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Neil Gaiman age 7, disciple of Scientology
July 22, 2012 10:52 PM   Subscribe

Neil Gaiman, 7, Interviewed About Scientology by the BBC in 1968 David Gaiman, Neil's dad, was Scientology's UK PR chief. Neil was brought up in the cult but prefers not to talk about his childhood as a practising Scientologist. In 2010, he declared that he's not a church member.
posted by vanlal (123 comments total) 34 users marked this as a favorite

 
Interesting, but the copy and paste job on the FPP title is kind of funky.
posted by efalk at 10:57 PM on July 22, 2012


FuriousXGeorge on Catholicism, age 7: Ummm...*repeats everything he has been told is true or is prompted to say*
posted by furiousxgeorge at 11:01 PM on July 22, 2012 [21 favorites]


SALVOR HARDIN ALLEGEDLY MEMBER OF INNER CIRCLE OF RADICAL GROUP "DISCIPLES OF SANTA CLAUS" AT AGE 6
posted by Salvor Hardin at 11:12 PM on July 22, 2012 [20 favorites]


oh, huh, i suppose this is why amanda palmer had to write her [nsfw]smurf tits update, swearing she wasn't earning the money for scientology.
posted by nadawi at 11:15 PM on July 22, 2012


Monsieur Caution on being told he was a Leo, age 6: *ROAR*. *ROAR*, *ROAR*, *ROAR*.
posted by Monsieur Caution at 11:17 PM on July 22, 2012 [21 favorites]


I don't suppose someone could link to an interview/comment where Gaiman declares that he is not a member of the church any more?

I mention this because I have come across allegations in the past that Neil Gaiman was still a member of the Scientologists "in good standing". For example, here (see the comments) and here. These people claim that he has donated at least $35,000 to the church and possibly as much as $500,000.

I hope this isn't true: Neil Gaiman has a very likeable public persona, moral and kind. People on the internet can say anything. On the other hand, the Scientologists have an exceedingly ugly reputation. Can someone please lay this allegation to rest?
posted by lucien_reeve at 11:23 PM on July 22, 2012 [8 favorites]


when I was 7, I saw a cartoon of the lion, the witch and the wardrobe, and I was going on and on about the biblical allegory. of course, maybe that's because sacrificed aslan as jesus is really obvious, and also I saw it at bible camp.

now I'm a happy semi-pagan agnostic and I still love narnia. (except for the last battle that one's evil, just like its source text. my kids will just have to believe that the series ends with the silver chair and picks up again with the hobbit.)
posted by jb at 11:27 PM on July 22, 2012 [8 favorites]


It's sad. I mean, on one hand, a religious philosophy and community can be greatly comforting things to people of any age, especially when it's wrapped up in loving family relationships. Hell, at age 7 I would have told you quite earnestly that I hoped to become a nun. This is definitely no longer the case, and if you asked me about it today, I'd probably just shrug and say, "Hey, I was 7 and raised Catholic." As much as I dislike institutionalized religions, and whatever my own opinions of Scientology, Gaiman seems to be doing just fine now. Glad he got out okay, and sorry his dad used him like this; but then, haven't many of our parents used us thus? It's just different details.
posted by smirkette at 11:28 PM on July 22, 2012 [2 favorites]


from the second good standing link - Gaiman and Palmer are working as a team, with the Scientology seal of approval. They got paired up to make money, that’s why their relationship was “launched” with pictures, a soundtrack, a self published vanity book of bloody snuff porn pictures of Palmer.

that's a hilarious allegation.
posted by nadawi at 11:29 PM on July 22, 2012 [3 favorites]


This New York Times profile says that Gaiman "says he is not a Scientologist", though there's no quote.
posted by 23 at 11:33 PM on July 22, 2012


Yes, Nadawi, I agree that that goes way too far.

Given that they are both professional artists, I would think that they would probably consider at some point how their relationship would look to the outside world, but to describe it as being "launched" is a pretty horrible way to refer to it. Also, I don't know anything about Amanda Palmer's work myself - "bloody snuff porn" doesn't sound like an accurate or sympathetic description...

What about the allegations relating to the Cornerstone newsletter in 2009, though? Is that real?
posted by lucien_reeve at 11:34 PM on July 22, 2012


i'm not sure. but, i follow both neil and amanda's careers and i've seen nothing that suggests a close relationship to scientology. also, when a person hurling allegations uses language like "bloody snuff porn" to describe a totally innocuous art book, i tend to not trust anything they say. see also: "the moon landing was faked, now look at my research about area 51!"
posted by nadawi at 11:44 PM on July 22, 2012


[Fixed the opening sentence/article title typo ]
posted by taz at 11:45 PM on July 22, 2012


I'm determined to trust that Gaiman believes in the underground gods of "Neverwhere", or the old gods of the world featured in "American Gods". Or maybe in some vague pipe-smoking father figure of a British God, one fond of tea time and subtle wry humor.

Not Scientology. No.
posted by DisreputableDog at 11:47 PM on July 22, 2012 [7 favorites]


I was interviewed about Lego when I was seven. Now I see my son getting into Lego. It's not so bad.
posted by mattoxic at 11:52 PM on July 22, 2012 [7 favorites]


I think one of the reasons some people might have thought Neil Gaiman was still involved in Scientology was that both of his sisters still work for the organization (one in the group's internal administration, one for Scientology-run clinic, per their father's obituary), and that his ex-wife is by many accounts still an active member (this is not something I have seen independent verification of, so take that with all the grains of salt you like).

It certainly seems reasonable that someone who had left the organization themselves, but who had many close family members still very active within it, might hesitate to publicly distance themselves from yet he group for fear of hurting those people's feelings. Or, perhaps, for fear of being shunned by those people, if one believes the accounts of those who contend that happens frequently in Scientology culture.

In any case, Neil Gaiman is the only authority on what his current spiritual beliefs and practices are or are not. It is not a shocker that, as a child, he would express beliefs mirroring his parents'.

(I do have some animus against the Gaiman parents for being the leaders of a Scientology mission to Chernobyl, which was much praised in the elder Mr. Gaiman's obits. The last thing those people needed were e-readings!)
posted by Sidhedevil at 11:53 PM on July 22, 2012 [17 favorites]


that makes a lot of sense. one of the reasons i haven't gotten myself off the mormon records is because i'm worried that it'd get back to some of my family that would be hurt by it. and the mormons are way less intense than the scientologists are rumored to be in that area. i imagine the pressure of that would be even harder when you have such a big spotlight/microphone, like neil gaiman.
posted by nadawi at 11:56 PM on July 22, 2012


lucien_reeve, some have suggested that those donations were gifts to specific projects his father or sister were running. Others have suggested that those were gifts family members made in his name. There are certainly several possible explanations that don't include his personally being active in the organization.
posted by Sidhedevil at 11:58 PM on July 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


Based on what I've worked out through a twenty-minute Google search, my feelings are:

1) he feels it's important to keep in contact with his family
2) he may give them money (to his parents, or the alimony to his first wife), and then they donate it in his name (it appears on the Scientologist rolls as being from him and his first wife, which the Scientologists may not recognize within their church as divorced)
3) because of the first one, he doesn't outright say anything negative about Scientology, and when asked, he merely states that he no longer follows their teachings without being rude or obnoxious about it.

From previous readings, I submit the following:

the Scientologists are a bunch of whack-a-doos who made it clear to him that, if he said anything at all negative about them, would proceed to do everything possible to cut him off from his family, anyone he knows who is a Scientologist, and then use their 'no we don't use that anymore really don't you believe us' Fair Game method to try to destroy him.

