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Archive for the ‘Scientology’ Category

This video recently hit the interwebs. It’s just a cheesy pro-Scientology sing-along that includes a lot of the high-up people in scientology. Even David Miscavige appears in it; he’s the top guy in Scientology right now.

I have to admit: it reminds me a lot of 1980s “Christian contemporary” music. The video was, apparently, supposed to be for internal use (not for public derision consumption).

At one point in the video, you can see Marty Rathbun and Mike Rinder singing along right next to all the top Scientology leaders. Since then, they have both defected from Scientology, and they talk about the physical abuse inside Scientology by David Miscavige in the videos below. Other high-ranking members shown in the video have disappeared. For example, Shelly Miscavige (David Miscavige’ wife) hasn’t been seen since 2006.

At one point in the third video below, Mike Rinder, who defected in 2007, says they’d outright lie to the news media because there was nothing else they could do when the facts were so damning.


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There’s a new ABC News report on Scientology.

I liked this clip. At 3:40 minutes (about 60%) into this video, Tommy Davis (spokesperson for scientology) gets evasive and feigns indignation to avoid questions he doesn’t want to answer.

He has all the credibility of Balloon-boy’s father –

Mr Heene [Balloon-boy’s father] bristled when the family was asked to clarify and said he did not know what his son meant [when he said it was “for the show”]. “I’m kind of appalled after all the feelings that I went through, up and down, that you guys are trying to suggest [that this was a hoax],” he said.

It’s also creepy how much Tommy Davis is like David Miscavige, the cult’s leader. They’re both professional, combative, and love to attack the messenger. Come to think of it, these guys both remind me of American Psycho. Are the Scientologists making clones? Can Scientology even survive without this kind of combative evasiveness? They’ve got so many problems, it seems like they can’t be truthful and continue to survive. A video of Miscavige:

ABC News, October 23rd:
Part 1
Part 2
Part 3

ABC News, October 24th:
Part 1
Part 2
Part 3
Part 4
Part 5

On a related note, Paul Haggis, the Oscar-winning writer-director whose credits include “Crash,” “Million Dollar Baby” and “Letters From Iwo Jima,” has left the Church of Scientology. His open letter, which is written to Tommy Davis, appeared on the internet today, where he hit the “church” for anti-gay activities, their policy of disconnection (forcing members to cut-off contact with other people, including their own family), and lying about it to the media, claiming that they have no such policy. One excerpt:

You might recall that my wife was ordered to disconnect from her parents because of something absolutely trivial they supposedly did twenty-five years ago when they resigned from the church. This is a lovely retired couple, never said a negative word about Scientology to me or anyone else I know – hardly raving maniacs or enemies of the church. In fact it was they who introduced my wife to Scientology.

Although it caused her terrible personal pain, my wife broke off all contact with them. I refused to do so. I’ve never been good at following orders, especially when I find them morally reprehensible.

For a year and a half, despite her protestations, my wife did not speak to her parents and they had limited access to their grandchild. It was a terrible time.

That’s not ancient history, Tommy. It was a year ago.

And you could laugh at the question as if it was a joke? You could publicly state that it doesn’t exist?

To see you lie so easily, I am afraid I had to ask myself: what else are you lying about?

You can read the letter here.

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Scientology Newspaper

Today, I was walking down the street when I glanced over and saw a picture of L. Ron Hubbard on a little “Clear Body, Clear Mind” newspaper. I had to take a look.

ClearMind2

The little four-page newspaper talked all about the dangers of drugs and toxins, and how Scientology can clear all of it away through their programs and vitamin supplements – lifting depression and moodiness. I especially liked their “How Toxic Are You?” test. You answer “yes” or “no” to ten questions. Then, here’s how they score you:

If you answered yes to 3 or less you could have a level of accumulated toxins affecting your capacity to think clearly.

If you answered yes to 4-7 of the above questions, you could have a detrimental level of accumulated toxins, making you dull, lifeless or “wooden” with lessened ability.

If you answered yes to 8 or more of these questions, you could be experiencing a case of severe body pollution.

Did you notice that there are no good results no matter how you answered the questions? Heads they win, tails you lose.

If you know about L. Ron Hubbard’s psychological problems, it looks an awful lot like he was trying desperately to create his own home-remedy to his mental problems. The paper included the address of the local Scientology center. Just to see if I’ve ever seen the building, I typed the address into google maps, and I discovered that Anonymous got to their google-maps entry – posting pictures, videos, and reviews. (Heh.) Take a look for yourself.

