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Scientology
Wednesday 16th May, 2007 14:21 Comments: 0
Did anyone else watch the Panorama documentary? It wasn't that good, all you really concluded was that Scientology still spies on anyone that might criticise them (part of the "Fair Game" tactics that were apparently abandoned in 1968). Tommy Davis, the guy with the suit that turned up everywhere that John Sweeney went, seemed to like re-iterating any dirt they had on anyone that Sweeney tried to interview, rather than attacking or debating what the "heretics" had said, and Davis accused Sweeney of lacking objectivity despite the fact he wasn't present for many of the interviews - he was clearly jumping to conclusions (even if he was correct that they had a negative view of the "religion"). Davis also got aggressive whenever Sweeney quoted anyone that that had called Scientology a "cult", despite the fact that Sweeney was not directly calling them a cult. If anything, Sweeney was perhaps offering them the chance to explain why there might be a misunderstanding and to put forward their reasons as to why Scientology isn't a cult (or just using it as an excuse to label them a cult). Perhaps it was due to the editing, but Panorama made it look like Davis was overly protective and closed minded, and his actions helped give Scientology a very bad impression. Another thing that gave it a very bad impression was their criticism of psychiatry. Even if part of what they say is true about the holocaust (and I doubt it is, but I wasn't there and I'm not a historian), I'm pretty sure you can't tar all of psychiatry with the same brush. The rest of the programme revealed nothing about the "religion" itself. It should be poined out that Hubbard introduced the concept of "auditing" in Dianetics, a two-person question-and-answer therapy that focused on painful memories (which sounds a lot like psychiatry). According to Hubbard, dianetic auditing could eliminate emotional problems, cure physical illnesses, and increase intelligence. It also gives you plenty of dirt to blackmail people with, but perhaps that's just a cynical view.

Sweeney did raise the old idea of Xenu, which current members dismissed. Sweeney claimed that "The Incident" is revealed to members after they've paid as much as £100,000 and reached Operating Thetan Level Three. The story might be rubbish, but it does make you wonder how much money has been invested for anyone that's above level three (I'm pretty sure the celebrities were meant to be level seven). That's a lot of money coming into the "religion", and I doubt their outgoings are that high. One possible theory might be that it's all a big pyramid scheme, which members join without their full knowledge. And it's only when you're high enough in the scheme (and sunk enough money into it) that you find out it's a pyramid scheme that relies upon the new recruits to invest money into the "religion" (and to save face, you continue the charade - probably because you can't easily back out of such an organisation without them digging up all of your dirt - and possibly make a lot of money if you're at the top: Forbes magazine estimated Hubbard's 1982 Scientology-related income as at least US $200 million). Some documents written by Hubbard himself suggest he regarded Scientology as a business, not a religion. In one letter dated April 10, 1953, he says calling Scientology a religion solves "a problem of practical business", and status as a religion achieves something "more equitable...with what we've got to sell". In a 1962 official policy letter, he said "Scientology 1970 is being planned on a religious organization basis throughout the world. This will not upset in any way the usual activities of any organization. It is entirely a matter for accountants and solicitors." A Reader's Digest article of May 1980 quoted Hubbard as saying in the 1940s "Writing for a penny a word is ridiculous. If a man really wants to make a million dollars, the best way would be to start his own religion."

One point I nearly forgot was that it was claimed that L Ron Hubbard lied about many of the things he'd done in his life. The Church of Scientology official biographies present Hubbard as "larger than life, attracted to people, liked by people, dynamic, charismatic and immensely capable in a dozen fields". However, the Church's account of Hubbard's life has changed over time, with editions of the biographical account published over the years differing from each other. In contrast, biographies of Hubbard by independent journalists and accounts by former Scientologists paint a much less flattering, and often highly critical, picture of Hubbard and in many cases contradict the material presented by the Church. For example: his grades at univeristy varied widely, and records show he attended for only two years, was on academic probation for his second year, and left the University in 1932 without a degree. The Church of Scientology's official account does not mention its premature conclusion. According to the Church's official account, "Here he studies engineering and atomic and molecular physics and embarks upon a personal search for answers to the human dilemma. His first experiment concerning the structure and function of the mind is carried out while at the university." One of his classes was a second-year physics course entitled "Modern Physical Phenomena; Molecular and Atomic Physics", for which he received a grade of "F". On the basis of this class, however, Hubbard claimed to be a "nuclear physicist" and asserted expertise in dealing with the problems posed by radioactive contamination of the environment.

It's all far too secretive and sinister for my liking. A religion shouldn't be so secretive, it should share its message to all of its members and even to the rest of the world, so they can choose to belong if they want to. I can see why Sweeney might accuse them of brainwashing, Scientology appears to take a passive aggressive approach, but this is arguably no worse than some of the other religions and religious nuts out there. At least they don't have bibles to bash people with.
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