There has been a lot of interest in Scientology recently, much of it inspired by the courage of former members like Leah Remini speaking out in ways we’ve never seen before.
But even with all we’ve learned, there are still plenty of things about this murky religious movement that are not nearly as well-known as they should be. Here are just a few things everyone should know about Scientology.
Scientology doesnt have the best relationship with the group known as Anonymous, a loose affiliation of hackers, internet anarchists, and bored teenage coders.
In 2008, the Church of Scientology tried to suppress a copyrighted video of Tom Cruise extolling the virtues of Hubbards teachings. Anonymous interpreted this as an act censorship, and declared war.
They temporarily crashed Scientologys website, ordered hundreds of pizzas to Scientology compounds in Europe, and wasted the churchs ink by sending all-black faxes to their LA office.
The Tom Cruise video remained available.
The attack on Scientology was actually kind of a watershed moment for Anonymous, and led to them adopting their somewhat terrifying slogan: We are legion. We do not forgive. We do not forget. Expect us.
In 2005, South Park creators Matt Stone and Trey Parker aired an episode called Trapped In The Closet, which was deeply critical of Scientology and its celebrity apostles John Travolta and Tom Cruise.
In response, the church opened an investigation into the personal lives of Stone and Parker, a classic technique employed by Scientologists against outside critics, who are often branded suppressive persons.
Marty Rathbun, formerly a high-ranking member of the church explains how it works. Phone records. Bank records. Personal letters that expose some kind of vulnerability. Theyll read stuff into the kind of alcohol youre drinking and how much. Prescriptions. Theyll figure out your diet. They can find out a lot about you through your trash.
More surprising than this response is the fact that the investigation unearthed nothing damaging. Then again, its hard to shame two guys who once went to the Academy Awards high on LSD and wearing dresses.
In November 1978, a cult known as the Peoples Temple, led by the infamous Jim Jones, committed mass suicide in the jungles of Guyana. 909 members of the church died, along with US Congressman Leo Ryan, who was assassinated when he attempted to rescue those who wanted to leave the congregation.
In response, Ted Patrick decided to take a stand against dangerous religious movements. (continued…)
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Patrick was a deprogrammer, someone who specializes in helping those who have been indoctrinated by dangerous ideologies. He founded the Cult Awareness Network, which collected information on groups alleged to be cults, and offered resources to those wishing to leave such groups.
One of the groups CAN targeted most aggressively was the Church of Scientology. The director of the network said, Scientology is quite likely the most ruthless, the most classically terroristic, the most litigious and the most lucrative cult the country has ever seen. No cult extracts more money from its members.
Unfortunately, CAN didnt turn out to be such a great group either. They were forced to declare bankruptcy after they were found to have abducted someone they were trying to deprogram.
The Cult Awareness Network was put up for auction, and was purchased by an attorney for of the Church of Scientology.
The group that was originally founded to help people escape from new religious movements is now owned and operated by one. Or, as 60 Minutes put it: Now, when you call looking for information about a cult, chances are the person you’re talking to is a Scientologist.
Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard began his writing career as a creator of pulp science fiction – a booming genre in the 1930s.
Hubbard is not considered an especially adept writer by non-Scientologists, but he was extremely prolific. (In his time, contributors to fiction periodicals were paid by the word, so quantity was definitely more lucrative than quality.)
Hubbard produced so much science fiction that he actually holds the Guinness world record for most published works by a single author, with 1,084.
To quote Joe Rogan, Hubbard made up more [expletive] than anyone who ever lived.
Scientology has a particular fondness for celebrity adherents, and makes special efforts to recruit famous followers.
The reasons why Scientology is so closely linked with Hollywood run deeper than you might think, and as former member and actress Leah Remini has pointed out, the relationship is even more sinister than it seems. (continued…)
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The emphasis on proselytizing to the rich and famous was first stressed by Hubbard in 1955, when he released a convert wish-list that included Ernest Hemingway, Danny Kaye, Orson Welles, Liberace, Bing Crosby, Pablo Picasso and Walt Disney.
These celebrities are well-guarded, well-barricaded, over-worked, aloof quarry, Hubbard wrote to his followers. If you bring one of them home you will get a small plaque as your reward.
Obviously, cultivating celebrities helps Scientology’s public image. It furnishes the church with high-profile spokespeople who are well-situatuated to disseminate Hubbard’s message to a broader audience. But the benefits run both ways.
Far from offering a respite from the red carpet, Scientology takes pains to treat its celebrities like a higher class of being. As Leah Remini, the former Scientologist star of King of Queens has noted, celebrities receive special treatment from the church – in some cases, including personal staff provided free of charge.
Remini believes this is part of the reason why more famous members don’t leave Scientology. Not only does the church by its very nature collect the secrets of its members in browbeating auditing sessions, but there’s plenty of carrot to go along with the stick.