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Scientology Strikes Back

The St. Petersburg Times has been running stories on Scientology recently. (St. Petersburg is right next door to Clearwater, Florida, which was taken over by the Scientologists.) It’s a multichapter expose of the cult, including David Miscavige’ abuse of members:

High-ranking defectors provide an unprecedented inside look at the Church of Scientology and its leader, David Miscavige.
http://www.tampabay.com/specials/2009/reports/project/

They even give the “Church” a chance to respond to the articles. It doesn’t make them look any more benevolent.

Scientology’s response to church defectors: ‘Total lies’

The Church of Scientology pressed vigorously Friday (June 19, 2009) to delay publication of the Times’ Scientology story… The church also said the Times needs to talk to more people.

Church spokesmen, executives, attorneys and others flew in from around the country to meet with reporters in Clearwater. The parade started with ex-wives of the three male defectors. All three are Scientologists still. Each praised Miscavige’s visionary leadership and said their ex-husbands can’t be trusted.

Jennifer Linson said her ex, Tom De Vocht, had a reckless streak. Anne Joasem said her ex, Marty Rathbun, “lives for war.” Cathy Rinder said her ex is so out of touch with their children he doesn’t know his 24-year-old son has skin cancer.
(Link)

Flying in ex-spouses who are cult members to do character assassination? That doesn’t seem creepy at all.

The church prepared binders of indexed material that included confessions the defectors wrote during their time in Scientology.

A key tenet of Scientology is that an individual who admits and takes responsibility for his bad thoughts and acts feels unburdened and joyful. Church members write confessions, which go into “ethics files” that are supposed to remain secret. But to rebut the defectors’ allegations about David Miscavige, church officials took the extraordinary step of releasing excerpts from the files. In them, the defectors admit transgressions and praise the leader. The church says the files undercut the credibility of those attacking Miscavige. The defectors say the “confessions” are given under pressure, and writing them is the only way to survive inside Scientology.
(Link)

I remember the CoS saying that auditing sessions were never available to the church, and they were only used for later reference by the auditor. Now, the Scientologists are using the auditing sessions as a weapon? Surprise!

About the time that the expose was being released, the Scientologists started releasing commercials. It’s amazing how vague the commercials are. You can’t even figure out what they’re promoting until they show the logo at the end. They could end with any religion — “The Church of Latter Day Saints” or “Northfield Baptist Church”. Or maybe it’s a car commercial — it could end with “Chevy: we’re there for you”.


They’re a bit similar to the “Human Element” Dow commercials.

I guess that’s one type of advertising: just aim to create positive associations with your product. I guess that’s why they didn’t end with their regular slogan – “Scientology: give us your money”:

Maybe we can combat Scientology by just showing how messed up L. Ron Hubbard is — by playing the audio of him talking. (Don’t miss the part at 3:50 where he says, “I am not from this planet”.)

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The People’s Fair is going on this weekend. It’s an annual fair in the middle of downtown where people come and setup booths to sell things – mostly artists selling jewelery or pictures. There were some religious/psychic/woo booths around as well. Some of the booths included: a Palm Reader, Reflexology, two 9/11 “truth” groups (who I decided not to photograph since they are already paranoid), several churches, a few transcendental meditation groups, a magnet therapy group, a “Reasons to Believe” (creationist) group, a humanist group, and a Scientology booth.

The Reasons to Believe booth is pictured below. (Those signs say “Connecting people with Jesus through Science” and the small yellow sign says, “Big Bang the Bible taught it first” – uh, sure it did.)

The Reflexology booth – with their pretend “Scientific Basis” for Reflexology. Reflexology is an early 20th-century cure-all which claims to heal disease by massaging your feet. (See Penn and Teller’s episode about Reflexology and Magnet Therapy here.)

I grabbed a brochure from the magnet-therapy booth. It claims:

Here is some of what we have seen.

– Frozen arthritic hands opened after only 5 minutes wearing a double-strand bracelet.
– Intense migraine headaches disappeared within 20 minutes wearing a single strand necklace or double-strand bracelet.

Here is a partial list of the many conditions that have been relieved using magnet therapy.

Ance, Allergies, Arthritis, Asthma, Back aches, High Blood Pressure, Bunions, Bursitis, Diabetes, Carpal Tunnel Syndrome, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, Colitis, Cramps, Earaches, Fibromyalgia, Frozen Shoulder, Heel Spurs, Insomnia, Joint Pain, Menstrual Cramps, Migranes, Osteoporosis, Poor Circulation, Rheumatoid Arthritis, Tendonitis, and Tennis Elbow.

