What Up, Scientology?

Check it out for yourself (courtesy of The Washington Post/AP)

In a new book published on January 17th, New Yorker staff writer and Pulitzer Prize winning author Lawrence Wright shares the results of a three-year investigation into everyone’s favorite tax-exempt religion, Scientology.

Feel free to replace “religion” with “cult,” if you like.

Going Clear: Scientology, Hollywood & the Prison of Belief is a no-holds-barred, behind-the-curtain look at the most controversial religious organization since the Branch Davidians. And that’s saying something. Believe me.

The primary plot line centers around award-winning director and screenwriter Paul Haggis (Million Dollar Baby, Crash), who left the Church of Scientology in 2009 and has since become a self-proclaimed whistle-blower against them. Wright first detailed Haggis’s allegations in the 2011 New Yorker story “The Apostate,” which serves as the backbone for Going Clear. But there is plenty of other Scientology information as well, including interviews with past and present members of the controversial church.

Haggis is at the forefront, though, and rightfully so. He spent more than 35 years in Scientology and only left after the church supported “Proposition 8,” a ballot initiative to ban gay marriage in California. If anyone knows what’s going on, it would have to be him, right?

Maybe. Maybe not.

According to Haggis–and I will do my best not to spoil anything for those of you interested in reading Wright’s book–the church forces children to work long hours, in clear violation of child labor laws; threatened to “out” John Travolta for being gay, whether or not it was actually true; and regularly abuses members both verbally and physically.

Oscar likes Haggis (courtesy of CinemaBlend.com)

Haggis even calls out church leader David Miscavige for abusing his flock.

As you might imagine, Miscavige and the Church of Scientology deny Haggis’s allegations and have come out against Wright’s book, but it’s hard to know who’s really telling the truth. I think the church is a cult that could eventually be dangerous, and I believe these allegations (or at least a good portion of them) are likely true, but that’s just me. It’s equally possible that the Scientologists are being honest.

There just aren’t enough hard, cold facts. It’s all been hearsay.

Of course, some of you might suspect even this to be part of an elaborate cover-up to keep members and ex-members quiet. And trust me. I wonder the same thing.

I think my biggest concern is this: What if Scientology represents some kind of evolutionary leap for religious cults?

Instead of a bunch of hippies and other misguided cast-offs moving to South America and drinking cyanide-sweetened Kool-Aid, we have a well-organized, sophisticated, thoroughly enmeshed network of seemingly normal, successful people. Their membership is growing every day. And they have Tom Cruise, too.

It’s hard to argue with that.

To be honest, I hope that everything we hear in the media about Scientology is wrong. And I hope the truth comes out soon so all this mystery and suspense will finally end.

We don’t need another Waco or Jonestown. Of that I’m sure.

No Scientologists were harmed in the writing of this blog post.

Posted on January 23, 2013, in Perspectives and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 6 Comments.

  1. Prepare to be eliminated.

  2. Personally I don’t trust any movement that becomes too trendy they tend to eventually self-destruct. Scientology is enjoying a growth spurt due to their celebrity followers even though the organization itself tries to stay under the radar.

    • And that’s what scares me the most. If they’re truly a good organization, then more power to them. But since there’s a chance they’re not as good as people think, I’m a little nervous about all this growth and publicity. The last thing we need to do is help a cult gain power, after all…

      • I hear ya, if their all they claim, then an open door policy would seem to be the best course of action. However, they seem to be a for profit religion and that’s just wrong on a lot of levels. When you look at most other major religions there is some branch of assistance to the less fortunate, Scientology seems ignore that section of the population all together. Furthermore part their core beliefs are that aliens came to earth and introduced human DNA into the Eco-system?!? Is there anyone willing to accept the possibility that we evolved naturally without the intervention of anyone else, even if they’re right would you want to worship someone that created such a flawed product. Neitzsche wrote; “Man is something that shall be overcome” I’m not sure I’m of that opinion either but it sounds like a more solidly grounded argument then alien intervention in human development…

      • You’re absolutely right, Marty. And I left out the alien thing so it wouldn’t seem as if I was lashing out too much at their religion. It certainly makes them look worse, though…

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