatever–these spokespeople are true believers because they believe in what they are selling, but what they are experiencing is not what they are selling. They are getting a high grade product while the lower level suckers are getting grifted to their backteeth and turned into virtual slaves.

  10. 10
    Anne Laurie says:

    @Comrade Carter: Everything is connected. Everything strives. Nothing ever stays the same, but nothing is ever truly lost.

    That’s the short form. The long form takes whole lifetimes to work out.

  11. 11
    Mr Stagger Lee says:

    @Mnemosyne: So what is the over/under in years when the Scientologists and the Mormons merge?

  12. 12
    Punchy says:

    Whats the “prison camp” shit all about? They dont actually lock people up, right? So why the dumb analogy?

  13. 13
    Persia says:

    @Punchy: My understanding is that yeah, they actually do lock people up, at least for short periods of time. The current leader’s wife hasn’t been seen for years, and speculation is she’s in one of their big secret buildings/compounds.

  14. 14
    efgoldman says:

    @Anne Laurie:

    Everything is connected. Everything strives. Nothing ever stays the same, but nothing is ever truly lost.

    Sounds a lot like Native American religions. Is it?

  15. 15
    aimai says:

    I don’t think its true that they don’t lock people up. The reports on the building of their Florida headquarters–where my Sister in law’s niece was raised–are pretty hair raising.

  16. 16
    MikeJ says:

    A profile of Mr. Haggis? Oh that’s right. Burns night is this week.

  17. 17
    Chris says:

    @Mnemosyne:

    What’s really fascinating to me is that Scientology pretty obviously started off as a scam fueled by the paranoid delusions of L. Ron Hubbard, but it has now developed into an actual belief system for some people.

    Yeah, but isn’t the same thing true of a lot of “traditional” churches that people take very seriously? Wasn’t the Church of England basically founded because a king wanted to remarry, a Pope wouldn’t let him, so he created his own church that would? And the Catholic/Orthodox and Sunni/Shi’a splits were also based on power struggles that weren’t a whole lot more meaningful than that, if memory serves.

  18. 18
    cathyx says:

    It’s amazing how many people need to belong to a church or religion.

  19. 19
    catclub says:

    @Punchy: Imagine being a member of a crew on a ship that is in foreign waters, and the captain keeps your passport. Not exactly locked up. But close enough for most practical purposes.

  20. 20
    Violet says:

    @Punchy: Plenty of former Sea Org members talking about being locked up without food and water. Lockers on their ship to lock up those who misbehave.

  21. 21
    catclub says:

    @cathyx: Scientists studying the brain find areas that specifically respond to meditation and thoughts of union with the world – the god centers.

    Not surprising at all.

    Another view is from “This is your brain on Music” in which responses to music are highly advantageous from an evolutionary/ mate picking viewpoint.

  22. 22
    Mnemosyne says:

    @Chris:

    Pretty much, yeah. That’s why I’m saying that it was the schism that made Scientology into a real religion despite its origins as a long con (or the rantings of a completely insane paranoid schizophrenic that the people around him turned into a long con).

    G just finished reading Janet Reitman’s Inside Scientology, which he said was absolutely fascinating. He especially liked it because it gave just as much weight to the David Miscavige years as the Hubbard years since those have probably been even more important than Hubbard’s years in establishing it as a “real” religion. Without Miscavige, it probably would have all collapsed in the wake of Hubbard’s death.

    ETA: Sorry, forgot linky.

  23. 23
    Lee Rudolph says:

    @Mnemosyne:

    but it has now developed into an actual belief system for some people. The proof? There are breakaway sects from the main church.

    I question the validity of your proof on purely formal lines: it applies (or appears to apply) equally well to cases where un-avowedly religious Multi-Level Marketing scams (I name no names…) have spawned breakaway scams from the main scam; yet it is (at least) not obvious that the people running the breakaways are any less conscious of their scammish nature than the people running the original were. Of course MLM scams require the suckers to have faith, but that’s not the issue, is it?

  24. 24
    Chris says:

    @Mnemosyne:

    Pretty much, yeah. That’s why I’m saying that it was the schism that made Scientology into a real religion despite its origins as a long con (or the rantings of a completely insane paranoid schizophrenic that the people around him turned into a long con).

    Ah yes, I see what you mean. Good point.

  25. 25
    Anne Laurie says:

    @efgoldman: No, because I’m not Native American. But a lot of the theory is the same.

  26. 26
    catclub says:

    @Chris: “Wasn’t the Church of England basically founded because a king wanted to remarry, a Pope wouldn’t let him, so he created his own church that would?”

    Yes, but Henry VI did not substantially change the theology, or the rituals of the English church, with the exception of the place of the Pope. (Which I view as having little to do with either theology or rite.)

    ETA: Ha! Beatcha! Eat my dust EFGoldman!

  27. 27
    efgoldman says:

    @Chris:

    Wasn’t the Church of England basically founded because a king wanted to remarry….

    Yes, but the Catholics and the Anglicans (and the Episcopalians) all share the same belief system, and most of the ritual. The difference is the (originally) political one of fealty to Rome.

  28. 28
    Mister Harvest says:

    @Punchy:

    Whats the “prison camp” shit all about? They dont actually lock people up, right? So why the dumb analogy?

    It’s not an analogy. They do, in fact, lock people up.

  29. 29
    srv says:

    financed in part by huge contributions by Tom Cruise and others of the Hollywood aristocracy

    It’s called a kick back. I know athiests that are paid to sing At Sunday Mass. Anyone who thinks the headliners aren’t on the payroll are naive.

  30. 30
    Citizen_X says:

    As a person of faith (animist)

    [Glaring] Oh really? Which side, puppeh-ist or kitteh-ist? [Still glaring]

    (And don’t you dare say, “Both sides!” because then neither side will trust you.)

  31. 31
    some guy says:

    @greenergood:

    this is why I can’t listen to Jane’s Addiction any more, Perry’s activism ruined it for me.

  32. 32
    scav says:

    @Citizen_X: The wombats would like a word with you.

  33. 33
    Violet says:

    @Punchy:
    “The Hole”, the “Scientology concentration camp.”

    at least half a dozen former Scientologists have come forward to speak publicly about — or, in Debbie Cook’s case, testify under oath to — the existence of “the Hole,” a frightening office-prison where 60 to 100 out-of-favor church executives were held day and night under guard, from at least 2004 to 2010.

    Former senior Scientologist Debbie Cook describes The Hole:

    Mrs Cook claimed that in the summer of 2007 she was one of 100 Scientology executives imprisoned in a large trailer known as The Hole.

    Describing the conditions, she said: ‘It had bars on the windows and the one entrance was guarded by security 24 hours a day.