(And if you thought Anonymous was a problem, what a horde of Gaiman fans could do to Scientology would be fascinating to watch. From a distance. Perhaps the Moon.)
posted by mephron at 11:59 PM on July 22, 2012 [30 favorites]


Er, the 'them' in point two above being his family.
posted by mephron at 12:00 AM on July 23, 2012


It was only a couple of years ago that I finally read Sandman, and it struck me that it was written during the time Gaiman was coming out of Scientology, and its themes are of the secret royal family and the tribulations and benefits of giving up the privileges and responsibilities of being a member of that family. I wondered whether it might not be a kind of autobiography.

He probably does what he can to keep in with his family - which may include making donations - because they're his family. He doesn't publicly proselytise for Scientology - and didn't even when he was a member. As long as he makes it his business, it's his business.

It's probably a fascinating story, and I hope one day after the current leadership are gone, and it all settles down, he's able to tell us that story.
posted by Grangousier at 12:06 AM on July 23, 2012 [13 favorites]


why is the internet's obsession with scientology?
posted by PinkMoose at 12:23 AM on July 23, 2012


why is the internet's obsession with scientology?

It started a long, long time ago, when the Internet (newsgroups) allowed people to read secret Scientology documents.

Xenu and stuff.

Then came whack-a-mole with lawyers.

And the Internet never forgets.
posted by Mezentian at 12:35 AM on July 23, 2012 [35 favorites]


doing a bit more research---nothing has connected gaiman jr to his mother's vitamin company, no one has backed up where the 500k was supposedly donated, no one has noted any involement of gaiman in scientology for the last 20 years, and the only thing that i notice about palmer (aside from the misogyny of some of the commentaries) is that her father might have contracted for a scientology building in tampa a few years ago.

i am actually really curious about second or third generation church members, from an academic viewpoint--and there are a few of them, but it's where a "cult" becomes a "religion", and the anger/fury about it strikes me as very close to the anger and fury that happens when a lot of nrms try to legitmize themselves.
posted by PinkMoose at 12:40 AM on July 23, 2012 [1 favorite]


skip to about 4:20 in this interview -

BBC: Your family were Scientologists.

Neil: Yes.

BBC: Are you?

Neil: No.

BBC: You’ve moved on.

Neil: Yeah. I mean it’s… I love my family.
posted by nadawi at 12:55 AM on July 23, 2012 [27 favorites]


"Well, Neil may have had a tough time at school, but he certainly turned out all right. it's a shame, however, that he doesn't fill us in on his Scientology past, and tell us his feelings about the church today.

We'd love to chat about it, Neil!"


Vampires.
posted by themanwho at 1:04 AM on July 23, 2012 [5 favorites]


2010 New Yorker profile of Gaiman: "The pivotal fact of Gaiman’s childhood is one that appears nowhere in his fiction and is periodically removed from his Wikipedia page by the site’s editors. When he was five, his family moved to East Grinstead, the center of English Scientology, where his parents began taking Dianetics classes. His father, a real-estate developer, and his mother, a pharmacist, founded a vitamin shop, G & G Foods, which is still operational. (According to its Web site, it supplies the Human Detoxification Programme, a course of vitamins, supplements, and other alleged purification techniques, which Scientology offers at disaster sites like Chernobyl and Ground Zero.) In the seventies, his father, who died last year, began working in Scientology’s public-relations wing and over time rose high in the organization. Gaiman has two younger sisters, both still active in Scientology; one of them works for the church in Los Angeles, and the other helps run the family businesses.
[...]
These days, Gaiman tends to avoid questions about his faith, but says he is not a Scientologist. Like Judaism, Scientology is the religion of his family, and he feels some solidarity with them. “I will stand with groups when I feel like they’re being properly persecuted,” he told me.
"
posted by Bwithh at 1:26 AM on July 23, 2012 [2 favorites]


It started a long, long time ago, when the Internet (newsgroups) allowed people to read secret Scientology documents.

Allowed people to read sacred Scientology documents without first being properly prepared to understand them. Of course the science of body thetans seems odd if you haven't read the introductory chapters and paid a lot of money. You have to earn this enlightenment, you know, and it is not fair to publish material where it can fall into the hands of the unprepared.

Which, if as true as the defenders of Scientology who offer this explanation say it is, raises the question of how a 7 year old has any chance to understand this science. The BBC might as well have asked the 7 year old Gaiman about string theory.

But why single out these fraudsters for abuse? Taken at face value, without proper preparation and the assisted study of other "sacred" texts, the idea that Jesus walked on water, or that a candle burned for eight days and nights are just as loopy as believing in body thetans. Do Scientologists ritually cut off the foreskin of their male children - and then serve snacks and coffee to their guests who came to watch the butchery? Do Scientologists walk around with ashes on their foreheads one day every year? Do they pray to statues? No, this "bunch of whack-a-doos" believes in extra-terrestrials.
posted by three blind mice at 1:39 AM on July 23, 2012 [3 favorites]


I had no idea this was the case.
How did he become so well adjusted?

That it can happen is kinda nice to see.
posted by Mezentian at 1:44 AM on July 23, 2012 [3 favorites]


If you're targeting my commentary, three blind mice, when I call them a "bunch of whack-a-doos", I mean the people at the top of the current leadership of Scientology, who are corrupt, abusive and tyrannical. These are the people who need to be dealt with, the ones that run the Sea Org and all the other horrors.
posted by mephron at 1:47 AM on July 23, 2012 [4 favorites]


Thanks for the additional material, including the Neil Gaiman interview. To my mind, talking about standing with groups if he feels they are properly persecuted seems a little ambiguous - nobody would disagree with it in theory, but the obvious follow-up is: do you think that the Scientologists are being persecuted? If so, are they being persecuted "properly" and what does that mean, anyway? Or are you talking about their victims?

Presumably, the interviewer did not feel like pressing the issue.

Pinkmoose: I have not seen any evidence of this supposed $500,000 donation yet, either.
posted by lucien_reeve at 2:14 AM on July 23, 2012


I think he really said "improperly" in the interview - in other words, he's not a Scientologist (or a practising Jew), but he feels solidarity with his Scientologist/Jewish family when he feels Scientologists (or Jews, or anyone else) are being unfairly beaten up on.
posted by Wylla at 2:19 AM on July 23, 2012 [1 favorite]


Alan Moore still worships a snake, right?
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 2:28 AM on July 23, 2012 [3 favorites]


I think these days the snake worships Alan Moore.
posted by Mezentian at 2:32 AM on July 23, 2012 [32 favorites]


Allowed people to read sacred Scientology documents without first being properly prepared to understand them.

I don't know if I will ever be properly prepared to understand quantum physics. Certainly, lots of reporters are not properly prepared to read about, much less write about, the hard sciences, but no one is arguing that these people need to be kept away from that knowledge, which is a deeply antidemocratic concept.

Of course the science of body thetans seems odd if you haven't read the introductory chapters and paid a lot of money.

With an emphasis on the "paid a lot of money" part. A not-so-wise man, who happened to be right, once said "You'll pay to know what you really think!" That means: if you pay money for it, you have a vested interest in believe in its worth. If you pay a lot of money then moreso.

The BBC might as well have asked the 7 year old Gaiman about string theory.

No, because children are not brought up believing in string theory, so it cannot be considered foundational to their development.

But why single out these fraudsters for abuse?

Why single out any fraudsters at all? Because exposing fraud is a worthy activity regardless of the existence of potential greater frauds, and to go by what some say, there are few greater than Scientology.

