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Book Review: Going Clear: Scientology, Hollywood, and the Prison of Belief

samzenpus posted about a year and a half ago | from the read-all-about-it dept.

Books 353

benrothke writes "In its first week, Going Clear: Scientology, Hollywood, and the Prison of Belief was #3 on the New York Times Best Sellers list and will likely be #1 soon. The fact that the book is in print is somewhat miraculous given the voracious appetite Scientology has for litigation. It is the first time that such an expose could have been written and found such wide-scale reading. An interesting analysis of this fact is found in Why the Media Is No Longer Afraid of Scientology by Kim Masters. But as mesmerizing an expose as the book is, I doubt that this will be more than a speed bump to Scientology's growth and fund raising." Keep reading to be clear about what Ben has to say.Scientology has long called anyone who has written against them as having a vendetta. It calls former adherents heretics with a vendetta. But after such hyperbole, it is illogical and questionable that Pulitzer Prize winning author Lawrence Wright would risk a distinguished career to write an expose simply based on those with a vendetta. But to cover all bases, including those of litigation, the books nearly 50 pages of notes puts Wright and his publisher in a strongly defensible position in case the church decided to litigate.

Wright is aware of the dangers of writing against the church, as he details the story of Paulette Cooper. Cooper, whose 1971 book The Scandal of Scientology, was sued nearly 20 times by the church and harassed for years due to its contents. The book details that an FBI raid a few years later found a Scientology file about Operation Freakout, which had the purpose of getting Cooper in a mental institution or jail.

The book places Church President David Miscavige is a negative light (over 20 people in the book accuse him of abuse, including being kicked, punched, slapped, choked and more). Karin Pouw, a Scientology spokeswoman states that details about Miscavige are false and defamatory.

The church created a web site for what it believes are errors in the book. While Wright is short on drama, the web site hyperbolically states that the book is "so ludicrous it belongs in a supermarket tabloid". The web site states that British publishers have chosen not to print it "which speaks volumes about their confidence in its factual accuracy". The truth is that British libel laws are so onerous and archaic, that publishers are reticent to publish such a work. While it might not be published in the UK, it is easily available via the Amazon UK web site.

In Going Clear, Wright has created a fair and balanced overview (if such a thing is actually possible) about Scientology. The book has interview material and facts from over 200 current and former members of the Church of Scientology, and takes a historical look of its history, and that of its founder L. Ron Hubbard and successor, current President David Miscavige.

In the introduction, Wright notes that he was drawn to write the book by the questions that many people have about Scientology; such as: what is it that make the religion so alluring? What do its adherents get out of it? Why do popular personalities associate themselves with a faith that is likely to create a kind of public relations martyrdom? He notes that these questions are not unique to Scientology, but that they certainly underscore its story.

As 372 pages covering 3 parts and 11 chapters, Wright is a mesmerizing author that creates a non-fiction spellbinding page-turner. The 4 main characters of the book are Hubbard, Miscavige and actors Tom Cruise and John Travolta.

In chapter 2, the book details the many discrepancies between the legend of L. Ron Hubbard and fact. While Scientologist's may think that Wright has a vengeance against the group, he writes that it is a fact that Hubbard was genuinely a fascinating man. He writes that Hubbard was an explorer, best-selling author and the founder of a worldwide religious movement. At the same time, Wright's research found that the truth is counter to some of the postulated facts about Hubbard's naval career, his miraculous recovery from wartime injuries and overall naval accomplishments.

As to the manipulation of facts, in the final pages of the book, Wrights notes some of Hubbard's medical records do not corroborate his version of the actual events. Some of the naval medals that Hubbard supposedly won were not created until after Hubbard left active service. The supposed Purple Heart medal for being wounded while serving on duty that Hubbard claimed to receive was also different from the Purple Heart medals given out at the time.

In Dianetics: The Modern Science of Mental Health, Hubbard specifically names psychotherapy as being dangerous and impractical. Hubbard felt that other methods of mental science are based on principles that are opposed to the principles of Scientology, and Hubbard had an anathema of psychiatry and psychology until his dying day.

Wright observes that Dianetics arrived at a moment when the aftershocks of World War 2 were still being felt. And that behind the exhilarations of victory, there was immense trauma for millions of Americans. With Dianetics, Hubbard offered a do-it-yourself manual to that claimed to demystify the secrets of the human mind and produce guaranteed results, for free, and that was bound to attract a large audience.

Wright notes that given Hubbard's biography, it would be easy to dismiss Hubbard as a fraud. But that would fail to explain his total absorption in his project. Hubbard would spend the rest of his life elaborating his theory and obsessively construct the intricate bureaucracy design to spread and enshrine his understanding of human behavior.

Wright notes that for all of Hubbard's enormous wealth, he spent much of his time in his ship cabin alone, auditing himself with an E-Meter (the electronic device used Scientology auditing sessions) and developing his spiritual technology. Wright rhetorically notes that while Hubbard may have been grandiose and delusional, if Hubbard was a fraud and a con, why would he bother creating such a system?

As objective as Wright is, he takes no quarter when he details Scientology's approach to children. Hubbard viewed children as adults in small bodies. While they were physically small, Hubbard felt that they were responsible for their own behavior. Young children would be sentenced to virtual prisons for weeks, for minor infractions such as messing up an incoming telex.

In Scientology parlance, such an individual was a suppressive person. One young girl, who was deaf and mute was placed in a locker for a week because Hubbard thought it might cure her deafness.

A large part of the book deals with celebrities and how Scientology sees celebrities as a boon to the church. Wrights notes that Scientology orients itself toward celebrities and by doing so, the church awards famousness a spiritual value. People who seek fame in the entertainment industry will gravitate to Hollywood, where the Scientology Celebrity Center is waiting for them, validating their ambitions and promising a recruits a way in. The church has long pursued a marketing strategy that relies on celebrity endorsements to promote the religion.

Some celebrities prominent in the book are Paul Haggis, Travolta, Nancy Cartwright (famous for being the voice of Bart Simpson) and Tom Cruise. Haggis is an ex-Scientologist, recently leaving the church after nearly 40 years, who is interviewed in the book.

Wright is highly critical of Cruise, who he notes that probably no member of the church derives as much material benefit as Cruise does. Cruise then consequently bears a moral responsibility for the myriad indignities (which the book points out in great detail) inflicted on members of the Sea Organization (a unit of the Church, encompassing its most dedicated members), sometimes directly because of his membership.

Wright concludes with the notion that Scientology wants to be understood as a scientific approach to spiritual enlightenment, but has no grounding in science at all. Serious academic study of the church has to date been constrained by the church's vindictive and litigious reputation. Researchers and academics are terrified by Scientology and reluctant to direct their research into the church. The book observes that compared with other religions, the published literature on Scientology is improvised and clouded by bogus assertions.

In Going Clear: Scientology, Hollywood, and the Prison of Belief, Wright has composed a bombshell of an expose. This is a compelling and engrossing book, thoroughly researched and extensively fact checked. The book is a perfect read for a long flight as it is riveting and fascinating. Wright has a unique ability to keep the narrative flowing and interesting.

But with all that, it is not a Silent Spring, which 50 years ago helped launch the environmental movement. Had the book come out 20 years ago, it is likely that lawsuits from the church would have prevented its release until today. Yet the passive public has a short memory and Scientology has believers that sign billion year contracts with the church. As salacious as every page of this book is, one is hard-pressed to envision the church of Scientology contracting or being hurt in any way by this book.

Ben Rothke is the author of Computer Security: 20 Things Every Employee Should Know.