  34. 34
    aimai says:

    @Chris:

    There’s a difference between a sect split pretty far down the line from the origin, in a universe of true believers and a modern day offshoot of science/religion that was absolutely begun as a scam. Just because Henry the 8th ended up with doctrinal differences with the Pope doesn’t mean that he had any doubts of the existence of his god or that his various church leaders did either. A scam isn’t a scam if the instigator is also a true believer. Is there any evidence that L.Ron actually believed his own shtick or wasn’t delusional if he did?

  35. 35
    Omnes Omnibus says:

    @catclub: Don’t drag the War of the Roses into this.

  36. 36
    Mnemosyne says:

    @Lee Rudolph:

    Read the link I provided. One of the disputes between the Church of Scientology and the breakaway sects is that the breakaway ones don’t require the huge financial investment that the main CoS does.

    Unless your claim is that the breakaway con artists have come to believe their own bullshit and honestly think they’re investors and not con artists (and it has been known to happen), your analogy is not apt.

  37. 37
    maurinsky says:

    @srv: ” I know athiests that are paid to sing At Sunday Mass.”

    Me, too. I’m one of them. I used to sing in a Congregational Church choir that was almost entirely atheists and agnostics who were paid singers.

  38. 38
    Citizen Alan says:

    The purpose of nearly every religion that has ever existed is to enslave minds and make people compliant to authority figures. Scientology (and to a lesser extent, Mormonism) stand out mainly because they are new enough for us to see them in real time develop from fringe groups into religions capable of achieving temporal power. I imagine that in the 2d and 3rd centuries there were Romans who worshiped the gods of antiquity who were alarmed at this new Christianity thing whose members were so creepily insular, who used cult-like tactics to draw new members from the down-trodden and dispossessed, who actively sought to (and eventually did) gain temporal power at the expense of preexisting religions groups, and whose beliefs were utterly preposterous to anyone not already inducted into the group.

  39. 39
    aimai says:

    I don’t know about bringing ringers in as singers (hm, didn’t mean that all to rhyme) but I do know that evangelists who run tent revivals have a method of splitting the take with local churches that amounts to a kind of mass fund raising scam.

  40. 40
    Mnemosyne says:

    @aimai:

    There’s some evidence that Hubbard came to believe it, but — more importantly — even if he didn’t believe it, he was able to convince active others to believe it, and they’re the ones who went out and promulgated the religion.

    Like I said, G highly recommended the Janet Reitman book I linked to at #22 since it gives a really good explanation of how the CoS evolved into what it is today after Hubbard died in 1986.

  41. 41
    Gex says:

    @Citizen Alan: Exactly. The difference between religion and cult seems simply to be when the organization was founded.

  42. 42
    Violet says:

    @Persia: Yep. David Miscavige’s wife hasn’t been seen since 2006.

  43. 43
    MikeJ says:

    @Gex:

    The difference between religion and cult seems simply to be when the organization was founded.

    I belong to a religion. You belong to a sect. He belongs to a cult.

  44. 44
    efgoldman says:

    @maurinsky:

    Me, too. I’m one of them. I used to sing in a Congregational Church choir that was almost entirely atheists and agnostics who were paid singers.

    Hell, i was brought up Jewish, and all through college I played trumpet for Easter Mass in a big local Catholic church/monastery. Never got the smell of incense out of that suit, either.

  45. 45
    greenergood says:

    Big difference being that post-Inquisition, or post-Enlightenment maybe, i.e. since the 18-19th century in the ‘West’, if you don’t like the creed you’re raised in, you can leave, and your parents/church/etc. will reject you, make your life miserable, etc. While Scientology, if you reject its teachings, will incarcerate you – probably because they think they can extract more funds from you – how capitalist of them.

  46. 46
    Maude says:

    @Gex:
    Some religions grew out of cult status and became mainstream.

  47. 47
    Another Halocene Human says:

    the determination to control its members’ lives completely (the key difference, you will recall, between authoritarian and totalitarian regimes, according to the onetime American ambassador to the United Nations Jeane Kirkpatrick

    Authoritarian regimes only try to control women’s and children’s lives completely.

    Much more civilized.

  48. 48
    Mnemosyne says:

    @Citizen Alan:

    Like it or not, humans seem to have an instinct for organizing themselves in hierarchies. Religions can be loose hierarchies, like in a Unitarian or Quaker church, or they can be strict hierarchies, like the Catholic church, but we do seem to like to have some kind of social structure around us.

    Even when people have consciously tried to eliminate hierarchies or organizations, they creep up on us. One of the things that makes The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test so fascinating is that you can see how, even though they tried to shun hierarchies and not have a leader, the whole experiment would fall apart as soon as Ken Kesey would leave for a few weeks or months, and it would come back together when Kesey returned.

  49. 49
    Another Halocene Human says:

    @Maude: But some religions START as abusive mindfucks, whereas others only get that way after a few generations have passed through a process sometimes known as steeplejacking.

    This involved actual pitched knife battles in 3rd century Egypt….

  50. 50
    👽 Martin says:

    @Gex:

    The difference between religion and cult seems simply to be when the organization was founded.

    Actually, no. Cults operate by isolating individuals from their community, religions don’t. That’s pretty much the accepted distinction.

    The Methodist church isn’t trying to separate teenagers from their parents, or members from their family and coworkers. Scientology definitely does that.

  51. 51
    Machine-Gun Preacher (formerly Ben Franklin) says:

    @Mnemosyne:

    even though they tried to shun hierarchies and not have a leader, the whole experiment would fall apart as soon as Ken Kesey would leave for a few weeks or months, and it would come back together when Kesey returned.

    I blame Sonny Barger and the Hell’s Angels hierarchy.

  52. 52
    BGinCHI says:

    “Free your mind and your ass will follow.”

    –Cool black dude in “Platoon”

  53. 53
    👽 Martin says:

    FYWP!

  54. 54
    Another Halocene Human says:

    Except that while the American Communist Party, including a few naïve Hollywood types, merely turned a blind eye to events happening in faraway Russia, Scientology — if Wright is to be believed, and I think he is — ran, and maybe still runs, a shadow totalitarian empire here in the United States, financed in part by huge contributions by Tom Cruise and others of the Hollywood aristocracy.

    You’re missing the FLORIDA part. SeaOrg is in FLORIDA, the same place that had, what, seven modern slavery cases since 2000 in the agricultural industry, massive wage theft in minimum wage factories in Dade County, Rick Scott and Jeb Fricking Bush?

    FLORIDA, where Dove World Outreach’s Terry Jones was running a used furniture EBay business on his tax-free church lot WITH SLAVE LABOR IMPORTED ON REFUGEE VISAS FROM GERMANY. One of the victims tried to sue and the case was tossed out. Yes, slavery is legal in the State of Florida if you agree to be a slave!

    Next time you are shocked at stories from SeaOrg, just remember they’re just another Florida story. This shit goes on all the time here.

  55. 55
    Omnes Omnibus says:

    @BGinCHI: Isn’t that the theology of George Clinton?

