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Posts Tagged ‘cults’

Probably my last Scientology post

Posted by c. wagner on November 20, 2009

For a relatively small church (or relatively large cult), Scientology takes a lot of bashing. Not that the organization doesn’t deserve it, of course. But, you know, I should be able to find something else to whine about on this blog. Bigger fish to fry and all that. So, I’m going to get all the Scientology stuff out of my system at once.

I just finished two books on Scientology–Inside Scientology by Robert Kaufman and A Piece of Blue Sky by Jon Atack. Here are some of the highlights of what I came across.

James Stewart has been put in a Condition of Doubt for having [epileptic] seizures in public thus invalidating Scientology. If there is any reoccurrence of these either consciously and unconsciously on his part he will be placed in a Condition of Enemy.

Stewart’s real crime, having had a seizure, was telling the hospital that he was a Scientologist, thus supposedly giving Scientology a bad name. [Blue Sky, page 184]

Getting out of the Condition of Enemy generally involves heavy manual labor and a high level of shunning. Yup. That’s nice and compassionate. Just what you’d like from your religion. Of course, since illness is a sign of improper application of Scientology principles, maybe Mr. Stewart deserved what he got. … Ummmm, no.

[Scientology agents infiltrated the Coast Guard, DEA, and IRS.] This was not a matter of a small persecuted religion infiltrating government agencies to expose immoral actions committed by those agencies. In reality, it was a matter of protecting Hubbard from any inconvenience, let alone any litigation. [Blue Sky, page 210]

And while they were infiltrating, they were also stealing documents about ongoing investigations and about people who challenged Scientology. Pretty sure the ends don’t justify those means.

Hubbard alleged the psychiatrist [sic, mine], “who have been on the [time] track a long time and are the sole cause of decline in this universe” had invented sex as a means of entrapment eons ago. As a result of Hubbard’s diatribe, some Scientologists stopped having sexual intercourse with their spouses. [Blue Sky, page 288]

Ooookay. The part about sex as a means of entrapment sounds an awful lot like what’s taught in some other, more mainstream, religions. So maybe I can give them a pass here. Speaking of sounding familiar:

Ron claimed that every word he ever wrote held just as good today as when he wrote it: nothing he ever said needed changing. [Inside, page 179]

Huh. Where have I heard that before?

And another familiar thought:

Most of the Scientologists were culturally green, interested only in Hubbard’s pronouncements. Many were reactionary, almost Fascistic, in their political views. The attitude of this breed was that the poor and oppressed of the world, the dwellers in mud villages and ghettos, were suffering solely from their own inadequacies; they were dominated by their reactive minds and were getting exactly what they deserved. [Inside, page 31]

Sounds like the crud that’s preached from some megachurch pulpits these days. Whatever the source, blaming the victim is always cruel.

For six months, Gulliver had been a top executive in the Commodore’s Messenger Organization U.K. which controlled all other Scientology organizations in Britain. He rated himself one of the top four executives in CMO U.K. He was fourteen years old. [Blue Sky, page 322]

Yowza. I barely trust a seventeen-year-old to feed my cats. There’s no way I would trust one to run my religion. This is just a bad idea. As well as probably qualifying as child abuse.

And speaking of child abuse:

At one meal, I noticed a little boy eating at a small table off to the side. At first I thought he was alone; then I recognized him as one of the children of an American couple who were on SBC and acked everything said to them in the approved way, with sonorous “Okays” and “thank-yous.” His mother had found in an S&D that he was suppressive to her (perhaps she hadn’t wanted him in the first place), and she had had to disconnect from him; and so they sat at separate tables. Now and then she ran over and gave him a love-pat because, as she maintained, “I can really only half-disconnect from him.” He was the saddest little boy I ever saw, his pinched, bewildered features in complete contrast to those of his sunny little sister, who always sat with her parents. [Inside, page 97]

There are no words. I could just spit.

On a lighter note:

Having decided in 1952 that most science fiction is actually a recounting of real past-life experience, Hubbard’s own preoccupations as a science fiction writer became the cosmology of his religion. [Blue Sky, page 375]

So much for the predictive nature of science fiction. It’s actually history, not futurism. I never would have guessed.

Okay. I think I’m “clear” of this now. Thank goodness.

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Hypnotism, Scientology, and cults

Posted by c. wagner on November 20, 2009

Inside Scientology by Robert Kaufman is one of the earliest books about what Scientology teaches and how it does it. Written by someone who joined the–dare I say it–cult in the early days and followed its teachings for years in the hopes of self-improvement (and profit, of course). One of the more interesting phenomena he describes is how Scientologists, like many cults (and, honestly, other groups) put the initiate into a suggestible state that allows the more bizarre teachings to go down more easily.