You can purchase Going Clear: Scientology, Hollywood, and the Prison of Belief from amazon.com. Slashdot welcomes readers' book reviews -- to see your own review here, read the book review guidelines, then visit the submission page.

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Litigation is the least you have to worry about (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42718697)

Litigation is actually one of the lesser threats that a Scientology critic has to face. In the past, open character assassination, attempts to jail critics (sometimes successfully), attempts to get critics audited by the IRS, attempts to get them fired from their jobs, sending private detectives to comb through their trash and harass them--these are all typical tools in the CoS toolbox. When Germany labelled them a cult, they even sent Tom Cruise to meet with Richard Armitage and Dick Cheney in 2003 in an attempt to get the U.S. government to try to strong-arm Germany (a fact that only came out by accident during the Scooter Libby/Vallorie Plame scandal, with details of those meetings still remaining largely classified).

They've taken on entire *countries*. Hell, they even made Slashdot their bitch [slashdot.org] once.

So litigation is the least of your worries when you mess with those guys. Kudos to Lawrence Wright for his set of brass balls.

Re:Litigation is the least you have to worry about (-1, Troll)

Jeremiah Cornelius (137) | about a year and a half ago | (#42718921)

Semen-guzzling bitches like Travolta and Cruise will always keep this shit going.

Re:Litigation is the least you have to worry about (1)

DamonHD (794830) | about a year and a half ago | (#42719205)

Maybe leave your personal homophobia / projection out of this?

Re:Litigation is the least you have to worry about (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42719333)

No, that would be a use of obscene language to exemplify the complete and utter contempt the poster has for those shitstains on society.

Not homophobia or projection.

Though that you feel that this is the sole and only reason for calling them cocksucking bitches does rather lend itself to identifying you as projecting here.

Is there something you'd like to get off your chest, here?

Re:Litigation is the least you have to worry about (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42719985)

I'd like to chime in here as another anon user and distance myself from the previous poster, who appears to be trying to redirect the situation. Let's keep things civil, sir or madame.

Re:Litigation is the least you have to worry about (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42720219)

And, furthermore, I take offence to the slur unclefucker, as it is unkind to those of us that do fuck our uncles.

Re:Litigation is the least you have to worry about (-1, Offtopic)

kiosjahu (2826723) | about a year and a half ago | (#42719681)

http://www.cloud65.com/ [cloud65.com] Jeremiah. I see what you mean... Rhonda`s bl0g is amazing... on wednesday I bought a brand new Honda NSX sincee geting a check for $5374 this past 5 weeks and-even more than, ten thousand lass-month. it's certainly my favourite job I have ever had. I started this 10-months ago and almost immediately startad making minimum $80.. per hour. I use the details on this web-site,

Re:Litigation is the least you have to worry about (3, Informative)

TimeandMaterials (2826493) | about a year and a half ago | (#42719739)

Check out: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Paulette_Cooper [wikipedia.org] Paulette Marcia Cooper (born July 26, 1942) is an American author who is best known for activism against the Church of Scientology and the harassment she suffered as a result. Cooper's books have sold close to a half a million copies.

Re:Litigation is the least you have to worry about (0)

jhoegl (638955) | about a year and a half ago | (#42720031)

I thought Scientology was a joke on current religions when I first heard about it.
I mean believing in an alien being living in a volcano is just about as believable as "God".

Re:Litigation is the least you have to worry about (1)

AdamHaun (43173) | about a year and a half ago | (#42720367)

I thought Scientology was a joke on current religions when I first heard about it.

No, that's Discordianism.

Bias (1, Flamebait)

YodasEvilTwin (2014446) | about a year and a half ago | (#42718771)

While Scientologists range from slightly crazy to dangerously crazy and are obviously biased against the book, this "review" is just as bad in the opposite direction and not particularly coherent either. Don't try to combat garbage with more garbage.

Re:Bias (1)

TimeandMaterials (2826493) | about a year and a half ago | (#42718887)

What's your problem w/ the review?

Re:Bias (4, Interesting)

MrHanky (141717) | about a year and a half ago | (#42720477)

I can't speak for the GP, but it's not very well written, for one. The first four paragraphs are about the dangers of speaking out against the CoS, and end up in a -1, off topic point about British libel laws. What is this, self-aggrandisement for daring to write about the CoS? The review lacks focus, and plods randomly from point to point, often without making one:

As 372 pages covering 3 parts and 11 chapters, Wright is a mesmerizing author that creates a non-fiction spellbinding page-turner. The 4 main characters of the book are Hubbard, Miscavige and actors Tom Cruise and John Travolta.

The first sentence doesn't parse (and who the hell cares about number of parts and chapters anyway?), the second (after the comma) is in dire need of justification, and the third is simply irrelevant. That's just one paragraph, of course, but the first half of the essay is structured almost as poorly. The rest, I consider tl;dr material.

One thing this review does give me is more appreciation for the skill and effort needed for writing book reviews. It's difficult to do well, and perhaps not everyone can do it.

Re:Bias (4, Insightful)

amicusNYCL (1538833) | about a year and a half ago | (#42720537)

What's your problem w/ the review?

The grammar and typos. Things like this:

Scientology has long called anyone who has written against them as having a vendetta.

How about this instead:

Scientology has long accused anyone who has written against them of having a vendetta.

Several typos like these:

The book places Church President David Miscavige is a negative light

While Scientologist's may think that

He refers to the author as "Wrights" a few times:

As to the manipulation of facts, in the final pages of the book, Wrights notes some of

Wrights notes that Scientology orients itself toward celebrities

Also, I don't think this is the way you use "anathema":

and Hubbard had an anathema of psychiatry and psychology until his dying day.

It just seems like he didn't bother to proofread the review.

Re:Bias (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42718937)

Pure troll. Please mod into oblivion. Any factual checked work about the CoS is going to scream that the organization is evil and fucked up, not because of bias, but because it's the truth.

Re:Bias (1, Informative)

briancox2 (2417470) | about a year and a half ago | (#42718957)

While Scientologists range from slightly crazy to dangerously crazy and are obviously biased against the book, this "review" is just as bad in the opposite direction and not particularly coherent either. Don't try to combat garbage with more garbage.

You do not have a good sample of Scientologists to make any determination of their level of sanity. You mostly see the overly visible Hollywood types who are, as Hollywood types seem to go, flambouyantly ridiculous. I'm a Scientologist. NOT in the cult known as the "Church of Scientology". Practicing outside the corruption that is going on. I'm not crazy. Feel free to read all my comments to make your own decision if you want.

If you want "bias", look at your comment. It basically says that to get the whole picture of what has been going on, you only need to hear the opinions of those that disagree with Scientology. To truly combat bias we should listen to ALL points of view. They're all valid.

Re:Bias (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42718979)

Not all opinions are valid. If I have a green rock and ask two people what color it is, and one says green, and the other angrily insists that it's red, I don't consider both opinions to have equal merit.

Re:Bias (3, Informative)

Unnngh! (731758) | about a year and a half ago | (#42719471)

Truly, for the parent to claim to be a Scientologist and assert this claim in the same posting is ludicrous. One of the principle tenets of Scientology is that not all opinions, or even information, are equal and valid, which flies in the face of post-modernist doctrine but is really just common sense. Honestly, a lot of Hubbard's writing consists of very spot-on observations of human interactions, and a lot of common-sense and decent prescriptions, at battle with the tendencies of a machiavellian sociopath.