But the United States is supposed to be a nation of freethinkers (please hold laughter for the end), and who knows, maybe a pulp science fiction writer really did know the secret of existence -- I can certainly think of lots of people who would be less likely to have figured it out. But the way it is run, their courting of celebrities for the propaganda value, the stories about their use of virtual slave labor, their use of families as leverage against those who leave the Church (which might actually be the true reason Gaiman is silent), their use of the legal system as a bludgeon against people who speak out against them, their attempts to intimidate reporters, and of course the Metafilter thread they had removed from the front page under threat of a lawsuit years ago, NONE of these things have made people particularly fond of them, least of which me.
posted by JHarris at 2:41 AM on July 23, 2012 [9 favorites]


Alan Moore still worships a snake, right?

Are you talking about Yig?
posted by JHarris at 2:44 AM on July 23, 2012


Improperly would make more sense... It still invites some further questions, I would have thought. If your reading is correct, I think there are a lot of people who claim to be the victims of Scientologist persecution who might be quite unhappy at any parallel between Scientology and the persecution of Jews.

Also, it seems from what people are saying that Neil Gaiman himself or his family might be potentially at risk from Scientologists if he broke with them too openly, which is a sobering thought.
posted by lucien_reeve at 2:45 AM on July 23, 2012 [2 favorites]


From the context it seems possible he was using "properly" in what to me seems a fairly British sense (an actual British person could speak more authoritatively here) described here:
To do something to the extreme
Or after a couple seconds more looking around, as described here:
9. Out-and-out; thorough: a proper whipping.
posted by dumbland at 2:58 AM on July 23, 2012 [1 favorite]


Slight retraction: I went back and reviewed some messages and things about that deleted thread, it seems that Scientology might not have been the one who caused the thread (and a comment within it) to be deleted, but a certain obvious celebrity adherent. So that one point, at least, I might not be able to honestly hold against them.
posted by JHarris at 3:01 AM on July 23, 2012


Also, it seems from what people are saying that Neil Gaiman himself or his family might be potentially at risk from Scientologists if he broke with them too openly, which is a sobering thought.

Yes. They tend to try and destroy perceived enemies and (particularly) apostates. At the very least, his family would be under very strong pressure not to contact him.
posted by jaduncan at 3:38 AM on July 23, 2012 [1 favorite]


Keith Graves: Do you know what philosophy is?
Neil: I used to, but I've forgotten.


Oh, to be 7 years old again.
posted by chavenet at 3:40 AM on July 23, 2012 [2 favorites]


Oh, random anecdote: I went to Michael Hall school in Forest Row, the same town as the CoS Greenfields School. I had an argument with one of the pupils where I discussed my dubiousness over LRH and spaceships that looked like 1940s planes, etc etc (politely but annoyingly superciliously I'm sure; I was a 13-year-old knowitall).

The next day I went into school to find that Greenfields had rung my school and stated that the person I discussed it with and three witnesses (who weren't there) all agreed I had seriously assaulted and threatened to kill him.
posted by jaduncan at 3:45 AM on July 23, 2012 [9 favorites]


Maybe it's just because I'm primed to see it, but that interview doesn't make Scientology sound like a comforting religion to me. He gave himself a headache!

I suppose I can see the psychological benefit of feeling like you are "progressing" in something (even if it's a thing with constantly moving goalposts).
posted by subdee at 3:48 AM on July 23, 2012


I'm with three blind mice on this one.

I agree that Scientology can seem quite weird, but it's a religion and most religions, as previously demonstrated, can seem quite weird. History is full of the populous persecuting the religious, and the end result of that can be that some religions keep things to themselves. So they believe in something different than (the collective) you do, so they tend to keep it a bit secret, so they raise their children to do the same thing. So what?

Just because a few people think that it's not normal doesn't mean we should reduce ourselves to criticism-by-association.

I'll be honest, I wasn't a huge fan of the fpp using the word "cult" like that, but what this has descended into now is more of a monkeys on a ladder conversation against the members of a specific religious group and less of a discussion about the individuals in the fpp.

What's the saying? First they came for the Scientologists...
posted by Blue_Villain at 4:15 AM on July 23, 2012


Blue_Villain, I used to think so, until I went searching for more info on scientology. I suggest you do the same, you can start here.
posted by hat_eater at 4:22 AM on July 23, 2012 [7 favorites]


Anyone who even thinks about defending the nightmarish scourge that is Scientology, forever earns my scorn. I have befriended and spent some time speaking with a few people who escaped that nightmare, and if you think these raging fucking lunatics deserve even a molecule of respect, you're simply wrong. EOS.
posted by dbiedny at 4:45 AM on July 23, 2012 [9 favorites]


Alan Moore still worships a snake, right?

Are you talking about Yig?


Alan Moore has chosen Glycon as his patron deity, although it is important to recognize that his choice hinges on the fact that Glycon is a fictional deity. Since Moore's whole nouveau occult shamanism hinges on fiction creating fact, choosing a known fake for a patron follows logically.

Additionally, though it may be easy to mock, there's demonstrably less harm to others or to society in worshipping a hand puppet than there is in being emotionally blackmailed to remain silent about the abuses and intimidations of an international organization.
posted by belarius at 4:46 AM on July 23, 2012 [6 favorites]


Alan Moore still worships a snake, right?
Are you talking about Yig?

Glycon.
The big advantage of worshipping an actual glove puppet of course is that if things start to get unruly or out of hand you can always put them gak in the gox. And you know, it doesn’t matter if they don’t want to go gak in the gox, they have to go gak in the gox. (audio)
posted by zamboni at 4:47 AM on July 23, 2012 [3 favorites]


And for those interested in someone elses take...
posted by dbiedny at 4:48 AM on July 23, 2012 [1 favorite]


From the VV piece:

"it's a shame, however, that he doesn't fill us in on his Scientology past, and tell us his feelings about the church today."

No, it's not. He like anyone else is allowed to keep is own counsel on what parts of his personal life he chooses to make public and what parts he chooses to keep private. It's not a shame to decide there are some things about you outside the general purview.

There are things about my own life, particularly in the past, which I choose not to discuss publicly. If people were to bring them up, I'd tell them I don't want to go into detail about them. If they asked why, I'd tell them because it's not their business. If they persisted, I'd be done talking to them.
posted by jscalzi at 5:26 AM on July 23, 2012 [16 favorites]


Suri Cruise will be 7 next April. I'd be very interested to hear her take on the subject.
posted by Egg Shen at 5:27 AM on July 23, 2012 [1 favorite]


/Raises child to beleive in Batman.
posted by Artw at 5:35 AM on July 23, 2012 [3 favorites]


Blue_villain - I am totally with you on the religious tolerance aspect (and as a few people on the blue can probably attest, I sometimes am a religious-tolerance supporter to a fault). However, there are some aspects of the administration and leadership of Scientology that are indeed worrying, and I think that's what many people in here are responding to.

He like anyone else is allowed to keep is own counsel on what parts of his personal life he chooses to make public and what parts he chooses to keep private. It's not a shame to decide there are some things about you outside the general purview.

Precisely. He was and is also close to his family, and maybe he just doesn't want to hurt them if they are still Scientologists.

Also -- I'm sometimes really surprised at the reaction some people have when there's some celebrity whose work they love, but then they find out that said celebrity has been a Scientologist all along; sometimes people recoil in disgust. Beck is one person I've seen this happen with a lot - he's been a Scientologist his whole life, but just lays low about it, and people who've loved his work start slagging him if they find out. I've never understood that -- it's not like his albums have Scientology cooties on them, after all.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 5:44 AM on July 23, 2012 [1 favorite]


Blue_villain: you are absolutely right that religious persecution is very wrong and has led to all sorts of horrible things.

People who dislike Scientology, however, are usually complaining about specific acts of persecution and abuse which they allege were committed by the Scientologists. Yes, Scientology has some beliefs that might seem weird to outsiders (Xenu and so forth). But the problem here is that they (supposedly) go out of their way to exploit and isolate converts and to intimidate, emotionally blackmail or even commit crimes against people who try to leave their organisation.