  56. 56
    Amir Khalid says:

    I’ve never really gotten over my surprise that anyone would ever buy into a belief system as deliberately absurd as Mormonism or Scientology. The Abrahamic faiths that many of us here were raised in have their own set of hard-to-swallow stories, true, but nothing that provokes the WTF? reaction I have to these two sects.

  57. 57
    Maude says:

    @Violet:
    #42
    That is just so strange. And scary.

  58. 58
    Another Halocene Human says:

    @LanceThruster:

    I laughed. Hard.

  59. 59
    schrodinger's cat says:

    @Amir Khalid: Really? A virgin giving birth does not provoke WTF?

  60. 60
    Boots Day says:

    @Mnemosyne: Beck is married to Giovanni Ribisi’s sister.

  61. 61
    Another Halocene Human says:

    @aimai: They always remind me of the old ad campaign “I’m not just the chairman! I’m a customer!” or whatever–these spokespeople are true believers because they believe in what they are selling, but what they are experiencing is not what they are selling. They are getting a high grade product while the lower level suckers are getting grifted to their backteeth and turned into virtual slaves.

    Reminds me of the hairy dog joke (probably started with Windows 3 but recycled for each awful OS through Windows CE that I know of) where Bill Gates can sell his product with a straight face because Microsofties–terrified that Bill will kill the messenger if he hears of the problems–are secretly replacing his Windows machines with Apple products with the apple filed off.

  62. 62
    The prophet Nostradumbass says:

    @schrodinger’s cat: did you not read this part of his comment?

    The Abrahamic faiths that many of us here were raised in have their own set of hard-to-swallow stories

  63. 63
    Amir Khalid says:

    @schrodinger’s cat:
    After a lifetime of indoctrination, a WTF? story can become merely hard to swallow.

  64. 64
    Mnemosyne says:

    @schrodinger’s cat:

    Not to the extent that flying a B-52 into volcano does. Particularly at the time — did Romans who thought that Jove impregnated Leda while in the form of a swan really think twice about a claim as commonplace as a mere virgin birth?

  65. 65
    Another Halocene Human says:

    @schrodinger’s cat: If you’re raised in a religion it seems self-evidently less absurd because the religious meme hijacks the instinct of a young child to believe statements by parents without reservation.

    The Abrahamic religions (and some others) also use familial relationships giving them an atavistic resonance. Moonies, Hindu cults (around abusive gurus), Christian Science, Church of Latter Day Saints all do this as well. Maybe Scientology is a little weird in not doing so.

  66. 66
    Higgs Boson's Mate says:

    @Another Halocene Human:

    … through a process sometimes known as steeplejacking.

    What a marvelous word! I had to look up “steeplejacking” and it’s a beaut. Thank you for introducing me to it.

  67. 67
    BGinCHI says:

    @Omnes Omnibus: I hope so.

  68. 68
    RubberCrutch says:

    @Punchy: Punchy, Tony Ortega at the Village Voice has reported extensively on the Scientology prison camps and other day-to-day stuff that may even be scarier in its own way. They literally have jails on their grounds; it’s well documented and verified by people how have gotten free. Google (or Duck) Ortega’s stuff. To me it’s unbelievable that the organization hasn’t been RICO’d out of existence. If that’s an implied rhetorical question, the interesting might be interesting.

  69. 69
    schrodinger's cat says:

    @The prophet Nostradumbass: I did, but I also read the full quote and that is what I was responding to.

    The Abrahamic faiths that many of us here were raised in have their own set of hard-to-swallow stories, true, but nothing that provokes the WTF? reaction I have to these two sects.

    ETA: Another Halocene Human, Mnem and Amir Khalid I agree with the points you all made, in response to my comment.

  70. 70
    Another Halocene Human says:

    @aimai: I’m not sure I buy your reasoning.

    From what I’ve read about Henry VIII and his times (not deeply, to be fair), Henry VIII was all too quick to argue out of both sides of his mouth on issues as long as it personally benefited him. He strikes me as a narcissist, although perhaps not as fullblown as some people I’ve known. Some narcissists like J. Lo and Steve Jobs are at least halfway functional and he might have been that.

    As for the church, there were a lot of religious opinions in England at the time. Protestant ideas were in the air. Calvinism made it the island, too. While Catholics view Anglicans as ‘same as Catholics but for one thing’, Anglicans tend to see the split as being a little more important. They cherish their independence.

    Henry also seized church property to stuff his pocket. Pretty cynical.

    But many of the people who picked sides when he broke from Rome were utterly sincere.

  71. 71
    weaselone says:

    @Citizen Alan

    So when do we get to feed Tom Cruise to a lion?

  72. 72
    pseudonymous in nc says:

    Scientology is one part anti-psychiatry, one part exorcism. It’s deeply pre-modern, wrapped in the garb of science fiction.

    That’s to say, Scientology fits into the broader anti-psychiatry movement of the 50s and 60s, and the anti-psychiatry movement was an important and necessary (if ultimately excessive) reaction to the era of Valium, Haldol and institutional treatment.

  73. 73
    Raven says:

    Nuther playoff thread pleeze?

  74. 74
    Maude says:

    @weaselone:
    If the Reacher movie fails, we bring out the lion.

  75. 75
    SiubhanDuinne says:

    @Mnemosyne:

    G just finished reading Janet Reitman’s Inside Scientology, which he said was absolutely fascinating. He especially liked it because it gave just as much weight to the David Miscavige years as the Hubbard years since those have probably been even more important than Hubbard’s years in establishing it as a “real” religion. Without Miscavige, it probably would have all collapsed in the wake of Hubbard’s death.

    Glad to hear G liked Reitman’s book. I’ve had it on my Kindle for a few weeks (ever since reading that earlier article about Wright, actually) but haven’t cracked it yet. Cults and authoritarian organizations fascinate me, probably because I dipped my toe in the shallow waters when I was much younger (not Scientology, another cultish thing).

  76. 76
    Higgs Boson's Mate says:

    @weaselone:

    So when do we get to feed Tom Cruise to a lion?

    First we have to find a very small lion.

  77. 77

    @Citizen Alan:

    One of the saddest things I ever saw when visiting Egypt were the stone carvings on the temples of the ancient Gods with their faces chiseled away, done as an act of piety by the early Christians. If there is one thing that I cannot stand about organized religion is its utter intolerance of other faiths.

  78. 78
    pseudonymous in nc says:

    @Mnemosyne:

    Without Miscavige, it probably would have all collapsed in the wake of Hubbard’s death.

    See also: St Paul, Brigham Young, etc. Successful religions don’t just have prophets; they have a second-generation CEO.

  79. 79
    Another Halocene Human says:

    @Citizen Alan: I imagine that in the 2d and 3rd centuries there were Romans who worshiped the gods of antiquity who were alarmed at this new Christianity thing

    You don’t have to imagine–just ask a historian.

    I get the impression the senators worshiping the old gods were like old school WASPS wondering where the hell this prosperity gospel evangelical dominionist crap came from.