Re:Bias (5, Insightful)

Unnngh! (731758) | about a year and a half ago | (#42719347)

I'm a Scientologist. NOT in the cult known as the "Church of Scientology"

Funny that, the cult would consider you to be a "squirrel," a dangerous renegade who seeks to destroy LRH's perfect life-saving and soul-redeeming "technology", so I think that by both the general "wog" public and the church's standards, you would be considered crazy;)

It is unfortunate that no serious journalism has thoroughly investigated the tech itself. Not the OT stuff, but the tens of millions of words of non-OT tech that Hubbard wrote/spoke during his lifetime. I guess it is not a very compelling story, but it is what draws people in, and what presumably keeps you self-identifying as a Scientologist. It's certainly what drew me in years ago, and is mentioned casually in the review: the promise of a better life, neatly packaged in a repeatable, formulated, "scientific" manner. It tends to draw a person of a spiritual but non-religious bent, and of above average intelligence -- to read through all of Hubbard's writing is no mean feat, to be on staff requires a high IQ (determined by a non-standard test), and to progress far requires a fair amount of money, which most people in the Western world get by some level of professional acumen. This draw will grow only more popular with the general secularization of society and increase in disposable income, and the church has largely edged out competition for this lucrative niche through very shady practices over the last 50+ years.

I know that journalists are regularly screened for, and have been ejected from, the church for trying to report on it, so the general public is destined to stay ignorant of the techniques used to draw in, retain, and ultimately bleed dry its target market. Celebrity is only one of those techniques, and it clouds public perspective on the issue, as Hubbard undoubtedly knew would happen. Everyone knows celebrities have eccentricities, but everyone secretly admires them and fancies themselves capable of celebrity in some sphere of life, so this type of reporting will doubtfully chase away many potential recruits.

Re:Bias (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42720131)

You're a scientologist, but not crazy.

So... what you're saying is that you truly, honestly believe that space entities travelled to earth... through space... in ships that just happen to look like our own current-day airplanes... but centuries ago (or however long they supposidly came to earth). You further... completely honestly and with your full heart and mind... believe that you are an immortal, extraterrestrial space being, trapped in a human body. The presence of your outer space being that is determined to be in you with a simple galvanometer. You truly, honestly believe that the basis of all science, and the scientific method, are inherently flawed and thus incorrect.

Also, being as how you say you're practicing outside the rest of the church, as someone else replied with:

The act of using Scientology techniques in a form different than originally described by Hubbard is referred to within Scientology as "squirreling", and is said by Scientologists to be "high treason". (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scientology_beliefs_and_practices).

So essentially, what you've done is sign your own death warrant. Did you also sign the legal waiver they apparently require to be signed to join the scientologists?

All that aside, I honestly pity you. If you even slightly believe any of what you taught, I just shake my head in pity at the life that could have had so much potential, but you decided to willingly throw away down this hole of idiocy.

It just kinda boggles my mind that people like you even still exist in the world, and saddens me that you will ruin other people's lives irreparably by attempting to influence others to your "beliefs".

Re:Bias (2)

Alex Belits (437) | about a year and a half ago | (#42720497)

You're a scientologist, but not crazy.

So... what you're saying is that you truly, honestly believe that space entities travelled to earth... through space... in ships that just happen to look like our own current-day airplanes...

Stupid or ignorant is not the same as crazy. Most religions' mythologies looked pretty plausible for a common person a thousand years ago.

Re:Bias (2)

jcr (53032) | about a year and a half ago | (#42720209)

You do not have a good sample of Scientologists to make any determination of their level of sanity.

Hubbard's ravings are quite enough to determine that his followers are insane, by definition.

-jcr

Re:Bias (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42720249)

To truly combat bias we should listen to ALL points of view. They're all valid.

This is total bullshit. There are many views that are incorrect. Your wishy-washy "all views are correct" sounds like PC nonsense. Do you, for example, think the view that a raped woman should be stoned to death for infidelity (a common punishment in conservative Islamic societies) is valid?

Re:Bias (4, Insightful)

Weaselmancer (533834) | about a year and a half ago | (#42720369)

I'm not crazy.

And yet, you believe that an alien warlord named Xenu put alien souls in volcanoes on Earth and blew them up with hydrogen bombs while flying a spacecraft that looked like a DC-8. And if you read about that without proper spiritual preparation, you will get pneumonia. [wikipedia.org]

My point being that you don't need a large sample of Scientologists since by definition they all believe this.

So... care to tell us about your past lives? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42720447)

Scientology is utter nonsense. Using an e-meter to come up with bogus stories about past lives billions or trillions of years ago on your own is in no way more valid than doing so under the "guidance" of that "church." Nor do I think my soul, err, thetan has ever been grilled on an electric net.

Is Scientology Really Different? (5, Interesting)

assertation (1255714) | about a year and a half ago | (#42718835)

I'm an atheist without any love for Scientology. I don't see Scientology as any different from the "legitimate religions" that people have grown up in.

- all have done unethical acts ( read your history )

- all have beliefs people not brought in the religion would call
    superstition ( and less respectful terms )

- all what people not brought in the religion would call myths.

- all, from my viewpoint, are man-made (apologies to the women in the audience for the term )

The only thing I can think of that separates Scientology from any of the "legitimate religions" is that Scientology is so new that there are people outside of the religion old enough to remember seeing it be created by a person.

My guess is that "being created in murky distance" past as well as being brought up in a certain way gives other religions an aura of credibility that Scientology lacks.

However, when you look at they claim, how they act and what they do, it all seems the same, from an atheists point of view.

No disrespect meant to anyone.

Re:Is Scientology Really Different? (4, Insightful)

h4rr4r (612664) | about a year and a half ago | (#42718867)

They are still doing these acts, most other churches have been forced to stop.

Re:Is Scientology Really Different? (2, Informative)

assertation (1255714) | about a year and a half ago | (#42718905)

I mean no disrespect to you or anyone else, but that is simply not true. If you read the news you can find plenty examples of long established, "legitimate religions" still doing shitty things to people.

Re:Is Scientology Really Different? (2, Informative)

h4rr4r (612664) | about a year and a half ago | (#42719145)

On this scale?

Is there any other religion right now which still keeps slaves? Or kidnaps people?

Re:Is Scientology Really Different? (2, Insightful)

s.petry (762400) | about a year and a half ago | (#42719169)

Where your logic fails is blaming Religion for Human actions. There have been a lot of shitty people in the world that do shitty things to people. Blaming Religion is idiocy. Mao for example was an atheist and has the highest body count ever at 80million, followed by Stalin at roughly 20 million (Mao's numbers are easy to find, I used the standard average for Stalin though this is interesting [distributedrepublic.net] ). Hitler was into the occult, not Religion, and boasts some hefty numbers as well.

Blaming Religion becomes rather foolish rather quickly if you actually study history and ignore rhetoric. None of the people I mentioned were in the distant past, like the Crusades (which was more a war for territory than Religion.. but you need to understand history to get that).

Re:Is Scientology Really Different? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42719777)

"With or without religion, you would have good people doing good things and evil people doing evil things. But for good people to do evil things, that takes religion."
-Steven Weinberg

Re:Is Scientology Really Different? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42720341)

You were really close, but Hitler was Catholic.

Re:Is Scientology Really Different? (4, Insightful)

Jah-Wren Ryel (80510) | about a year and a half ago | (#42719193)

If you read the news you can find plenty examples of long established, "legitimate religions" still doing shitty things to people.