I think we can all agree that no religious organisation should be allowed to get away with crimes - and I am afraid it is also very common for persecutors to claim that they are being persecuted themselves when people try to stop them.

Whether or not Scientology falls into that category is not a question I want to be involved in settling here - although I have my strong suspicions.
posted by lucien_reeve at 5:45 AM on July 23, 2012 [3 favorites]


it's not like his albums have Scientology cooties on them, after all.

Except every time you buy a Beck album, money theoretically flows to Scientology. So, they have something potentially worse than cooties.
posted by inigo2 at 5:54 AM on July 23, 2012 [3 favorites]


Except every time you buy a Beck album, money theoretically flows to Scientology.

That's like saying that watching The Colbert Report funds the Vatican because Stephen Colbert is Catholic. Do you also think that 's the case?
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 5:58 AM on July 23, 2012


(And if you thought Anonymous was a problem, what a horde of Gaiman fans could do to Scientology would be fascinating to watch. From a distance. Perhaps the Moon.)

yeah, but I don't know how intimidating a bunch of people reading myths and fairy tales at you would be.
posted by jb at 6:01 AM on July 23, 2012 [1 favorite]


That's like saying that watching The Colbert Report funds the Vatican because Stephen Colbert is Catholic. Do you also think that 's the case?

That's not really a good comparison because Scientology takes the pyramid-scheme and sucking-money-out-of-its-followers aspects of religion to a height usually associated with fraudulent psychics.
posted by Inspector.Gadget at 6:01 AM on July 23, 2012 [6 favorites]


what bothers me about Scientology is the secrecy and the money. Other religions have certain private rituals, but what other religion keeps its most basic tenets and texts secret from outsiders? Every other religion is very public about their beliefs - I can read the Book of Mormon, the fathers of the Catholic Church, Talmudic texts, the Koran - and the evangelical Protestants would be thrilled if I came to ask my them anything. My mother's church doesn't require that you buy a book to learn about them - they run a free library.

and I've never heard of any other religion that charged for basic religious services. Do you have to pay to go a mass, a sermon, temple, synagogue or mosque? Again my mother's church - highly evangelical - not only doesn't charge, they run a soup kitchen and other charities. New members are offered material benefit, not asked to pay a cent.

It's like getting an agent or going to grad school: if a religion really wants you, they will not ask you to pay them any money, not until you really begin to benefit. And everyone knows that an agency who asks for money first is a scam.
posted by jb at 6:09 AM on July 23, 2012 [6 favorites]


one of the reasons i haven't gotten myself off the mormon records is because i'm worried that it'd get back to some of my family that would be hurt by it. and the mormons are way less intense than the scientologists are rumored to be in that area.

I've lived with an ex-Mormon, and there are few ways better to experience dogged tenacity than seeing the great lord Mormo dispatch his Hunter-Seeker Kobol Class Missionaries out to try and reclaim an apostate. They locked onto our location within days of moving and spent the entire duration of his tenancy trying to breach our perimeters with front-door knocking and overlarge smiles. The only thing that seemed to deter them (for a short bit, until they recalibrated their thought-shields) was when I began counter-proselytizing about Gnostic Hermeticism... that bought us an extra few days between visits, and then they were back on the case with literature at the ready once more.
posted by FatherDagon at 6:15 AM on July 23, 2012 [6 favorites]


I went back and reviewed some messages and things about that deleted thread, it seems that Scientology might not have been the one who caused the thread (and a comment within it) to be deleted, but a certain obvious celebrity adherent.

If you need to talk about this any more than this, drop us an email and please drop it here. Thanks.
posted by jessamyn at 6:27 AM on July 23, 2012


- I can read the Book of Mormon, the fathers of the Catholic Church, Talmudic texts, the Koran

And in at least some of these cases, you can request a free copy or find it online.
posted by Edison Carter at 7:01 AM on July 23, 2012


I don't know why several hundred words from the author as a child in the 60s is more important than the millions of words he's written as an adult since the mid-80s.
posted by CBrachyrhynchos at 7:07 AM on July 23, 2012 [5 favorites]


I can read the Book of Mormon

For an insane split second I thought you were referring to the play...
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 7:17 AM on July 23, 2012


The main religious question I've heard Gaiman respond to is whether or not he believes in all the gods from American Gods (or the Endless). Usually this is asked very eagerly by a young fan during Q&A sessions, such that it's apparent the questioner really wants Neil to say "Yes."

Neil responds that when it comes to gods and religion, he believes in whatever is necessary for the thing he's writing.

And of course in American Gods, Samantha Black Crow delivers the monologue:

"I can believe that things are true and I can believe things that aren’t true and I can believe things where nobody knows if they’re true or not. I can believe in Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny and Marilyn Monroe and the Beatles and Elvis and Mister Ed. Listen – I believe that people are perfectible, that knowledge is infinite, that the world is run by secret banking cartels and is visited by aliens on a regular basis, nice ones that look like wrinkledy lemurs and bad ones who mutilate cattle and want our water and our women. I believe that the future sucks and I believe that future rocks and I believe that one day White Buffalo Woman is going to come back and kick everyone’s ass. I believe that all men are just overgrown boys with deep problems communicating and that the decline in good sex in America is coincident with the decline in drive-in movie theaters from state to state. I believe that all politicians are unprincipled crooks and I still believe that they are better than the alternative. I believe that California is going to sink into the sea when the big one comes, while Florida is going to dissolve into madness and alligators and toxic waste. I believe that antibacterial soap is destroying our resistance to dirt and disease so that one day we’ll all be wiped out by the common cold like the Martians in War of the Worlds. I believe that the greatest poets of the last century were Edith Sitwell and Don Marquis, that jade is dried dragon sperm, and that thousands of years ago in a former life I was a one-armed Siberian shaman. I believe that mankind’s destiny lies in the stars. I believe that candy really did taste better when I was a kid, that it’s aerodynamically impossible for a bumblebee to fly, that light is a wave and a particle, that there’s a cat in a box somewhere who’s alive and dead at the same time (although if they don’t ever open the box to feed it it’ll eventually just be two different kinds of dead), and that there are stars in the universe billions of years older than the universe itself. I believe in a personal god who cares about me and worries and oversees everything I do. I believe in an impersonal god who set the universe in motion and went off to hang with her girlfriends and doesn’t even know that I’m alive. I believe in an empty and godless universe of casual chaos, background noise, and sheer blind luck. I believe that anyone who says that sex is overrated just hasn’t done it properly. I believe that anyone claims to know what’s going on will lie about the little things too. I believe in absolute honesty and sensible social lies. I believe in a woman’s right to choose, a baby’s right to live, that while all human life is sacred there’s nothing wrong with the death penalty if you can trust the legal system implicitly, and that no one but a moron would ever trust the legal system. I believe life is a game, that life is a cruel joke, and that life is what happens when you’re alive and that you might as well lie back and enjoy it."

And growing up in the Twin Cities, I had a friend who's parents were Scientologists, and I'm pretty sure that if Neil had been active with the Church in the mid-to-late 90's, she would have mentioned it.
posted by GameDesignerBen at 7:19 AM on July 23, 2012 [3 favorites]


I don't know why several hundred words from the author as a child in the 60s is more important than the millions of words he's written as an adult since the mid-80s.

That's almost exactly the question I asked myself after I discovered Gaiman's involvement with scientology. Initially taken aback and worrying if I should buy his books for my children as I did for myself, I had to decide if I will listen to online forums accusing him of this and that or rather to the words of the man himself, and I have read many of them. And I decided that through his works he has shown himself as a fundamentally decent human being.
I even had the gall to write him an email about this dilemma and my decision but he hasn't written back yet. Perhaps comparing him to a cow and his books to milk wasn't the best of all metaphors to use.
posted by hat_eater at 7:31 AM on July 23, 2012


And in at least some of these cases, you can request a free copy or find it online.

