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So many floating tone arms!
June 10, 2014 3:28 PM   Subscribe

Mesmerizing internal Scientology promotional video - GATII Success Stories
posted by The Whelk (239 comments total) 39 users marked this as a favorite

 
The guy at 6:21 says he took the "blue pill," which is not the one he thinks it is.
posted by Small Dollar at 3:31 PM on June 10 [17 favorites]


This music is pitch perfect for what they're doing, I have to give them that.
posted by Ferreous at 3:34 PM on June 10 [8 favorites]


It just keeps going.
posted by mr_roboto at 3:35 PM on June 10 [5 favorites]


Before this post gets deleted, can someone explain the jargon? Some of it I've heard before, but a lot is new to me.
posted by potsmokinghippieoverlord at 3:39 PM on June 10 [1 favorite]


Without the intro, I would have guessed this was a Mr. Show skit (that went on for a bit too long).
posted by benito.strauss at 3:44 PM on June 10 [2 favorites]


...can someone explain the jargon?

Sure! First, though, we need your check for $1,200 to cover your first intake scan.
posted by Thorzdad at 3:44 PM on June 10 [35 favorites]


Before this post gets deleted, can someone explain the jargon?

That might take a while.

I hadn't noticed that this glossary is heavy with editorializing, but it still seems to illuminate (as much as is possible) some of the jargon used.
posted by hellphish at 3:46 PM on June 10 [2 favorites]


I mean, I can believe it, but I can't.
posted by mstokes650 at 3:47 PM on June 10 [2 favorites]


> Before this post gets deleted,

Just don't mention the weird-toothed guy and it will be fine.
posted by planetesimal at 3:49 PM on June 10 [9 favorites]


but the maxx is such a good comic
posted by FAMOUS MONSTER at 3:51 PM on June 10 [1 favorite]


Everything about Scientology fascinates me so much. I mean, I get why the wild-eyed sincerity of the people on the video is funny--replace the word "tech" with "Jesus" and "OT" with "Christians" and this could be like 95% of my friends--but how the religion is managed never ceases to interest me. Like, if you're a Scientologist, do you digest something like this as a "New and Improved" chunk of your religion that is better than the old voluminous writings of L. Ron? Does it cast a shadow over the time before this current Golden Age of Tech? Is there always that tension between old and new, the way there is in Christianity, where you are constantly rewriting the religion while swearing allegiance to a book fewer and fewer people can understand at all? Or do you just take it all in stride, gleefully accepting the novelty because it pushes you that much closer to perfection?
posted by mittens at 3:52 PM on June 10 [9 favorites]


The guy at 6:21 says he took the "blue pill," which is not the one he thinks it is.
posted by Small Dollar at 6:31 PM on June 10

Or IS it?! Dun dun DUN!
posted by ssmug at 3:53 PM on June 10 [2 favorites]


"When I got an M4, I just had a consistent floating needle."

That also was true for me when I got an M4 and a really good heroin supply.
posted by planetesimal at 3:53 PM on June 10 [3 favorites]


I have seen this kind of enthusiasm before in multi-level marketing and super-hard-hitting evangelical sermons. I know it's not "true", but I can't stop watching. If you're in a place that makes you susceptible to this kind of marketing, it's easy to get pulled in. The "promise" of being "better" can really take one down the rabbithole.
posted by Vibrissae at 3:53 PM on June 10 [4 favorites]


OMG...It's so clear now...Scientologists...The wild-eyed enthusiasm...The "giving 110%" attitude...They all work in the marketing department!
posted by Thorzdad at 3:55 PM on June 10 [8 favorites]


Some days it's hard to tell the Scientology from the audiophile woo.
posted by acb at 3:56 PM on June 10 [10 favorites]


Tarvuism - I learned how to speak to an octopus!
posted by scalefree at 3:57 PM on June 10 [16 favorites]


"When she opened the Indoctrination Booklet, my mouth was like-"
posted by Iridic at 3:58 PM on June 10 [3 favorites]


> Some days it's hard to tell the Scientology from the audiophile woo.

Ah, I'm seeing a new cottage industry: gold e-meter cables.
posted by planetesimal at 3:58 PM on June 10 [39 favorites]


Whomever posted this video is going to get sued in England.
posted by Catblack at 3:59 PM on June 10 [1 favorite]


From The Underground Bunker.
posted by unliteral at 4:00 PM on June 10


Also, this video is particularly disturbing because these "success" stories are training to become auditors/trainers and otherwise part of the system, not just beginner marks for the con.
posted by planetesimal at 4:00 PM on June 10


I think this raises some really important questions, such as: Why has no-one made a late-night infomercial style ad for the Turbo-Encabulator?
posted by aubilenon at 4:04 PM on June 10 [3 favorites]


I had to watch the entire thing. Jesus, how depressing. All the more so for the glitter and upness and reflective surfaces and bang! ohmygod! wow!

People want Answers so badly.
posted by the sobsister at 4:06 PM on June 10 [2 favorites]


Whomever posted this video is going to get sued in England.

Yeah good luck with that. It's no coincidence that 56.com is located in China.
posted by scalefree at 4:07 PM on June 10 [1 favorite]


Holy hell, that was like a business jargon seminar and an MLM all wrapped up in one.

Just for kicks, I typed up a list of every argotic acronym or phrase mentioned in the video. Enjoy! Best part was the dude at the end: "I'm me for the first time in [thoughtful pause] TRILLIONS of years."
posted by divined by radio at 4:08 PM on June 10 [36 favorites]


>People want Answers so badly.

But not badly enough to ask "Where is David Miscavige's wife?"
posted by Catblack at 4:09 PM on June 10 [17 favorites]


I'd like to download this to save for later hilarity in case the site gets taken down. Can someone suggest a way?
posted by reiichiroh at 4:15 PM on June 10


I haven't had much exposure to Scientology, so, watching this, the thing that struck me is how Scientology purports to give people the ecstasy of religion with the certainty of technology.

LRH was a pulp sci-fi author, so I guess this is the flying-car version of Christianity. No musty books set in ancient times. This is the future, baby. And I'm clear.
posted by the sobsister at 4:15 PM on June 10 [3 favorites]


But, but it's the -tology of SCIENCE!!!

wow. just wow.
posted by Benny Andajetz at 4:17 PM on June 10


I'd like to download this to save for later hilarity in case the site gets taken down. Can someone suggest a way?

DownloadHelper should do it.
posted by mstokes650 at 4:20 PM on June 10


Morons of the World, Unite!
posted by stenseng at 4:22 PM on June 10


My TPS coversheets were never so vibrant!
posted by ckape at 4:22 PM on June 10 [4 favorites]


That music! If the Scientology band ever goes full blown zeuhl (ie. magma) I'm in.
posted by AtoBtoA at 4:24 PM on June 10 [1 favorite]


That reminded me Klein's Shock doctrine
posted by CitoyenK at 4:25 PM on June 10


Thanks mstokes650--doesn't seem to support the site 56.com directly. I'll keep looking.
posted by reiichiroh at 4:26 PM on June 10


Also, this video is particularly disturbing because these "success" stories are training to become auditors/trainers and otherwise part of the system, not just beginner marks for the con.

For all of the hullabaloo around leaving Scientology they still have a very high defection rate, and unlike some similarly insular religions they don't have the birth rate to keep up. Recruitment is all they have.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 4:27 PM on June 10 [2 favorites]


Can't wait for the bad lip reading version of this
posted by photoslob at 4:30 PM on June 10 [1 favorite]


登录!
posted by thelonius at 4:33 PM on June 10 [1 favorite]


Fuck those Fucking Scientology Fuckers.

A while back, I asked this question about my friend who was training to become a Dianetics auditor. My friend refused to admit Dianetics had any connection to the CoS.

(Update, she still is hard at getting her auditing certification, last I heard. She no longer speaks to me after I suggested she was being fleeced by a cult.)

Anyway, this is exactly what those bastards do; they CHANGE the program.

My friend was "studying" at the Org to become an auditor and from this video, it's clear that as many predicted in their response to my question, the CoS has changed the program.

Which is EASIER and MORE AWESOME and !!! and now, no doubt, every single person who has been fleeced by those criminals now has to pay over $3k to be certified as an auditor again.

The mind boggles that these hucksters are allowed to get away with this crap.
posted by kinetic at 4:34 PM on June 10 [8 favorites]


People with aphasia make more sense than this.
posted by Lentrohamsanin at 4:35 PM on June 10 [8 favorites]


Somewhat apropos of this, I have to admit that I listened to Marc Maron's interview of Giovanni Ribisi yesterday and started feeling a little differently about Scientology.

Not in a "that sounds like a great idea!" sense or anything, but just, OK, it's a religion. It's weird because it's couched so heavily in a specific late 20th century aesthetic, but I don't know, I bet my feelings about Scientology are not that different from some jaded person in the 2nd century AD's feelings about early Christianity.

Like, I don't get it, and it doesn't seem interesting to me, but it's really not different from any other religion.

It is totally fascinating because of said weird 20th century aesthetic, though. Of course.
posted by Sara C. at 4:46 PM on June 10 [2 favorites]


Did I miss the part where they attempt to infiltrate the government, disappear people for speaking out, or get the family to cut ties with a "suppressive person"?
posted by fifteen schnitzengruben is my limit at 4:50 PM on June 10 [6 favorites]


... it's really not different from any other religion.

I haven't investigated it deeply, but I get the distinct impression that this is not true. Is this something you actually know about, or are you just kinda musing out loud?
posted by benito.strauss at 4:52 PM on June 10 [15 favorites]


just, OK, it's a religion

Yeah, it's a weird thing. A lot like modern pagans really, following a mythology that was created whole cloth in the 70s.

The thing is that Scientology almost certainly started as a cynical money making machine, but once you got this critical mass of people who were True Believers it morphed into an actual religion. It's a weird hybrid between its roots as a scam and an honest source of hope and belief for the devoted.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 4:53 PM on June 10 [2 favorites]


In a hundred years or so Scientology might go from terrible to merely misguided, but for now I'm still placing it squarely in the terrible category.
posted by ckape at 4:55 PM on June 10 [4 favorites]


floating tone arms (in general this refers to "floating the needle" of an e-meter, the end state of an auditing process where an engram has been eliminated and no longer reads)
Golden Age of Tech Phase II (you can infer what the "II" is)
"my Bridge"/The Bridge
Golden Age of Tech Phase II Purif (presumably unrelated to above)
"OT-ness"
"in-PTness"
Objective
C/S
"the org"
Student Hat Lectures
M4
floating needle (see "floating tone arms")
"checksheet time" (chechsheets are used in TRs)
E-Meter
instant read
Solo I Course

auditor
indoctrination booklet
Happiness Rundown
"the Grades"
service facsimile
NED (New Era Dianetics, functionally synonymous with Dianetics)
engram
Clear
"the Ls"
Cause Resurgence/"resurgence of cause" (being at cause = having full control over self, reality, end state of being clear)
"beingness"
drilling station
thetan
KSW

thought I'd save people some clicking/googling
posted by anazgnos at 4:55 PM on June 10 [27 favorites]


>... it's really not different from any other religion.
I haven't investigated it deeply, but I get the distinct impression that this is not true.


They're obviously very different from mainstream religions, but they're not that exotic as cults go. Note the lack of group suicides among other things.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 4:56 PM on June 10 [1 favorite]


... it's really not different from any other religion.

Scientology is not a religion, though. Never was. It was started as a quack treatment program (hence the continuing antagonism toward psychiatry), but the FDA and the IRS were all over that, so tada!, The "Church" of Scientology.

Chabad is like early Christianity. Scientology is like ... a scam. Like Amway.
posted by Sys Rq at 4:56 PM on June 10 [13 favorites]


The thing is that Scientology almost certainly started as a cynical money making machine, but once you got this critical mass of people who were True Believers it morphed into an actual religion.

Not really, it's more that a new group of people (who coincidentally may have been True Believers) seized the reins of the cynical money making machine.
posted by anazgnos at 4:57 PM on June 10 [2 favorites]


From everything I know about it, as someone who is kind of fascinated with it and has read a lot about it over the years, and who lives in Los Angeles and drives by their various facilities on a daily basis, I would say this is in the realm of "something I actually know about".

Certainly from hearing a person who grew up with it discuss it with someone who is a thoughtful interviewer, despite all the other very negative "it a cult" stuff I'm already familiar with, that was my takeaway.

I don't know, so much of the criticism seems to reduce to one of two things:

look at this totally weird thing they believe in

or

this is totally a CULT/people had bad experiences with this, which is a different thing from the religion I belong to which is obviously totally legitimate in every way.

I mean, people believe in weird shit. Nothing in Scientology is objectively weirder than God having a real life human son who "died for our sins", whatever the fuck that even means.

And, while I desperately want to stay out of the "is religion an OK concept in general" atheism debate, doesn't every religion have a little blood on its hands?

Nothing I know about Scientology, as a person who knows some stuff, seems objectively worse than other things I also know about, when it comes to the topic of religion in general.
posted by Sara C. at 4:59 PM on June 10 [1 favorite]


...it's really not different from any other religion.

Except that Scientology is NOT a religion and it is NOT recognized as a religion in many countries and is, in fact, considered a cult by the Israeli and Belgium governments. Scientology slowly and delicately demands cash from its practitioners, continually holding out the promise of more ___ and better ____, but you can't get ANY OF IT until you pay them.

they're not that exotic as cults go...well, when you sign up for Sea Org, you sign a contract for a billion years.

Maybe not exotic, maybe just insane.

Nothing I know about Scientology, as a person who knows some stuff, seems objectively worse than other things I also know about, when it comes to the topic of religion in general.

