EDIT: Please note this was written about five years ago, give or take. I’ve got a bit of a different opinion on the matter now; for a more accurate look at my particular slant on things, see my more recent post, here.
I usually don’t list cult-watching as one of my hobbies; for one thing, it tends to freak people out. Certainly no healthy person would have any reason for deliberately seeking out stories of severe abuse in the name of religion, would they?
That’s a loaded question in itself. But for the moment, I’ll stick with the original point, which is to explain what it is about the Church of Scientology that alternately fascinates and repels me.
A long time ago now, I was attached to a small group of people which could only be described as a cult. We only had perhaps a dozen members, and the group lasted less than five years from inception to total dissolution, but once I left, I became fascinated with what damage a faith tradition could inflict. As part of my recovery process, I started reading the anti-cult boards. It was there that I saw for myself the damage inflicted by the Church of Scientology; I briefly struck up a cyber-acquaintance with a German gentleman who had lost his daughter through disconnection.
I’ve got to backtrack here and say that I was aware of Scientology since I was a child — I remember seeing the commercials for Dianetics on TV and being frustrated even then that these people seemed to have answers to questions I was asking, but I had to buy the book to get the answers. Later on, I’m afraid to say, I was swayed by the bad PR from the group and dismissed their beliefs as a joke and a worthless waste of time and money.
After I left my abusive group, however, I had to re-construct my own faith and found myself unwilling to give up skills I had learned from our leader just because he was a charlatan (as well as a first class SOB). The skills I learned work for me and I still use them to this day.
More recently, several high-ranking Scientologists defected and brought their faith with them, and as I lurked on their message boards and blogs, I realized that
I would have to take another look at Scientology.
So here’s the deal — or at least what I found without having to buy any books: there’s a lot of good stuff there. Not quite my cup of tea, but a reasonably solid belief system that anyone with experience in the Eastern modes of thought will find reassuringly familiar. If I ever do meet an Independent Scientologist, I might consider an auditing session just to see what it’s like, but I suspect that my own system of tuning in would bring the same results.
There’s currently thousands of folks who find comfort, instruction and ascension through its techniques, and it works for them.
To my mind, that’s a religion.
Now here’s the crux of my point — their church is not only failing them, but the clerics working for the church are currently living under conditions that should be ringing alarm bells across this world.
These people subsist on little more than rice and beans, work more than 12-18 hours a day, 7 days a week, usually being pressured to keep bringing in more and more donations. These donations go to a “slush fund” which is ostensibly to construct new church buildings, but really to keep the leader’s lavish lifestyle flowing. This leader, David Miscavige, stands accused of abusing several of his top executives, and at the church’s headquarters in California, the majority of the staff are not allowed to leave the compound or have any contact with the outside world. Similar conditions exist for the staff at the big church buildings in St. Petersburg, Florida, and Los Angeles, California, and at the “orgs” across the world.
It’s useless for me to describe here, so instead I’m gonna put up a few links.
Operation Clambake is usually a good starting point: http://www.xenu.net/
Ex-Scientology Kids gives you a good idea of the kind of abuse that goes on: http://exscientologykids.com/index.html
If you want to see what’s up with the brave souls who are working to separate their faith from the abuses of the church, check out:
both excellent sites.
Ask a Scientologist has a slightly different take on the issues: http://askthescientologist.blogspot.com/
There’s a lot of others out there, but most of these will give you links to the others.
There’s some seriously heavy stuff going on in Hemet, California — I don’t know how many people are still being illegally detained at Scientology’s headquarters, but I’m in on the fight. Check out the websites and see if you don’t feel moved to speak out, as well.
And, in salute of the brave souls in Independent Scientology and their struggle against David Miscavige, today’s artwork is a piece I worked up to explore my issues with my own abuse. It’s simply called “pain.”