I didn't even have to request - I got a copy of the Koran (in translation) given to me on the street. My SO has a nice c1912 dual Hebrew-English Jewish bible for his ereader.
posted by jb at 7:31 AM on July 23, 2012


There are only two types of people who defend scientology. Those who are cult members; and those who are abysmally ignorant.

Read "A Piece of Blue Sky." It's online.
posted by five fresh fish at 7:50 AM on July 23, 2012 [2 favorites]


FatherDagon: The only thing that seemed to deter them (for a short bit, until they recalibrated their thought-shields) was when I began counter-proselytizing about Gnostic Hermeticism... that bought us an extra few days between visits, and then they were back on the case with literature at the ready once more.

It seems to me that the Church of the Subgenius basically exists in order to give you something really weird and ludicrously fake to throw at these people, and that if all else failed you could counter prosthelytize on behalf of the Great Old Ones.
posted by JHarris at 8:00 AM on July 23, 2012


Kate Bornstein's memoir A Queer and Pleasant Danger gives are looking into Scientology and the Sea Org of the 70s and early 80s, If people want another view
posted by Z303 at 8:41 AM on July 23, 2012 [2 favorites]


My read on Gaiman's literary religion is that he's very much along the same line as Sir Terry's. God(s) may or may not have independent existence. Belief, orthodox or not, can be a very good or very bad thing for both individuals and cultures. Reality is very strange indeed, and probably doesn't care about personal creeds, sexual orientation, gender, nationality, or race.
posted by CBrachyrhynchos at 8:52 AM on July 23, 2012


Decani, aged 7:

"We do not presume to come to this your table, merciful Lord,
trusting in our own righteousness,
but in your manifold and great mercies.
We are not worthy so much as to gather up the crumbs under your table.
But you are the same Lord
whose nature is always to have mercy.
Grant us, therefore, gracious Lord,
so to eat the flesh of your dear Son Jesus Christ
and to drink his blood,
that our sinful bodies may be made clean by his body
and our souls washed through his most precious blood,
and that we may evermore dwell in him and he in us.
Amen."

Decani, aged 14: "This is a bunch of utter bollocks."

Pope Benedict, aged 14: "Heil Hitler!"
posted by Decani at 8:55 AM on July 23, 2012 [2 favorites]


fraudulent psychics

No need to be redundant.
posted by Celsius1414 at 9:16 AM on July 23, 2012 [2 favorites]


I think he really said "improperly" in the interview

I think he did say "properly" - not in the sense of rightly or correctly but genuinely or indisputably. Perhaps it's a British colloquialism
posted by Bwithh at 9:32 AM on July 23, 2012 [2 favorites]


/Raises child to beleive in Batman.

First Church Of Batman, Scientist.
posted by The Whelk at 9:42 AM on July 23, 2012 [7 favorites]


Detective, customarily.
posted by Artw at 9:44 AM on July 23, 2012 [1 favorite]


Three aspects embodied in one.
posted by The Whelk at 9:45 AM on July 23, 2012 [3 favorites]


I'd like to know what happened to that awful Stephen.
posted by jeudi at 10:05 AM on July 23, 2012


Well, if I'm going to have a religion, one based on Batman is as good as any. if not SUPERIOR IN EVERY WAY.
posted by Edison Carter at 10:48 AM on July 23, 2012 [3 favorites]


Kate Bornstein's memoir ...

it should be noted that amanda palmer opened the release party bornstein had in new york recently and they tweet at each other a lot. that furthers the idea that amanda, and by extension neil, are not active members of CoS in good standing.
posted by nadawi at 10:52 AM on July 23, 2012


As much fun as it is to hate on Scientology, I honestly think it isn't really about anything more than odd concern trolling about a group who exhibit a large amount of perceived influence. If Scientology were not trying to establish itself as a religion, with all the tax exemptions that go along with that and the untouchable nature that religion has in society, it would have a totally different feel to it. In reality, the organization is much more like a Freemason society or a lodge. The membership is voluntary, requires paid dues, and has levels based upon time served in the organization and other types of activities. I've know a few freemasons (my grandfather was one, as well as a former coworker). It's pretty much harmless. It's a group that gets together and shares contact information and networking. That's pretty much the extent of it. You have to be a member to gain access to those contacts, and membership has its benefits. That's about the extent of it. Humans are social creates. We create social constructs to facilitate increased social activity. The actual "beliefs" of the members matters little. Most people go to church for community and a sense of belonging. Identity politics at it's finest. Even my hermit-like social involvement craves some group to belong to, even if it is constrained by social anxiety and various bad experiences. But Scientology is no better or worse than any other voluntary social group. It just happens to have a lot more celebrities and toutes this fact on it's PR brochures.
posted by daq at 11:16 AM on July 23, 2012


But Scientology is no better or worse than any other voluntary social group.

Do you actually know anything about Scientology?
posted by andoatnp at 11:19 AM on July 23, 2012 [11 favorites]


So kidnapping and abuse are normal Freemason/Elks/Lions fun-time activities?
posted by Edison Carter at 11:36 AM on July 23, 2012 [2 favorites]


//I've lived with an ex-Mormon, and there are few ways better to experience dogged tenacity than seeing the great lord Mormo dispatch his Hunter-Seeker Kobol Class Missionaries out to try and reclaim an apostate. They locked onto our location within days of moving and spent the entire duration of his tenancy trying to breach our perimeters with front-door knocking and overlarge smiles. //

My friend left the church after he graduated college. He moved to a new place in a new city, didn't tell his family his address (they had disowned him afterall), didn't tell anyone in the church. Two days later there were missionaries at his door, missionaries that KNEW his name, and knew his history with the church.
posted by Chekhovian at 12:01 PM on July 23, 2012


I think he did say "properly" - not in the sense of rightly or correctly but genuinely or indisputably. Perhaps it's a British colloquialism

It's an intensifier, so the meaning's closer to strongly or excessively than genuinely or indisputably, but yeah, it's a Brit colloquialism. Cf. "We got properly legless at that party."
posted by the latin mouse at 12:15 PM on July 23, 2012


Dr.Zira, age 7: *light sabre noises*
posted by Dr. Zira at 12:21 PM on July 23, 2012


i think the scientologists are bad news, specifically the powers that currently be.
i also come from a religion (mormonism) where all sorts of just really wrongheaded things were commonly believed to be true less than 20 years ago (that mormons sacrifice babies in the temple, that there's a fuckton of hidden polygamist marriages that are endorsed by the church presidency, that it's a cult, that it siphons money off its membership, etc). along with that, there are actual shitty things the church as done (repeated baptisms for the dead on populations that have asked them not to, opposition to gay marriage, clockwork orange-esque de-gayings). mormonism is also taught with a great deal of victimhood - driven out of our lands, our leader murdered by a mob, a stack of other martyrs (which i've recently learned some were less martyrs and more "i took off with another guy's wife and kids and he took unkindly to that").

all of this makes me sympathetic to the members (not the leadership) of scientology. it's easy to be in a religion, especially the one you were born into, and hear all the "proof" that you know is wrong, mixed in with some bad stuff that you're told is wrong, and come out feeling conflicted. it's also weird to come from a religion where you were personally bullied for your beliefs, but the church as an institution has bullied others.
posted by nadawi at 12:30 PM on July 23, 2012 [3 favorites]


This is kinda hijacking the thread, but it might save me from making an AskMe post - I've been wanting to read Sandman for a while. What's the best/cheapest way to get the whole thing?
posted by Buckt at 12:40 PM on July 23, 2012


Libraries are surprisingly good at keeping them in if they have a graphic novel selection at all, it's kind of the default, the standard advice is to skip the first book cause it's very uneven and not indicative of the series as a whole.
posted by The Whelk at 12:42 PM on July 23, 2012 [1 favorite]


Libraries are good. If you want to get into the one-issue short stories, Dream Country is a nice teaser. World's End is a twisted collection of shorts within shorts within shorts reminiscent of the brilliant cult film The Saragossa Manuscript.