For the most part, those shitty things aren't officially sanctioned parts of the religion. Some of the things (I'm thinking of the handling of catholic pedo priests) are widespread enough that you could make a reasonable argument that they are instuitional, but they are not doctrine To the best of my knowledge, Scientology has not had any sort of reformation yet.

Re:Is Scientology Really Different? (1)

Reverand Dave (1959652) | about a year and a half ago | (#42719693)

Well, they did consult the giant spider on it after all. Isn't that how they make their doctrine?

Re:Is Scientology Really Different? (1)

Dcnjoe60 (682885) | about a year and a half ago | (#42719405)

I mean no disrespect to you or anyone else, but that is simply not true. If you read the news you can find plenty examples of long established, "legitimate religions" still doing shitty things to people.

I have yet to read about any religion doing anything to anybody. On the other hand, I have read and seen plenty about people who profess a religion who have done shitty things to people. But there is a difference between what a religion (or one's own life philosophy) says and how well the individual follows it.

Re:Is Scientology Really Different? (2)

Reverand Dave (1959652) | about a year and a half ago | (#42719773)

You can argue all day that the people aren't the religion, but at the end of the day the only real representation of any organization is how the people within it act and it can therefore be said that the religion is more the people who follow and individually interpret it than the dogma taught to them. After all without the people, there would be no religion, with or without the doctrine.

Re:Is Scientology Really Different? (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42719247)

Take a look at the behavior of the Catholic Church. Priests raping children, threats against anyone who even suggests reporting them - it still leaks out of course, but then so do all of the attempts at coverups. Their current Pope was in charge of managing those cover-ups for years! Doesn't matter if the old monster didn't rape any children himself, he was a party to ensuring that the vermin who did rape children not only weren't punished, but that they were re-located to new, unsuspecting territories, so that they could commit their vile crimes again!
There's a man currently on the run from his home country, because the Catholic Church there wants him thrown in prison or executed for pointing out that their "miraculous crying statue" was actually caused by leaky pipes.
A doctor and an 8-year-old girl were excommunicated and branded as evil heretics because the 8-year-old girl had an abortion to get rid of the pregnancy (which would have killed her) caused when her father raped her. Since the father opposed the abortion, the Catholic Church declared that he was totally an OK guy.
Does this sound like they've been forced to stop their abominable acts? How can anyone with even a shred of conscience or morals support such a vile, disgusting organization?

That being said, it doesn't mean Scientology is not "bad", either by comparison, or by being "like the others" - they're still scum who need to be marginalized, shunned, and quite often imprisoned in the situations where actual crimes are being committed. If all religious nut-jobs were treated alike, you'd see a lot of priests, high ranking scientologists (whatever their title is), and other religious figures rotting behind bars, usually for crimes that even most of the other prisoners find repugnant.

Re:Is Scientology Really Different? (4, Insightful)

Hatta (162192) | about a year and a half ago | (#42719263)

Really? When I look at this country and count the problems caused by religion, I don't see many that can be attributed to Scientology. I see a lot of them that can be attributed to mainstream Christianity though. Anti-gay bigotry. Anti-birth control. Anti-seperation of church and state. Pro-censorship. Pro-creationism in science classes. etc.

These are all positions held by mainstream christians. Not every church has these problems, but the ones that do are pretty common. I don't remember the last time Scientology affected the national discourse the way Catholics or Baptists do.

Re:Is Scientology Really Different? (1)

Reverand Dave (1959652) | about a year and a half ago | (#42719925)

I'm no fan of the scientologists either, but I have to agree with you they are relatively harmless when you look at the grand scheme of american society. The fundies have screwed up WAY more things that crazy Cruise and Johnny in the closet.

Re:Is Scientology Really Different? (1)

Alex Belits (437) | about a year and a half ago | (#42720535)

Yes, but it's Scientology that sets the standards for acceptable level of nonsense and crazy beliefs, as they push the envelope, not Christian Fundamentalists.

Yes It Is, My Good Fellow (5, Insightful)

eldavojohn (898314) | about a year and a half ago | (#42718919)

The only thing I can think of that separates Scientology from any of the "legitimate religions" is that Scientology is so new that there are people outside of the religion old enough to remember seeing it be created by a person.

Well, as a fellow atheist to another atheist, I recommend you add a few evaluation factors when comparing religions and faiths: power structure, transparency, material cost, financial cost, temporal cost, preservation of individual sovereignty including right to leave and preservation of inalienable rights ... to name just a few.

all have done unethical acts ( read your history )

At least some allow us to document said unethical acts ... hell, the Church's response to child molestation charges against priests was a primary motivator to me leaving organized religion permanently. And, you know, it was super easy to get out of Catholicism ... you should talk to the lucky few who escape Scientology.

Re:Yes It Is, My Good Fellow (1)

Reverand Dave (1959652) | about a year and a half ago | (#42720563)

In catholicism's infancy it was not so easy to leave that church alive either.

Re:Is Scientology Really Different? (2, Insightful)

TimeandMaterials (2826493) | about a year and a half ago | (#42718925)

No one would say that ALL religions have not done bad things. But with Scientology, it seems like it is much more pervasive.

Re:Is Scientology Really Different? (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42718931)

Scientology keeps its beliefs secret. You have to cough up cash to learn the beliefs. With all the major religions, the beliefs are all published and freely available (and, in many cases, promulgated way beyond the boundaries of politeness).

Scientology drives members to donate every penny they have to the religion, and to attempt to get money out of friends and family to give to the religion. The other great religions usally cap their recommended member donations at around 10% or so.

Scientology teaches that all non-members are enemies and are "fair game." Other religions have also done this, but the majority of them teach at least a grudging acceptance of neighbors who refuse to convert.

So, there are some differences, though none of these discount your post. They are more alike than different. The need to rely on other humans to tell you God's will makes them all equally dangerous (with the possible exception of Buddhism since it doesn't believe in a God or Gods).

Re:Is Scientology Really Different? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42718943)

Most, if not all, "Legit" religions have produced valuable writings that teaches real world wisdom. Prophets talk about ethics, the judges writings gives us insights about the legal system and economic environment of the time. "Seeds" has useful advice which serves as very useful planting heuristics.

How about Scientology, I don't know if they created anything good, but then again, that was not your question.

Re:Is Scientology Really Different? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42719631)

Most, if not all, "Legit" religions have produced valuable writings that teaches real world wisdom

Like stoning people, et al.

Re:Is Scientology Really Different? (4, Insightful)

MightyMartian (840721) | about a year and a half ago | (#42718955)

Certainly the beliefs seem equally absurd, but I would country that Scientology is in some important respects considerably different than, say, Roman Catholicism or Hinduism. Scientology is still very much a cult of personality of L. Ron Hubbard. There are no layers of retelling and recasting as you find in an ancient religion like Hinduism, nor is there really a regular theological system like you find in Roman Catholicism, Orthodox Christianity or the older Protestant faiths. There are no real further testaments, nothing like Church Fathers who followed after the founder and enlarged, and in some ways normalized the beliefs to the wider society. Scientology has not really grown from its roots as a sort of vehicle for Hubbard's ambitions and prejudices.

Perhaps some day it will grow out of that and become more expansive, but for now it still firmly clings to the more cultish aspects. You can call down many Christian churches for absurd beliefs and fantastical mythos, but few behave towards errant members as Scientology still insists on doing to those who won't accept its absolute authority.

Re:Is Scientology Really Different? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42719653)

Christianity is not a cult of personality of Jesus?

Re:Is Scientology Really Different? (1)

Lonewolf666 (259450) | about a year and a half ago | (#42720351)

You can call down many Christian churches for absurd beliefs and fantastical mythos, but few behave towards errant members as Scientology still insists on doing to those who won't accept its absolute authority.

