Exposing Scientology

I’ve written about the ludicrous “space opera” beliefs of Scientology (the Plan 9 from Outer Space of modern religions). In the future, I want to tell the story of my personal encounter with Scientology proselytizers, but today I have another subject: some recent news exposés that reveal the secrets and the machinations of the cult.

First and foremost, the St. Petersburg Times deserves credit for its truly superb investigative reporting on the inner workings of Scientology. In their 2009 special report, The Truth Rundown, they interview numerous defectors from the church, some very high-ranking. The stories they tell don’t paint an appealing picture, including multiple sources who allege that David Miscavige, the ruler of the church, would use violence against underlings who displeased him:

The next evening, early in 2004, Miscavige gathered the group and out of nowhere slapped a manager named Tom De Vocht, threw him to the ground and delivered more blows. De Vocht took the beating and the humiliation in silence — the way other executives always took the leader’s attacks.

…Ray Mithoff: Rathbun said Miscavige “would regularly hit this guy open-handed upside the head real hard and jar him. Or grab him by the neck and throw him on the floor.”

…Norman Starkey: “Right in the parking lot, (Miscavige) just beat the living f— out of him, got him on the ground and then started kicking him when he was down,” Rathbun said.

…”He lifted Mike Rinder nearly off of his feet and smashed his head into the wall, and he banged his head into the wall three times, just BANG, BANG, BANG!

Other forms of confinement and physical abuse have also been reported by ex-members:

As a form of punishment, Sea Org members had to run around a circular dirt track with a pole at the center for hours on end in the desert heat.

“You would be on it anywhere from eight to 12 hours a day,” Morehead said. “For every hundred people that were out there doing the running program, one of them was there because it was part of their actual (spiritual) progress.”

To answer these charges, Scientology resorted to one of the ugliest tactics I’ve ever seen in any religion: they disclosed the contents of the defectors’ “ethics files” – confessions of past wrongdoing that the church extracts from its members as part of the “auditing” process. The records of these confessions are kept so that the church can use them to punish and humiliate those who get out of line, as reported in this excerpt:

Jackie Wolff wept as she recalled the chaotic night she was ordered to stand at a microphone in the mess hall and confess her “crimes” in front of 300 fellow workers, many jeering and heckling her.

This is an excellent example of why you should never trust any religion with personal secrets. But Miscavige practices what he preaches – according to an article from Xenu TV, his own family was broken up by his adherence to Scientology teachings.

On a different note, you can also read the contract that all Scientologists must sign. A few interesting clauses include 2(e)(ii), in which the member agrees that the church makes no claim that “the application of any Scientology or Dianetics technology or practice will have any particular effect on me” (in layman’s terms: the church doesn’t promise that Scientology auditing does anything!); 4(g), which states that the applicant agrees that “all mental problems are spiritual in nature”; and especially 6(a), in which the applicant waives all future rights to sue the church for any reason (here’s a tip: don’t join any church that wants you to sign something like that!).

Happily, not all of Scientology’s members are hopelessly brainwashed. There are many who’ve come to their senses enough to see its phony claims for what they are, such as actor Jason Beghe:

“I started explaining to him about Xenu and the loyal officers” — a basic story from L. Ron Hubbard’s science fiction. “I couldn’t get a third of the way through the story, and we had our faces on the floor. We were laughing so hard. I mean you couldn’t even talk. It’s so retarded.”

Finally, if you want to know more about the “Anonymous” movement that’s been fighting Scientology, you can read about the history of the movement at The Frame Problem.

About Adam Lee

Adam Lee is an atheist writer and speaker living in New York City. His new novel, Broken Ring, is available in paperback and e-book. Read his full bio, or follow him on Twitter.

  • http://www.myspace.com/driftwoodduo Steve Bowen

    I recall that when I was an undergraduate in Norwich U.K Scientologists rented out a vacant shop front and specifically targeted students (myself included)to proseletyse and to introduce to Dianetics. They didn’t present it as a religion at all but as a psycho-analytical technique. I imagine that it could have appeared quite rational and somewhat appealing to teenagers living away from home for the first time. As for me, having been a Sci-Fi nerd for years I had already come across L Ron Hubbard and his wacky theology (not to mention his bloody awful novels)so was immune.

  • other scott

    I’ve always wondered whether L. Ron Hubbard was really believed the stuff he espouses or whether people have just read his books, loved what he wrote and decided to literally believe in them.

    I mean there are some people who believe that Jules Verne was writing about his glimpses into the future, etc, etc.

  • Reginald Selkirk

    “I started explaining to him about Xenu and the loyal officers” — a basic story from L. Ron Hubbard’s science fiction.

    No, Xenu is not fiction. It is the true story of Earth’s past.

  • http://www.myspace.com/driftwoodduo Steve Bowen

    I’ve always wondered whether L. Ron Hubbard was really believed the stuff he espouses

    There are theories and some anecdote to support the idea that Hubbard knowingly fabricated his religion on purely commercial grounds, partly to exploit tax breaks (although scientology lost that status in the US). Whether he bought into his own story eventually is hard to know though certainly many around him did.

    No, Xenu is not fiction. It is the true story of Earth’s past.

    Yes yes of course it is Reginald. Now go and have a little lie down:)

  • Mark

    I have mixed feelings about the Scientology ‘bashing’ that’s come into fashion recently (in Internet popular culture and in my workplace, anyway). That is, I’m very glad people are speaking out against the organization, the Church of Scientology; as evil cult groups go, the CoS has to be one of the worst, and certainly one of the best funded.

    But what gets me is the bashing of Scientology beliefs by my religious friends and colleagues. I mean sure, of course Scientology is ridiculous. But when I hear a rant about the stupidity of the concept of thetans coming from a protestant who believes in original sin, or from a Catholic who prays to saints, it can be pretty hard to keep a straight face.