Consult a physician before using magnets during pregnancy, or if you have a pacemaker or defibrillator. The use of magnets on your abdomen within 90 minutes of a meal is not recommended.

Uh, sure. I also noticed that the symptoms treated by Reflexology were pretty much the same symptoms treated by magnet therapy.

There was also this booth:

Sure, it looks like “God Is Nowhere”, but I’ve seen them at the fair in the past. They’re actually a Christian ministry. (I think their sign could also be interpreted as “God Is Now Here”, but they keep it intentionally ambiguous.) The subtext “the mystery revealed” should give you a hint that this isn’t an atheist or agnostic group. Inside, they have a selection of books ranging from Skeptic Magazine (an old copy dating back to the year 2000), Creation Science Magazine (dating to 1996), Josh McDowell’s “More than a Carpenter”, the Quran, John Hagee, and a copy of the Darwin Awards book (uh, what?) – basically, a wide-variety of skeptical and religious books (most of them old and worn, and apparently not for sale). They seem to be trying to draw people into discussions, under the pretense of being atheists or something. I wasn’t quite sure. I was curious about what their approach might be, so I hung around the booth and looked over their literature, wondering if they would try to draw me into a discussion about religion.

I heard one guy say, “Christians say that the resurrection is the best evidence for Jesus’ divinity.” Then he picked up a book and said, “This book claims to have 80 pages proving the resurrection true.” I smiled at his pretense to being just an atheist talking to another atheist. It was rather bizarre. I thought they might be a little more upfront about their religion once you stepped into the booth, but, apparently, they maintain the pretense of being atheists while making blatantly pro-Christian arguments. Was this some sort of weird performance art? I eventually wandered off after 10 minutes or so (no one attempted to talk to me).

Wandering over to the Scientology tent, I tried to listen in as the Scientologists gave free “stress tests” to people.

While standing there, a guy with a large camera walked up behind me and took a few pictures. I turned and smiled, wondering if he was with Anonymous or something. He must’ve realized I was on his side because he walked up and started talking to me. We talked a bit, and he handed me an “anonymous” card with links to websites about Scientology. (Good luck, Anonymous guy!)

A little later, another guy next to me was looking in on people taking the “stress tests”. He asks if I believe any of this. I tell him “no”, and asks if I believe in any religion. I tell him “no” again, but I used to be a Christian. He asks me why I don’t believe, and I begin with my usual, “If God went out of his way to provide a means for salvation (Jesus crucifixion), and He loves people and wants them saved, then He would make sure the truth of Christianity was a lot more obvious. But, it’s not. Lots of people missed out because of that, and that’s contradictory with the idea that God wants to save people…” It turns out that he’s working for one of the church booths nearby. He replies that people just don’t want to believe, and then says that Jesus was unique among all religions because he’s the only one who claimed to be God. I mention that a number of religious leaders claim to be God, and bring up Sun Myung Moon (the Moonies), and that he has hundreds of thousands of followers. He’d never even heard of Sun Myung Moon. I mentioned that several other cult leaders in the US also claim to be God.

Then he makes the “morality is real, not relative” argument, and that evolution can’t explain morality or empathy. I replied that morality is a way of interacting with other human beings, and that there are some ideas about how morality could evolve. I talk about reciprocity (if you do good, people will do good back to you; if you do harm, people will want to harm you in return), and that human beings understand reciprocity. Once a creature has the ability to remember interactions with other creatures, then they can reciprocate your actions, and that means not treating other people badly. I also talk about how empathy could be a side-effect of learning by watching others. We learn to do things by watching other people do them – by putting ourselves in their shoes. But, when we put ourselves in their shoes, we are also aware of how they might feel when we do bad things to them – i.e. we empathize. He says that evolution can’t explain morality because survival of the fittest is all about immediate gratification. (Of course, survival of the fittest is not about immediate gratification – it’s about passing on our genes.) He then asks – if it’s all about immediate gratification – then why don’t we do drugs, have lots of casual sex, or gamble. I tell him that there are lots of reasons not to do those things – they might give you instant gratification, but they aren’t satisfying in the long-run. People on drugs experience lots of problems. Sex might be fun in the moment, but lots of people eventually find it hollow. And gambling will eventually make you broke.