    During the last days when worshiping the old gods was still legal there was definitely a sense that something vitally important was being lost.

  80. 80
    PurpleGirl says:

    I don’t remember when I heard it first or who told me, but it was a common thing in SF fandom to say Hubbard started CoS as a way to make money — that he had said to really become rich you had to start your own religion. The other common statement was the Hubbard was a third-rate SF writer. I’ve known a few people who began to study scientology and when they tried to get me to read any of the books, I just laughed at them.

    ETA: When there began to appear at SF conventions, fliers about CoS and Xenu… well, I laughed even harder and louder.

  81. 81
    Amir Khalid says:

    @Higgs Boson’s Mate:
    Maybe a runt-of-the-litter leopard.

  82. 82
    scav says:

    @Higgs Boson’s Mate: It’s right after New Years, we may still be able to find one attempting a diet.

  83. 83
    Another Halocene Human says:

    @greenergood: Muslims leave Islam under pain of death. You see a lot of ex-Muslims posting online pseudonymously for that reason.

  84. 84
    Bubblegum Tate says:

    @maurinsky:

    Me, too. I’m one of them. I used to sing in a Congregational Church choir that was almost entirely atheists and agnostics who were paid singers.

    Perhaps my naivete is showing here, but I’ve never heard of this before and I find it fascinating. I knew some atheists and agnostics who sang in church choirs just because they liked to sing and choir was good practice, but none of them were paid to do it.

    How did you get recruited to do that?

  85. 85
    Amir Khalid says:

    @PurpleGirl:

    The other common statement was the Hubbard was a third-rate SF writer.

    On the evidence of Battlefield Earth, I wouldn’t rate Hubbard that high.

  86. 86
    pseudonymous in nc says:

    That said, one of the distinctive things about Scientology is its use of intellectual property laws (and DMCA in the internet era) to keep its esoterica secret. The LDS is happy for everyone to read Joseph Smith’s bad imitation of the King James Bible.

  87. 87
    Chris says:

    @Another Halocene Human:

    If you’re raised in a religion it seems self-evidently less absurd because the religious meme hijacks the instinct of a young child to believe statements by parents without reservation.

    This.

    The psychology of adult converts is a lot more interesting to me, mostly because it was tried and failed on me by a fundie church that tried to recruit me early on freshman year of college – first year on my own, still a lot of teenage insecurity and shitty social skills left over from earlier years, in short, I’d take friends wherever I could find them, which I assume is the right profile for them to try to recruit. I was also already religious (though not from their denomination), which should’ve made it that much easier. And yet no dice – I was skeptical of the uber-conservative theology, and when the church started turning up the “you need to be behaving this way” peer pressure too high, I just left.

    Like I said, it didn’t work on me. So I’m kind of curious who it does work on.

  88. 88
    pseudonymous in nc says:

    @Another Halocene Human:

    the senators worshiping the old gods were like old school WASPS wondering where the hell this prosperity gospel evangelical dominionist crap came from.

    But around the same time, you also had things like Mithraism with its all-male bull-slaughtering esoteric whatnot. A bit like gun fetishism.

  89. 89
    PurpleGirl says:

    @Amir Khalid: LOL.

  90. 90
    Yutsano says:

    @weaselone: Waitaminute…what did the lion do to deserve that sort of fate?

  91. 91
    Temporarily Max McGee (soon enough to be Andy K again) says:

    @Litlebritdifrnt:

    Long before Christianity existed, the cult of Aten (founded by Pharaoh Akhenaten) engaged in a pretty intense period of iconoclasm. Iconoclasm is a big tenet of Islam, and it was Islam that ruled Egypt at the time that the Byzantines officially adopted a policy of iconoclasm.

    Mot saying that the early Christians didn’t deface some of the imagery you saw, but there’s a good chance the damage was done centuries before or after the Christians did it.

  92. 92
    Amir Khalid says:

    @Another Halocene Human:
    Which I profoundly disagree with, because it goes against the Prophet’s observation that one cannot compel faith. People must be free to profess as they believe. Forcing people to continue to profess what they no longer believe is forcing them to bear false witness.

  93. 93
    Another Halocene Human says:

    @PurpleGirl: I don’t remember when I heard it first or who told me, but it was a common thing in SF fandom to say Hubbard started CoS as a way to make money — that he had said to really become rich you had to start your own religion.

    It was discussed a lot on alt.slack. Hubbard was also said to have dabbled in occult mysticism, including sex magick. So, like, there’s rumors he had buttsex in the SW desert with some other historical scifi person.

    Hubbard mostly sold westerns, which was a really big genre once, during his lifetime. They were supposedly pretty good. The church is alleged to have bought his scifi works (which have the evils of psychology laid bare) in bulk to juice his #s and then give them away. They also financed filming his “epic”. Whatever.

  94. 94
    Another Halocene Human says:

    @Maude: Looks boring. Has Cruise forgotten how to convey emotions, or does all the “work” freeze his face, or does becoming “Clear” make you dead inside?

  95. 95
    The Red Pen says:

    Basically, Scientology is a series of practices that teach not to react emotionally to things. There are people who benefit from this training, although there are considerably less-hokey ways of getting it.

    It also has lots of the same appeal as complex role-playing games, with its own rules and lots and lots of Star-Trek-y “tech” and cool-sounding buzzwords to geek out on. There’s a group that believes in the practices, but not the CoS, called Free Zoners.

  96. 96
    Another Halocene Human says:

    @pseudonymous in nc: The LDS is happy for everyone to read Joseph Smith’s bad imitation of the King James Bible.

    I think you’re missing the mark, a bit. The LDS tried to hide for years that “the Song of Abraham” was just a piece of papyrus from The Book of the Dead. Smith was touting it briefly before Egyptian hieroglyphic writing was decoded. The LDS lied for years about the Mountain Meadow Massacre. The LDS has fought tooth and nail in court for half a decade now to try to prevent disclosure of the extent to which they have funded anti-same-sex marriage campaigns. And the LDS leadership really doesn’t not want you asking too closely about the giant real estate development trust they control and where the money came from and where it’s going.

    Oh, and they’ve selectively edited the Book of Mormon repeatedly for the rubes and instruct their future evangelists at a young age to lie about what they really believe (“milk before meat”) to reel more suckers in.

  97. 97
    Another Halocene Human says:

    @Temporarily Max McGee (soon enough to be Andy K again): But consider this. The last hieroglyphic writing produced in antiquity was in 394AD, within a year of when Christianity became the official state religion in Egypt and the ancient cult was suppressed.

    Btw, suppressed is a euphemism.

  98. 98
    Emma says:

    @Another Halocene Human: Henry also seized church property to stuff his pocket. Pretty cynical. Pretty standard. The dissolution of the Templars was pretty much a money grab. In fact a lot of internal church wars were over who controlled the treasury.