That may be true for you. But I can tell you that I was labeled as a "Suppressive Person" by the CoS and my former best friend has been told to never speak to me again. Few religions force their believers to cut off contact with their friends and families. Oh, and to pay them endless amounts of money. Or sign BILLION YEAR CONTRACTS.
posted by kinetic at 4:59 PM on June 10 [32 favorites]


It's also important to recognize that the experience of celebrities in Scientology may be vastly different than the experience of rank-and-file people. Recruiting and retaining celebrities and their families has been a PR tactic of Scientology since the earliest days.
posted by muddgirl at 5:00 PM on June 10 [4 favorites]


Scientology is different from other religions in that it's "closed source" and you have to pay a lot of money to fully understand the doctrine. Other religions have seminaries and stuff, but you could learn all the tenets of the faith without going through the whole "official" process. It's a modern-day mystery religion.
posted by Small Dollar at 5:03 PM on June 10 [11 favorites]


Note the lack of group suicides among other things.

Group suicides, sure. Scientologists just tend to do it by themselves.

Suicide and Scientology
They Should Not Have Died
posted by scalefree at 5:04 PM on June 10 [2 favorites]


Except that Scientology is NOT a religion

People who are involved seem to think it is one, and talk about it in the way other people talk about religions. I would be pretty annoyed if someone decided that my belief system was a scam.

I get that the whole monetary aspect is unsavory, but it's not that different from other forms of religion. Christianity has tithing. Hasidism is probably as impoverishing, as a lifestyle, as Scientology is. I don't know enough about Islam to know, but it would shock me to find out that money doesn't change hands. Tibetan Buddhist temples put cash right up on the altar as an offering.
posted by Sara C. at 5:05 PM on June 10 [2 favorites]


But I can tell you that I was labeled as a "Suppressive Person" by the CoS and my former best friend has been told to never speak to me again.

You might enjoy the documentary Trembling Before G-d.
posted by Sara C. at 5:08 PM on June 10 [1 favorite]


floating tone arms

Not sure about about floating or arms, but the Tone scale is a ridiculous "pain chart" only for human behavior. A wanna be attempt at psychoanalysis, only without the actual psych, because thats a Big No No in Scientology.


Golden Age of Tech Phase II
The second in a series of "repackaging" events. Basically, whenever Scientology needs to make some more cash off their adherents they repackage L Ron's writings, claim revisions/updates, and slap a new cover on it. Phase II is the second time they've done this. There is actually quite a bit of controversy within the church because they believe David Miscavige is "Squirreling the Tech" or making edits to something that is already supposed to be perfect. In fact quite a few people have "Blown" because of this.

"my Bridge"/The Bridge
The Bridge to Total Freedom is essentially the path a Scientologist must take to reach their verson of "perfection". It is pretty lengthy. It is also pretty expensive

Golden Age of Tech Phase II Purif (presumably unrelated to above)
See above for Golden age of Tech, Purif standing for Purification Rundown. This is the program you are put through to cleanse your body of any toxins/contaminants. Its an odd pairing to be had with the Golden Age of Tech. Typically one has to go through the Purif before starting any kind of sessions or whatever.

"OT-ness"
The state of being an Operating Thetan OT is the upper level of Scientology training. (see the Bridge link above). Once you reach OT VIII (currently the highest you can go) you gain control of MEST (Matter Energy, Space, Time)

"in-PTness"
Not actually sure what PT stands for. They like to add ness to the end of things,(see OT-ness)
or "havingness"(yes its a Scientology thing)

Objective (presumably unrelated to Ayn Rand)
Can't remember what this one is either.

C/S
not sure here either, sorry

"the org"
Most Scientology churches are referred to as Org (short for Organization). There are regular Orgs, Ideal Orgs, the Sea Org(Their "Navyesque" branch)

Student Hat Lectures
I'm guessing here, but L Ron had a thing with "Hats". Much as the phrase "put on your working hat", he have his Lecturing hat, or his captain hat, etc etc. So I'm guessing this is his lecture on "How to be a Student"

M4 (presumably not this one)
Short for Method 4 Word Clearing. Hubbard had a thing for "If you don't understand a word, look it up" One of his very few bits of sound advice, sadly, he'd usually provide a glossary with his definition of words you might look up. M4 if the method the Auditors on the E-meter use to get to the bottom of trouble.

floating needle
Caused on the E-meter(lie detector) by squeezing the cans. This made the needle float to the middle of the gauge and usually meant the successful end of the auditing session.

"checksheet time"
Not sure on this one.

E-Meter

See above. Basically a rudimentary lie detector device. Used by Scientology auditors in their sessions.

instant read
No clue.

Solo I Course
Part of the Bridge to Total Freedom (See above)

auditor
Someone administering a Scientology course. Usually to another person. Though occasionally on their own. Usually done with an E-meter.

indoctrination booklet
Not sure, but seems fairly self explanatory.

Happiness Rundown
Part of The Way to Happiness. Another splinter group of Scientology operated as a nonprofit to get people into Dianetics and the Church proper. While on paper they claim to be unrelated, they very much are not and are published by Scientology's publishing group.

"the Grades"
Not sure

service facsimile
Not sure

NED
Not sure

engram
Unconscious memories or emotions. These are what L Ron blamed the negative engrams for all the bad int he world and claimed auditing was the only way to get rid of them.

Clear
A level of "enlightenment" on the Bridge to Total freedom. The steps below being "OT"

"the Ls"
I used to know, but have forgotten.


Cause Resurgence/"resurgence of cause"

No clue here either.

"beingness"
Similar to the other "-ness"es above (though there may be more to this one)

drilling station
Not sure but it sounds scary.

thetan
Very similar to a soul but theres more to it than that.

KSW
Stands for Keeping Scientology Working, a series of letters/policies. Basically rules that are fundamental to Scientology.



DISCLAIMER:
I believe Scientology is a cult/pyramid scheme. I was part of the protests against them called Operation Chanology(but not a member of Anonymous). I believe very strongly in freedom of religion, but I do not believe freedom of religion gives you the right to do illegal things. If you don't think Scientology (the group of close knit people at the top of the organization that is) has done illegal things then you quite honestly haven't done enough research. I am more than happy to direct you to sources of information that aren't from the "Fastest growing religion in the world" (their words, not mine)

There is group called the Freezone that took L Ron's teachings and left the upper echelons of the church. I have no issue with these guys, I know a few and while I don't believe in it, they are pretty cool people.

The information I put above is the best of my recollection, but there could be mistakes. Feel free to correct them.
posted by Twain Device at 5:10 PM on June 10 [13 favorites]


Yeah, arguing about whether or not they're "just another religion" ignores the real harm that is done by the Scientology hierarchy towards anyone, internal or external, that they see as a threat.
posted by muddgirl at 5:12 PM on June 10 [9 favorites]


I get that the whole monetary aspect is unsavory, but it's not that different from other forms of religion. Christianity has tithing. Hasidism is probably as impoverishing, as a lifestyle, as Scientology is. I don't know enough about Islam to know, but it would shock me to find out that money doesn't change hands. Tibetan Buddhist temples put cash right up on the altar as an offering.

You forgot the church of the Straw Man.
posted by Sys Rq at 5:12 PM on June 10 [15 favorites]


Or rather it seems like a pointless conversation in the face of the aforementioned, documented abuses.
posted by muddgirl at 5:13 PM on June 10 [3 favorites]


Parts of Scientology are a religion. Parts aren't. For instance WISE is business consulting, ABLE is social activism, Narconon is drug rehabilitation, Applied Scholastics is education, the list goes on & on. That's by design, intended to infiltrate Scientology into every aspect of society & feed them all onto the Bridge to Total Freedom.
posted by scalefree at 5:14 PM on June 10 [1 favorite]


I get that the whole monetary aspect is unsavory, but it's not that different from other forms of religion. Christianity has tithing.

Yeah, but you don't have to spend $100,000 to become a Level 32 Super Christian.
posted by Avenger at 5:15 PM on June 10 [27 favorites]


It's also important to recognize that the experience of celebrities in Scientology may be vastly different than the experience of rank-and-file people.

This is actually one of the things I found the most fascinating about the interview, since Ribisi grew up within Scientology from childhood, and his parents are not celebrities. I suppose he got on board at some point, and yeah, as the adult he is today I'm sure his understanding of it is within the context of a celebrity rather than just a rank and file person.

And I'm not saying he's an unbiased source, or that I agree with anything he said, which honestly sounded completely nuts. But it didn't sound more completely nuts than if Maron interviewed any other celebrity that grew up within a religion that they still take somewhat seriously.
posted by Sara C. at 5:18 PM on June 10 [1 favorite]


Yeah, but you don't have to spend $100,000 to become a Level 32 Super Christian.

You did 500 years ago.
posted by Sara C. at 5:19 PM on June 10 [6 favorites]


The "religion" label is just something Hubbard stuck on when Dianetics failed at the pretense of being science. Initially Scientology was actually a franchised system of centers for a pseudoscientific quack therapy; as Hubbard grew richer and more paranoid, he centralized control through a quasi-military organization, the Sea Org. But Scientology remains primarily a pseudoscience; it's more like claiming that chiropractic would be a religion if it organized as one for tax evasion purposes.

Now, the Sea Org? That's a criminal organization. Which, you know, you could argue about a number of religions I guess.
posted by graymouser at 5:20 PM on June 10 [3 favorites]


It seems intellectually dishonest to deny that some people feel they get good stuff out of being a member of the Church of Scientology. We can't understand how people live and interact with institutions from which they derive meaning if we just deny it. I also find it interesting to see how it has evolved, and think it can be useful to compare it with other institutions, whether religion, cult, lodge, or multi-level marketing scheme.

It seems immoral to ignore all the stories people have told of how savagely Scientology reacts when people oppose it.
posted by benito.strauss at 5:23 PM on June 10 [3 favorites]


Another difference with Ribisi. He may not have grown up a celebrity, but you don't actually get to learn whats in the next step of the Bridge, until you've paid for it. The stuff lower on the Bridge really is mostly innocuous self help type stuff. It isn't until you paid around ~30K that you START to get to the strange. So depending on how far up his parents were, it probably wasn't that hokey. Then he grows up, becomes semi famous and doesn't get the Xenu and the DC-5 planes,etc etc.
posted by Twain Device at 5:23 PM on June 10 [3 favorites]


Morons of the World, Unite!

Can we not do that? Unless you currently omnipotent being or currently inhabited by one please do not pass judgement on anyone else's fervent faith unless that faith is directly hurting you or someone you care about. Dismissing a group as 'wacky' does nothing to further dialogue and forces them to isolate themselves from the public at learge, that is never good. Catholic priests pull the power of Jesus into a wheat thin and table wine and we don't use the same kind of vocab with them. Start from a place of respect or don't start at all.

And if you are a god, I order you to cease any and all supernatural activity and return forthwith to your place of origin, or to the next convenient parallel dimension.
posted by MiltonRandKalman at 5:25 PM on June 10


I can't believe none of these people have nosebleeds!
posted by oceanjesse at 5:28 PM on June 10 [2 favorites]


...it's really not different from any other religion.

which is like saying that red is not different from any other color.
posted by philip-random at 5:28 PM on June 10 [10 favorites]


I think there's a pretty big difference between voluntarily dropping a few dollars in the collection plate on Sunday to keep the facilities up, pay the pastor and maybe fund a food pantry and what Scientology is asking from its adherents (though of course, there are definitely a certain variety of money grubbing mega-churches).
posted by Jess the Mess at 5:32 PM on June 10 [6 favorites]


it's really not different from any other religion

I think you're oversimplifying religion. The belief systems/traditions of the world's major religions are much more complicated and rooted in much deeper histories.

Christianity, Buddhism, Islam, and Judaism weren't created by a science-fiction writer turned self-help guru that created a religion structured like a pyramid scheme. Sure, most religions do terrible things and have plenty of blind followers but having blind followers and doing terrible things does not make a religion.
posted by AtoBtoA at 5:33 PM on June 10 [9 favorites]


It seems intellectually dishonest to deny that some people feel they get good stuff out of being a member of the Church of Scientology.

The first thing you do when you join Scientology is something called a "Communication Course." This involves several Training Routines, or "TRs." TR-0 involves sitting and watching another person with your eyes open, not blinking excessively or moving or talking or anything, for two hours. You get flunked if you don't do it correctly. It happens that when you do this long enough, you actually start hallucinating. You can feel weightless, or like you've left your body and gone to some other place. Afterward, you're very suggestible. There's another variant where you stare at someone and don't react as they pick on you relentlessly. Or ones where you read out nonsense and have someone react to it. Or yell at an ashtray and command it to sit, or stand.

These techniques are really nasty shit, basically intended to put the person in a trance-like state. Scientologists often are people who find themselves psychologically "addicted" to the feelings that are induced in the TRs, and that are replicated in later stages of the Scientology Bridge such as auditing. When you have a "floating needle," it's actually very similar to being under hypnosis – and this is the goal state of Scientology auditing. If you wanted to come up with a mind control cult, you'd do pretty much what Scientology does.
posted by graymouser at 5:37 PM on June 10 [15 favorites]


"in-PTness" PT is Present Time. At the end of an auditing session the auditor will tell the person being audited they're back in PTness.

Objective Low-level "therapy" procedures meant to instill pliability in new Scientologists. Most involve physical manipulation of the body, on the premise that the "raw meat" is too "low-toned" to be run or real auditing.

C/S Church of Scientology

Student Hat Lectures Hats are jobs or trainings.

"checksheet time" Running lists of questions on a PC or patient using the Meter to find criminal behavior that can be used as potential blackmail, should the PC ever blow or become critical of the cult.

instant read This is when, during auditing, the needle doesn't float and it gives the auditor an instant read (come on, it's beyond stupid to try to explain this one)

"the Grades" preliminary steps to the true enlightenment and understanding of Body Thetans.

service facsimile A Grade 4, a person who demonstrates I'm right and you're wrong" type of blaming behavior.