One celebrity follower Scientology definitely doesn’t want to be associated with is the convicted murderer and cult leader Charles Manson.
Although Manson was never a card-carrying Scientologist, so to speak, he did dabble in Hubbard’s philosophy while he was in prison in the early 60s, prior to the string of murders that would make him infamous.
Manson was introduced to Scientology by a cellmate, and for a time seems to have identified with what was, at the time, a new philosophy. However, he soon tired of doing auditing sessions, and apparently got himself admitted to solitary confinement so as to avoid them.
It’s unlikely that Manson would have enjoyed the hours of deep, probing introspection that Scientology requires.
Although the consensus is that Scientologys influence in the wider world is now waning, there was a time when the church was able to intimidate even the United States government. In fact, during the 1970s, Scientologists conducted one of the most daring infiltrations of the US government in history.
It was called Opeation Snow White. (continued…)
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By the early 1970s, Hubbard was concerned that the government might move against the church. The IRS posed a particular threat, since they had been claiming that Scientology owed millions in back taxes.
And so a number of high-ranking church members began infiltrating government organizations – taking jobs in the Coast Guard, the Drug Enforcement Agency, and especially the IRS.
The objective was two-fold. 1) To steal or destroy any government documents that could incriminate Scientology, and 2) to plant false information that could later be used to embarrass authorities.
When Scientologists learned that the IRS was about to hold a meeting to discuss the church’s tax exempt status, they went so far as to bug the meeting and record the discussion.
The operation finally came to light in 1976, when two Scientologists were caught in the library of the United States Courthouse, where they had been photocopying documents under false pretences.
In the aftermath, 11 conspirators from the church were indicted and sentenced to five years in prison, including Mary Sue Hubbard, L. Ron’s wife, who had been one of the operation’s masterminds.
Although Hubbard himself was not indicted, the scandal sent him into hiding for the rest of his life.
One of the things to understand about Scientology is its diametric opposition to the fields of psychology and psychiatry. The official reasoning behind this is that there were major abuses in the treatment of the mentally ill in the past, just as today there is a tendency toward over-diagnosis and over-prescription of mind-altering drugs.
But the real root of Scientology’s anti-psych stance probably has more to do with Hubbard’s personal antipathies.
The evidence is overwhelming: Hubbard was a deeply troubled man by the time he returned from World War II. In this letter from 1947, he reaches out to Veterans Affairs, begging them for psychiatric care.
He received no reply.
It’s also worth mentioning that, before he founded a religious movement, Hubbard tried to pitch his research to The American Psychiatric Association. They were not interested in his ideas.
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Although L. Ron Hubbard died in 1986, according to Scientology’s theology, he never really died at all.
By way of a eulogy, the new leader of the church, David Miscavige, said the following: The being we knew as L. Ron Hubbard still exists. However, the body he had could no longer serve his purposes. This decision was one made at complete cause by L. Ron Hubbard. Although you may feel grief, understand that he did not and does not now. He has simply moved on to his next step.
An attorney for the church added: The body of L. Ron Hubbard was sound and strong, and fully capable of serving this mighty thetan for many years, had that suited his purposes.
This is why L. Ron Hubbard’s office has been kept intact, complete with typewriter, lest he should return in one form or another.
In the wasteland of northern New Mexico, there are two overlapping circles etched into the scrub, only visible from high altitude. Although they resemble crop circles, they actually represent something more nefarious.
Theyre the emblem of the Church of Spiritual Technology (CST). CST, the arm of Scientology that controls copyrights to all of founder L. Ron Hubbards work, operates an unusual facility in the area.
Known as Trementina Base, this compound is the official storage site for Hubbards writings, recordings, and films. At Trementina, the complete anthology has been inscribed onto stainless steel tablets, encased in titanium capsules, and catalogued in an underground vault.
Former Scientologists suggest that the strange markings on the surface are actually intended to serve as a signpost for Hubbards faithful followers when they inevitably return to earth from across the universe in the far future. That way, they will be able to find the long lost teachings of their founder and prophet.
You may have noticed that Scientology has a vaguely nautical flavor to it. High-ranking members wear what look to be naval uniforms; the highest church teachings can only be handed down on a cruise ship called Freewinds; Scientologys elite formation is called the Sea Organization.
None of this is by accident.
L. Ron Hubbard was in the US Navy during WWII, and briefly commanded a submarine destroyer in the Pacific. Although he liked to portray himself as a war hero later on, his 900-page Navy file tells a very different story.
On one occasion, Hubbard dropped all his depth-charges during a 68-hour battle with an enemy submarine that did not exist. Hubbard refused to believe this. He was later relieved of his command after shelling a Mexican island for target practice.