  99. 99
  100. 100
    Another Halocene Human says:

    @Emma: Henry had been dubbed “Defender of the Faith” a few years earlier.

    He was a Catholic when it suited him, and stopped being a Catholic when it suited him. He may have absorbed humanist ideas (I’m sure he did, really) but his affiliation was purely opportunistic.

    There were plenty of Protestant monarchs who were true believers (in Protestantism… I mean, like many narcissistic prigs, Henry probably believed in God and that God loved him more than all the other boys). Take Gustafus Adolphus.

  101. 101
    Temporarily Max McGee (soon enough to be Andy K again) says:

    @Another Halocene Human:

    Not denying that. Just saying there were intense periods of iconoclasm before and after the era of Christian rule there that literally defaced much of the ancient Egyptian iconography.

  102. 102
    Marshall says:

    @aimai: L Ron was a science fiction writer, wrote a story about starting your own movement and having it take off (in the story, by accident), and openly said at a SciFi convention that there was more money in starting a religion, which he proceeded to do within the year.

    He may have believed in a little, but I am sure not the whole.

  103. 103
    Another Halocene Human says:

    Why is there no ‘habeas corpus’ law for private organizations?

    Why (besides FLORIDA) does CoS and some other groups get away with imprisoning people for years and years.

    Isn’t that a crime? Why can’t the authorities stop it?

    If a child were kidnapped and another family member went to the authorities, the police would pop round the house. (That’s why these parents in custody disputes usually leg it overseas.)

    Why can’t the cops say, you have 24 hours to produce this person, we’re going to talk to them OFF of your property. If you don’t produce them, search warrant.

  104. 104
    Another Halocene Human says:

    @Temporarily Max McGee (soon enough to be Andy K again): I’m just stating that you’re skeptical of what you were told by local people and I’m telling you that their story is plausible. Now, if you want to tell me Muslims are so biased they would blame Christians for anything, go right ahead. (Muslims and Christians in Egypt do have a really nasty feud going on right now, who knows if Copts will be fleeing Egypt in a few years as Mizrahi Jews had to flee the Middle East?)

    Muslims did deface the pyramids. They took the cladding off to reuse in mosques.

    The Popes defaced the Roman Forum, and Italy’s frequent wars saw the metal pulled out of the Coliseum, but it was an earthquake that pulled half of it down.

    The Aswan High Dam did as much damage to Egypts antiquities as anything.

    ETA: were the smashed idols from the ancient cult or from the cult of Serapis? Serapis was the Jesus-botherers’ main competition and they harassed the priests of Serapis without mercy. I’m sure they smashed up every image of Serapis they could find.

  105. 105
    greenergood says:

    @Another Halocene Human: Yep, you’re right AHH. Yet another reason why, for all the fact that I find religious studies so interesting, it’s also like walking into a ridiculous minefield. What I find amazing is that practically every group of people in the whole wide world (though there are a few exceptions), whether tribal or racial or just plain local, all have some belief about what happens after they die – but so many of them are chiefly concerned with messing with their fellow humans while they’re still alive.

  106. 106
    Temporarily Max McGee (soon enough to be Andy K again) says:

    @Another Halocene Human:

    It’s also plausible that they hadn’t the tools to trace back much of the damage that existed before the introduction of Islam to Akhenaten’s shot at monotheism in the 14th Century B.C..

    ETA, as for the Serapis cult…You’d have to ask Littlebritdifferent. But the Aten cult was long gone before the Serapis cult arose during the Hellenistic period.

  107. 107
    Rich2506 says:

    @👽 Martin: Yeah, I decided that Scientology was a cult when I read that Katie Holmes wasn’t even allowed to go to the bathroom by herself very early during her marriage to Tom Cruise. I was like “Ooh, classic mind-control cult behavior!” And yes, regular religions try to connect you to your community, cults try to remove you from it.

    My only connection with them at this point is that I control the spam at an IMC site (People can post whatever they want, but spam gets zapped. We block a lot of spam, but manually remove a lot of other spam). The local Scientologists post fairly frequently. We decided that I can’t delete their posts, but I can place comments underneath that criticize them, so I’m always on the lookout for good material to use against them.

  108. 108
    Matt McIrvin says:

    @Chris:

    Like I said, it didn’t work on me. So I’m kind of curious who it does work on.

    Lots of these movements prey on alcoholics and drug addicts who are looking for some kind of discipline to help them recover (Scientology’s is called Narconon). It might even work for some of them.

  109. 109
    trollhattan says:

    @Higgs Boson’s Mate:

    And where would you like Xenu to deliver your interwebs?

  110. 110

    I’m reading the book now. Still at the beginning but it’s excellent.

  111. 111
    Suzanne says:

    @Amir Khalid: The distinction that I recall Hitchens making is that the Abrahamic faiths have had centuries to devolve into metaphor and develop scientific traditions within them (though of course some members of those faiths are anti-science, to be sure), while most, if not all, members of Mormonism and Scientology actively appear to believe all the ludicrous stuff exactly as it was presented at the founding of the religion.

  112. 112
    joel hanes says:

    Scientology is far worse than most of you seem to imagine.

    At one time (ca. 1996) I was deeply involved in the Scientology/Usenet fight, and I wrote a summary of the facts about Scientology being brought to light by its critics, in the form of an indictment.
    You can find that summary here, appended as a PS to mail sent to Declan McCullagh and archived, if you search on that page for “Hanes”.

  113. 113
    trollhattan says:

    Could Willard, Bain and the Mormons do an LBO hostile takeover of $cient0I0gy?

    Because that would be cool.

  114. 114
    Suzanne says:

    Living in the PHX East Valley, I know a metric fuck-ton of ex-Mormons, and I am convinced that the CoJCoLDS Is absolutely just as horrifying as the CoS, judging by their stories. The Second Endowment alone is evil, freaky shit.

  115. 115
    Matt McIrvin says:

    @Suzanne: With Scientology it’s a little more complicated in that some of the most ludicrous stuff (including the bits about Xenu and the volcanoes, etc.) isn’t revealed to new members, and is actually supposed to be esoteric knowledge that you have to pay them lots of money and ascend the ladder to learn, which is part of the reason they get so angry at people mocking them by talking about Xenu’s DC-8 migration to planet Teegeeack.

  116. 116
    andy says:

    It’s neither here nor there, but I see the sidebar ad is for Liberty University. It’s a grifter tug of war for your religious dollar, a Free Market of ideas!

  117. 117
    pseudonymous in nc says:

    @Another Halocene Human:

    I think you’re missing the mark, a bit.

    Points well taken. The LDS has done a good job (helped by the “continuous revelation” doctrine that allows it to scrub its history) of making public just enough of its doctrine and scripture — even the weird esoteric stuff — for people not to pay a huge amount of attention to LDS, Inc.

  118. 118
    sm*t cl*de says:

    Mithraism with its all-male bull-slaughtering esoteric whatnot. A bit like gun fetishism.