NED New Era Dianetics

"the Ls" the levels

Cause Resurgence/"resurgence of cause" A procedure in which the state of Clear is "validated and rehabilitated".

drilling station The Church of Scientology's in-house magazine Source has promoted the program as being aimed "to shift the creation of a new civilization into overdrive". According to Source, "this is the powerful series of rundowns that will move every Scientologist, at any level of The Bridge, into an entirely new realm of ability. It's here one will progress through the drilling stations of the Perceptic Rundown. And when it comes to the future, here's the likes of which has never even been conceived of on this planet."
posted by kinetic at 5:38 PM on June 10 [2 favorites]


I'm surprised that nobody has mentioned that the special gentleman at the start of the video is Grant Cardone of "Turnaround King" fame, one of Scientology's most vocal diehards. The special woman at the end ranting about "Planet Earth... DONE" is his wife.

Apologies for the BuzzCrap, but here's another link to the video if the original isn't working.

Scientology promo videos are all like this, by the way- hypnotic ultra-muzak in the background while people rant and rave about how their ETERNITY IS CHANGING. DONE. NOW.
posted by Old Man McKay at 5:41 PM on June 10 [1 favorite]


Wait, I thought this post was going to be deleted. It says so right up there.
posted by cjorgensen at 5:41 PM on June 10 [3 favorites]


> You did 500 years ago.

You're probably thinking of plenary indulgences, which has little or nothing in common with how Scientology draws money from its membership. Indulgences, at their worst, were straight-up bribes to local pardoners in exchange for forgiveness of sins, but the penitent was not given a rank in the Catholic Church hierarchy for it. Indulgences were also not a component of the early Church and was later renounced. That is, renounced to the extent that the Catholic Church ever renounces its past.

Please have a better idea of what you're talking about.
posted by at by at 5:48 PM on June 10 [20 favorites]


The Nicene Creed has been around since 325. If you went to see St Nicholas (who supposedly helped write it) in 326 and asked him what Christians believe, he'd tell you the creed, for free. Does my church ask for a pledge? Sure. We have to pay the bills. But we don't withhold sacraments from those who don't pay, and we don't withhold knowledge from anyone. The Book of Common Prayer is online for free, as is the Bible.
It is simply not comparable to the MLM nature of Scientology.
posted by Biblio at 5:49 PM on June 10 [29 favorites]


scientology is a nearly perfect confluence of the forces of spiritual angst, fear[s] of being financially unsuccessful, doubt about the future, and not belonging. Combined with their marketing - which is genius - they are the best-dressed cult of the former or this century.

Of course there is overlap but I honestly believe you could combine a class teaching Religion, Capitalism, Philosophy, Society and Marketing into a course about scientology.

An aside but scientology was one of the first big bad things that was widely exposed by the internet. It was my first anyway when I clicked on a link to the story of Lisa McPherson on a webring in 1996.
posted by vapidave at 5:55 PM on June 10 [3 favorites]


>they're not that exotic as cults go...

well, when you sign up for Sea Org, you sign a contract for a billion years.
Maybe not exotic, maybe just insane.


Exactly. If you didn't sign up to hitch a ride on Hale-Bopp or drink tasty Flavor-aid I'd say you did fairly well.

Besides which, a billion years is pathetic next to the Christians. They pledge themselves for ALL ETERNITY.

Shunning, I'm afraid, is not unique to disconnected cults.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 5:59 PM on June 10


"checksheet time" Running lists of questions on a PC or patient using the Meter to find criminal behavior that can be used as potential blackmail, should the PC ever blow or become critical of the cult.

I think you're thinking of Confessionals, like the infamous Joburg (Johannesburg, South Africa) Confessional. Checksheet time is a measure of how fast you can complete the checksheet for a course or process.

C/S Church of Scientology

Case Supervisor, a staff member who runs the courseroom, monitors students' progress & ultimately signs off that you've completed the course/rundown/procedure you're doing.

"the Ls" the levels

Three upper level courses named L10, L11 & L12.

Cause Resurgence/"resurgence of cause" A procedure in which the state of Clear is "validated and rehabilitated".

This is also known as the Running Program. You literally run in circles around a flagpole until you get the idea they want you to have.

drilling station

These stations are part of Super Power, a high level & expensive process only delivered inside the Super Power building at Flag, thecult's HQ in Clearwater, FL. There are 57 of them, each designed to demonstrate one of the 57 "perceptics" (roughly equating to senses) Hubbard describes in one of his writings. It's the ultimate high-tech, sci-fi experience, kind of like a souped up exhibit in a very expensive & paranoid science museum.
posted by scalefree at 6:00 PM on June 10 [5 favorites]


Indulgences were also not a component of the early Church and was later renounced. That is, renounced to the extent that the Catholic Church ever renounces its past.

So if Scientology renounces their "donation" scheme, do they also retroactively become a respectable religion?
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 6:01 PM on June 10 [1 favorite]


The Book of Common Prayer is online for free, as is the Bible. It is simply not comparable to the MLM nature of Scientology.

It's weird to me how much any time there's a discussion of how to finance a religion, it begins to sound like those arguments on how we're supposed to pay for writers and music in the internet era. It's as though Christianity stumbled across the indie model first--the content is free, and you make your money by crowdsourcing contributions and selling t-shirts. Meanwhile, Scientology is stuck in that old pay-directly-for-content model that everyone hates so much, and has to resort to DRM to try to keep the content from getting out on the open wires.
posted by mittens at 6:04 PM on June 10 [12 favorites]


A lot like modern pagans really, following a mythology that was created whole cloth in the 70s.

I think this has a lot to do with my shifting feelings about Scientology, actually, as someone who spent most of my teens and twenties as a Neopagan.

As a teenager, yeah, I straight up believed that it was the religion of the Burning Times, going back in a straight line to ancient pre-Christian belief. And, in fact, when I was a teenager in the 90s, that was the position of most Neopagan groups. Twenty-odd years later, most non-deluded pagans understand that they're following a new religion that has more to do with the 60s than anything else, or, if you go in for the hardcore Gardnerian stuff, maybe esoteric occult stuff from the Victorian era.

Which is another thing Neopaganism has in common with Scientology -- the beliefs change incredibly quickly, so that, as practiced in 2014 it has basically nothing at all to do with Wicca as invented by Gerald Gardner in the 50s. And while in theory it doesn't cost money to join, there are certain Wiccan traditions that are not open to just any curious outsider. There it's more about who you know and whether those people are interested in initiating you, rather than money, but it's still exclusive. You're welcome to read a library book, but you're not necessarily welcome to get initiated into the full beliefs.

The money aspect of Scientology goes against everything I personally believe in, and I think it's a scam, and terrible, and I feel bad for people whose lives were destroyed by it. (And again I just want to make it super clear that I'm not a Scientologist, or particularly sympathetic to it, or think they are good people at all.) But none of that is particularly unique.
posted by Sara C. at 6:04 PM on June 10 [1 favorite]


So if Scientology renounces their "donation" scheme, do they also retroactively become a respectable religion?

No, they'd remain a pseudoscientific therapy cult with certain forms of hypnosis/brainwashing in their repertoire.
posted by graymouser at 6:29 PM on June 10 [5 favorites]


Wait, I thought this post was going to be deleted. It says so right up there.

¯\_(ツ)_/¯
posted by potsmokinghippieoverlord at 6:30 PM on June 10 [2 favorites]


Any of the knowledgable people here care to comment on the likely the target audience for this video, and in what context they'd normally watch it?
posted by eotvos at 6:31 PM on June 10


It's a fucking criminal organization, full stop. Don't fucking support it by calling it anything less.
posted by five fresh fish at 6:40 PM on June 10 [26 favorites]


Yeah, but you don't have to spend $100,000 to become a Level 32 Super Christian.

My great grandfather did. Poured it straight into Oral Robert's coffers in exchange for a direct line to god and salvation.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 6:48 PM on June 10 [2 favorites]


From everything I know about it, as someone who is kind of fascinated with it and has read a lot about it over the years, and who lives in Los Angeles and drives by their various facilities on a daily basis

oh, well i mean yeah if you drive by their facilities
posted by FAMOUS MONSTER at 7:16 PM on June 10 [21 favorites]


"Any of the knowledgable people here care to comment on the likely the target audience for this video, and in what context they'd normally watch it?"

I'm wondering this as well. From what I've read about the organization - which is a bit- and the terminology in the video it would seem to be mid-level at least - but they are using terminology that used to be closely held and is now public.

The pace and length of the video makes me think it's directed to people that are more inside than outside. This is just speculation.
posted by vapidave at 7:25 PM on June 10


I think it's for people who operate E-meters, not people who are being E-metered. And it sounds like there's a new E-meter that came out, or some new "How to Operate Your E-meter" classes being offered. But that's a guess.
posted by benito.strauss at 7:31 PM on June 10


The alternative is that this is directed at outsiders and failed spectacularly. No matter what you think of them, you have to admit their marketing department is a little more competent than that.
posted by RobotHero at 7:31 PM on June 10


Someone in the video does specifically say "the new E-meter." So yeah, I guess your old E-meter is obsolete and needs replacing.

Wikipedia claims they are up to the Mark VIII?
posted by RobotHero at 7:37 PM on June 10


Planet Earth... Done. *mic drop*

All those references to the Bridge and that zany music, I was back playing Mario Kart 64.
posted by arcticseal at 7:46 PM on June 10 [1 favorite]


oh, well i mean yeah if you drive by their facilities

My point is, I know Scientologists. (Unrelated to driving past their HQ regularly, even.) I'm not just someone who saw that one South Park episode. I live in a place where this is kind of a thing. It's part of the landscape. I turn down the "Free Personality Tests" every day.

I used to have some Scientologist roommates. They were normal and didn't seem to be in a cult in the classic sense. They were allowed to hang with non-Scientologists. They never tried to "convert" anyone. We continued to get lots of Scientology junk mail after they moved out, which did not seem to be in any way secretive about what it's about. Though yes, of course, it was all about buy this gadget, take this class, do this therapy thing.

I think this might all seem a lot scarier if it's just this weird thing you heard about once.
posted by Sara C. at 7:46 PM on June 10


I'll also say that the Mormon roommate I had was much weirder in terms of making their religion a part of everyone else's life.
posted by Sara C. at 7:49 PM on June 10


If someone just wants to believe in all the weird shit Scientologists believe in, I have absolutely no problem with that. If someone of consenting age and sound mind and body and wallet, etc., wants to pay for all of that weird shit, right on. I have no idea how we can determine that, but I am sure those people are part of Scientology. Fine by me.

However, when groups of those someones hit the streets to recruit vulnerable, lonely, seeking, potentially damaged, usually broke, often desperate people and convince them to pay as much as possible for the answers they need? Then fuck that. That is not religion.
posted by juliplease at 7:53 PM on June 10 [4 favorites]


graymouser said:

"The "religion" label is just something Hubbard stuck on when Dianetics failed at the pretense of being science."

Early Dianetics practitioners were certainly surprised (and amused) when Hubbard turned Scientology into a religion in 1954 (full disclosure - self-link).

To repost part of a comment I made on another thread:
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.
The Tampa Bay Times has done outstanding journalism on Scientology. I highly, highly recommend their reporting.
posted by kristi at 7:55 PM on June 10 [17 favorites]


Any of the knowledgable people here care to comment on the likely the target audience for this video, and in what context they'd normally watch it?

The cult is dying & has pretty much given up on bringing in new members on any meaningful scale except for the utterly failing but still central policy of building new "Ideal" Orgs at ruinous expense. At this point they've turned inwards for funds & are cannibalising their ranks, running ever more ruthlessly towards sucking current members drier & drier while offering them less & less. They've apparently even given up on delivering services that require trained staff members to guide customer-student-parishioners through services, because they just don't have the trained staff on hand to do it. They've kind of shifted into just selling pure status, offering fancy titles & bigger fonts in promotional materials which are almost all geared towards collecting donations for the ruinously expensive new (and empty) buildings. The cult's leader, David Miscavige, makes literally every decision of any importance (& many of little importance) after bullying, beating & imprisoning just about the entire top management strata. Many have successfully fled & are speaking out louder than ever.

As for the video at hand, these are all snippets from "success stories" recorded against a green screen immediately after completing a course/rundown/service while they're still caught up in the emotional high following completion. They're targeted at other members, paying public not staff, to convince them to come to one of three places still delivering actual Scientology: one of the several Orgs in the LA area; the cult's smallish cruise ship the Freewinds which is the only place the highest level, New OT8, is delivered; and Flag, home of the Sea Org & the Super Power building, newly opened after 20 years of being built which is the only place that can deliver the Super Power rundown that features the sci-fi museum interactive exhibit for turning on your 57 Perceptics.

I hope I've answered your question fully enough.

This is true. ;)
posted by scalefree at 8:00 PM on June 10 [25 favorites]


Someone in the video does specifically say "the new E-meter." So yeah, I guess your old E-meter is obsolete and needs replacing.

What with computer chips & the Internet & all they've finally developed an E-Meter with a form of DRM built into it that phones home so they can remotely certify it & de-certify it pretty much at will depending on whether you're loyal & paid up or not. I forget the fancy name they've given it, it's called the Quantum Mark 8 or some such nonsense. Oh & it also has a simulator mode for training purposes & a recorder thingy for recording the reads you generate in session. Generally you need to buy two because in the old days they weren't so reliable & Hubbard made a policy that you always had to have a spare on hand in case the one you were using broke down. They rarely break down anymmore but the policy still stands & it's a guaranteed bump to the revenue stream.
posted by scalefree at 8:09 PM on June 10 [8 favorites]


>This is true. ;)

ML,

scalefree
posted by Old Man McKay at 8:30 PM on June 10 [1 favorite]


By all accounts Super Power is some crazy stuff, shuffling you from one Drill Station to the next. They do all kinds of things; machines that waft smells at you, halls of mirrors, parabolic-shaped whisper rooms, one of those 3-axis spinning gizmos they strap you into, rooms full of textures to feel; 57 of them in all. Most expensive exhibition hall ticket in the world, umpteen thousand dollars a shot. Can't even get in the building without swiping a personal ID card they issue you. And they actually pay to run around a little track inside the building & even have to buy a special tracksuit designed just for the purpose.