A few hundred years ago, Christian churches happily burned "heretics". Prominent examples include
- Jan Hus (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jan_Hus [wikipedia.org] )
- and Giordano Bruno (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Giordano_Bruno [wikipedia.org] )
both of them murdered by the Roman Catholic Church.

Protestant churches were not quite innocent either (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Boston_martyrs [wikipedia.org] ).

Who knows, maybe Scientology will also mellow out after a few centuries? I think the difference between Scientology and Christianity is smaller than you claim.

Re:Is Scientology Really Different? (5, Insightful)

neminem (561346) | about a year and a half ago | (#42718993)

I would say that the difference is: any religion will have crazy fringe sects encouraging their members to do completely absurd things, and punishing those who choose not to in horrible ways... but Scientology is one of a rather small number of religions where that isn't a fringe sect, but the entire body. (By which I mean recently - several hundred years ago, the world was a very different, far more violent place. Yes, mainstream religions were going around killing everyone, but *everyone* was going around killing everyone.)

That and, while all religions have some absurdities in their holy works... to my knowledge, no other religions feature alien space ships that just happen to look almost identical to modern commercial airliners.

Re:Is Scientology Really Different? (1)

wonkey_monkey (2592601) | about a year and a half ago | (#42719009)

The only thing I can think of that separates Scientology from any of the "legitimate religions" is that Scientology is so new that there are people outside of the religion old enough to remember seeing it be created by a person.

More importantly, it's young enough that those in charge of it (probably*) know it's all bollocks.

(apologies to the women in the audience for the term )

There aren't any women here. And no-one is to stone anyone - even if they do say Jehovah.

*definitely. They definitely know it's bollocks.

Re:Is Scientology Really Different? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42719027)

I was a pretty avid Pastafarian, but then it was proven false and my faith couldn't overcome reality and I have to agree.

I really thought the rise of the Somali pirates was FSM in his benevolence trying to balance global warming.

Re:Is Scientology Really Different? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42719039)

Probably one difference. Many people in the "normal" religions are sincere in their beliefs, however wrongly-held these beliefs are. I suspect that most senior scientologists are knowingly dishonest.

Re:Is Scientology Really Different? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42719047)

I'm an atheist without any love for Scientology. I don't see Scientology as any different from the "legitimate religions" that people have grown up in.

So you are admittedly ignorant in numerous areas. If you don't study the various subjects of course you can't tell the difference between them. Being ignorant should mean that you keep quiet until you learn, but you are of course better than anyone else so speak from ignorance with great gusto!

Atheists tend to be as gullible as Religious people. The rhetorical fallacy appealing to emotion asserts enough influence on them that they never actually look for the question of whether or not there is a creator. Good to know that you care so little for curing your ignorance.

As a starter, learn the difference between a "Religion" [wikipedia.org] and a "Cult" [wikipedia.org] . The Wiki pages are easy enough to find.

Everything else you said is simply biased ignorant rantings, some of it is clearly not even English. Like - all what people not brought in the religion would call myths.

Hint: Get a fucking education and stop bashing people. You are not smarter than others and will never be smarter than others by ignoring knowledge.

Re:Is Scientology Really Different? (2)

etash (1907284) | about a year and a half ago | (#42719229)

how exactly was he bashing anyone ? he was just politely expressing his opinion. The only person I can see here who _is_ bashing others is you. And since when incorrect use of english invalidates one's arguments ?

p.s. care to enlighten us with your _knowledge_ ?

Re:Is Scientology Really Different? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42719449)

The easy mark is And since when incorrect use of english invalidates one's arguments ?. What I copied was nonsense, not a statement or argument. Nonsense is a close equivalent to ranting don't you think? Perhaps you believe "blah blah blah hate religion blah blah" is a great argument? Change the word religion out for something you like, perhaps baseball, and see if you still find the argument valid. (Yes, a _valid_ argument and/or statement should be able to transform in such a manner.).

The person was bashing indirectly, but bashing nonetheless. A simple comparison would be to have him bash all minorities, then you defend him because he did not directly attack Hispanics or Blacks. I'm guessing that you could easily read what they wrote, but chose to ignore it since it fits your belief system.

Re:Is Scientology Really Different? (1)

tilante (2547392) | about a year and a half ago | (#42720527)

As a presumable geek (since you're on Slashdot), you might want to refresh your memory about the Robustness Principle (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Robustness_principle). It applies to natural languages as well as artificial ones. In both the cases you ridiculed, the intended meaning was plain.

Regarding your statement "a _valid_ argument and/or statement should be able to transform in such a manner" (i.e., by substituting the word 'baseball' for the word religion), on the other hand, is completely nonsensical. Many statements about religion will no longer be valid if you substitute the word 'baseball' instead. For example: "Religion has been blamed for many wars." This is a true statement (note the phrasing "blamed for" - I'm not speaking of whether religion was actually at fault). However, "Baseball has been blamed for many wars" is not a true statement. Or "most adherents of a religion find it to be a source of comfort and stability in their lives" versus "most adherents of a baseball find it to be a source of comfort and stability in their lives". If you change the subject of an argument or statement, naturally other portions of it will have to be changed to match, unless you change it to something that is a synonym or closely related.

And yes, he was bashing religion indirectly. But guess what? A religion is a choice. You compare it to racial minorities, but it's not at all the same, because being of a certain race is not a choice.

Quite a few people have advanced logical, coherent arguments against the statements that the poster you first replied to in this thread, treating them as respectfully as they were phrased. You, however, chose to be far less generous, both in your acceptance of grammatical mistakes, and in your assessment of the person making them. You might want to think about the way you're trying to defend religion, and how it makes religious people look.

Re:Is Scientology Really Different? (3, Insightful)

FrankSchwab (675585) | about a year and a half ago | (#42719367)

Well, an interesting rant, but it starts out with a fallacy - the OP didn't profess ignorance in any way.

Being an Atheist certainly doesn't imply a lack of knowledge of religions. You certainly appear to think that's true ("they never actually look for...", "care so little for curing your ignorance".), and that seems to form the entire basis of your attack.

I think a few conversations with thoughtful atheists would do you good. That might be an education, and might help cure your ignorance, both things you argue strongly for.

Re:Is Scientology Really Different? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42719909)

So if I said "I think Calculus is worthless" while knowing nothing of calculus then claim that "Calculus is the same as English", I would not be demonstrating my ignorance of the subjects? I personally find the demonstration of ignorance just as telling as a self proclamation. A self proclamation of ignorance is a very rare treat, especially when the overwhelming majority of atheists are devout believers in an appeal to emotion argument proclaiming their massive intellect is why they don't believe in a creator.

I actually have had some excellent discussions with atheists. None of those atheists would ever make claims that religions and cults are the same thing. They may be able to show acts of one that are similar to another, but not a blanket biased statement such as I responded too.

Re:Is Scientology Really Different? (4, Insightful)

Joehonkie (665142) | about a year and a half ago | (#42719051)

Please show me the list of Jains who have comitted such hideous and opressive acts against their fellow man.

Re:Is Scientology Really Different? (2)

swanzilla (1458281) | about a year and a half ago | (#42719601)

- Adolf Hitler (citation needed)
- Pol Pot (citation needed)
- Vlad the Impaler (citation needed)
- Joseph Stalin (citation needed)

Re:Is Scientology Really Different? (3, Interesting)

MachDelta (704883) | about a year and a half ago | (#42720183)

...against their fellow man.

