Friday, February 18, 2011

An Inside Look At Scientology

My friend Bailey recently told me about an article in The New Yorker entitled The Apostate. It is looking at Scientology, mainly through the experience of screenwriter and film director Paul Haggis. Paul, for a time, was very involved in the "church," as he made it as far up as you can go in their ranks. But in 2009, he began questioning his involvement and has since become an outspoken voice for many of its harmful practices and teachings.

I have some special interest in Scientology because I (along with Bailey and many others) spent three summers in the early 2000s in Clearwater, Florida, a couple miles from its worldwide spiritual headquarters. We would often witness the odd behavior of the members walking around the streets in their strange uniforms. With much intrigue, I began researching to know more about this movement/religion/cult or whatever you want to call it.

It was founded in 1954 by L. Ron Hubbard. Here's a quick overview of the "church" from the article:
The Church of Scientology says that its purpose is to transform individual lives and the world. “A civilization without insanity, without criminals and without war, where the able can prosper and honest beings can have rights, and where man is free to rise to greater heights, are the aims of Scientology,” Hubbard wrote. Scientology postulates that every person is a Thetan—an immortal spiritual being that lives through countless lifetimes. Scientologists believe that Hubbard discovered the fundamental truths of existence, and they revere him as “the source” of the religion.

Hubbard’s writings offer a “technology” of spiritual advancement and self-betterment that provides “the means to attain true spiritual freedom and immortality.” A church publication declares, “Scientology works 100 percent of the time when it is properly applied to a person who sincerely desires to improve his life.” Proof of this efficacy, the church says, can be measured by the accomplishments of its adherents. “As Scientologists in all walks of life will attest, they have enjoyed greater success in their relationships, family life, jobs and professions. They take an active, vital role in life and leading roles in their communities. And participation in Scientology brings to many a broader social consciousness, manifested through meaningful contribution to charitable and social reform activities.”
And here's a good description of their practice of Dianetics:
“Dianetics” purports to identify the source of self-destructive behavior—the “reactive mind,” a kind of data bank that is filled with traumatic memories called “engrams,” and that is the source of nightmares, insecurities, irrational fears, and psychosomatic illnesses. The object of Dianetics is to drain the engrams of their painful, damaging qualities and eliminate the reactive mind, leaving a person “Clear.”
After reading the article, it becomes obvious that Scientology is almost exclusively a religion based on pragmatism rather than truth. No one seems to make any truth claim apart from commending how the beliefs and practices make life work better. But it's ironic that, pragmatically speaking, it seems to fail. People don't seem happier. They seem controlled and much poorer than when they started.

I'd encourage you to read the entire article, because it is quite fascinating. Though I should warn you that it is rather lengthy.

Also, a few years back, I saw a special that the BBC did on Scientology called Panorama: Scientology and Me. The reporter has multiple interactions with Tommy Davis (who you would find from the article is Scientology's main PR guy), and it's crazy to watch how much effort Tommy goes into as he tries to stop the BBC from doing their story. You can watch it in four separate YouTube videos:

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3
Part 4

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