Every time you think you've reached the bottom of the crazy-barrel you find a new level of just flat out weirdness, paranoia & insanity that's hiding down below it.
posted by scalefree at 8:42 PM on June 10 [10 favorites]


I get that same super power by smearing Heinz 57 sauce all over.
posted by planetesimal at 8:51 PM on June 10 [1 favorite]


If Scientology is a religion just like every other religion, then Catholicism is doing it wrong. $100 for baptism. Confirmation is free. First Communion is free. So $100 gets you about half-way through Catholicism, with the only things left being getting married and getting a funeral.

Getting half-way through Scientology (from joining to reaching "Clear", before going on to the Operating Thetans) costs $4,625.

Now, you may be thinking "Yeah, but what about the collection basket at church?" - I figure that's offset by the fact that in Scientology you have to buy additional books, pay (!) to attend lectures, pay to take mandatory courses assigned as punishment (Catholic confession is free! They're missing out!), pay for additional audits, etc.
posted by Bugbread at 9:04 PM on June 10 [2 favorites]


Making the comparison that Scientology is just like any other religion is really just ignorant.
posted by planetesimal at 9:07 PM on June 10 [3 favorites]


Yeah, but you don't have to spend $100,000 to become a Level 32 Super Christian.

As far as I can tell, getting to the 32° mostly involves putting on a light blue apron once or twice a week and drinking bad coffee.
posted by bonehead at 9:21 PM on June 10 [3 favorites]


with the only things left being getting married and getting a funeral.

Both of which are Scientology level expensive.

Also, is baptism free? The ceremony itself sort of is, if you don't count tithing. But there's the little white outfit, and the flowers for the altar, dinner with the godparents, the open house you're expected to host after, etc. Same for first communion. It's "free", except for the clothes and the party and the little gold rosary, etc.

The difference, to me, is that a lot of the costs of more mainstream religions like Catholicism are levied by the community via social expectation, rather than enforced from above. You're every bit as baptized if it happens in a stained onesie. But people would talk. In two thousand years, people might be saying the same thing about crossing the floating needle bridge.

People spend money on big cathedral weddings that would make a Scientologist blush.
posted by Sara C. at 9:24 PM on June 10


Sara C.: "Also, is baptism free?"

No, check what I wrote. $100. And from what I can tell from my old church's website, that's it. No additional expenses. You can get a little white outfit, I guess. And you can celebrate with godparents, but that has nothing to do with giving the church money. Ditto with the open house. And first communion I actually remember: the only thing that cost money is mom had to buy me some nice slacks and a button-up shirt.

But, again, we're talking expenses that don't go to the church. Saying "people pay $100 to the church and pay $4,525 to local bakers and musicians and circus clowns and fire-eaters to have a baptism party at home" is not the same as saying "People pay $4625 to the church".
posted by Bugbread at 9:31 PM on June 10 [7 favorites]


What's the difference? You're still out $4625 for the privilege of satisfying a fictional character.
posted by Sara C. at 9:47 PM on June 10 [1 favorite]


In my experience, actual religions are generally socialist: they believe everyone, rich or poor, should have access to god/whatever, and that the expenses involved (building upkeep, electricity, water, living expenses for full-time clergy, etc.) should be paid in accordance with a person's wealth. Wealthy people should pay a lot. Poor people don't need to pay anything.

Scientology is capitalist: if you can't pay for teachings, it refuses to offer them. The only people who it thinks should have access to god/whatever are those who can pay for it. For people who are too poor to pay, it provides interesting bearing loans, and sends collection agencies after people who don't pay on time. Those are not the actions of a group whose primary interest is spreading the good word, those are the actions of a group whose primary interest is making money.
posted by Bugbread at 9:48 PM on June 10 [6 favorites]


In fact, if anything Scientology is more honest on that score, since I'm pretty sure there's no central deity everyone is paying to appease.
posted by Sara C. at 9:49 PM on June 10


As far as taking money, paying cash for access to the Oracle at Delphi or providing an animal sacrifice that coincidentally serves as tomorrow's lunch for the priest/shaman/diviner is not at all uncommon among the cultural patterns we call religion and has probably been the rule for most of human history up until the last century or two. If it seems like directing and tapping into flows of wealth isn't integral to modern religions and religious institutions, that's only because it's something that has been subsumed and elided into the social fabric and the standards of social interaction at this point.

I totally agree that Scientology, at this point in history, can be distinguished from religions in significant ways but coming up with facile and easily-disprovable claims about the supposed distinctiveness of its doctrine or mythology or even most of its practices and organization isn't a great way to demonstrate that.
posted by XMLicious at 9:50 PM on June 10 [3 favorites]


Sara C.: "What's the difference? You're still out $4625 for the privilege of satisfying a fictional character."

Well, yeah, in that sense, there's not much of a difference between paying $1,000 for a trip to an exotic locale and me breaking into your house, stealing $1,000, and leaving some travel photos on your desk. You're still out $1,000 for the privilege of a few photos. So me robbing you is no different than me giving you a vacation.
posted by Bugbread at 9:52 PM on June 10 [8 favorites]


So me robbing you is no different than me giving you a vacation.

Or a pilgrimage...
posted by XMLicious at 9:53 PM on June 10


they believe everyone, rich or poor, should have access to god/whatever, and that the expenses involved (building upkeep, electricity, water, living expenses for full-time clergy, etc.) should be paid in accordance with a person's wealth. Wealthy people should pay a lot. Poor people don't need to pay anything.

I think this is the ideal that we have about religion, but often not the actual reality as experienced by adherents.

Which is I think is sort of the whole problem with the Scientology discussion. We tend to look at Scientology in the starkest daylight possible, while we give mainstream religion the biggest possible benefit of the doubt.

Because, yeah, roll up to your average WASPy Anglican cathedral in a major city and just try to show up in jorts and a No Fear t-shirt, with the baby in a dirty diaper, no history of "supporting" the "community", no customary donation, etc. and see if they'll find room in their busy schedule to baptize your kid.

And I say that as someone who grew up in an upper middle class Episcopal congregation.
posted by Sara C. at 9:54 PM on June 10 [2 favorites]


Which is I think is sort of the whole problem with the Scientology discussion. We tend to look at Scientology in the starkest daylight possible, while we give mainstream religion the biggest possible benefit of the doubt.

UGH NO ONE IS DOING THAT WHAT ARE YOU TALKING ABOUT
posted by Sys Rq at 9:56 PM on June 10 [30 favorites]


Okay, so I guess I got lucky by being raised Catholic. You could totally roll up in jorts/No Fear/dirty diaper/no collections, and totally get your kid baptized. Catholicism has its problems (understatement of the year), but in my experience ignoring or snubbing the poor is not one of them.
posted by Bugbread at 9:59 PM on June 10 [5 favorites]


Everyone is doing that, with all the "if you quit Scientology, you get shunned!" and "Scientology charges MONEY!" and basically 100% of everything that has been said.

All of that is true of the worst of mainstream religion.
posted by Sara C. at 9:59 PM on June 10


Sara C.: "All of that is true of the worst of mainstream religion."

My mom stopped being Catholic. There has been absolutely zero pressure for other Catholics to stop associating with her. None.

If you're saying "Scientology does X. The very worst mainstream religions also do this. Therefore Scientology is not bad", then I just can't understand your thought processes. To me that would mean "Therefore Scientology ranks among the very worst".
posted by Bugbread at 10:02 PM on June 10 [22 favorites]


(Also, in case anyone thinks I'm boostering Catholicism: I'm an atheist, my dad's an atheist, and my mom is areligious (agnostic? I'm not sure). I'm only using Catholicism as an example because that's the religion I happen to know)
posted by Bugbread at 10:03 PM on June 10


i saw "floating tone arms" and was sure that a shipping container full of turntables had fallen off a freighter.

i am not a scientologist, but i will offer audits to other mefites, no e-meter necessary, for $20, SAIT. just post the first 64-digit binary that pops into your head and i will read the depths of your soul and your future for you.
posted by bruce at 10:04 PM on June 10 [1 favorite]


Bugbread, the problem is that you're imagining that all religion = Catholicism. And, like, your particularly quaint view of it.

Though, yeah, I can tell you through experience even with nice polite mainline Protestantism that if you stop going to church, your church friends start drifting away.

Also, yes, of course Scientology is terrible. Most organized religion is pretty terrible. Like other religions, at best Scientology sounds like some kooky yet harmless stuff that holds no particular interest for me. At worst, they'll try to infiltrate the government. Something Evangelical Protestantism has been doing a great job of for decades now.
posted by Sara C. at 10:05 PM on June 10 [1 favorite]


That's not shunning. If you stop going to bowling night, most of your bowling friends start drifting away, too.
posted by tss at 10:06 PM on June 10 [11 favorites]


Sorry, Sara C. You really don't know what you're taking about. Scientology operates in a way completely different from mainstream religions in pretty much every particular. I grew up in Scientology and my mom is still in it so I do know.
posted by apricot at 10:08 PM on June 10 [30 favorites]


How is Scientology specifically different from other religions? I'm honestly curious about this and not asking as some kind of underhanded trollery.

I honestly don't like Scientology very much or support it or agree with it in any way. But every single thing I know about it screams "religion", to me, as opposed to really anything else.

I don't really get why I've been branded as some kind of L. Ron Hubbard fan.
posted by Sara C. at 10:12 PM on June 10 [1 favorite]


Some people just think that there is some kind of art in being wrong on the internet.
posted by planetesimal at 10:12 PM on June 10 [5 favorites]


Sara C.: "How is Scientology specifically different from other religions?"

Every time someone gives you an answer, you say the difference doesn't count.
posted by Bugbread at 10:14 PM on June 10 [17 favorites]


sara, a christian (or a jew, muslim, buddhist, pagan, etc.) will tell you what they believe in for free, and there is additional (abundant) explanatory material in the library. a scientologist will charge you money, and try to suppress the free availability of the texts. that's what makes it a scam.
posted by bruce at 10:15 PM on June 10 [3 favorites]


I don't really get why I've been branded as some kind of L. Ron Hubbard fan.

You mean, other than the fact that you've been defending Scientology for the past five and a half hours?
posted by Sys Rq at 10:15 PM on June 10 [12 favorites]


People spend money on big cathedral weddings that would make a Scientologist blush

You can't make a Scientologist blush, it's conditioned out of them when they take TR0-Bullbait, one of the earliest rundowns a cultist takes. They'd disdainfully call it HE&R, Human Emotion & Reaction. Plus, after they've been hit up a cool million for Gold Patron Meritorious status it's kind of hard to impress them with extravagant flourishes of money.
posted by scalefree at 10:15 PM on June 10 [12 favorites]


sara, a christian (or a jew, muslim, buddhist, pagan, etc.) will tell you what they believe in for free, and there is additional (abundant) explanatory material in the library.

This is 100% true of Scientology, at least on the level that it's true of "all religions".

There are lots of religions that aren't open to just anyone, and which don't hand out their scripture for free. Again people are conflating "religion" with "the polite kinds of Christianity".
posted by Sara C. at 10:17 PM on June 10


you've been defending Scientology for the past five and a half hours?

I have been doing no such thing.

The kindest thing I've said about it is that it's just another shitty religion, and that I know some Scientologists and they've never tried to convert me or anything.
posted by Sara C. at 10:18 PM on June 10 [1 favorite]


Sara C., what number do you have in mind when you say "Scientology level expensive"?

I've already self-linked once in this thread so I'll just put a non-linked thing here you can copy and paste if you're interested:

These are the invoices on Lisa McPherson's account in the months around her death:

http://www.lisafiles.com/scn/invoices/index.html

These are for auditing at $7,000.00 (discount member rate) per 12 1/2 hour block of auditing:
http://www.lisafiles.com/scn/invoices/4796.html
http://www.lisafiles.com/scn/invoices/4799.html
http://www.lisafiles.com/scn/invoices/4790.html
http://www.lisafiles.com/scn/invoices/4793.html (this one's "for IRS purpose")


This one's for $11,700 for the Wall of Fire package:
http://www.lisafiles.com/scn/invoices/4789.html

Do note the date on these; most of them were dated after Lisa died.

Lisa also did the L levels, which can cost $90,000-100,000.

(By the way, former executives have admitted destroying evidence in Lisa's death.)

Scientology stuck Lisa with a $45,000 "Freeloader's Debt" when she left the Sea Org in 1989.

She donated $57,000 to Scientology in 1993 alone (possibly in addition to the $75,000 she spent on services that year, if I'm reading my source correctly).


This article in the Tampa Bay Times shows the kinds of money that an individual can run through - in this case, a dentist gave almost $750,000 to various Scientology organizations, not counting required fees (they are not donations, if you don't pay, you don't get the service) for his own services. The dentist went bankrupt, and that's not particularly uncommon.

And here's something I've been hearing a lot lately:

* You are a dedicated Scientologist, and you pre-pay for your next levels, which are only available at Flag in Clearwater.
* You go to Flag, all ready to take your next level.
* You're routed to a mandatory sec (security) check, which results in your Case Supervisor determining that you need some expensive cleanup rundown before you can proceed.
* You are now stuck at Flag for weeks, taking a service you didn't want and may not believe you need, because Scientology won't let you do your next step on the Bridge.