Interesting choice of words. One of the (few) criticisms that has been be leveled against Jainism is that it has discriminated against women [bbc.co.uk] . It generally involves the usual excuses: women are impure during their menstral cycle, women must be clothed or they will give men evil (sexual) thoughts, etc.

So, less evil than slaughtering thousands of non-believers (although another criticism of Jainism is that it practices extreme starvation, occasionally resulting in death), but still shy of that "untainted" mark by my estimates.

Re:Is Scientology Really Different? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42720241)

Sorry to say this, but Jains often commit hideous and oppressive acts against themselves.

Probably the most humane religion in the world today is Sihkism, or something similar to it.

Captcha: totality

Re:Is Scientology Really Different? (1)

TimeandMaterials (2826493) | about a year and a half ago | (#42720343)

Sorry, but what or who is 'Jains'?

Re:Is Scientology Really Different? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42719125)

...The only thing I can think of that separates Scientology from any of the "legitimate religions" is that Scientology is so new that there are people outside of the religion old enough to remember seeing it be created by a person.

My guess is that "being created in murky distance" past as well as being brought up in a certain way gives other religions an aura of credibility that Scientology lacks...

I'm sorry, at what point do you think that Scientology is lacking as a religion?

It has garnered considerable influence over leaders of entire countries.

It contains horror stories of the actions of brainwashed masses attempting to follow said religion, or distort it to fit their own view.

It has gained religious status within our tax system, and thereby creates all of the tax loopholes that many were looking to take advantage of.

Yup, I'd say it's just as fucked as any other religion...perhaps even more fucked because of the fact that people alive today know damn well who L. Ron Hubbard was...a science fiction writer.

Re:Is Scientology Really Different? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42719199)

I believe what has been used against cos desire to a be a recognized as a religion (and not have to pay taxes, which is probably the most important for them)
is that the basis of the "religion" is not open, unless you pay enough money you are not even allowed to know what it is about

Re:Is Scientology Really Different? (1)

TimeandMaterials (2826493) | about a year and a half ago | (#42719237)

I think a major difference is that if you do not have money to pay for auditing, which is a fundamental part of Scientology, then you can go nowhere. Go to a church/mosque/synagogue/temple without money, and you can still be part of the prayers.

Re:Is Scientology Really Different? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42720071)

I haven't gone to too many mosques or synagogues, but every church and temple that I dropped by did have prominently placed donation boxes that everyone was expected to contribute to. A friend of mine said that at least with the scientologists, they had a price list and services rather than just continually asking for money like the local catholic parish was doing to their parents.

Re:Is Scientology Really Different? (4, Informative)

CohibaVancouver (864662) | about a year and a half ago | (#42719285)

I'm an atheist without any love for Scientology. I don't see Scientology as any different from the "legitimate religions" that people have grown up in.

I'm an atheist, but my mother-in-law is a practicing Catholic. Are parts of the Catholic church offensive? Absolutely, but I would argue they're leaps-and-bounds less bad than a gang like Scientology. No one follows Catholics around with cameras. No one oppresses Catholics who, for whatever reason, have left the church. If you object to church policy publicly eventually they might excommunicate you, but heck, if I object publicly to my employer they fire me.

Catholics certainly don't demand that members cut off contact with their families.

The Catholic church, at least here in Vancouver, does all kinds of charitable works with the poor and suffering - In the 80s it was the local Catholic hospital that was treating gay men who were dying of aids, back when other hospitals were putting up barriers. When asked why, the Catholic organizations replied that they were practicing Jesus's teachings. I don't see any evidence of the local Scientology "church" doing any good works, other than free "personality tests" which is nothing but indoctrination.

Re:Is Scientology Really Different? (1)

Baron von Daren (1253850) | about a year and a half ago | (#42719305)

This is no easy topic to handle concisely, and I wouldn’t argue with any of your point in particular. I would simply say that the spectrum of religious institutions and beliefs is extremely expansive in its breadth. Though you can lump all religions into a tidy package as you have, it’s not extremely useful in the long run. To me your statement is kind of like saying "Yah from my perspective, Navajos are more or less like Igbo."

Moreover, and I don’t mean this in any kind of sweeping false-equivalency, atheists engage in myriad forms of behavior that closely resemble patterns of religious personal/social activity. You might use the cult of Kurzweil as an example. My point here is the boundary of religious and atheist behavior is blurred (in some cases), further expanding the ‘spectrum’ and making homogenizing statements about religions problematic.

Re:Is Scientology Really Different? (5, Informative)

Sigg3.net (886486) | about a year and a half ago | (#42719357)

Yes, there are notable differences:

1. Scientology adheres to rigorously pouring out your soul, which it keeps records of.

  2. Scientology employs methods to erase your self-esteem that is taken from Soviet counterintelligence.

3. Scientology isolates members from nonmembers. This is ascribed to cults, not religions.

4. The E-meter ritual basically employs a lie detector to read emotional stress when talking about vulnerable episodes in the subject's life, which the subject then must render unemotional.

5. Scientology's worldview is essentially a naive 1950s, and it cannot evolve from it; because only Hubbard can write the truth. This is apparent in their anti-psychology stance and views of science.

6. There is no inter-faith collaboration as with all of the world religions.

7. Scientology employs a special language and terminology which categorizes and classifies aspects of the world, especially all potential "enemies" (SPs). This is cult methodology.

8. A person reaching 'clear' may need years of deprogramming to function in modern society and just learn to trust people again.

9. There is no individualism and no constructive criticism, just obedient navy suits. A Scientologist learns to think in truisms, so analytical thought is out of the question.

10. Scientology's structure is militarist / fascist and incompatible with democracy.

Feel free to add to the list.

Re:Is Scientology Really Different? (2)

Dcnjoe60 (682885) | about a year and a half ago | (#42719373)

However, when you look at they claim, how they act and what they do, it all seems the same, from an atheists point of view.

Assuming that atheism is correct, which would mean that religion is just a philosophy instead of a theology, then it should be relatively easy to judge a religion based on its philosophical teachings instead of how any individual follower of those teachings lived up to the standard. In other words, what does the religious philosophy stand for? If, as in christianity, it is do unto others as you would have them do unto you, then is that such a bad philosophy from an atheistic point of view? There seem to be some benefits to society, quite a few actually, from following that, so strictly from a moral code, no deity involved, it seems a positive philosophy.

But what then, brings the knee-jerk reaction against religion when it is viewed as something more than a philosophy? Almost always a venomous dialogue begins between believers and non-believers which never gets anywhere. Most often, any discourse deteriorates into atrocities of the past, but again, were those atrocities "ordained" by the religion or did they come about by human beings using the religion for their own agenda?

I am not trying to take a side as to whether a deity exists or not. But from what I have studied, most religions, when viewed as a moral code or philosophy are pretty positive in their tenants. As a society, we pretty much agree that it is better not to murder and steal, whether a deity said so, or some really wise person said so. Same thing for caring for those who are less fortunate, etc.

It would seem, therefore, that the atheist's objection to religion is not on the philosophical realm, and not even on whether or not a deity exists (anymore than Santa Claus or unicorns), but instead, the problem most atheists seem to object to is not the religion itself, but the human failings of those who profess that religion.

I'd be interested in your thoughts.

