Scientology – a peculiarly unpleasant organization

A case against Scientology is finally coming to trial after years of obstruction by the Church.

 

Laura DeCrescenzo in 1996

Laura DeCrescenzo in 1996

Laura DeCrescenzo has filed suit, claiming that she was 17 when she was forced by the Church of Scientology to have an abortion against her will. At that time, according to information coming out for the October 2013 court case, she was working 112-hour weeks under a billion-year contract that she had entered when her parents were members of the Church.

The stupidity of the ideas behind Scientology is one thing, and I can live with people believing all that, even if it was created by a science fiction writer as a way of making a lot of money. But the vicious exploitation of children under its control is something else, and makes Scientology into a peculiarly unpleasant organization.

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Scientologists and Mormons in the news

On the one hand, Scientologist Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes split up. On the other, Mormon Mitt Romney heads for the Republican nomination for President. Money shows up in both stories (and as it does in all organized religions), but there are vast differences.

The Mormons have taken their beehive symbol to heart, work hard, and have a centralized bureaucratic government. They tax their people 10%. Mr Romney is in the news for hiding a lot of his fortune in tax-avoidance jurisdictions overseas (Bermuda, the Caymans, etc). Hm. I wonder if he pays his religious tax the way his church wants…?

The other ones, the Scientologists, were established by Science Fiction writer L. Ron Hubbard a couple of years after he famously said that there was no money in writing SF – the way to make money was to start your own religion. Scientologists suck their adherents dry of their entire wealth, and do it on the basis of the most preposterous “bad SF” cosmology that you can imagine, involving an evil overlord from the Andromeda Galaxy imprisoning his people in volcanoes on Earth and blowing them up with Hydrogen Bombs.

(Somewhat in connection with this, Microsoft researcher Cormac Herley has just published a paper showing that Nigerian email scammers make deliberately ludicrous propositions to their targets, as a way of quickly identifying the most stupid and gullible people.)

But the real reason that Katie Holmes is leaving Tom Cruise may have less to do with money than with the upbringing of their 6-year-old daughter Suri. Suri is now reaching the age when she starts getting “security-checked” by the Scientologists. This is their method of simultaneous indoctrination of the child and spying on her family. It is so unsavory that even that unscrupulous media mogul Rupert Murdoch is outspoken about it.

Rupert Murdoch tweets about Scientology

 

You can read some of his tweets here. And not only about Scientology. He was also asked about Mormons, and gave an answer that – from the ones I’ve met – I have to agree with:  “Mormonism a mystery to me, but Mormons certainly not evil.”

As for how much sense there is either of these religions compared with longer-established ones… or compared with a modern scientific view of the universe… well, that can be either a very long discussion, or a very short one. But many people find it endlessly fascinating.

Did the religious founders even exist?

Start with Muhammad who lived from 570 to 632 AD. There is extensive proof of his existence, but he’s relatively recent, from the early medieval period.

Before him, Jesus. There are strong indications that a Jewish rabbi of that named lived from about 6 BC – 34 AD, and was executed by the Romans. But those were turbulent times in that part of the world, with insurrections and sieges and the destruction of cities. Certainly the stories told about Jesus were reshaped by Paul with a pro-Roman bias, and some people claim there was no Jesus at all, just an amalgam of Mithraic and other myths.

Moses parting the Red Sea

Some of the religious back stories have always been really, really unlikely.

And now Moses, purported to have been the Jews tribal leader around 1500 BC, is under increasing scrutiny. His existence is questioned on the basis of the entire Jewish-Exodus-from-Egypt story being likely mythical, because there is no trace of any of it in the detailed Egyptian records we have today.

The further back in time, the more dubious the founder looks.

What about Odin? He could have been a tribal leader, bringing the Aesir through Germany into Scandinavia around 300 AD. A trickster, a shaman, a warrior, and perhaps a man who had half-learned to write on the fringes of the Roman Empire, and created a runic alphabet for his own people. Archeology will have to devise fresh tricks before we have more answers.

And Gilgamesh, searching for the secret of immortality, journeying to Dilmun to meet Utnapishtim the Faraway, the survivor of the Flood. The Persian Gulf used to be dry land right out to the Straits of Hormuz during the last Ice Age. If the land flooded by cataclysm rather than gradually, whatever proto-civilizations there were on that fertile plain would have been wiped out. Perhaps a man named Utnapishtim survived, and lived out his days in Dilmun, which the Bahrainis think is the place now known as Bahrain.

And coming back to our own time, we have to consider the new religions of Mormonism and Scientology. Clearly, Joseph Smith and L. Ron Hubbard existed. And equally clearly, the back stories to their religions were made up out of whole cloth, shared with a couple of close associates, and then used to gain access to the wealth and women among the gullible.