(Meanwhile, if you've brought your kids along, they're being pressured every day to sign a billion-year contract with the Sea Org. I can dig up the article on the 11-year old kids signing their billion-year contracts if you're interested.)

It's not just that Scientology's expensive; it's coercively expensive. It's not just that they practice shunning; it's that it's extremely coercive shunning, and they lie about it publicly (which is, I believe, what led Paul Haggis to leave).

I've been lucky enough to gain the trust of a number of ex-Scientologists. As they describe it, it's very much like an abusive relationship, where you think it's good for you right up until you start to realize it's destroying you - at which point you stand to lose all your friends, all your family, all your business contacts. If you tell your partner you're having doubts, you'll be reported.

I have a lot of respect for most of the Scientologists I've met, including some who are still in. (Even a few who are jerks, because in my experience they were pretty dedicated, fairly thoughtful jerks.) Anyone can be lied to. Anyone can be manipulated and exploited.

Scientologists, many of them, are good, devoted, caring people. Scientology exploits them - financially, on a scale I find difficult to imagine, and also by defrauding them of their time and efforts - and I think that's wrong.
posted by kristi at 10:18 PM on June 10 [26 favorites]


It's a bot, dudes. <
posted by planetesimal at 10:19 PM on June 10 [2 favorites]


sara, a christian (or a jew, muslim, buddhist, pagan, etc.) will tell you what they believe in for free

Sara C.: "This is 100% true of Scientology, at least on the level that it's true of "all religions""

What!? I?! The?! ...?!?!!

You are going to make my head explode!!! Someone call elizardbits in to make me laugh before I need to be taken to the hospital!
posted by Bugbread at 10:19 PM on June 10 [5 favorites]


Well, religions are built for social control. Sure, your life is a dungheap now, but instead of taking it out on the people at the top of the social order who are making your life miserable, just devote yourself to religion and your next life will be awesome, honest! Also, if you try to take out your troubles on other people (such as those making your life miserable), your next life will suck in ways you cannot even fathom.

But you can only do well in Scientology if you're doing well enough in life to pay for it, and the only people who are are getting extra suffering in their next life are the chumps who signed billion-year contracts.
posted by ckape at 10:19 PM on June 10 [3 favorites]


what number do you have in mind when you say "Scientology level expensive"?

I was specifically thinking of those reality shows where women buy $50,000 wedding dresses.
posted by Sara C. at 10:20 PM on June 10


But every single thing I know about it screams "religion", to me, as opposed to really anything else.

Can you explain the me the religious nature of WISE, the World Institute of Scientology Enterprises? They sell business consulting courses on running your office more effectively & making more money.
posted by scalefree at 10:20 PM on June 10


You are going to make my head explode!!!

Go up to any Scientologist and ask them what Scientologists believe in. They will tell you straight up. What they tell you will be 100% consistent with the usual known stuff about Scientology.
posted by Sara C. at 10:21 PM on June 10


I'm on my phone so I can't watch the video, but I can explain what it was probably made for. Scientologists are big on "events," which happen several times a year on "holidays" like L Ron Hubbard's birthday or the anniversary of the publication of Dianetics. They are recorded at one of the big orgs like Flag, the Freewinds, or in LA, and then played at events held at smaller local orgs. Produced videos like these are played along with live announcements and things like that. I'm guessing this was played at the event announcing the new Golden Age of Tech book and course releases.

I grew up in Scientology but have been quietly inactive for a long time. The first Golden Age of Tech was when someone "discovered" transcription errors in all of the books, so everyone had to buy new books and re-do courses. I don't know what this second one is all about.
posted by apricot at 10:22 PM on June 10 [3 favorites]


What they tell you will be 100% consistent with the usual known stuff about Scientology.

Yeah that's just not true. The lower level ones simply won't know about the inner teachings & the upper level ones are literally taught to lie in a rundown called TR-L, Training Routine Lie. If you mention the name Xenu, the subject of a secret upper level course called OT3, to them it's not unheard of for them to physically attack you. Don't take my word for it, you can find videos of it on YouTube.
posted by scalefree at 10:27 PM on June 10 [9 favorites]


In the Marc Maron interview I mentioned upthread, Marc asked Giovanni Ribisi about the Xenu thing and did not in any way get physically attacked.
posted by Sara C. at 10:31 PM on June 10


I was specifically thinking of those reality shows where women buy $50,000 wedding dresses.

I confess I haven't seen the shows you're describing, but I suspect that's pretty different from a required step in your progress within the organization, for which you cannot progress unless you pay.

None of the churches that I'm familiar with - none attended by my family or friends, of any religion or denomination - require payments in the tens of thousands of dollars, to the church, in order to continue one's progress.

(Or pay sales commissions, for that matter, which Scientology does.)

Also, none of the churches that I'm familiar with have had executives sent to jail for infiltrating the government (we're not talking running for office, we're talking criminal conspiracy), or for conspiring to harm a disabled adult, or for fraud.

The Catholic church is rightly criticized for its many failures to act to protect victims of pedophilia. Surely it's appropriate to similarly criticize Scientology when there are multiple credible accounts of sexual abuse coverups, suspicious deaths, human trafficking, physical abuse, fraudulent and harmful drug rehab programs, and the kind of coercion that drives people to the breaking point?

Truly - those things don't happen at the churches I know about. Do they happen at the churches you know about?

(And I've posted three times I think, so I'll try to make this my last in this thread.)
posted by kristi at 10:32 PM on June 10 [12 favorites]


In the Marc Maron interview I mentioned upthread, Marc asked Giovanni Ribisi about the Xenu thing and did not in any way get physically attacked.

Celebrities experience a very carefully stage-managed, sanitized version of Scientology, and in many cases aren't constantly hounded to keep "moving up the bridge". He likely has no idea about Xenu outside of popular media depictions (which he may well avoid, as he would have been encouraged to)
posted by anazgnos at 10:36 PM on June 10 [3 favorites]


saraaaaa

they won't tell you about xenu
they won't tell you about the "loyal officers" who saved us from xenu
they won't tell you about "teegeeach" and the planetary federation that existed before star trek
they won't tell you about the windowless dc-9 aircraft space ferries
they won't tell you about dropping nukes into hawaiian volcanoes
they won't tell you about body thetans pickled in alcohol
they won't tell you about lost souls being forced to watch tom cruise movies for over a month
they won't tell you about the CLAMS! it's the origin of separation anxiety.

for this, you usually have to pay big bux, except that i'm in a generous mood. you're more than halfway across the bridge now!
posted by bruce at 10:38 PM on June 10 [7 favorites]


In the Marc Maron interview I mentioned upthread, Marc asked Giovanni Ribisi about the Xenu thing and did not in any way get physically attacked.

It's not mandatory but it's far from uncommon. There's a fairly famous clip of cult spokesman Tommy Davis going into a (manufactured, remember cultists are trained in manipulating both their own & others' emotions at will) towering rage at a CNN investigative reporter who mentioned the name to him on air.
posted by scalefree at 10:40 PM on June 10


I've heard of all of those things, and so have you, so clearly the information can't be that big of a secret.
posted by Sara C. at 10:42 PM on June 10


you've been defending Scientology for the past five and a half hours?

I have been doing no such thing.

The kindest thing I've said about it is that it's just another shitty religion, and that I know some Scientologists and they've never tried to convert me or anything.


Well, why have you been saying that kindest thing over and over for six hours, in response to every single statement that Scientology is less than awesome?
posted by Sys Rq at 10:43 PM on June 10 [7 favorites]


Most organized religion is pretty terrible.

Nah. Organized religion is to old, diverse, and complicated to be tarred with one brush.

You might as well say "most farms are pretty terrible", which would sort of blind you to the many interesting differences between factory farming (probably terrible) and a community garden (probably not terrible).
posted by serif at 10:43 PM on June 10 [4 favorites]


"Scientology is just the same as/as good as/as bad as any other religion" is just a really, really old canard that anybody who is in anything above passingly familiar with the cult will have seen play out many many times, and it always seems to be coupled with a kind of deliberately uninformed neutrality. You don't have to be curious/interested/informed, but if you aren't, then why enter the discussion with any level of insistence?
posted by anazgnos at 10:45 PM on June 10 [9 favorites]


Ok, honestly, guys, I cannot see any outcome in which Sara C is going to say, "You know what, guys, maybe you're right, I guess it isn't a religion", and, Sara C, I can't see any outcome in which the other folks in the thread are going to say "You know what, Sara C, maybe you're right, I guess it is a religion", so I think this section of the thread has become pretty unproductive. I know that the usual argument is "even if you don't convince the other person, you might convince a silent lurker", but I think enough has been said on both sides that any silent lurkers have already been convinced.

Not trying to stop y'all, you're free to go. Just my observation.
posted by Bugbread at 10:47 PM on June 10 [4 favorites]


I've heard of all of those things, and so have you, so clearly the information can't be that big of a secret.

We live in the transparent age of the Internet so there are very few secrets anywhere anymore. But the cult still pretends its upper levels are secrets & treats them like the CIA treats the President's Daily Briefing. Special security measures to make sure they never leave your sight & never leave the premises, secrecy oaths, endless security checks to make sure you're still loyal to them. Willingly revealing or acknowledging a secret level is considered a High Crime potentially worthy of expulsion.
posted by scalefree at 10:50 PM on June 10 [2 favorites]


I've seen expulsion orders where one of the High Crimes listed is publicly acknowledging upper level secret material. They take it very very seriously, whether the rest of the world knows all about it or not.
posted by scalefree at 10:55 PM on June 10 [4 favorites]


My understanding is that the Hajj, undertaken from anywhere that isn't close to Saudi Arabia, can get pretty damn expensive and consume a significant amount of the wealth of many Muslims.

I think that the rarity of secret knowledge or of religionists attacking each other over unmentionable things, heresy, or other flaws in faith has to do with the characteristics of modern Western societies rather than anything inherent in what we would consider mainstream religions. The Scientology organization being able to have those is more to do with some degree of deftness on its part and the fact that many aspects of it were so intentionally designed and were designed in the twentieth century, for the twentieth century, rather than earlier. History would seem to show that if mainstream religions were able to get away with those things today and remain "backwards compatible", as it were—if they could retain the advantages that they've accumulated during preceding centuries of existence—they would do so.

(So again, I just think that many of the things being mentioned aren't salient differences between Scientology and mainstream religious traditions. The articulated standards here for what is and isn't religion seem like they exclude many things that would be identified as unquestionably religious in other MeFi discussions.)
posted by XMLicious at 10:55 PM on June 10 [2 favorites]


Sara C.: "I've heard of all of those things, and so have you, so clearly the information can't be that big of a secret."

Can you think of a single secret which could not be dismissed using this logic?

Manhattan project? Couldn't have been that big of a secret.
MK Ultra? Couldn't have been that big of a secret.
Catholic coverup of child molestation? Couldn't have been that big of a secret.
Watergate? Couldn't have been that big of a secret.
My Lai massacre? Couldn't have been that big of a secret.
posted by Bugbread at 10:56 PM on June 10 [7 favorites]


Following up Bugbread's remark, maybe it's time for everyone to ask themself "What would jessamyn say here?", and take that advice.
posted by benito.strauss at 11:12 PM on June 10 [2 favorites]


"I just think that many of the things being mentioned aren't salient differences between Scientology and mainstream religious traditions."

There is an important distinction I think.

Scientology charges a flat rate, not a percentage. This excludes poor people.

Anyway this has been an interesting thread so far.
posted by vapidave at 11:55 PM on June 10 [1 favorite]


I will, in fact, read this entire thread.

I can't be the only one who regularly reads MeFi threads before commenting, right? Because usually, I do.

I strongly dislike Scientology because I was a thirteen-year-old kid who decided to take a fun, but loooong, personality quiz on the internet.

But I never got my results. Then I was hounded with phone calls to my family's home in my name. They wouldn't relent until I told them several times not to call me again. I repeat, I was a kid! Not cool. Whatever their marketing/brainwashing gimmick is, it's seriously not cool to try to rope in pre-teens or even teens.
posted by quiet earth at 11:57 PM on June 10 [10 favorites]


Some images for your enjoyment.

Cause Resurgence aka The Running Program
The 3-axis whirligig in the Super Power building
Oiliness!
posted by scalefree at 12:00 AM on June 11 [2 favorites]


The first Golden Age of Tech was when someone "discovered" transcription errors in all of the books, so everyone had to buy new books and re-do courses. I don't know what this second one is all about.

It's a second round of the same. There's a new emeter & definitions of various reads are all changed, something was wrong with the Student Hat where you didn't go back & word clear the HCOB on word clearing after you learned how to word clear so now your entire Bridge is invalidated, stuff like that. The upshot's the same: throw out all your old books & emeters & buy new ones with phone-home DRM built in so they can brick it any time they want if you step out of line, then start all over again. But honestly, Scientology's not even about Scientology anymore. It's about IAS status based on donations towards Ideal (Idle) Orgs. Something for nothing!
posted by scalefree at 12:13 AM on June 11 [4 favorites]


Gosh, I know I should know better, because people dug in on their false equivalencies for hours are not going to change their mind, but for the rest of you - are organised religions besides Scientology viewing mental health care as competition?

I will never forgive these fuckers for the shit they pulled in the ashes of 9-11. Running fake ads under the banner "NATIONAL MENTAL HEALTH ASSISTANCE" to lure in traumatised responders and near-victims while the ashes were still blowing. Any other religions feel the need to false flag?

Village Voice on Scientology 9/11 protest

Operation Clam Bake on 9/11

They also do this with drug users, and I've had a family member with a real threat to life drug problem, and a family desperate for detox/recovery assistance, and I've had to stop the family from going to a false-flag drug recovery program along the same lines, only realising at the last minute what it really was about.

