I Failed ScientologyPosted by Jim Newman on July 10th, 2012 – 1 Comment – Posted in Personal Stories, Scientology the cult
Post by Jim Newman
Yes, I failed Scientology. First, I find it remarkable that articles discussing Scientology note that it is a religion and two that atheists have become members of scientology thus making them religious as journalists claim. I guess that would make Scientology a non-theological religion? If you look up religion, there are a number of possibilities involved:
a set of beliefs concerning the cause, nature, and purposeof the universe, especially when considered as the creation of a superhuman agency or agencies, usually involving devotional and ritual observances, and often containing a moral code governing the conduct of human affairs.
- Collected set of beliefs–isn’t this a philosophy?
- The members adhering to a particular set of beliefs or practices–isn’t this called the membership of an organization, even when loosely tied.
- The life or state of a monk or nun–huh, then my life or state is philosophy since I live my philosophy? A plumber would be a water guy?
- The rituals or practices of following a religious belief or religious ritual observance–the behavior of those in a religion is the religion?
It just makes no sense. First, is it a morality, an epistemology, a set of practices or rituals, or a social group with a goal?
Perhaps, you are a naturalist and environmentalist and you see the world as an organism that has people as a small part of the bigger world, universe. Perhaps evolution is the overall impetus to morality in the organism in its entirety but within different parts of the world there are differing morals pertinent to them. Perhaps evolution is the arm of the physical laws that caused existence to occur such that total meaning is remote but memberships create their own significance within their context of the world but often with a nod to the overall meaning of the world which follows physical laws.
Contrast that to a set of social therapy exercises and group control such that membership, secrecy, and hierarchy are more important than knowledge, freedom, and tolerance. But that is a membership criticism…
If religion is as defined above then any fucking philosophy with a membership is a religion! No wonder accommodationist, theory boys get off on how it’s all religion and religion is helpful to people. Once you conflate religion with socialization and philosophy it is all religion, in a circular support. But so what? Once you say everything is all energy and field, for example, it doesn’t help you decide which religion to follow? Which governance to follow? With which members to associate? It just gets stupid. It’s all good if you want to include but not choose.
If scientology is a religion atheists can join then gamer clubs, toastmasters clubs, and tupperware groups all are religions atheists can join.
Our western culture is so imbibed (imbued) with big religion it doesn’t even have a good name for social groups that do not follow beliefs or superstitions.
If I start a community of say environmentalists that wish to not do damage to the earth and seek low technology inputs with some high technology involved and some outputs to the greater world would that group be called religious? If that group had a separate set of practices and rituals: recycling, composting, harvesting as a group, canning as group, and eating as group… If that group had a set of beliefs: minimal impact on the earth is moral, humans are not superior to other animals, and the world can evolve more peacefully… How is that a religion? Some of what they believe does not count as knowledge and is just belief so that’s not the distinction. They could see all life forms as having some sort of spirit but not a separate spirit and so forth.
If I joined this Granola Commune would I have joined a religious organization? If so then when I become a naturalized US citizen I have also joined a religion. The US as a country also has a set of beliefs, rituals, memberships, and purposes.
No, no, no. Everything is not a religion. This is framing the debate so atheist humanism looks like just another religion. What gives you meaning in life is not a religion! Let me repeat. What gives you meaning in life is not a religion. That religion has done so often does not mean it is its exclusive domain. Christianity is very different than hunter-gatherer animism, which is very different that European Existentialism, which is different than anarch0-situationalism.
Scientology is an organization that promotes aggressive personal therapy, secretive, expensive practices and rituals, and a strong hierarchy. It’s purpose is to clear you of your issues. The bullshit is the belief that those issues arise from aliens but this belief is relatively new to the general membership–the alien aspect is new to Internet times and the vast majority of members never knew this origination myth other than in big pictures, “we are from space.” Indeed, the impetus for this group was the growing trend in Freudian Psychoanalysis that was fueling pop psychology at the time. Hell, I can remember jokes from the early sixties that all our problems related to bad potty training and once we analyzed that we’d be better.
Aggressive therapy is a classic military strategy to tear you down and then rebuild you free from the baggage you had before. It’s often called propaganda, brain washing, or or when done more sweetly, inculcation. It became a popular California therapy technique beginning in the 50′s and was paradigmatic of the Esalen institute in Big Sur in the 60′s where letting it all hang out also meant unabashed criticism of anything you thought was bullshit in another person–a kind of open social warfare where being critical is praiseworthy because unless you can fully support your issues they must be wrong. It later softened into the motivation circuit, notably Landmark, and has defused considerably as victims filed for abuse or criticized it for its abuse. Landmark also has many aspects of confrontational therapy with secretive rituals, strong hierarchy, and strong monetary and personal cost.
I went to East High School (go Glee) in Salt Lake City, Ut. I took the bus home which went downtown where I caught another bus to the Avenues. I often saw young people asking others to answer a questionnaire. They were common on the street and were usually in your face about asking. I learned they were called Scientologists and of course Mormon friends said they were weird–talk about the pot calling the kettle black. I gathered they had coopted the word science to lend credibility to their organization.
There was a small scientology office across from the city library. One day I was at loose ends downtown and in a good experimental mood, open to new ideas. I responded to a survey hawker and was asked some personality questions along the order of “Had I done anything I regretted? Were there things I’d liked to change in my life.” And so forth. I answered a few of them and he asked me if I’d be interested in answering more questions and learning about myself. I said yes and we walked the two blocks to the scientology office.
He sat me down and gave me the Oxford Personality test or something like that. It was in very small writing and had many questions. This would take time. But as a teenager looking for answers I was willing to examine my personality. He gave me about 10 minutes and then stopped me. I protested that I hadn’t finished–I was enjoying it. I was interested in assessing my personality and wanted to finish. But he said I could finish it later and that he wanted me to participate in another activity that would help me understand myself. At this point the hairs on my neck raised–my natural bullshit-fear detector–and I said that would be great but I didn’t have any money. I’m not sure why I said that other than I had no money and didn’t want to spend anything on investigating an organization I wasn’t even sure I wished to join. He hemmed a bit and led me into another room and showed me this stupid looking metal box out of a cheap sic-fi movie and said it would help clear me–whatever that meant.
Great I thought. But what are my issues? I hadn’t even finished the personality assessment. How would they know what my issues are yet? I really wanted to wait, finish the assessment, get the results, and then progress. The box put me off and I said again I was interested but I wasn’t going to spend any money at this point. I was happy to try but had no money.
30 seconds later I am back on the street. I was whisked out with a few words and was back in the concrete jungle, issues intact. I was dazed and confused. Clearly, I had failed Scientology. They did not want me. Should I have spent a few bucks? What was the cost? Had I been unknowingly insolent? I was interested but wanted to know what I was buying into.
Over the next year or so I met others interested in Scientology, usually as the children of University staff my mother knew. The parents were always anxious and the children a mixture of defiance, sadness, and puzzlement (what it meant and what they should do). It would be years later that I learned members isolate themselves from family and friends and that was what was going on–not just the anxiety of choosing a different world view but having to become a separatist.
I had never failed a so-called religion before. Mostly I was a Golden Prospect as Mormons called me. I didn’t smoke, drink, or cuss then–I’m making up for it now–so the lifestyle issues were considered more compatible. Little would they all know that I would become a Pariah to Religious Intolerance, insisting that no religion, or bullshit club, usurp the freedom or minds of others.
Jim Newman, bright and well