Friday, February 11, 2011

Mork from Ork

I finally finished reading Lawrence Wright's meticulous and extraordinarily damaging exposé of the bizarreness that is Scientology and boy, it gets better as you read along. Nothing new under the sun: Scientology is nothing other than a cult (we knew that). It separates people from their money and from their families and from their common sense. It is based on the loony science fiction ideas of a guy that looks like a Tupperware salesman circa 1950. But I think the reason it has been so successful is that, in contrast to other loony cults, which sometimes idolize charismatic con artists or believe in impossible utopias, this one couches its beliefs in the mumbo jumbo of self-help, a topic dear and inexhaustible to the citizens of this nation. Self-help gurus seem to be a quintessentially American travesty, and Scientology just seems better organized and wealthier than most.  In Germany it is banned and recognized as a cult. Here they should do the same. If the FBI finds evidence, as the article claims, of slave labor and financial shenanigans (it has protected tax status as a church), it should be prosecuted and penalized accordingly. What is amazing is that it has been allowed to thrive mostly unimpeded and this must be because of its shiny aura of success and its connection to celebrities, since as you all know being a celebrity in this country pretty much guarantees you can act outside the law. On the surface, Scientology doesn't seem to be utterly bat-shit like the Branch Davidians, or those people who drank the Kool-Aid. But some of their crazier teachings are hidden for a reason; they are wacky and sinister at the same time. A lot of people think that Scientology is a religion like any other, but one of the important differences between a religion and a cult is that in a religion you are not coerced to believe. You are free to profess your faith in your own personal way without punishment or coercion.
In any case, my advice to you dear readers is that you don't become scientologists.  You will be spending too much money to believe in stuff zanier than a sci-fi comic book.

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