Give me a break, I get it, your little church choir wasn't hip as you'd hoped for, but Scientology is not the same as other churches, as most other churches do NOT use the full whack of cult brainwashing techniques (even if some church goers might seem desperate to submit to them if they were on offer and there are denominations that might qualify i.e. Westboro).
posted by C.A.S. at 12:39 AM on June 11 [11 favorites]


Scientology charges a flat rate, not a percentage. This excludes poor people.

So, uh, mainstream religious traditions might do things like exclude an entire gender from the sacrament of priesthood for a couple thousand years, or in some cases insist scripture only be readable in Latin or 7th century Arabic, but thank the Brahmins, they'd never systematically exclude poor people from the major parts of the religion?

It may just be better to point out the bad things about Scientology and say why they're bad, rather than get caught up in the Sisyphean task of objectively defining what is a religion and what isn't, if anyone needs to be persuaded that Scientology is bad. Especially when you're stuck implying caveats like "If you ignore most of history and the way societies outside of certain Western ones operate today, the mainstream religions don't do x."
posted by XMLicious at 12:53 AM on June 11 [3 favorites]


XMLicious, your examples (pilgrimages, reading in Latin, excluding women from priesthood, etc.) all seem to be arguments about how religions suck, but not about how Scientology is a religion. So I'm not sure who exactly you're arguing with, because I don't see anyone saying that Scientology is worse than religions, just that it isn't a religion.
posted by Bugbread at 1:02 AM on June 11 [1 favorite]


XMLicious: "It may just be better to point out the bad things about Scientology and say why they're bad"

Also, one of the things they do that people think is bad is to pretend to be a religion to avoid paying taxes. You can't really talk about that without implicitly stating that you don't believe they are actually a religion.
posted by Bugbread at 1:10 AM on June 11 [5 favorites]


XMLicious, your examples (pilgrimages, reading in Latin, excluding women from priesthood, etc.) all seem to be arguments about how religions suck, but not about how Scientology is a religion.

You may be getting that impression because I'm responding to comments that seem to me to attempt to disagree with Sara C.'s contentions about similarities between Scientology and religions by claiming "Characteristic x of Scientology sucks, therefore it is not a religion."

I'm not arguing that Scientology is a religion, as I've said—I pretty much don't care at all about IRS rules when it comes to thinking about the nature of religion, or for example when deciding whether or not something is a "social welfare organization"—but I don't think that mentioning that the Hajj frequently involves efforts and expenditures greater than any other enterprise in a Muslim's life is saying "Islam sucks".

For my part, the thread looks to me like people are responding to Sara C.'s points by vociferously pointing out things about Scientology that suck, as though that contradicts what she said about the characteristics of religions or her perception of her roommates, when it doesn't. If everyone is instead simply making points about tax law and its associated Venn diagrams, by all means disregard everything I've said as irrelevant to that.
posted by XMLicious at 1:41 AM on June 11 [1 favorite]


Y'allneed to read "A Piece of Blue Sky" and "Bare-faced Messiah".
posted by five fresh fish at 2:00 AM on June 11 [5 favorites]


XMLicious: "I'm responding to comments that seem to me to attempt to disagree with Sara C.'s contentions about similarities between Scientology and religions by claiming "Characteristic x of Scientology sucks, therefore it is not a religion.""

I see comments that are saying "Characteristic X of Scientology sucks" and comments saying "Characteristic X is not a characteristic of religions", but I'm not seeing many (if any) that say "it sucks, therefore it's not a religion."

Maybe that's why your comments didn't make much sense to me. For example, the main reason (only reason?) I don't consider Scientology a religion is that it is primarily profit motivated. I have no problem with profit motivation in itself. Companies are profit motivated, and that's just peachy. I just consider it to be a characteristic of a company, not of a religion. Therefore I would classify Scientology as a company, not a religion. For some reason Sara C took my "it is primarily profit-motivated" comments to mean "I think it's bad because it costs money", hence the "baptisms are expensive because people throw parties" weirdness. It's also why I didn't understand your pilgrimage comment: Sure, pilgrimages cost money. But I'm not saying Scientology isn't a religion because adherents spend a lot of money, I'm saying it isn't a religion because its primary objective is getting adherents to pay a lot of money to the organization. A pilgrimage, where you're paying money to airlines and hotels and restaurants, or a baptism party, where you're paying it to restaurants and clothiers and whatever, aren't examples of events whose primary objective is to get members to pay money to the organization, so they didn't really make sense as supporting or countering my position.

I dunno, maybe I'm the odd one out here. Maybe people are saying "It does X, which is bad, therefore it's not a religion". But I'm not seeing it.
posted by Bugbread at 2:03 AM on June 11 [4 favorites]


No, what Sara C is doing is pointing out the things about other religions that suck, and therefore they are as bad as Scientology or similar in nature. There is a false equivalence to the argument.

Most here are arguing that despite lots of crap falling under the umbrella of various other religions, that does not mean that Scientology is not different from mainstream religions and behaving more as a corrupt cult organisation.
posted by C.A.S. at 2:05 AM on June 11 [4 favorites]


Yeah, we probably don't disagree too much. The basic statement "Scientology is an organization and a creed formulated de novo during the twentieth century, pretty clearly unrelated to any genuine beliefs of its creator, for the purpose of making money and accumulating political power" is pretty good for most definitions of religion, and some people have said that above.

But I don't think that being primarily centered around making a profit is at odds with being a religion or a religious institution. You can quite easily share a supernatural belief system with someone and still fleece them for everything they've got, indeed even genuinely believe that it's your place in the universe to abuse and exploit everyone else, and that is not at all at odds with what we currently consider to have been religion throughout human history.

Whether such an organization or institution should pay taxes in general or particular taxes in particular countries in the 21st century, or have particular legal protections under a certain country's law, is a separate question entirely and in my mind basically unrelated to whether something is religion or religious in its nature. Some countries in the present (and past) only recognize a specific, short list of religions as existing or having rights in their legal systems, and I wouldn't care about that either when considering whether something falls within the modern concept "religion."
posted by XMLicious at 2:35 AM on June 11 [1 favorite]


No, that's not true, that's more of the false equivalence. That is not a good general description for all religions in general, even if there are true examples of each claim in your statement from each religion, in various times, there are many counter examples in each claim. None of these sweeping statements can be applied universally to mainstream religions.

Scientology is an outlier here, despite the repeated attempts to put them all in the same bin

This is like an exercise in rhetoric/logic class.
posted by C.A.S. at 2:49 AM on June 11 [3 favorites]


(To perhaps give another example of why I find these things at odds: regarding something that is a "cult" to not be religious, or not necessarily, is the current usage but not the meaning the word has usually had. In my understanding, during most of history calling something a "cult" would actually be specifically saying that it's religious, usually a religious organization or phenomenon within the mainstream religion of the time.)
posted by XMLicious at 2:53 AM on June 11


Yeah, that confuses me, too. But I think it's just the MetaFilter thing of speaking with a lot of different people and starting to blend their statements into one contradictory position. Just scanning for "cult" and "religi" through this thread, there are 7 people who have accused Scientology of being a cult. Of those, only 1 person has also said that it's not a religion. 2 folks have said it's not the same as most mainstream religions, or that "it's more of a cult than a religion", which is using a slightly different definition, where cults are religious but not religions. And the other 4 people haven't denied anything about its religiosity. So the folks who are calling it a cult, with only 1 exception, are not the same people saying it's not religious. And the folks who are saying it's not religious are not the ones saying it's a cult.
posted by Bugbread at 3:18 AM on June 11 [2 favorites]


No, that's not true, that's more of the false equivalence.

Which of my statements there about religion isn't true? If you want to say that a religion can have all of those characteristics, and it's just that the mainstream religions of the 21st century don't, that's fine. I don't think that something has to be "equivalent" to a mainstream religion to be religion: I'm perfectly fine with something fitting the description of the Thuggees as a religion, to use a standard example.

Like, human sacrifice would be completely illegal in modern society and repugnant to all of the religions considered mainstream in modern times, but it would seem really weird to me to regard the organized sacrificing of humans to nominally appease or curry favor with supernatural beings, as not being religious. Scientology, whether it's a religion or not, is arguably bad like that.
posted by XMLicious at 3:20 AM on June 11 [1 favorite]


It's pretty late where I am so I have to get going, but in any case I am not saying that "Scientology is not different from mainstream religions", as C.A.S. puts it there, and I personally don't think this is what Sara C. has been saying above, but I could be wrong.
posted by XMLicious at 3:38 AM on June 11 [1 favorite]


Personal story time from my time working to raise awareness about Scientology.

In college a friend of mine had a girlfriend, we'll call her Rebecca. Rebecca wanted to experience a lot of different religions and attend service at different ones because she was trying to find herself. This is pretty cool and I wish more people would do this.

Unfortuantly, she chose Scientology to be her first one. So she goes to a service and is immediately sucked in by their brainwashing (alas, Rebecca was very nice, but could be naive). She lived about an hour away from the nearest Org, so the people with the church would come get her for events/ services. She had been going to sporadic events here and there but was getting more and more nervous because of some of things they wanted her to do.

Firstly they told her to drop out of college and focus her attention on them. They offered her the ability to do art for them and told her they'd be her family. She thought this was odd of them.

Then they told her they could cure her Type 1 diabetes. They told her she wouldn't need her insulin for very long and started instructing her to stop using it. This is when she freaked out and came to me for help.

She told us that she typically didn't want to go with them when they came to pick her up but they were forceful and always talked her into it. At one point she had an extra curricular school thing that interfered with something she was supposed to do with them. She didn't go and two men showed up and knocked on the dorm rooms next door to hers to ask those people where she was.

One night she was supposed to go for some event but didn't want to go. I asked her point blank, "do you want to go to this event?" She said no. I said "then you should call and tell them not to come get you, you do not want to go". She called them and they tried to talk her into going and said they were on their way to get her. I told her to tell them no and hang up the phone, she did so.

We got a group of about 3 or 4 people together because she was scared and went to the movies. We left her car on campus and came back around 9:30. When we got back to her car there were maybe 2 or 3 other cars in the parking lot (it was also a large lot) and pretty desolate. We pulled up to let her out and a car came creeping around the parking lot containing two middle aged men, probably 40-50 years old.

Rebecca didn't feel safe so the entire group decided to come back to my place as I was the only one who lived off campus and had no restrictions. We drove around campus a few times to lose the guys and drove the 15 minutes off campus to my house. I lived on a dead end street with around 10 other houses on it.

We pulled down my road and I see the same car from campus has backed into my driveway. The car is not running, lights are off, same two men. I pull down the road to the small turn around at the end, we hear the car turned on, and they slowly pull out and drive off the road.

As we passed them Rebecca recognizes one of them from the Org.

You are free to dismiss this story. I have no concrete proof, only the claims of one woman and some witnesses. However, this story fits very much in line with tactics used by Scientology to "confront, shatter and suppress". There are probably hundreds if not thousands of similar stories of people being stalked and harassed. I don't care if all religions do this, NO ONE should do this and it is illegal.

These aren't the actions of a few radical nutjobs in an otherwise sane organization. This IS THE ORGANIZATION. Look up some of L Ron's teachings (which are gospel to the church) such as R2-45, or using a colt 45 to remove the thetan from a body. Look up his policies on Suppressive persons linked above. The evil is BAKED INTO the tenants.

See my big ol disclaimer above, I'm all about freedom of religion, but what I'm not down with is using religion to break the law.
posted by Twain Device at 4:46 AM on June 11 [22 favorites]


We pulled down my road and I see the same car from campus has backed into my driveway. The car is not running, lights are off, same two men. I pull down the road to the small turn around at the end, we hear the car turned on, and they slowly pull out and drive off the road.

I believe you, and that is creepy as hell and also insane.

I am also 1) a stalker target who 2) was almost recruited (and certainly targeted) by several cults (not Scientology) over the years. Not kidding. Message me to learn the specifics.
posted by quiet earth at 4:51 AM on June 11


reiichiroh: I'd like to download this to save for later hilarity in case the site gets taken down. Can someone suggest a way?

I'm a bit late to this party, but I just successfully grabbed it using the (super-handy) youtube-dl utility.
posted by neckro23 at 5:32 AM on June 11 [1 favorite]


I'm not going to deny that Scientology has some things in common with actual religions. However, those things represent the absolute worst aspects of those religions. That doesn't make Scientology more okay; it just means that some aspects of religion are really, really terrible.

Everything I've read about Scientology has led me to believe that it's deeply, deeply dishonest. It seems their whole practice is based around breaking your personality and making you into a slave. And the stuff I've read about how they treat young people who go into Sea Org just disgusts me.
posted by evil otto at 5:35 AM on June 11 [2 favorites]


regarding something that is a "cult" to not be religious

There are types of cults that are not religious in nature; for instance, political organizations have formed that have cult-like characteristics. Scientology is a pseudoscientific therapy cult. That is the best framework in which to understand it. It's the pseudoscience – the "tech – that is used to recruit, retain and extract money or service from cult members.
posted by graymouser at 6:03 AM on June 11 [2 favorites]


The main reason I feel uncomfortable calling Scientology a religion, especially one on the scale of Christianity or any other major world religions, is that it legitamizes it in a way it doesn't deserve. It's similar to politcally treating conspiracy theorists and members of the tea party as equals to people who actually know what they're talking about, with history and information on their side.