Re:Is Scientology Really Different? (1)

medv4380 (1604309) | about a year and a half ago | (#42719477)

Don't hand out that "No Disrespect Meant to Anyone" BS. You whole heatedly intended to offend anyone who wasn't a Nieve Atheist like yourself. Maybe it's the fact that you're feel that you're not personally connected to any of the Secular atrocities committed. Everyone, not just the religious, are crazy nut jobs capable of being manipulated into doing outrageous things. Your arrogance in lumping all religion into an abstract "them" makes you no different than the nut jobs with the Cult of Reason. There hasn't be any group of people that formed together for any appreciable length of time that hasn't royally screwed up. The fact that you can't see the differences between Scientology and Most "main stream" Religions points out a gaping whole in your knowledge base. Scientology has done some pretty messed up things compared to most religions, but go ahead and keep drinking that Koolaid. You're just as crazy as the rest of us.

Re:Is Scientology Really Different? (4, Interesting)

RazorSharp (1418697) | about a year and a half ago | (#42719575)

- all have done unethical acts ( read your history )

But Scientology is an unethical institution. That can be said about pre-Lutheran Christianity, Islam during its jihadist spread, and Hinduism with the caste system applied. But I find it hard to point to, say, the Lutheran Church as being an unethical institution at any point in time. Or Buddhists. I'm sure someone would be quick to point out terrible things done by Buddhists or Lutherans, but that's not the same as the institution being unethical in its organization and practice. So no, not all religions have done unethical acts. People of all religions have most likely done unethical acts, but one would be hard pressed to find any person, religious or not, who has a clean record in that regard.

- all have beliefs people not brought in the religion would call superstition

Read Immanuel Kant. Even if you disagree with him, the basis of his philosophy (which is the basis of his Christianity), is logic. He was a logic professor. One would be hard pressed to label what many Buddhists believe to be superstition as well. I suggest you read some interviews with the Dali Lama, or better yet, one of his books. If you think that religion necessarily involves an invisible man in the sky, you don't know much about religion.

- all what people not brought in the religion would call myths.

Again, this is simply not true. While myths are common with most religions, 1) the inclusion or exclusion of myths has no bearing on whether a theology is defined as a religion 2) even when myths are present, that has no bearing on whether the theology is objectively true or not. Most non-fundamentalist Christians, for example, don't believe any myths. Do you believe the Trojan War occurred? [wikipedia.org] Many myths are based on fact. The definition of 'myth' is pretty ambiguous. Oftentimes the only thing distinguishing a myth from a fable is that at one point the myth was taken to be literal truth. Most religious people don't believe the myths they preserve, such as Jesus turning water into wine. It's not like Greeks think that Zeus is a part of their history.

- all, from my viewpoint, are man-made (apologies to the women in the audience for the term)

First, in English 'man' isn't necessarily masculine if the sex is unknown or it's used to encompass both men and women. There's no need to apologize for using proper English.

Regarding your actual point, this one is a doozy. It's a sort of chicken/egg type question, but anyone who believes in objective morality would argue against your point. Robert Pirsig, who to the best of my knowledge isn't religious, argued that man didn't make God, God made man. What he meant was that our morality, our sense of good, is the characteristic that uniquely defines what it is to be human. This is something that man discovers through the application of logic (Aquinas, Kant, etc.), it's not something that man makes up on a whim. It wouldn't be objectively true if that were the case. Man cannot discover something that doesn't exist, hence objective morality, which is the goal of every religion to uncover (note: this is a key reason why Scientology is a cult, not a religion).

from an atheists point of view.

And what point of view would that be? Most atheists seem to be disinterested in religion in general and don't take the time to learn about it. You seem to be one of those. You sound like the uniformed guy who doesn't vote who says, "All politicians are the same, the political parties are all the same, etc." To me, all reality TV shows are the same, but since I don't really watch them, since I'm thoroughly uniformed about their specifics, I wouldn't take the bold step forward of claiming such a statement to be objectively true.

Re:Is Scientology Really Different? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42719763)

Aside from Islam and a few nutball cults and sects, most modern religions today are fairly tolerate of critics (in the sense that they won't call for your death, sue you, or try to throw you in jail for criticizing them). The CoS is one of those sects that most certainly still will.

Re:Is Scientology Really Different? (1)

roca (43122) | about a year and a half ago | (#42719889)

A major difference between Scientology and the major religions (mine's Christianity) is that the latter are "open source": everything a believer might need to know is freely available to everyone.

Another major difference w.r.t. Christianity (for example, because I know it best) is that every major Christian denomination agrees you don't have to belong to one particular human institution to "be saved". Scientology and other cults teach there is no hope outside their institutions, so threat of expulsion gives them absolute power over their followers. (The Catholic church used to be cult-like in this respect, but no longer is.)

Another important difference between Scientology and Christianity is that Hubbard and his immediate successors have done very very well for themselves out of Scientology. Jesus and his immediate followers --- not at all. Unless what they taught was true.

Re:Is Scientology Really Different? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42720163)

No disrepect taken, hopefully my comment won't offend you either, but I'm struck by a few things.

Athiests in particular seem to like to point out all of the unethical acts, and unprovable beliefs of religion as a basis for their unbelief. It's as though that's supposed to irrefutably end the argument. Usually it does not because they are right but because we realize that you aren't going to see things our way anymore than we're going to see things yours. I don't see those flaws so much as pertaining to religion but to mankind itself. Men have been known to do all sorts of unethical things over the years regardless of religious persuasion or the absense of it. If you are trying to live your life ethically and I go out and slaughter a bunch of people in your name who should bear the blame? You or I? If people were to blame you how would you feel? Would it be fair? Yet when they do it to Jesus suddenly that becomes acceptable. It's not as though athiests do not act unethically, nor do they have beliefs that are 100% provable. In fact, I would posit that athiesm has all of the same flaws that they claim religion has, and some are so dogmatic about it that you would think it's a religion itself. Prove that the world was not created by God. You can no more prove it wasn't than I can that it was. It's what we believe, and yet atheiests are every bit as convinced that they're right with even less actual evidence.

Re:Is Scientology Really Different? (1)

PoolOfThought (1492445) | about a year and a half ago | (#42720411)

Would "Christianity" still be a religion in your mind if Jesus came out of the skies and said "Waddup!!" to everyone while simultaneously parting seas, curing cancer, and telling everyone to quit hating on the homos because he loves them even if they're not living exactly according to his desires? Or if that happened would you reclassify Christianity to something else so you can keep your angry little classification of religion intact. Maybe Christianity would become a branch of science (maybe... Intelligent Design) and all those other beliefs would still just be religion.

Also, do you believe one could be an atheist and reasonably believe in a form of intelligent design? Why or why not? You sound like a fairly smart person so I'm interested in your thoughts.

Re:Is Scientology Really Different? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42720443)

I'm an atheist without any love for Scientology. I don't see Scientology as any different from the "legitimate religions" that people have grown up in.

That says more about mainstream religion than it does about Scientology.

The Real Problem (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42718849)

The real problem isn't people who believe in invisible martians (for fun and profit), it's the legal system that lets them torment other people with flagrant abandon.

If you have enough money and a good team of lawyers you can effectively destroy someone else's life.

We live in a nightmare world.

Re:The Real Problem (1)

Dcnjoe60 (682885) | about a year and a half ago | (#42719155)

The real problem isn't people who believe in invisible martians (for fun and profit), it's the legal system that lets them torment other people with flagrant abandon.

If you have enough money and a good team of lawyers you can effectively destroy someone else's life.

We live in a nightmare world.

That doesn't take religion. The RIAA does it all the time.

Re:The Real Problem (1)

harperska (1376103) | about a year and a half ago | (#42720357)

And that is what makes Scientology so dangerous. It is as if RIAA claimed to be a religion in order to protect their litigiousness and greed behind a shield of anti-discrimination laws and tax exempt status.