I'll agree with The Whelk that Preludes and Nocturnes is a bit weak, partly because it's starting to spin off from the DC universe so it does a lot of DC character name-dropping. Granted, DC characters drop in and out of the narrative and Matthew, Cain, and Abel are significant supporting characters imported from elsewhere, but it becomes easier to follow without the prior publication history after a while.
posted by CBrachyrhynchos at 1:04 PM on July 23, 2012 [1 favorite]


Maybe it's time for my first I'll just leave this here.
posted by Twang at 1:04 PM on July 23, 2012


I didn't know the first book existed for the longest time and I was able to figure everything out starting with book 2 pretty easily (they even have a little introduction prelude prose thing)
posted by The Whelk at 1:20 PM on July 23, 2012


I've been wanting to read Sandman for a while. What's the best/cheapest way to get the whole thing?

Yeah, the library's not a bad bet. If you want to own, the 10-volume slipcase set is $125 on Amazon, but you could get them cheaper ordering them used from whomever has them cheapest (use alibris or someplace where shipping is cheaper with successive books from the same seller, i.e., not amazon, and look for sellers that have more than one.) But you might end up with some in dodgy condition.

I agree with others, above, that the first volume is mediocre. I'd advise skipping it if one wanted to decide on the basis of a single volume whether to read more, but if you're willing to trust everyone that it's worth continuing, go ahead and start there. Volume 2 (The Doll's House) is much better; Volume 5 (A Game of You) is one of the best graphic novels I've ever read.
posted by Zed at 1:55 PM on July 23, 2012


I don't think it will matter too much if you skip around on the order of the books either, though you should probably save The Kindly Ones and The Wake for the end. The overall tale is revealed slowly throughout the series, but each story (whether single or multiple issues) is very self-contained. So don't hold off on a good used deal just because it is later in the series - you're gonna want to reread it, and you can do it in order then. :)
posted by InfidelZombie at 2:13 PM on July 23, 2012


I've often thought of Sandman as an anthology series or series of connected short stories (also described as a set of stories about all the different ways you tell a story), aside form the last two books they're not very sequential and it's fun to re-read and go Oh! That's who that was!" and the like.
posted by The Whelk at 2:17 PM on July 23, 2012


Also, when you read Preludes and Nocturnes, I recommend reading issue 6, "24 Hours", during the day. At noon, on a sunny day, in a place filled with happy people. You will need the antidote.

The first truly good issue of Sandman is also in the first volume, "The Sound Of Wings". Which introduces his sister.

"Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious!"
posted by mephron at 3:35 PM on July 23, 2012 [3 favorites]


Scientology is no better or worse than any other voluntary social group.

Do you actually know anything about Scientology?
I give up. This one drove me over the edge.

They could be the absolute worst group of humans on the planet, that's fine because that's a right they have in the US. The same as the KKK, the Black Panthers, the Boy Scouts, the Roman Catholic Church, and the PTA.

What's worse is that the blue as a collective whole is empowering those who apparently don't believe in religious freedom by actively not objecting to their derogatory comments. Or worse, they think that it's a right that only certain people should have based on whether or not they agree with what that group is practicing.

Either Americans are free to practice whatever religion they want to, or they're not. And if they're not, then neither are the rest of us.

Truth be told, I'm not a Scientologist, and I don't know anybody who practices that particular brand of religion. But this utter bullshit with denigrating people just because they make a choice that you (the collective you at this point, because nobody else is speaking out against it) may or may not like is ridiculous.

It's to the point where I honestly and truly want my $5 back, and want absolutely nothing to do this site any more.

(And no, don't bother replying because like I just mentioned, I won't be back.)
posted by Blue_Villain at 4:02 PM on July 23, 2012


Libraries are great for the cheapest way. For the best way, the Absolute Sandman set is around 70-80 bucks per volume on Amazon - there are four. They are spectacular oversize hardbacks - 15"x9.5" or so, beautiful covers and large heavy stock slipcases to store them. The colorwork has been touched up dramatically, and this is especially notable in the first 6-7 issues - Sam Kieth's work seems much more organically rich, and it goes a long way towards ameliorating the longstanding reputation of the first book being "the ugly one". I've always felt a little bad for Kieth in connection to that run - he admitted later that he had never quite felt comfortable with the series when he worked on it, and that he thought his own work wasn't up to the level of what the series needed. It really gives the series beginning a much better footing, and enriches the eerie horror tones of some of the early issues. A fantastic get!
posted by FatherDagon at 4:06 PM on July 23, 2012 [1 favorite]


And if you can find the Absolute set at the library, all the better! Altho I imagine they are a bit high-theft-risk for most public institutions.
posted by FatherDagon at 4:08 PM on July 23, 2012


(And no, don't bother replying because like I just mentioned, I won't be back.)

I guess this means I shouldn't waste the time explaining all the things wrong with your comment.
posted by andoatnp at 4:12 PM on July 23, 2012 [1 favorite]


I wouldn't care that Neil Gaiman was a Scientologist if he were still one now. Mostly because it's really none of my business. The problem, though, is that Neil Gaiman is someone who has a lot of fans who feel like they know him -- hence referring to a stranger as "Neil," to his wife as "Amanda," as if these were people one regularly saw walking their dog down at the park -- and their notion of him does not include Scientology. This puts him in a strange position. Does he owe strangers an explanation of his relationship to the church? I don't think he does, but he's transparent about his life in many other ways, and so close childhood association with Scientology -- which seems like sort of a big deal -- becomes an elephant in the room. But at the same time, this concerns Gaiman's relationship with his family, and his fans are not his family. The respectful thing is just to back off. The self-searching thing is to ask oneself why a stranger's religious upbringing is a thing one feels entitled to explore.
posted by kittens for breakfast at 5:23 PM on July 23, 2012 [2 favorites]


Blue_Villain writes "They could be the absolute worst group of humans on the planet, that's fine because that's a right they have in the US."

I agree totally. They are free to practice their wacky beliefs and we are free to consider those beliefs wacky. The problem of course is the Scientologists don't want to mind their own business and have proven to go more than a little crazy when someone tries to leave the flock. Plus the lunacy of trying to keep their texts secret in the age of the internet and the illegal and immoral things they have done in the pursuit of that secrecy.
posted by Mitheral at 6:16 PM on July 23, 2012 [1 favorite]


I'm a little shocked to see that it's widely acknowledged that Book 1 of Sandman is no good. I mean, it's definitely more directly linked to the rest of the DCU, but c'mon, the Hell of Eternal Waking? John Dee's diner massacre? The John Constantine issue? That stuff is *great*. Heck, I even like the weird, muddy art, which I find really effective at making everything feel smudged and dreamy.
posted by ThatFuzzyBastard at 7:34 PM on July 23, 2012 [3 favorites]


I wouldn't say no good, just not as good as it gets later. Lots of great things start off a little rough
posted by InfidelZombie at 7:41 PM on July 23, 2012 [1 favorite]


Re: Blue_Villain

As Mitheral said, Scientologists are free to believe what they want, and none of us are opposed to that, so long as they don't try to push their whims upon the world, and they have shown that they're shockingly apt to do that. If you can't see that then, although I can only speak for myself, I think that Metafilter is probably better off without you. And I don't think you can get your five bucks back for something like this.
posted by JHarris at 8:11 PM on July 23, 2012 [1 favorite]


"24 Hours" almost saves the entire first book of Sandman.