  • Scotlyn

    Jackie Wolff wept as she recalled the chaotic night she was ordered to stand at a microphone in the mess hall and confess her “crimes” in front of 300 fellow workers, many jeering and heckling her.

    This sounds like a scene from the worst days of Mao’s Cultural Revolution. So which of them was plagiarising?

  • http://www.ateosmexicanos.com/portal/ Juan Felipe

    They didn’t present it as a religion at all but as a psycho-analytical technique.

    Yeah, they present it as a stress test of some sort. If my memory serves me well, ebon took the test and posted his story a long time ago in iidb.

  • Thumpalumpacus

    Many years ago, I got lured into one of their offices by a flyer on my windhsield: “Free IQ Test.” Once finished with the test, they started running that engram silliness past me. Though I failed the first part of the test by even going to take it, I passed the second part by laughing at their scientific illiteracy as I walked out.

  • Chet

    I mean sure, of course Scientology is ridiculous. But when I hear a rant about the stupidity of the concept of thetans coming from a protestant who believes in original sin, or from a Catholic who prays to saints, it can be pretty hard to keep a straight face.

    “You’re right, the stuff those Scientologists believe is pretty stupid! You know what else? Get this – they believe in a magic sky man who sent a son, who was also himself, down to Earth and we killed him – oh, no, wait, that’s what you believe. Oops!”

  • other scott

    @Mark

    I totally agree with you. I think it’s amazing that people consider Scientology to be more crazy than their own religion. That being said, I don’t understand how people actually believe in Scientology in the first place.

    I can see people believing in all kinds of religion because they were indoctrinated at a young age, shown an ancient text which is supposed to be true and contain true stories of the world, etc, etc. I can understand why people grow up to believe in God.

    But it seems that with Scientology people just randomly choose to believe utter nonsense with no evidence and at later stages in their lives. They KNOW the book they base their spiritual lives around was written by a man as a science fiction novel and has no divine inspiration.

  • Alex, FCD

    …and especially 6(a), in which the applicant waives all future rights to sue the church for any reason…

    Legal question: would this contract be valid if you (hypothetically) wanted to press charges for systematic fraud or assault or something else felonious? I assume that one can’t, for example, obtain the legal right to beat the undersigned with a cricket bat due to his or her failure to carefully read the contract.

  • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/daylightatheism Ebonmuse

    I’m not a lawyer, but I would guess that this clause would only cover civil, not criminal liability. You might lose the right to sue Scientology if they mistreated you, but you can’t sign away your right to charge someone with a crime, because the state is the party that files criminal charges, not the victim.

  • jonathan

    If the way I am is caused by thetans, I really like my thetans and I plan on keeping them.

  • http://uncyclopedia.org/wiki/User:Modusoperandi Modusoperandi

    People, please! Remember that Tom Cruise can fly and control men’s minds! The wrath of Tom be on you! Exclamation!

  • http://thechapel.wordpress.com the chaplain

    So, Ebonmuse, how long do you think it will be until some Scientology goons come knocking on your door to gently persuade you to pay proper respect to their beliefs?

  • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/daylightatheism Ebonmuse

    Oh, don’t be silly, Chaplain, I’m sure they wouldn************** NO CARRIER

  • KShep

    So, Ebonmuse, how long do you think it will be until some Scientology goons come knocking on your door to gently persuade you to pay proper respect to their beliefs?

    Oh, I’m going to be watching this thread….it’s only a matter of time before some CoS numbskulls show up. I have to believe they Google themselves dozens of times a day, the way they so aggressively come after critics.

    Should be quite interesting!

  • DamienSansBlog

    Scotlyn, you beat me to it! From the article,

    Like the other defectors, Rinder says he’s sure he wrote whatever is in the ethics files, but he says the admissions are meaningless, they were just whatever his superiors wanted to hear. “All of these things were written to try and get into good graces or curry favor.”

    And,

    The executives would confess sins they had committed against Miscavige, reveal their bad thoughts about Scientology and make personal disclosures, including sexual fantasies. If someone couldn’t come up with a transgression, the others bullied him into admitting something. Anything.

    Probably Ms. Wolff and others were pressured into making equally false confessions (though I can’t find the specific quote by her).

  • Reginald Selkirk
  • lpetrich

    L. Ron Hubbard had originally presented Dianetics as a medical therapy, but I think that he recognized that he was at risk for being investigated and prosecuted for quackery. So he founded the “Church” of Scientology, so he can have something better to hide behind.

    He may have felt justified in doing so when he saw what happened to Wilhelm Reich, inventor of orgone therapy. The FDA confiscated his orgone-accumulator boxes, and he was tossed into jail for quackery.

  • http://spaninquis.wordpress.com/ Spanish Inquisitor

    Legal question: would this contract be valid if you (hypothetically) wanted to press charges for systematic fraud or assault or something else felonious?

    and

    I’m not a lawyer, but I would guess that this clause would only cover civil, not criminal liability. You might lose the right to sue Scientology if they mistreated you, but you can’t sign away your right to charge someone with a crime, because the state is the party that files criminal charges, not the victim.

    Adam is right about criminal acts. As far as fraud is concerned, (which is civil) you can’t release someone from something you’re unaware of, so a release would not absolve someone from fraud. You must have full knowledge of that which you are legally waiving your rights to, and by definition, fraud would be unknown at the time of the release.

  • http://spaninquis.wordpress.com/ Spanish Inquisitor

    You must have full knowledge of that which you are legally waiving your rights to…

    I should add “…or the ability and opportunity to discover it with due diligence.” Again, fraud would prevent that, by design.


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