    The Romans knew what they were doing when they adopted Mithraism as the official cult for the legions.

  119. 119
    Anne Laurie says:

    @PurpleGirl:

    I don’t remember when I heard it first or who told me, but it was a common thing in SF fandom to say Hubbard started CoS as a way to make money — that he had said to really become rich you had to start your own religion. The other common statement was the Hubbard was a third-rate SF writer.

    L. Sprague deCamp swore LRon said this to him. And the other LA-area sf/fantasy writers from the WWII-to-late-1960s-New-Wave era (fandom/prodom was a much more insular community then) backed LSdC up.

    Hubbard, like Joseph Smith and Henry VII and St. Paul and probably most other authoritarian religious “founders”, seems to have spent his life in the grey area between narcissicism & borderline personality disorder — with maybe a touch of epilepsy or migraine-induced hallucinations. Anyone who’s had the misfortune of dealing with a BPD sufferer has experienced that weird synthesis where someone can truly believe that their latest fantasy is ABSOULTELY REAL, even while they’re refining the details of what they know to be personal inventions.

  120. 120
    Another Halocene Human says:

    @Temporarily Max McGee (soon enough to be Andy K again): Hey, sorry if I was unclear. I was talking about the rivalry between Orthodox Christian priests and the priests of Serapis.

  121. 121
    J. Michael Neal says:

    @Marshall:

    L Ron was a science fiction writer, wrote a story about starting your own movement and having it take off (in the story, by accident), and openly said at a SciFi convention that there was more money in starting a religion, which he proceeded to do within the year.

    The primary source for much of this is Theodore Sturgeon, who is the one who claimed to have made a bet with Hubbard about starting a religion. I have no idea how credible he was, but he was a much better writer than Hubbard.

  122. 122
    PeakVT says:

    @trollhattan: Since everything is already tax exempt, Mittens wouldn’t know how to make a buck out of the deal.

  123. 123
    sm*t cl*de says:

    Romans who thought that Jove impregnated Leda while in the form of a swan really think twice about a claim as commonplace as a mere virgin birth?

    What freaked out the Romans about the creepy cannibal cult in their midst was the realisation that these people took their belief-system seriously, believing it literally (rather than treating it as a mixture of metaphor and social-cohesion piety).

  124. 124
    Anne Laurie says:

    @pseudonymous in nc:

    The LDS is happy for everyone to read Joseph Smith’s bad imitation of the King James Bible.

    As recently as the 1980s, the LDS “faithful” were destroying every copy of “outdated” early versions of the Book of Mormon they could pry from “gentile” hands. I was working in a university library then, and our special-collections department took no end of grief keeping the LDS believers from literally stealing/defacing the third(IRRC) edition it held, once the library board made it clear they wouldn’t sell it however inflated the price.

  125. 125
    Another Halocene Human says:

    @pseudonymous in nc: (helped by the “continuous revelation” doctrine that allows it to scrub its history)

    They borrowed this shtick from the past masters at it, the Roman Catholic Church of Christ.

    @Matt McIrvin: With Scientology it’s a little more complicated in that some of the most ludicrous stuff (including the bits about Xenu and the volcanoes, etc.) isn’t revealed to new members,

    Your basic mystery religion racket. :)

    @Suzanne: I know a metric fuck-ton of ex-Mormons, and I am convinced that the CoJCoLDS Is absolutely just as horrifying as the CoS

    Having read up a ton on both groups out of lurid fascination, I have to say that even from the beginning, unless you were, say, a Native American, CoS is way, way worse than CoLDS dreams of being. Brigham Young was a liar and a thief, but Hubbard needed to destroy his enemies, and Miscavige has only escalated this tendency. And by destroy, I mean erase off the face of the earth.

    BYU may be full of happy Mormons hitting the happy sauce, but it has nothing on Scientology’s “schools” for children born into CoS families.

    At one point in history, the LDS was faced with a choice and chose to knuckle under to the US Government. The CoS also had a choice, and they chose to break into courthouses and federal buildings and steal and destroy documents.

  126. 126
    Another Halocene Human says:

    @J. Michael Neal: I don’t know how credible the old school scifi community was (have some acquaintances in it, and they aren’t weird liars, so take that fwiw), but they thought Sturgeon was credible.

    But Sturgeon wasn’t the source the way I read it.

    I also thought Heinlein had made the same claim–not independently, mind you–without attributing it to Hubbard.

  127. 127
    Anne Laurie says:

    @Chris:

    And yet no dice – I was skeptical of the uber-conservative theology, and when the church started turning up the “you need to be behaving this way” peer pressure too high, I just left.

    Like I said, it didn’t work on me. So I’m kind of curious who it does work on.

    Well, that was their mistake — clever recruiters stick with the religious “virgins”.

    True story: My freshman year of college, 1973, before the lesbian-separatist planning committee rejected me for insufficient seriousness, I was repeatedly asked how I could resist the “absolute logic” of Marxism. My reply was that people who survived smallpox never suffered from cowpox, and since I’d grown up in the old-fashioned Catholic Church I was immune to new-fangled authoritarianisms. A response which worked just as well when the devout Libertarians in the sf/fantasy community asked me the same question…

  128. 128
    Suzanne says:

    @Matt McIrvin:

    With Scientology it’s a little more complicated in that some of the most ludicrous stuff (including the bits about Xenu and the volcanoes, etc.) isn’t revealed to new members, and is actually supposed to be esoteric knowledge that you have to pay them lots of money and ascend the ladder to learn, which is part of the reason they get so angry at people mocking them by talking about Xenu’s DC-8 migration to planet Teegeeack.

    The LDS do exactly the same. You can be excommunicated for not tithing, and you don’t get to participate in Temple rituals until you’ve been in a while. What is most likely the last one, the Second Endowment/Anointing, is by invitation only, is offered only to a very few who have been members for decades, and by most accounts, gives those who receive it the permission/expectation to lie to defend/protect the Church. It’s exactly the same operation—doling out information little by little, always for a price, swearing you to absolute secrecy afterward, promising punishment for apostasy. The difference is only of degree, not of kind.

  129. 129
    Jose Padilla says:

    @Chris:

    No, there was a Christian Church in the British Isles that was established separately from the Church of Rome (the “Celtic Church”) with the monarch at the head. At the Synod of Whitby in 664 the English monarch merely agreed to observe the customs of the Church of Rome (the date of Easter, etc.). When Henry VIII had his problem with the Church he merely ended the agreement.

  130. 130
    Tony the Wonderhorse says:

    My friend Nancy Many was just on the ID network in a show about her life in Scientology (My Billion Year Contract) and I swear to Christ, Wright interviewed me regarding the LRH/OTO connection at a Jerry’s Famous Deli

    I didn’t know he had won a Pulitzer, I would have bought him a drink.