Almost.
posted by The Whelk at 8:12 PM on July 23, 2012 [1 favorite]


And it's the oddball book in the series, before they found the tone, it's totally unlike the rest of the series, whereas A Doll's House is really a " Sandman" story and typical f the series as a whole, so I usually have people start there.
posted by The Whelk at 8:32 PM on July 23, 2012


I'm a little shocked to see that it's widely acknowledged that Book 1 of Sandman is no good. I mean, it's definitely more directly linked to the rest of the DCU, but c'mon, the Hell of Eternal Waking? John Dee's diner massacre? The John Constantine issue? That stuff is *great*. Heck, I even like the weird, muddy art, which I find really effective at making everything feel smudged and dreamy.

Yeah. You know, I can't exactly say I enjoyed the experience of (most of) that volume, but it's the one that hooked me, and I feel like it sets a lot of (fairly brutal) tone that matters to the overall experience of the work.
posted by brennen at 9:40 PM on July 23, 2012


I never do this.

But seriously, the "now what's so bad about scientology" people in this thread have no idea; NO IDEA what they are talking about.
posted by jscott at 10:39 PM on July 23, 2012


On a more upbeat note, I saw a fantastic interview with Gaiman at the 92st Y and he talked about what a chaotic mess the first issues were (artist broke and quit, Neil got pushed around and mistreated by DC, etc.) and that it's a miracle it survived at all. So it's a tad unfair to compare the early plebe hazed sandman book with the rest where it has been selling gangbusters and Neil can make actual demands and is not facing immediate cancellation every other week.
posted by jscott at 10:43 PM on July 23, 2012 [2 favorites]


I have been a slightly prominent critic of Scientology since 1998. One of my main projects is the Truth About Scientology site, which I started to (a) provide non-hostile but potentially useful information to current Scientologists about things that might be important to their choices about staying with the group (for example, evidence that Hubbard's works were being altered), and (b) evaluate Scientology's constant claims of massive growth by looking at the lists of course completions they publish in their magazines and seeing whether they are, in fact, growing. My first few analyses of trends, from Source magazine and Freewinds magazine, did not show the continuing, massive growth the organization claims.

To make the project as transparent as possible, I list the data I have so others can examine it for themselves - an important teaching in Scientology and generally a good idea for the rest of us, too. Journalists and researchers have found that a useful tool for researching the published history of various Scientology celebrities - for example, Beck Campbell, Giovanni Ribisi, Elisabeth Moss, and Jenna Elfman. (Self-links, sorry, but relevant.)

Here is the search result page for Gaiman. You'll notice Neil isn't on there. (And while his ex-wife, Mary, is on there, none of his children appears, either.)

Now, there are some Scientology completions that are not published in the magazines. I don't know all the reasons for this, but it's clearly the case. Here's John Travolta, which doesn't show him going to OT V, as he's reportedly done by now. Here's Tom Cruise - no completions listed at all, just the one large donation, even though we know from the magazines that Tom has attested to OT VIII. (We do have one very early completion under Tom Mapother, his real name.) So on the one hand, Scientology does list most people's completions in their magazines, especially celebrity completions - but they clearly do not list all of them. (Also, my magazine collection is incomplete and so my database is incomplete - but I have, for example, nearly a complete collection of Freewinds magazines, which list all the OT VIIIs, so I should have Tom Cruise's OT VIII completion if it were published there, and I don't believe it has been.)

Now, there are at least a few mentions of Neil Gaiman in official Scientology publications that do not come up in the database search.

We have Neil attesting to Clear in 1978. (This is on my site, but sadly I just haven't gotten around to folding all the data into the database yet.)

And then, from the "still in good standing" links above - specifically, the Ex-Scientology Kids link, we find this:
In 1983 Neil Gaiman is supposedly declared "suppressive" but in 1988, FIVE YEARS AFTER THE DECLARE, Neil’s name appears in graduate lists in The Auditor Worldwide (published by AOSH UK) as Auditor #202 (copyright 1986). Neil is listed as completing three courses: the Hubbard Senior Sec Checker Course #222 (1988), the 21 Dept Org Board Course #227 (1988) and the Hubbard Basic Art Course.
I don't have those magazines in my database - I get a lot more materials from the US than the rest of the world. However, those courses all look plausible to me. The Basic Art Course is a cheap, fairly introductory course. The Senior Sec Checker Course and the 21 Dept Org Board Course are much more serious. Sec checking is the "confess while you're hooked up to the lie detector" aspect of Scientology, in which you are asked a series of extremely personal questions while holding the E-meter's electrodes, and the auditor takes notes. I don't know what the 21 Dept Org Board Course is.

However, I note that these are in 1986-1988, when he was still living in the UK. He moved to the US in 1992, and - aside from the possible donation reports - I haven't seen his name in a Scientology publication since.

And about those donation reports:

First, one of them is listed as The Gaiman Family. I would bet money that this is the David Gaiman Family - his parents - not the Neil Gaiman Family. Second, I have heard reports of a donation in the name of Neil and Mary Gaiman, but within the context of the overall picture, I would suspect that was given by Mary, with Neil's name attached.

More importantly, those donations are listed repeatedly for years after being given. So if you give $50,000 in 1980, your donation will keep appearing in the list of patrons in every subsequent issue of Impact. (Interestingly, the listing does tend to get dropped if you leave Scientology.) The fact that a donor's name appears in issue after issue does not mean that the person has given every year. A patron who donated in 1990 might very well still appear in a 2005 edition of the magazine, even without giving a cent after 1990.


So based on what I know about Neil's history in Scientology and how Scientology generally operates, I think it's very unlikely that Neil has supported Scientology in the past 15 years.


I don't care what people believe, but I do care when people - such as some Scientology celebrities - promote harmful causes like Scientology's Narconon front group or its anti-psychiatry front group, CCHR. Scientology celebrities often promote these front groups on their websites and personal appearances. To my knowledge, Neil has never publicly promoted Scientology or a Scientology front group (at least since he was more involved in the late 1980s). He has not promoted Scientology on his website (like Nancy Cartwright does), during his speaking appearances (like John Travolta has), or in any other way that I've seen. I'm 99% certain he's never been on the cover of Scientology's Celebrity magazine - or appeared anywhere in any issue, for that matter. He's never, to my knowledge, spoken against psychiatry, or promoted any of Scientology's front groups (Narconon, Second Chance, HELP, Applied Scholastics, the Drug-Free Marshalls ...). I haven't read all his work, but I haven't seen any Scientology-related themes in the books I have read.

I haven't seen any convincing evidence that he currently supports Scientology in any way.



It's also important to get the bigger picture here regarding his family.

First, yes - if he were to speak out publicly against Scientology, his family would be required to disconnect from him - no contact of any kind. And he clearly loves his family; he wrote eloquently of how painful it was to lose his father recently, and I seem to recall some posts on his blog about taking his kids to visit their aunts and cousins.

Second, as others have pointed out, his father, David Gaiman, was not just a run-of-the-mill Scientologist - he was head of Scientology's Guardian Office in the UK. That's the dirty tricks, attack-the-enemies department. Journalist Paulette Cooper, author of the first full-length book exposing Scientology, said "He was the first to harass me, serving me with a bogus lawsuit when I was in Scotland; also having Scientologists totally surround my hotel when I was in Scotland which prevented me from writing the story I was there to write. As Wikipedia notes, "According to documents in the US vs Kember and Budlong case, Gaiman issued an order in 1975 for an operation to put false information in U.S. security agency computers using planted agents."