And they’ve grown! Mormonism has gone from zero to 14 million since 1830, and Scientology from zero to maybe 200,000 since the early 50s.

So the old religions may have come about in the same way. Yes, there was a founder. Yes, he had visions, or claimed to have visions, or just preached a good story. And a lot of what he preached, even if he made it up out of whole cloth, was believed because it proved to be something that a lot of people were comfortable believing.

And that’s how we got where we are.

Scientology’s wacky SciFi “creation myth”

L. Ron Hubbard roughed out the story that became Scientology’s equivalent of the Garden of Eden narrative: how evil came to the Earth, and what we have to do to become pure. Read about it here.

Hubbard's notes for the oddball story that now underpins Scientology

Xenu, the Head of the Galactic Confederation, solved a massive overpopulation problem on his 75 planets some 95 million years ago by bringing people to Earth, putting them in volcanoes, and detonating H Bombs in the volcanoes. (How very 1950s!) This has emotionally scarred us (even if don’t remember it) throughout all our subsequent reincarnations, and only by remembering the details (including time and place) of traumatic events (including in past lives) can we cleanse ourselves of the trauma and return to being spiritual creatures who can control the physical world around us…

Other traumatic experiences, according to this page on The Beliefs and Teachings of Scientology, include “attempted abortions and other fetal traumas, acts of torture and violence experienced both as victim and as perpetrator, encounters with the Marcab Confederacy and various Invader Forces from spacefaring Galactic civilizations, life on earth as a clam,” etc.

Your past goes back billions of years. The cost of having Scientology help you clean it up, all the way back to the clams, may well be $500,000 or so.

Good luck.

Scientology clergy member attacks church leader’s ‘obsession’ with money. Ha!

"Make money. Make more money."

An email on New Year’s Day to 12,000 Scientologists headlined “Keep Scientology Working” according to the British newspaper The Independent, “argues that many of the policies pursued (by) Mr Miscavige are in direct conflict to the principles laid down by (founder and science fiction writer L.Ron) Hubbard when he created the movement in the 1960s and 1970s. In particular (the writer, Debbie Cook) claims that ‘extreme’ fundraising activities are now being ‘driven from within the very highest echelons of the Scientology structure’, in a way that is at odds with the organisation’s founding scriptures. Although many current members have donated vast portions of their net worth to the church, Ms Cook claims that Hubbard never endorsed individual donations of over $75 for lifetime membership.” (See: http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/americas/conflict-at-the-heart-of-scientology-is-exposed-in-bitter-email-outburst-6284546.html

This claim about L. Ron Hubbard’s gentle intentions is contradicted by the exhortation by Hubbard in a bulletin to his church officials: “Make money. Make more money. Make others produce so as to make money . . . However you get them in or why, just do it.”  (Quoted in http://www.cs.cmu.edu/~dst/Fishman/time-behar.html)

It all comes back to Hubbard’s often-quoted pre-Scientology statement: “You don’t get rich writing science fiction. If you want to get rich, you start a religion.” (For a full discussion, see this start-a-religion-faq)

But then, perhaps L. Ron Hubbard’s science fiction simply isn’t all that good…

Dissing various religions

Each of the major monotheistic religions appears to have had the intent of the founder overturned by his “followers”. Judaism began as a polytheistic religion, where Abraham allied himself with Yahweh against other gods like Baal, but it evolved into monotheism. Both Buddhism and Islam began with the founder attempting to prevent the worship of a human individual, but have ended with the founder himself being given quasi-divine status. Christianity began with Jesus preaching a rejection of the Roman occupation of Palestine and a restoration of Judaic monotheism, and developed into the rejection of Judaism and the embrace of Rome, and even the worship of Jesus as God.

Beware the wrath of god(s)/goddess(es)

More recent religions appear fraudulent from the beginning. Mormonism begins with a 14-year-old con artist writing a ludicrous (and completely impossible) account of the settling of North America by the Lost Tribes of Israel. Scientology was created by science fiction author L. Ron Hubbard some time after he wrote “If you want to make a little money, write a book. If you want to make a lot of money, create a religion.” Kwanzaa has been labeled “a hoax built around fake history and pseudohistorical delusions”, and its lack of historical roots lays it open to ridicule.

The polytheistic religions look cleaner: partly because their origins are lost in the mists of time, partly because their nature allows different worship for different gods and goddesses – whether Hinduism, Santeria, Roman cults or Norse paganism, you’re free to choose an appropriate deity for whatever you’re trying to get out of worshiping them. If you feel the need to discover or invent a new god, that’s not a problem in a polytheist tradition – and if it resonates with something deep in the human psyche it may well grow in popularity. If you want to do this, stay close to nature. Worship waterfalls and storms, for example, like these chimpanzees.