  131. 131
    dsale says:

    @Gex: No, the difference between a religion and a cult is whether or not they hold tax-exempt status. And speaking of Scientology,thereby hangs a tale

  132. 132
    Tehanu says:

    @PurpleGirl:
    P Girl, I also heard that and I remember vividly who told me, because it was A.E. Van Vogt, who had actually bought into the whole Dianetics thing when Hubbard was first getting going with it. Then he became totally disillusioned and for the rest of his life would tell anybody who would listen what a scam Hubbard was perpetrating. Made a huge impression on me because A.E. VAN VOGT, for chrissake!

  133. 133
    Chris says:

    @Anne Laurie:

    Really? Religious virgins?

    That’s interesting, because based on this church I would’ve thought the opposite. It was a missionary church, but all their “converts” had converted from other Christian churches, not from outside Christianity. If I’d stayed, I totally would have fit their profile.

  134. 134
    Jason says:

    @Mnemosyne: There’s some evidence that Hubbard came to believe it.

    Ever read his biography, “Barefaced Messiah”? Hubbard was clearly, in modern terms, a low-grade sociopath with extreme narssistic and paranoid tendencies. Characteristics include glib, superficial charm, manipulative, highly controlling behaviour, irresponsibility and criminality, and pathological dishonesty. Add an absurdly grandiose sense of self worth and entitlement and extreme and disproportionate sense of persecution and extreme, righteous vindictiveness when they don’t get what they want. Not to mention bipolar disorder in there as well.

    Such people believe their own lies. For such people, the distinction between truth and untruth is not a meaningful concept, at least when it comes to themselves. Hubbard [i]did[/i] believe his own stories. He also [i]didn’t[/i], when it suited him.

    Read L. Ron Hubbard’s “Affirmations”, a series of love letters to himself written in 1946 or 1947. In the characteristic disorganized, bizarre and euphoristic prose of the narcissist in a manic state, he declares :

    Material things are yours for the asking. Men are your slaves.
    Elemental spirits are your slaves. You are power among powers, light
    in the darkness, beauty in all.

    [..]

    You are a master. You are as sensitive and sexy
    as Pan. Lord help women when you begin to fondle them. You are master
    of their bodies, master of their souls as you may consciously wish.
    You have no karma to pay for these acts. You cannot now accumulate
    karma for you are a master adept.

    [..]

    You can will a fact into being with ease. You are confident of your control over will. You have will power. You can consciously use it. Accidental thoughts of incidents do not create them.

    Your book the One Commandment applied only to the material. It is
    true. It freed you forever from the fears of the material world and
    gave you material control over people. There is no material will.

    [..]

    Do you really think a person in this state is inclined to carefully police the boundary between fact and fiction?

  135. 135
    daryljfontaine says:

    @Suzanne: If you believe this account, it’s not just “permission to lie” but overall exemption from any kind of posthumous accounting for your sins — except denying God.

    D

  136. 136
    Jason says:

    @J. Michael Neal: [i]The primary source for much of this is Theodore Sturgeon, who is the one who claimed to have made a bet with Hubbard about starting a religion. I have no idea how credible he was, but he was a much better writer than Hubbard. [/i]

    This version is certainly not true. However, the story about Hubbard saying that if you really wanted to make a lot of money, you’d start a religion almost certainly is true:

    Wikipedia:

    Editor Sam Merwin, for example, recalled a meeting: “I always knew he was exceedingly anxious to hit big money—he used to say he thought the best way to do it would be to start a cult.” (December 1946)[74] Writer and publisher Lloyd Arthur Eshbach reported Hubbard saying “I’d like to start a religion. That’s where the money is.” Writer Theodore Sturgeon reported that Hubbard made a similar statement at the Los Angeles Science Fantasy Society. Likewise, writer Sam Moskowitz reported in an affidavit that during an Eastern Science Fiction Association meeting on November 11, 1948, Hubbard had said “You don’t get rich writing science fiction. If you want to get rich, you start a religion.”[75] Milton A. Rothman also reported to his son Tony Rothman that he heard Hubbard make exactly that claim at a science fiction convention. In 1998, an A&E documentary titled “Inside Scientology” shows Lyle Stuart reporting that Hubbard stated repeatedly that to make money, “you start a religion.”

    It should be noted that Hubbard was a major participant in the California Satanist scene before he started Scientology, and hence learned the religion scam from observing Alistair Crowley acolyte Jack Parsons and his circle in action. He wasn’t the first or the last to have the idea of bilking the credulous out of their money with religion.

  137. 137
    polyorchnid octopunch says:

    @BGinCHI: That’s a great album. If you’re not familiar with it, go look it up. It’s by Funkadelic.

  138. 138
    Donut says:

    @BGinCHI:

    I’m sure I will offend some practicing Christians, Muslims, Jews, whatevers – but seriously, does Scientology sound any crazier than those faiths?

    Xenu vs Jesus. Which mythology is more far-fetched?

    If some future archaeologist were to stumble upon just a copy of Dianetics texts, and the Bible/Koran/Torah, and had no other context to make a qualitative judgement, where do we think they’d come down?

    No offense, religious peeps, but it all sounds like a bunch of bullshit to me. I was raised a Catholic and confirmed in that Church. I went to mass and catechism class every week until I got confirmed, so I’m not at all ignorant of what it means to be religious. I just now view all of it as mythology.

  139. 139
    Kathy in St. Louis says:

    @aimai: See the Billy Graham Crusades, which send people to town as much as a year before a crusade to contact churches for just this reason.

  140. 140
  141. 141
    Forum Transmitted Disease says:

    Whats the “prison camp” shit all about? They dont actually lock people up, right?

    @Punchy: Wrong. Sometimes they die from it.

  142. 142
    SatanicPanic says:

    Oh I so want to read this book, but I couldn’t bring myself to pay $28 for it in the store today.

  143. 143
    SatanicPanic says:

    @Donut: Sure, if you’re only talking about the beliefs. The church itself is something else to consider. +6

  144. 144
    BubbaDave says:

    @Citizen Alan:

    I imagine that in the 2d and 3rd centuries there were Romans who worshiped the gods of antiquity who were alarmed at this new Christianity thing

    Check out the Barbara Hambly book Search the Seven Hills in which a Roman desperately searches for his love, who appears to have been kidnapped by a shadowy cannibalistic cult known as Christians. It’s an interesting read.

  145. 145
    Steeplejack says:

    @SatanicPanic:

    Good reason to get a Kindle or Nook (or the respective app for tablet or computer): the e-book version of Going Clear is $14.99.

  146. 146
    SRW1 says:

    @maurinsky:

    I used to sing in a Congregational Church choir that was almost entirely atheists and agnostics who were paid singers.

    Now I am really torn between two possibilities:

    1. Does this mean that singing is of the evil one? I mean, wouldn’t an almighty one who enjoys being sung to endow his supporters rather than his deniers?