But nobody talks about Neil's mother, Sheila. She, too, was an executive in the UK Guardian's Office - although more on the front group side - and she has continued to be heavily involved in Scientology, with several completions in just the last two years.

Both David and Sheila reached the very highest level of Scientology: OT VIII. Neil's ex-wife, Mary, has reached at least OT V.

It's been mentioned above that both of Neil's sisters are still involved. His sister Claire Edwards has been head of Scientology Missions International; she was listed as its president as recently as 2007 in International Scientology News. His other sister, Lizzy Calcioli, has reached OT VII and also continues to be very active in Scientology; in 2005 Scientology's Cause magazine described the (smallish) Scientology organization she and her husband Mauro run in England. Mauro Calcioli - Neil's brother-in-law - has reached OT VI.


So imagine that you've been raised in Scientology - not only raised in it, but parented by some of Scientology's very topmost executives, specifically those in charge of attacking Scientology's enemies (David) and making Scientology look like the most positive force in the world (Sheila). Imagine finding yourself increasingly skeptical of Scientology, but still loving your parents and your sisters, and knowing you would be cut off from them - completely - if you spoke out against Scientology. (This would, of course, include any children Claire and Lizzy might have, and might also mean cutting Neil's three children off from their aunts and grandparents.)

I don't know Neil Gaiman at all; I don't know what he believes, or what he does beyond what gets published in the mainstream press or in Scientology's own publications. But my educated guess is that he's been drifting away from Scientology since the early 1990s (I'd even guess that his recent divorce from Mary may have had something to do with her continuing participation). If he's still a supporter of Scientology, both he and they are keeping it very quiet, which is of course not typical of Scientology at all.



Finally, for those who wonder why activists like me are critical of Scientology: it's not their beliefs, it's their clear and often illegal abuses. There are a number of suspicious deaths linked to Scientology. Scientology holds people against their will - based on official policy, not rogue acts. Scientology officials physically assault members. Scientology destroys families. Scientology was behind the the single largest infiltration of the United States government in history; L. Ron Hubbard's wife spent years in jail for her part, and again, Neil's father, David Gaiman, participated. Scientology's front group, CCHR, works to impede psychiatry (Scientology teaches that psychiatry and psychology are evil), including lobbying against mental health parity bills. Scientology keeps files on friends and family members of Scientologists. When Scientology does these things, the organization and its policies deserve criticism. I don't care what Scientologists believe; I do care when they break the law or hurt people.



tl,dr: As a critic of Scientology, I'm pretty familiar with Scientology and Scientology celebrities. I haven't seen any compelling evidence that Neil Gaiman has acted to support Scientology since before 1990, and I haven't seen any evidence that Amanda Palmer has ever supported it at all.
posted by kristi at 11:10 PM on July 23, 2012 [41 favorites]


I'd favorite that, but I wonder if it puts me on a CoS shitlist. :)
posted by Monsieur Caution at 11:32 PM on July 23, 2012


that is a fantastic comment. thank you.
posted by nadawi at 1:18 AM on July 24, 2012


I think he did say "properly" - not in the sense of rightly or correctly but genuinely or indisputably. Perhaps it's a British colloquialism

It's an intensifier, so the meaning's closer to strongly or excessively than genuinely or indisputably

"Proper" has acquired the sense of genuine, e.g. "haven't you got any proper vanilla? I hate vanilla essence". "Properly" can also serve in this role, e.g. "that is properly true". In Gaiman's sentence the sense is ambiguous, but I'd tend toward interpreting it as "genuinely", in the context. Others may disagree.
posted by howfar at 6:02 AM on July 24, 2012


My old man represented CoS once, as a very young lawyer. I'm not sure, but I think it had to do with leaked documents. They liked him enough to want to form a permanent relationship with him to handle such matters, but they had given him the creeps from the get-go and he turned down any future work. (Although apparently they did pay their bills with lightning speed, memorable enough in comparison to most clients to earn a mention decades later.)

Anyone who thinks CoS is deserving of the benefit of the doubt hasn't read enough about it. I haven't moused-over most of the links upthread, but -- Operation Clambake's series of personal accounts is a good place to start.

My favorite Sandman trade paperback is probably Brief Lives, although that may have come after finishing the series and realizing its centrality. A Game of You was fairly amazing as well. And of course, the last two books are deeply moving and unforgettable, although its hard to name them 'favorites.'
posted by snuffleupagus at 6:39 AM on July 24, 2012


Anyone who thinks CoS is deserving of the benefit of the doubt hasn't read enough about it.

This. Emphatically.
posted by five fresh fish at 1:13 PM on July 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


I'm sort of surprised they don't have their own cultist lawyers - too dangerous, perhaps?
posted by Artw at 3:48 PM on July 24, 2012


I'm sort of surprised they don't have their own cultist lawyers

We're all working for Xenu.
posted by howfar at 3:58 PM on July 24, 2012


Scientology was in the news again.
Marc Headley alleged three instances of physical abuse in his 15 years with Sea Org and described having to hand-clean human excrement from a pond as discipline. His wife claimed that the church forced her to have two abortions. The couple said they did not flee out of fear of being followed and pressured to return.
posted by inigo2 at 4:40 PM on July 24, 2012


I'm sort of surprised they don't have their own cultist lawyers - too dangerous, perhaps?

My understanding is that these days, they do, bred within families with a pragmatic investiture in CoS's future, so to speak. I had a source for that, at some point, an article identifying a CoS lawyer as born into the movement (I'll see if I can find it).

My old man repped them either shortly before I was born, or shortly thereafter. So around 1980. They didn't have a few generations of adherents to draw on at that point.

Medmal defense might not seem much better than carrying water for CoS to many mefites, but I'm sure glad he bolted.
posted by snuffleupagus at 7:40 AM on July 26, 2012


"I'm sort of surprised they don't have their own cultist lawyers - too dangerous, perhaps?"

Well, there's Kendrick (Rick) Moxon, who's at least OT VI. As Wikipedia notes,
"He worked out of the Scientology intelligence agency known as the Guardian's Office (GO), and was named as an unindicted co-conspirator after the Federal Bureau of Investigation's investigation into criminal activities by Scientology operatives called "Operation Snow White". An evidence stipulation in the case signed by both parties stated he had provided false handwriting samples to the FBI; Moxon has since said that he did not "knowingly supply" false handwriting samples."
Village Voice journalist Tony Ortega named Rick one of the Top 25 People Crippling Scientology because Rick's role in developing Scientology's nasty, litigious reputation makes it hard for the general public to square their tactics in court with the actions of a church.

Rick has suffered a personal tragedy: his 20-year-old daughter, Stacy Meyer, a member of the Sea Org, died at Scientology's Riverside compound under suspicious circumstances.

There's also Helena Kobrin, also at least OT VI. She sent out so many cease-and-desist orders that, a decade ago, a Scientology C&D came to be known as a "Kobringram". I got a cease and desist alleging trademark infringement from Helena in 2001. She was fined thousands of dollars for barratry (filing a frivolous complaint) in 1994.

There's also Ava Paquette, who did her OT Eligibility service back in 1998, although I haven't seen any actual OT levels reported in the magazines. Ava sent a false DMCA complaint to my ISP in 2005 that resulted in a two-week takedown of all my data.
posted by kristi at 7:25 PM on July 26, 2012 [3 favorites]


Not sure if this has been documented in this thread...
posted by dbiedny at 11:42 AM on August 2, 2012 [1 favorite]


Oh man, calling out Helena Kobrin's name to anyone who used Usenet a lot in the early 1990s is like saying "27b/6" in Brazil.
posted by jscott at 8:05 AM on August 3, 2012 [3 favorites]


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