Hey Ben (1)

RazorSharp (1418697) | about a year and a half ago | (#42718983)

While I appreciate the writeup and found it interesting, perhaps you should have someone proofread your writings before publishing them. There are far too many errors in this thing.

That said, Scientologists are batshit insane and information is their enemy. It's great to see a book like this published and receiving so much attention.

how do you measure growth (5, Insightful)

frovingslosh (582462) | about a year and a half ago | (#42719003)

But as mesmerizing an expose as the book is, I doubt that this will be more than a speed bump to Scientology's growth and fund raising

From reports I've seen Scientology continues to grow in the sense of buying up property and growing its bank acount, but is not growing and even losing members. Lets not give this science fiction religion credit for anything it really isn't doing.

Scientology in retreat? (2)

oldhack (1037484) | about a year and a half ago | (#42719073)

There was a local sci "compound" in the neighborhood. Every time you drive by, the radio reception gets all screwed up.

It seems to have been sold recently. The signs are down, the buildings are being totally gutted, pulling out dry walls, insulation, and everything.

Re:Scientology in retreat? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42719745)

i hope they scrub the thetans out of there before putting it on the real estate market. otherwise they need to disclose that in the listing.

Separate their activities from their belief system (5, Informative)

dkleinsc (563838) | about a year and a half ago | (#42719095)

I'm not a Scientologist. I've encountered a few (to the best of my knowledge, fairly low ranking), and they on average seemed no better or worse than most anyone else. And as far as their belief system goes, I'm not sure it's any crazier than any other religious belief system.

A friend of a friend, though, came up with an excellent evaluation rubric to determine how dangerous it was to belong to any organization, regardless of their beliefs. This has been used by law enforcement as well as cult survivor organizations. The tool is the ABCDEF [unc.edu] , short for Advanced Bonewits (the inventor's name) Cult Danger Evaluation Framework.

The idea here is that you don't rate the groups beliefs at all. Instead, you rate their behavior. Groups that score low on the ABCDEF are those that are open about what they believe and stand for, have rights and reasonable expectations of members, and make it easy to leave. Which means that if they or their leadership start getting really crazy, normal people can see that and leave.

So a reasonable position might be that Scientology is a belief system like any other, but the Church of Scientology is dangerous.

Re:Separate their activities from their belief sys (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42719713)

Very good distinction in my opinion. Kudos. ;)

Re:Separate their activities from their belief sys (1)

terjeber (856226) | about a year and a half ago | (#42719779)

I'm not sure it's any crazier than any other religious belief system.

It is. Whackier than any other I think. Funny is, the people who were friends with L. Ron Hubbard when he, drinking profusely, created Scientology at a bar in Manhattan Beach, CA, still remember the "event" pretty well.

Interfering with Scientology growth? (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42719131)

Puh-leez. Scientology has been consistently losing members and shrinking in size and power for at least 15 years, if not longer. Check out www.xenu.net and www.factnet.org for more details.

David Miscavige's successful takeover of the cult has been a disaster for them, and the Internet has been a much worse one because the cult's secrets are now so readily available.

Scientology's Growth (5, Interesting)

Spy Handler (822350) | about a year and a half ago | (#42719181)

"But as mesmerizing an expose as the book is, I doubt that this will be more than a speed bump to Scientology's growth and fund raising."

Scientology stopped growing a long time ago. All of their claims about them being "fastest growing religion" are lies, pure and simple.

They reached their peak in the 70's and early 80's. After Hubbard died and Miscavige took over, their membership's been declining steadly ever since. Ask anyone who's been around the orgs in the 70's and 80's. Look up the service completion stats in the Auditor magazine from that time period and compare to recent numbers.

Miscavige is no Hubbard, he doesn't have a cult leader's charisma or reality distortion field. However, he turned out to be very talented as a brutal dictator and a bully. He can put used car salesmen to shame when it comes to high-pressure sales tactics.

So while Miscavige has been unable to inspire people or attract new followers, he has used his talents to beat the staff into submission and extract/extort more and more money from the existing public. But lately with the Super Power scam he's taken it to a new level, and things are so bad that even diehard loyalists are speaking out.

Debbie Cook (longtime Captain of Flag) complains about the relentless money-grubbing and tells the Scientology public to disobey Miscavige's non-Hubbard-policies. [villagevoice.com]

Jan. 2013 - High level public members Luis and Rocio Garcia sue Scientology for fraud [huffingtonpost.com]

Grammar and prose style (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42719483)

Am I the only one bothered by the hideous abuse of grammar and incredibly juvenile writing of this review? I literally could not get through the second paragraph, it was so distracting and off-putting. Tenses are constantly switching, sentences are stilted and disconnected, even basic grammatical constructs are misused. It's not like you have to wait -- the very first sentence ("Scientology has long called anyone who has written against them as having a vendetta") is a complete abomination.

Re:Grammar and prose style (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42720363)

yes, you r the only 1.

this is /.
not the oxford english library forum.

style over substance.

Somewhat a dead issue outside Clearwater FL (3, Interesting)

Animats (122034) | about a year and a half ago | (#42719607)

Does anybody still care about Scientology? They've been shrinking since Hubbard died. They've sort of centralized at Clearwater, FL, but other than that, not much seems to be going on.

The amusing thing about Scientology is that it doesn't use science. It's locked into Hubbard's writings and 1930s technology. The "E-meter" is a skin resistance measuring device, the least useful of the three classical polygraph channels. By now, Scientology should have had online and mobile systems as part of their "auditing" process. A modern "E-meter" should have heart rate, respiration, and face gesture recognition sensors, with functional MRI in R&D. But no, they're still using skin resistance.

This may be just as well. With modern sensors, and detailed historical data for each member, much more monitoring and control over the emotional states of members would be possible. Fortunately, Scientology is too inept to bring that off.

Re:Somewhat a dead issue outside Clearwater FL (1)

TimeandMaterials (2826493) | about a year and a half ago | (#42720387)

:::Does anybody still care about Scientology? They do not reveal their membership. But if real estate is an indicator, then they are the kings.

Re:Somewhat a dead issue outside Clearwater FL (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42720465)

Ugh. Mis-clicked +1, Insightful, and mistakenly moderated the parent post -1, Redundant. Also, I don't want to post non-anonymously in this thread and undo all the other moderation I did. Humble apologies. Please moderate the parent post +1 twice for me.

I used to be a Scientologist... (1)

12WTF$ (979066) | about a year and a half ago | (#42719711)

until I ran out of money.

Re:I used to be a Scientologist... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42720397)

so true! It is all about the $$

my head hurts (1)

sribe (304414) | about a year and a half ago | (#42719989)

Just from reading this review. My god, this review was written by an alleged author? If I were to print it and mark up the grammar errors, the page would be covered in red ink...

"Dianetics" regularly show up at my local mall (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42720419)

...with their "Free Stress Test" (using their glorified ohmmeter) and books and DVDs. It pains me to see gullible people conned into this money-sucking gambit.

Any ideas what I could do to mess with them? On one occasion I printed out the fun and informative Xenu pamphlet [xenu.net] and gave it to victims around the mall, but that's boring. Currently I'm considering wiring up my arms with about 30V and volunteering for a test, after first warning the "auditor" that I'm actually an OT8 clear and have been known to confuse E-meters with my powers to control body thetans...

Posting as AC because of the Scientologists well known violent ways of dealing with dissenters...

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