    2. Is this God’s sneaky way of luring atheists and agnostics into attending his services?

  147. 147
    scav says:

    @Jose Padilla: There were multiple churches in England but in 664 there were stll multiple kingdoms in Britain so saying King Henry of England merely backed out of a promise of King Oswiu of Northumbria is a bit of a simplification. Whitby dealt with the See of Lindisfarne and Nothumbria.

  148. 148
    Alex SL says:

    Wright’s book, “Going Clear: Scientology, Hollywood, and the Prison of Belief,” makes clear that Scientology is like no church on Earth

    Not all of us come to the same conclusion when looking at Scientology. See here, for example.

  149. 149
    McJulie says:

    @Chris: I would say, also, that if a religion is part of your cultural tradition it seems less absurd because of the way the mythology and metaphors of it have seeped into that culture. For example, there aren’t a lot of modern-day American worshipers of the Greek or Roman pantheons, but they still tend to seem fairly comprehensible to us.

  150. 150
    McJulie says:

    @Donut:

    I’m sure I will offend some practicing Christians, Muslims, Jews, whatevers – but seriously, does Scientology sound any crazier than those faiths?

    Yes and no. Considered objectively, the supernatural claims of all religions are equally absurd. But Scientology and Mormonism both have modern origin stories, and somehow that does make them feel weirder than more traditional origin stories. Maybe in two thousand years, if they stick around, they won’t seem any weirder than anything else.

  151. 151
    rea says:

    @catclub: “Henry VI”

    Henry VIII (Henry VI was the mentally incompetent king during the War of Roses . . .)

  152. 152
    rea says:

    @Anne Laurie: “Henry VII”–see above. Henry VII killed Richard III at Bosworth and sent Cabot to discover North America, but it was his son, Henry VIII, who was into serial monogamy and protestantism.

  153. 153
    Va Highlander says:

    Scientology was L Ron’s rip-off of Aleister Crowley. I have never been able to decide whether Crowley’s outfit, the Ordo Templi Orientis, was more creepy or less so.

  154. 154
    Va Highlander says:

    @Another Halocene Human:

    So, like, there’s rumors he had buttsex in the SW desert with some other historical scifi person.

    Hadn’t heard that one, but the butt in question would have been that of one Jack Parsons, who was an actual sci person, not scifi.

  155. 155
    Va Highlander says:

    @Jason:

    It should be noted that Hubbard was a major participant in the California Satanist scene before he started Scientology, and hence learned the religion scam from observing Alistair Crowley acolyte Jack Parsons and his circle in action.

    Strictly speaking, Crowley’s followers are not Satanists. For that matter, the Church of Satan is not Satanist, since they don’t believe in Satan, either.

  156. 156
    redshirt says:

    And to close this loop, Crowley’s Satanism was really just Ayn Rand’s Objectivism, repackaged.

    Let’s all go Galt.

  157. 157
    Va Highlander says:

    @redshirt:

    And to close this loop, Crowley’s Satanism was really just Ayn Rand’s Objectivism, repackaged.

    Functionally, very much so.

    I’ve seen Crowley’s ‘Satanism’ from the inside and all of the loons I used to know that are still in the Order are now rabid Ron-Paul libertarians. They’re almost refreshing, since unlike most glibertarians they actually understand — and applaud — what Paul’s agenda would do to America:

    “this country is the epicenter of liberalism and it’s global equality, industrial profiteering, mob rule insanity. The only solution is to break up the US into smaller pieces, charter land to a noble class, restore fiefdoms, and restore ethnopluralism to Europe. While stopping usury and fractal reserve banking, eliminating private run central banks, and reducing production to the level of fulfilling local necessity. Paul is only the best possible choice. if there was a high Tory US party or a Nouvella Droit, I woukd go that way.”

  158. 158
    Steeplejack says:

    @Va Highlander:

    Source of your blockquote?

  159. 159
    Va Highlander says:

    @Steeplejack: A Facebook loon, not on my friends list, but he was friends with many of my acquaintances, from back in the day when I had the misfortune of encountering them again. That ‘graph is lifted whole from comments he made in a 2011 political thread.

    I nut-pick, obviously, but then what devotee of the “Great Beast 666” isn’t batshit fucking insane? The biggest difference between this treasonous lunatic and some of the other intelligentsia known to me is that the latter would never make such statements publicly. If nothing else, it’s bad for business.

    Also, in reference to redshirt, Crowley’s Thelema is closer to Might Is Right than it is to Ayn Rand, I’d say. It was in any case one of the OTO’s intelligentsia that introduced me to that little gem.

  160. 160
    Va Highlander says:

    @Steeplejack: Whoops!

    Went straight to moderation Hell, with that one. Perhaps I deserve it.

    The source of that quote was a guy posting as, “Frater Apocryphon”, on Facebook. You should be able to find him.

    I admit to a bit of nut-picking, but the biggest difference between that lunatic and other OTO intelligentsia known to me is that the latter would never make such statements publicly. Crowley’s Thelema is closer to Ragnar Redbeard’s, Might Is Right, than it is to Ayn Rand.

    [Edited to correct brain fart.]

  161. 161
    Chuck says:

    What about the Amish and other “old German” religious groups. Nobody calls them a cult but they are highly insular.

  162. 162
    Ken J. says:

    None of the recent Scientology reveals are news to anyone who was following Scientology’s war against the activists on Usenet (newsgroup alt.religion.scientology) back in 1995. None of it.

  163. 163
    Visceral says:

    @Chris:

    The psychology of adult converts is a lot more interesting to me, mostly because it was tried and failed on me by a fundie church that tried to recruit me early on freshman year of college.

    So I’m kind of curious who it does work on.

    It works on people who go into it with eyes open because they want to think and act a certain way and they want to associate with like-minded people. There’s a reason converts can often be more dogmatic, fundamentalist, and just plain involved than people who were raised in the religion as children. They’re people who seek out a religion on their own power rather than stay where they were born and they carry that internal motivation into their participation in the religion. They convert themselves long before they actually show up at the door for the orientation seminar, so they swallow it completely.

  164. 164
    mclaren says:

    Interesting how similar the Scientology movement is to the present-day Democratic party.

    Anyone who questions the Infallible Glorious Leader gets marginalized, demonized, ridiculed and eventually assaulted and shunned and imprisoned (in Obama’s case, in an actual jail, courtesy of riot-armored national security goons who brutalize non-violent protesters who dare to dissent against Obama’s coddling of the Wall Street crime lords).

    Mass paid propaganda trumpets the majesty of the Great Cause…while the sinister reality of degradation and impoverishment spells out the exact opposite of the movement’s grand claims.

    Bystanders gape at the entire spectacle with appalled disbelief, while wondering how this kind of criminality can continue unpunished — even as the insiders in power snicker at the gullible masses (“You never let a serious crisis go to waste. And what I mean by that it’s an opportunity to do things you think you could not do before.” — Rahm Emanuel) and plot their further impoverishment and brutalization.

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