Scientology as belief system does have similarities to religions, in that it requires faith in something that seems unbelievable to outsiders, but it's using them as a front and exploiting people's willingness to believe. You can argue that the other major religions do the same but that is extremely reductive. They just really aren't the same thing. Yes, some people spend absurds amount of money on their religious ceremonies, but it is not required. Poor Catholics have cheap Catholic weddings. Religions have been used to exploit people but they weren't created to.
posted by AtoBtoA at 6:04 AM on June 11 [3 favorites]


I also highly suspect Scientology was involved in the gag-order weird-toothed guy MeFi purge.
posted by Bugbread at 6:20 AM on June 11 [4 favorites]


Part of the problem is that parts of Scientology are more or less religious in nature, albeit weird, & parts just aren't, like WISE, ABLE & Narconon. That seems to be by design, to be able to reach into every aspect of society & give it cover to fit into wherever it's trying to, well, take over. It morphs into whatever it's trying to pretend to be, all the while sucking it dry for the good of the parent Org. It's kind of a good thing for society as a whole that it's so rapacious & destructive, that's really the main thing stopping it from actually being able to grow & metastasize into controlling a much wider sphere of influence than it does. As it is, all indicators are that it's in its death throes with maybe a couple years left in its current configuration.
posted by scalefree at 6:29 AM on June 11


I will sum up my feelings on Scientology thusly:
There is absolutely no need to compare Scientology to any other religions or anything else. It is demonstrably horrible on its own merits.

But what I really want to know is: who the hell is this weird-toothed guy (Tom Cruise?) and what is this MeFi purge/gag order that's been referred to up-thread?
posted by wabbittwax at 7:01 AM on June 11


Wabbittwax, check your memail.
posted by Bugbread at 7:13 AM on June 11


Oooooh clandestine communication!
posted by wabbittwax at 7:15 AM on June 11 [1 favorite]


I'm curious too.
posted by Twain Device at 7:24 AM on June 11


Likewise.
posted by five fresh fish at 7:52 AM on June 11


Y'allneed to read "A Piece of Blue Sky" and "Bare-faced Messiah".

... in which you discover that L Ron Hubbard was a reckless yet very intelligent and imaginative and not entirely untalented habitual liar and con man with illusions of grandeur and all kinds of complex and deep-seated personality issues whose timing was eerily perfect for launching a proto-self-help-movement scam that was so egregiously full of shit that it sidetracked into becoming a "religion" as the only means to keep its founder out of jail for a very long time (to make a very long origin story short). And then to make an even longer story short, after his death, his lifetime of lies, scams, obfuscations, delusions etc (and the culture they created) left precisely the kind of convoluted mess that a machiavellian little prick like David Miscavige could use toward his own venal, corrupt, weird and possibly homicidal ends.

Which isn't to say that equivalently weird, corrupt, venal, whatever stuff was or wasn't at the heart of the formation of the great Church of Rome -- just that that was almost two thousand years ago, this is current events and/or very recent history. Which makes the urge to shrug the two off as just you know, pretty much the same thing only different wrongheaded in a very fundamental way.
posted by philip-random at 8:34 AM on June 11 [9 favorites]


I wanted someone to do a spoof of this starting with the real video and devolving into even more incomprehensible buzzword jargon, but I realized about 3 minutes in that it would be indistinguishable from the original.
posted by odinsdream at 8:51 AM on June 11 [9 favorites]


"It may just be better to point out the bad things about Scientology and say why they're bad..."

It's uncomfortable because I don't fault people for searching. Maybe I'm flattering myself but some of the most intelligent people I've ever met have a means to accomodate spirituality and reason which to my mind are at odds.
Anyway, as to why Scientology is bad is better left to those who say it better:
http://www.cs.cmu.edu/~dst/ [one of my favorite people in the world] and of course
http://www.xenu.net/
posted by vapidave at 9:05 AM on June 11 [1 favorite]


It is beyond frustrating and yes, infuriating to see anyone even begin to defend the CoS and their practices.
posted by kinetic at 9:54 AM on June 11 [6 favorites]


twain device, five fresh fish, the word for today is "holoprosencephaly", and i would stick to the text, because some of the images are disturbing.
posted by bruce at 10:48 AM on June 11 [1 favorite]


who the hell is this weird-toothed guy (Tom Cruise?) and what is this MeFi purge/gag order that's been referred to up-thread?

Count in another one that's wondering what's up with this.
posted by ymgve at 11:02 AM on June 11 [1 favorite]


"This is actually one of the things I found the most fascinating about the interview, since Ribisi grew up within Scientology from childhood, and his parents are not celebrities. I suppose he got on board at some point, and yeah, as the adult he is today I'm sure his understanding of it is within the context of a celebrity rather than just a rank and file person.

And I'm not saying he's an unbiased source, or that I agree with anything he said, which honestly sounded completely nuts. But it didn't sound more completely nuts than if Maron interviewed any other celebrity that grew up within a religion that they still take somewhat seriously."


@Sara C. - Did you actually bother to look up anything about Ribisi?

Ribisi was born in Los Angeles, California. His father, Albert Anthony Ribisi, is a musician who had been the keyboard player in People! (a band whose cover version of "I Love You" reached No. 14 on Billboard's Hot 100, in spring 1968), and his mother, Gay (née Landrum), is a manager of actors and writers. Ribisi is the twin brother of actress Marissa Ribisi and the brother of Gina Ribisi, a voice actress.[2] Ribisi is of Italian (from his paternal grandfather), German, and English descent.[3][4]
posted by stenseng at 11:15 AM on June 11 [1 favorite]


Here is another question. Leaving aside whether or not Scientology is a religion under any reasonable definition, it does feature beliefs about a backstory, and as mentioned above, when that backstory is made public, tempers flare. But because that backstory is made up, why not simply make up a new and different story, declare the old one the work of deceivers and infidels, and just keep the new one as secret as possible? Then, when that one comes out, create a new one? It seems like it would at least cut the costs of pretending to maintain the old secret story, as well as allowing believers the cachet to hear the old secret mentioned in public and know that the public wasn't aware--and indeed could not handle--the new truth.
posted by mittens at 11:37 AM on June 11


I came in expecting some laughs along with a lucid discussion on the inner workings of scientology and cult psychology. What I got was a very clear read on my e-meter that Sara C is a spectacularly successful troll account. I mean, she HAS to be. There's no other way. I can see clear right through the Bridge. Consistent floating tone arms on this one.
posted by naju at 11:39 AM on June 11 [4 favorites]


mittens, some people did the same thing with christianity (see "gnosticism") but it failed to take off against the great weight of its opposition.
posted by bruce at 11:41 AM on June 11


Leaving aside whether or not Scientology is a religion under any reasonable definition, it does feature beliefs about a backstory, and as mentioned above, when that backstory is made public, tempers flare. But because that backstory is made up, why not simply make up a new and different story, declare the old one the work of deceivers and infidels, and just keep the new one as secret as possible? Then, when that one comes out, create a new one? It seems like it would at least cut the costs of pretending to maintain the old secret story, as well as allowing believers the cachet to hear the old secret mentioned in public and know that the public wasn't aware--and indeed could not handle--the new truth.

Because one of the fundamental ideas built into Scientology is that the tech cannot be altered. It actually does get altered fairly frequently, but in glacial and subtle ways. Flat-out inventing a new mythology without Hubbard's involvement would be unthinkable to them. It gets beaten quite thoroughly into their heads that LRH is the source of everything and that all of the courses must be taken, as he created them, word for word.

This is why a lot of the articles in the internal Scientology magazine, attributed to Hubbard, appear written in a weird kind of tone - it's because they just transcribed one of his talks and included everything he said.
posted by FAMOUS MONSTER at 12:09 PM on June 11 [2 favorites]


Here is an awesome spoken-word piece by L. Ron Hubbard's great-grandson about Scientology. He's not so much a fan.
posted by evil otto at 1:34 PM on June 11 [4 favorites]


Also, I think it's highly disingenuous to say "other religions used to do X, so it's okay" or "other religions still do X, so it's okay." Slavery used to be legal in the US. There are countries in this world where slavery is still practiced. Does that make slavery okay?
posted by evil otto at 1:50 PM on June 11


If you're looking for a laugh, I would suggest this video parody of a previous Tom Cruise centered Scientology video: Tom Cruise as Batman. (Disclosure: the guy pretending to be Cruise is an old friend of mine, but I had nothing to do with this video).
posted by wabbittwax at 2:33 PM on June 11


It is beyond frustrating and yes, infuriating to see anyone even begin to defend the CoS and their practices.

Hey, the Church of Satan isn't all bad, even if they do have a slightly over the top sensibility in their decor.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 3:20 PM on June 11 [1 favorite]


Also, I think it's highly disingenuous to say "other religions used to do X, so it's okay" or "other religions still do X, so it's okay."

I think that misses the point. It's more like, "Other religions do X, so can we understand this activity that sort of looks like X, by comparing the two?" I don't think anyone has said bilking people out of their life savings is okay; no one has argued in favor of coercion.
posted by mittens at 4:32 PM on June 11 [2 favorites]


I came to make a joke about the JJ Abrams school of cinematography, but the conversation has been a bit more grim than I expected.

I'm no fan of religion generally -- telling folks that they should follow your lead in doing X because a powerful and invisible presence commands or suggests it is just begging for trouble.

BUT. In the case of many religions, there's a mixed bag of outcomes. In the case of Scientology, I see no mixed bag.

Sara C., it's too facile to suggest the similarity of Scientology to, say, evangelical Christianity. Take away the disgusting wealth-gospel and conspicuous consumption and queer-shaming and misogyny and racism of much protestantism, and there is a core belief in love and humanity and good works, as is true of most other world religions I can think of.

Whether or not I would put Scientology in the category of "religion" is less important to me than the fact that, take away the flash and the money and the weird shaming, kidnapping, 'suppressing', stories about bridges and other planets, and there's nothing beyond "some of us here have the capacity to be awesome", with no particular fundamental tenets about why some folks have it and others don't, and what they are meant to use that awesome for beyond expanding the Org.

Religion or not, it is horrific and lacks positive side effects. That feels different to me.
posted by allthinky at 4:56 PM on June 11 [4 favorites]


Oh, god yeah. There's definitely no "there" there, when it comes to Scientology. And the main thing that prevents me from being even peripherally interested in it is that it reduces to "be the best you you can be", which is both selfish and boring. I remember being really disappointed when I found out that's really like 99% of what it's about.

But there are lots of religions that aren't about peace and love at all. It's actually a relatively recent idea that religions should be based on Ultimate Truths About Humanity or whatever. I mean Judaism is about... these people are awesome because God said so? Hinduism is about... ????? (Actually Hinduism isn't really that far off from Scientology's "be the best you you can be", just for different values of "you" and "best".) Christianity is the main model of a religion that is about a specific Truth.

Which is I think a major part of the problem in comparing Scientology to other religions. We all want to start with a basis that "religion" = Christianity. Scientology couldn't be further from Christianity, and if you take it as axiomatic that Christianity is what most religions are like, and the things that are good about Christianity are objectively the best things to have in a religion (oldness, basic truths, altruism, doesn't cost too much to join), Scientology is going to look like a horrible perversion. But compared to other religions that exist and have existed historically, in general, Scientology is just another Eleuthenian Mysteries or Thelema or Shamanism, but with a 20th century materialist/pseudoscientific overlay.
posted by Sara C. at 6:19 PM on June 11 [1 favorite]


Sara C.: "Christianity is the main model of a religion that is about a specific Truth."

What's Buddhism, chopped liver?
posted by Bugbread at 7:01 PM on June 11 [6 favorites]


So I just want to lighten the mood a little bit, having played a role in the grimness earlier. A reliable source tells me the Boston Org is losing its longtime location on Beacon Street after two failed attempts to purchase & build out an "Ideal" Org building in the city. Which means they'll likely be forced to move into a less than Ideal (pun intended) location in a failed strip mall or similar cramped, out of the way, unsuitable site. Couldn't happen to a nicer cult.
posted by scalefree at 7:32 PM on June 11 [4 favorites]


But compared to other religions that exist and have existed historically, in general, Scientology is just another Eleuthenian Mysteries or Thelema or Shamanism, but with a 20th century materialist/pseudoscientific overlay.

yeah i agree, thelema also pretended to be a mental health discipline until the government cracked down on it, so it proclaimed itself to be a religion since that would mean it wouldn't have to make falsifiable claims

seriously, is there a polite way to say you are demonstrating no actual understanding of any of the concepts you are talking about? if so, please pretend i said that, whatever it is, instead of this sentence and the one preceding it
posted by FAMOUS MONSTER at 8:38 PM on June 11 [6 favorites]


This is hilarious.


(the discussion, I mean)
posted by Joseph Gurl at 9:45 PM on June 11 [1 favorite]


Sara C.:"Christianity is the main model of a religion that is about a specific Truth."

This is a complicated thing. I disagree strongly that Christianity is unique in this regard - maybe because I am a Christian - but I understand that this is misunderstood, largely by other Christians. The operative text, I think, is John 14:6 - "I am the way, the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father except through me." But what people don't understand is that this is a peculiarity if Christianity precisely because (as Frithjof Schuon expresses so thoughtfully) Christianity is the religion which focuses on the nexus between the finite and the infinite, the human and the divine. This is why Christ is constantly speaking in parables, and then (oddly) actually explaining the parables; the inner and the outer are mixed in Christ.

So Christ says this apparently exclusionary thing: "No one comes to the Father except through me" - except that clearly does not mean "by being part of my little club," and from the very earliest Church nobody thought that it did. It means "through me" - through Christ - and what does THAT mean? Apparently, and most immediately, Christ means: the incarnation of the Divine within the Human, and the point at which the infinite comes down and becomes part of the finite. And this seems to be an inverted reflection of "coming to the Father," interestingly enough.

The Church teaches - and has always taught - that Christ didn't just become a human; he became humanity, so he's in us at every moment. This is not in the sense that he is a little man inside our chests. It's in the sense that every single moment that has ever existed is manifest inside the human soul, because the infinite divine infuses us with that eternity; and so, at every moment inside us, Hitler is rallying his thousands, Saladin is winning the Battle of Huttin, Hannibal is crossing the Alps, Sappho is writing her poetry, humanity is evolving from apes, and all these moments in human history are constantly and always happening. Christianity just means focusing, as a point of special familiarity, on this essentially important incarnation: the birth, the life, the death of Christ, who is eternally born, living, and crucified within us.