It had been so ingrained on our minds at orgs and franchises that auditing was specifically geared to dispelling the hypnoid state we were in, that any Scientologist would scoff at the idea he was being methodically hypnotized from the moment he picked up the cans [part of the ubiquitous Scientology E-meter]. Yet there it was, on paper, in my own hand writing: “This is the session,” at the beginning of each audit; the unyielding stare; the repeated command, always in the same tone of voice; and “That’s it!” to end session, the equivalent of the hypnotist’s snap of his fingers. Felicia had had no more notion of what she was really doing than her preclears; it had been done to her first. It was such a good thing, a beneficial thing, that she would teach it to others. I recalled the Dianetics class and TRs with Margo. That people were being taught to hypnotize each other without realizing it would have seemed too bizarre for this world. Later, on the Clearing Course, we were given an imaginary light to spot, an approximation of the candle a hypnotist holds in front of his subject’s face. There was no end to it. [page 254]

Kaufman also points out how the initiate’s own desire to improve him- or herself and his or her need for approval intensifies the effect.

A very general type of question is repeated several times. At first the preclear does not see a cut-and-dry answer. Nonetheless he tries to answer the question to the best of his ability (although he will usually try to qualify his answer). He feels pressured, coerced, trapped in a minor way; but his next reaction is a greater desire to answer the repeated question, because he gets a small prize every time he opens his mouth, in the form of an acknowledgment. Finally, he wants to feel that he can answer any question so that he may receive as many prizes as he can, and to that end is willing to fabricate answers. If he hesitates in answering (a comm lag), the question is automatically repeated again, so he begins to answer more quickly. He is now behaving.

After all, he does wish to get better. After a while it ceases to make any difference to him what he says. His mind is treated as a computer, and what he says is a computation registered on the E-meter. The invariable acknowledgment and the non-evaluation of his responses by the auditor imprint this tellingly on his mind. He is never actually told what to believe during processing, but it a surprisingly small step from stating what one may never have intended to state to believing in one’s own statement. To begin with, the preclear wants to believe that what is happening is helping him. An auditing session is precisely geared to capitalizing on his desire. [page 17]

If this sounds silly and far-fetched, I’ve got some videos for you. In a couple of (probably shortened and heavily edited) clips, Derren Brown exploits human suggestibility and desire to please to make some fairly strange things happen. First, he convinces a woman that certain colors aren’t what she thought just by talking to her in a very specific and skilled way and by using the prolonged eye contact Scientologists are known for. Second, and probably more frightening, he uses little more than stage hypnotism tricks, excellent salesmanship, and a bit of good acting (He’s a committed atheist and skeptic) to cause a roomful of people to reconsider their ideas of the existence of God. (He sets the people back the way they were after the filming finished.)

Brown is very good at what he does, but, as he’ll freely admit, he’s an entertainer. He doesn’t believe that what he’s doing is going to save the world. He doesn’t have the sincerity of a true believer, such as the average Scientology auditor, that what he’s doing reflects the truth about the world, nor are his targets necessarily looking (or desperate) to make the changes he suggests. Nor is there a group of people making a hard sell to the target. Yet, he gets striking results. If he can pull this off with just his skills and the reinforcement of  a couple of cameras, think of what an organized network with books, tapes, machines, techniques, peer pressure, celebrity support, and a target desperate for help could do.

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The French beat the U.S. at something?

Posted by c. wagner on October 27, 2009

Maybe the paranoia and hatred about Scientology is overblown when you consider the relatively small number of people directly affected, but there’s still something satisfying about seeing a crackpot cult-ish thingie invented by a second-rate author get smacked down.

The French seem to have it in for Scientology. A French court slapped Scientology’s office in France with a $900,000 fine for organized fraud.

And France isn’t alone in taking swipes at Scientology. According to the New York Times (and we know they never make stuff up),

Belgium, Germany and other European countries have been criticized by the U.S. State Department for labeling Scientology as a cult or sect and enacting laws to restrict its operations.

I’m somehow unsurprised that the United States defends a “religion” with a heavy emphasis on profit. Or maybe the U.S. is just standing up for religious freedom.

Read the article from the New York Times.

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Is charisma really that powerful?

Posted by c. wagner on October 23, 2009

Yesterday, I posted my reaction to an article in Pediatrics about people who won’t take their kids to the doctor because of their religion. Once I calmed down a little, I took notice of the fact (okay, the girlfriend, who also read the article, pointed it out) that something called the “Faith Assembly” in Indiana was responsible for an out-of-proportion number of the reported child deaths.

One should never dangle a researchable fact like that in front of a librarian.

A quick trip to Wikipedia later, and I knew more about the Faith Assembly. And learned that my instinct that it was a cult-like community was spot on.

The charismatic leader of the community, Hobart Freeman, was a piece of work. You don’t have to read very far into the article to realize that any group under his sway was going to be in medical trouble. The dude had a heart attack, claimed he was healed by faith, threw out his medications, and promptly suffered repeated attacks of angina.

Of course, it gets worse.

John F. MacArthur in Charismatic Chaos says that (p237) “Freeman and the Faith Assembly congregation utterly disdained medical treatment, believing that modern medicine was an extension of ancient witchcraft and black magic. To submit to a doctor’s remedies, Freeman believed, was to expose oneself to demonic influence.”

Whoo boy. And because of that totally nonsensical belief, local authorities estimated that 90 people who would otherwise have lived, died.

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