He argues that evolution can’t explain the origins of morality – how did the first creature have a moral sense? Where did it come from? I say that the first “moral” sense might’ve developed from animals taking care of their young. It’s important for mothers to take care of their young, and even risk their lives for them. From an evolutionary standpoint, it makes sense. If you step between a mother bear and her cub, she’ll come after you – potentially risking her life when she could run away. Birds do the same thing (acting wounded to draw predators away from their helpless young). The moral sense might’ve “started” there – with taking care of our young. Biologically speaking, animals who give birth experience an increase in oxytocinwhich makes them more nurturing. And this “nuturing” behavior isn’t always directed towards our own young – oxytosin makes mammals nurturing even towards other animal’s children, and even other species. Take, for example, this case of a mother cat taking care of ducklings. (Plus, there’s a good argument to be made for sexual-selection of partners who are empathetic and nurturing.) He doesn’t really have a response other than to repeat the question about how the moral sense got started. He eventually heads back to the booth.

But, back to the Scientology booth:

I eventually sat down and took the Scientology “stress tests”. This was also the first time that I’ve seen an e-meter in person. The first thing that strikes you is just how chintzy these things are. Apparently, the “church” sells them for thousands of dollars. I’d be surprised if they cost more than $5 to manufacture. You sit down and hold two metal cylinders between your hands. It’s a little bit like holding two empty cans of Red Bull. They’re wired up to the E-Meter which has a voltage meter on it. First, you hold onto these cylinders, and he adjusts it so that the voltage meter is balancing in the middle. Then he asks you to think about things that stress you out. The meter typically moves a little to the right, which is interpreted as “you’re stressed”. My meter was barely moving. He starts asking me to think about work, money, my girlfriend, the global environment, hoping that I’ll have a response to something. But, my meter is barely moving. He tells me that I must be a very un-stressed person (which, admittedly, he’s right about). In fact, my meter starts to move to the left of center, so he has to stop and adjust it back to center. At first, I was trying to relax, but I found that even thinking about stressful things didn’t have much of an effect on the e-meter. I even tried thinking about my old boss. Still no effect. But, every time the meter moved even slightly to the right, the Scientologist said, “oh, you must’ve been stressed about whatever you were thinking about at that moment.” In my opinion, the meter didn’t have anything to do with what I was thinking about at all. He eventually said that I must be a very unstressed person and that Scientology would be very good for me because if I’m already this ‘advanced’ that I imagine how much higher I could be with Scientology. He says that Scientology is very interested in people like me because of my innate abilities. (And, I’m sure if I was very stressed, Scientology would be wonderful for reducing the stress in my life. See: they can’t lose. No matter who you are, Scientology is for you!) He then said that I should take a copy of the Dianetics book. At first, I thought he was offering it for free (I thought about taking it – only to deprive the Scientologists of the book’s printing costs), but then he said something about $20. I joked and said, “What? You’re not giving them away for free? The Gideons give Bibles away for free.” He replied that the Gideons must have some other way to offset their printing costs. But, I’m pretty sure those Dianetics books don’t cost $20 each to print.

(Read my other posts about Scientology here.)

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The Guardian: Teenager faces prosecution for calling Scientology ‘cult’

A teenager is facing prosecution for using the word “cult” to describe the Church of Scientology.

The unnamed 15-year-old was served the summons by City of London police when he took part in a peaceful demonstration opposite the London headquarters of the controversial religion.

Officers confiscated a placard with the word “cult” on it from the youth, who is under 18, and a case file has been sent to the Crown Prosecution Service.

The incident happened during a protest against the Church of Scientology on May 10. Demonstrators from the anti-Scientology group, Anonymous, who were outside the church’s £23m headquarters near St Paul’s cathedral, were banned by police from describing Scientology as a cult by police because it was “abusive and insulting”.

Writing on an anti-Scientology website, the teenager facing court said: “I brought a sign to the May 10th protest that said: ‘Scientology is not a religion, it is a dangerous cult.’

“‘Within five minutes of arriving I was told by a member of the police that I was not allowed to use that word, and that the final decision would be made by the inspector.”

A policewoman later read him section five of the Public Order Act and “strongly advised” him to remove the sign. The section prohibits signs which have representations or words which are threatening, abusive or insulting.
Link

[ Update: the British police have dropped charges against the kid carrying the “Scientology is not a religion, it is a dangerous cult.” sign. ]

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Remember the video posted by anonymous declaring war on scientology? The “church” of scientology is striking back:

Jason Carlin just sent me this link, it seems someone claiming to be involved with The Church of Scientology has identified what they think are a few Anonymous members and posted all their personal information online. I said before this was going to get more interesting before it went away and it seems to have just taken another step in that direction. I do think it’s noteworthy to point out that when trying to defend yourself against claims that you use fear and personal threats to silence your critics, using fear and personal threats to silence your critics might not be the best course of action when it comes to clearing your name. (Link to Boing Boing)

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