Thus, when Christ says "no one comes to the Father except through me," he means: no one comes to become united with the Divine Presence without the most elemental inborne recognition that within all of us are the seeds of the infinite, the keys to the divine, made manifest in the personhood and godhood of the human called Christ.

In short: nobody can go into the infinite without realizing that the infinite is already inside. That's what "no one comes to the Father except through me" means - it is not in any sense exclusionary; it's radically inclusive.

Sorry to go off on a tangent, but sometimes people express amazement that anybody would want to be a Catholic of all things, so here's a bit of an answer for anyone who wonders. Maybe it makes sense, or maybe it's just mumbo-jumbo. I do have an old copy of the classic LRH auditing manual SCIENTOLOGY 8:80 from the 50s. It's fun. Sometimes I pull it down and page through it; it just almost makes sense... But then it becomes clear that it's just technobabble.
posted by koeselitz at 10:32 PM on June 11 [7 favorites]


I mean Judaism is about... these people are awesome because God said so? Hinduism is about... ????? (Actually Hinduism isn't really that far off from Scientology's "be the best you you can be", just for different values of "you" and "best".) Christianity is the main model of a religion that is about a specific Truth.

You analyze religions in terms of what they're "about"? That's... not a very sophisticated way to approach complex, diverse social institutions with millennia of history.

Some religions are older and bigger than modern nations. Imagine someone asking "What is Canada about"
posted by serif at 10:58 PM on June 11


What is Canada about? Canada is about six hours North of here.

*ta-boom-tish*
posted by benito.strauss at 11:58 PM on June 11 [6 favorites]


Maybe it makes sense, or maybe it's just mumbo-jumbo.

Makes sense to me...and yet! When did this interpretation of John 14:6 come about? How long does it take, I wonder, for enough layers of meaning to accrete to one's religious texts, to be able to turn Christ's words--which, in this passage, are very self-focused, in fact are all about focus, Christ as the lens through which the Father can be seen--to be able to turn those words into something us-focused, humanity-focused? What I mean is, there's a richness to scripture that is partly the process of time, the process of millions of readings and interpretations, always being trimmed at the edges by orthodoxy but still layering and layering.

(Do all religious texts approach this over time? Do all texts become more humanistic, more divine-in-human over time?)

In that sense, the question of Scientology being a religion is being asked too soon, and the thread should reconvene in 100 years, in 1000, to see if the texts were roomy enough to support the many readings necessary to sustain belief, to console.
posted by mittens at 5:27 AM on June 12


yeah i agree, thelema also pretended to be a mental health discipline until the government cracked down on it, so it proclaimed itself to be a religion since that would mean it wouldn't have to make falsifiable claims

Charismatic but controversial leader both loved and hated during his lifetime? Check. Leader was a writer now more known for incomprehensible, esoteric nonfiction than for his workmanlike and uninspired fiction? Check. Leader sets up religious abode to fulfill his copulatory desires? Check. Body count? Check!
posted by mittens at 5:33 AM on June 12


Imagine someone asking "What is Canada about"

Canada isn't about anything, Canada just is ...




sorry, serif ... your point's a good one, I just recently rediscovered this nugget
posted by philip-random at 8:15 AM on June 12


mittens: “Makes sense to me...and yet! When did this interpretation of John 14:6 come about?”

It's the first interpretation anybody ever offered of John 14:6, as far as I can tell. St Justin Martyr was already offering up what I laid out above in the 100s AD. I think we can take it to be the original intended meaning of the text, not something that grew up later.
posted by koeselitz at 9:25 AM on June 12 [1 favorite]


"but I don't think that mentioning that the Hajj frequently involves efforts and expenditures greater than any other enterprise in a Muslim's life is saying "Islam sucks"."

Frequently involves… voluntary expenditure with the scriptural instruction not to do it if you can't afford it. A "pay what you can" soup kitchen is fundamentally different from McDonalds.
posted by klangklangston at 9:52 AM on June 12 [3 favorites]


Yeah, serif, sorry that I can't pass up a cheap joke — hope it didn't come across as dismissive of your very valid point.
posted by benito.strauss at 10:44 AM on June 12


Frequently involves… voluntary expenditure with the scriptural instruction not to do it if you can't afford it. A "pay what you can" soup kitchen is fundamentally different from McDonalds.

If "pay what you can" soup kitchens were the only ways that religions and religious institutions have accumulated wealth during history I don't think you would have things like the Catholic Church owning entire countries and golden thrones and being the largest land-owner or one of the largest land-owners in many places around the globe.

If we went and looked at Islam 60 years after its founding I think many of us would say "that's not a religion, that's a dynastic military organization bent solely on accumulating wealth, power, and territory."

Whatever definition you want to choose for religion, "poor people are exploited" is not something that separates Scientology categorically from religions in general or from mainstream religions. That's all I'm saying - I don't think Scientology is a religion either, but many the things getting put forward here as "important distinctions" between Scientology and religions just aren't, and religions, even religions that are counted among the mainstream ones in Western countries in the 21st century, shouldn't be lauded as free from them.

(I don't agree with most of Sara C.'s particular characterizations of specific religions here, though.)

Any rarity of more coercive and exploitative practices like the things done by the Scientology organization among the religions of a particular place and time should probably be credited to that society as a whole, not regarded as an intrinsic part of those religions, unless a given religion demonstrates the same behavior as a pattern in separate places and times.
posted by XMLicious at 12:46 PM on June 12 [2 favorites]


XMLicious: "Whatever definition you want to choose for religion, "poor people are exploited" is not something that separates Scientology categorically from religions in general or from mainstream religions. "

Again, I don't think people are saying that the difference is that "poor people are exploited", but that "teachings are not available to those who cannot pay".
posted by Bugbread at 3:21 PM on June 12


But there are plenty of other religions throughout history of which that is true.

You might be interested in reading up on Mystery Religions. Some are free for people who want to do the "work" of being initiated, but historically this has not always been the case.

One thing to be aware of is that Christianity is a proselytizing religion that is in the business of getting converts, period. It wouldn't work to have a high dollar amount as a prerequisite for membership, because you wouldn't get many converts.

In fact, this is ultimately the problem of Scientology. They're a proselytizing institution wherein proselytizing amounts to shaking people down for money.
posted by Sara C. at 3:32 PM on June 12


Again, I don't think people are saying that the difference is that "poor people are exploited", but that "teachings are not available to those who cannot pay".

Sorry, I meant to say that "poor people are excluded" which is the phrasing that vapidave used as an example of an "important distinction".

Even if you think that the Catholic Church articulating much of its teaching in Latin rather than the vernacular, at least in the course of ceremony and communal worship, before Vatican II, is just something that "sucks" about Catholicism, the detail that in Scientology "teachings are not available to those who cannot pay" is simply not a radical departure from common religious practices. I mean, the very concept of printing presses needing to be licensed and distribution of a documents requiring a church imprimatur is a Catholic thing.

(And imprimaturs are still technically required for certain kinds of documents, although of course it's been quite some time since the Church has had the power to enforce that on just any publisher.)
posted by XMLicious at 3:43 PM on June 12 [1 favorite]


"One thing to be aware of is that Christianity is a proselytizing religion that is in the business of getting converts, period. It wouldn't work to have a high dollar amount as a prerequisite for membership, because you wouldn't get many converts."

o_0

maybe there's another reason why Christianity wouldn't charge admittance

maybe it's in the bible
posted by klangklangston at 4:00 PM on June 12 [1 favorite]


So is "love thy neighbor as thyself".
posted by Sara C. at 4:09 PM on June 12


What's it like to be unceasingly in a bluff while continually splitting the wrong hair?
posted by planetesimal at 4:15 PM on June 12 [3 favorites]


Sara C.: "So is "love thy neighbor as thyself"."

I wouldn't know what's in the Bible, its contents are all strongly protected by copyright and you're only allowed to read it if you pay up enough. I read some leaked online stuff about a beast with two backs and a beast with seven heads and ten horns, but I asked some Christians about it and they said they'd never heard of stuff like that.
posted by Bugbread at 4:49 PM on June 12 [4 favorites]


But, less flippantly, yeah, mystery religions are the closest thing I can think of to Scientology. What I don't know is the degree to which they required money to be paid to their respective churches in order to be taught the mysteries, which is the key point being discussed. If anyone has any info on that, I'd be very interested to know it.
posted by Bugbread at 4:53 PM on June 12


Whatever definition you want to choose for religion, "poor people are exploited" is not something that separates Scientology categorically from religions in general or from mainstream religions

The thing about comparing Scientology to real religions is that Scientology was founded long after all the iffy things about religion in general had been pointed out, if not rectified, yet Scientology incorporated--and continues to use--those iffy things to its advantage. Other religions can at least plead 'tradition'; what's Scientology's excuse?

Add to that its incorporation of the tactics of secret societies, organized crime, espionage, pseudoscience, and confidence scams, and, well...
posted by Sys Rq at 5:28 PM on June 12 [3 favorites]


So does the theocratic government of Iran need an "excuse" acceptable to you to still count as religious when doing all of those things?
posted by XMLicious at 6:09 PM on June 12 [1 favorite]


What I don't know is the degree to which they required money to be paid to their respective churches in order to be taught the mysteries, which is the key point being discussed.

Robert Parker, "Polytheism and Society at Athens": "From the time at which we can first observe them, full participation in the Mysteries was open, on payment, to male and female, slave and free." There is a footnote to this sentence which points out that "Exact costs are unknown. A standard 15 drachmas per candidate is often deduced" from source material, as well as "fees, from which slaves working for the sanctuary were possibly exempt."

More importantly, he points out, "There is also a problem over mystic piglets, perhaps paid for by the 30 dr. ... If they are a separate and subsequent offering, that is a further cost."

Say what you will about modern religion, but I think we can all agree there are not nearly enough mystic piglets involved.
posted by mittens at 7:01 PM on June 12 [6 favorites]


Just don't get your floating tone arms too close to your mystic piglets.
posted by XMLicious at 7:21 PM on June 12


So does the theocratic government of Iran need an "excuse" acceptable to you to still count as religious when doing all of those things?

Nobody is saying religions are innocent. But they weren't created in the mid-twentienth century with the sole intention of bilking people, using prior examples as a template.

(How Shia Islam came to hold supreme power over Iran is a largely irrelevant matter that you'll want to take up with the CIA and BP.)
posted by Sys Rq at 7:56 PM on June 12 [1 favorite]


The "created with the sole intention of bilking people" bit seems perfectly fine to me as a reason that Scientology isn't a religion, since it does appear to be the sole intention, with the doctrines of Scientology seeming to have nothing to do with any genuine beliefs of L. Ron Hubbard: it's not just primarily profit-motivated as many religious organizations and institutions have been, it's deception all the way from the prophet to the profit as it were. (And I've already said this above.)

It's all the other stuff being articulated here that seems to me like redefinition of the word "religion" to absurd lengths solely for the momentary rhetorical purpose of contriving some way to further castigate and bludgeon Scientology. Scientology should certainly be castigated and bludgeoned, I just think there's enough actual bad stuff to castigate it over without doing to the word "religion" the same sort of thing that's done with "terrorist" or "trolling", stripping them of meaning until they're vague terms that don't mean much more than "good" or "bad".

It's a case of getting all Newspeaky for the sake of criticizing an Orwellian organization.

At a broader societal level I think there may also be some degree of doublethink going on due to tension between the practical problems of dealing with an organization like Scientology and our justly-cherished principle of freedom of religion: yes, freedom of religion is very important, but when you've got an organization like Aum Shinrikyo that's dedicated to mass murder or an organization that's doing the sort of stuff that Scientology does, it's okay to ban or otherwise censure and proscribe that organization whether or not there are genuine religious beliefs underlying it all. To instead redefine the English word "religion" to mean only religions that conform to the mores and expectations of most 21st-century Americans isn't so different from actually giving up on the principle of freedom of religion.
posted by XMLicious at 9:11 PM on June 12 [1 favorite]


We can have an endless, bickering, goal-post-moving quibble about whether Scientology and other religions are different in kind or in specific degree, but there are differences. If you don't think they're significant, well, you have not only a heterodox opinion but one that so far hasn't yet been supported adequately in this discussion.

(This is the "generic" you, not directed at anyone in particular)
posted by Joseph Gurl at 9:57 PM on June 12 [1 favorite]


XMLicious: “It's all the other stuff being articulated here that seems to me like redefinition of the word 'religion' to absurd lengths solely for the momentary rhetorical purpose of contriving some way to further castigate and bludgeon Scientology.”

Well, this is fair enough. We're dancing around the central point.

Religions are true. Scientology is not.
posted by koeselitz at 10:07 PM on June 12


Religion arguments are useless because all religious folk are disbelievers except for their one blind spot.

The major difference between the old major world religions and the crap that passes for new religions is that we all know full well that the new religions were started by greedy crazy people, often as a con.

We need to eliminate these fraudulent organizations before they take root. The very last thing this world needs is another religion.

Scientology has no redeeming qualities and horrifying organisational behaviours and plans. It should be at the top of everyone's religion shitlist.
posted by five fresh fish at 11:56 PM on June 12 [3 favorites]


Imagine someone asking "What is Canada about"

This provides a pretty succinct answer.

Or one could quote the Constitution Act, 1867: "Peace, order, and good government."

/derail

Religions are true.

Begging the question.

To be honest, every so often I get this sick fascination about Scientology and want to join just so I can go to that ridiculous building in Florida and play with all the weird toys.

Then I remember that Scientology kills and abuses people and I have no money and the sick fascination ends.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 9:40 AM on June 13 [4 favorites]


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