If you haven’t already, check out New Yorker journalist Lawrence Wright’s story on ex-Scientologist writer-director Paul Haggis: The Apostate: Paul Haggis vs. the Church of Scientology At 26 pages, it’s long and rambling in the way of New Yorker articles, but its core is solid.
Paul Haggis is known for writing the screenplay of Million Dollar Baby, and writing and directing Crash (and being the executive producer of The Facts of Life and co-creator of Walker, Texas Ranger, kind of a mixed resume). He dropped out of the Church of Scientology in 2009. The final straw was the church’s refusal to retract its support of Proposition 8.
But there were a lot of straws before that, and the article contains 26 pages worth of them. It’s a very compelling story, because Wright does a good job of sketching Haggis. He comes across as a rootless and energetic young atheist who suddenly discovered a system that explained everything and seemed to make life easier to live.
Later on, after it had lost its sheen, he continued in Scientology despite reservations. He mentions that he felt no smarter or more “enlightened” after repeated auditings:
He noted that a Scientologist hearing this would feel, with some justification, that he had misled his auditors about his progress. But, after hundreds of hours of auditing sessions, he said, “I remember feeling I just wanted it over. I felt it wasn’t working, and figured that could be my fault, but did not want the hours of ‘repair auditing’ that they would tell me I needed to fix it. So I just went along, to my shame. I did what was easy . . . without asking them, or myself, any hard questions.”
We could play a game comparing Scientology to Fundamentalism. It seems to promote a similar mindset. There are some ironies as well:
Haggis and a friend from this circle eventually got a job writing for cartoons, including “Scooby-Doo” and “Richie Rich.”
That makes me want to see an episode of Scooby-Doo where they take the mask off of Xenu, and find that it was L. Ron Hubbard all along.
The article gets darker in the last third, when Wright starts talking about Gold Base, a Scientologist “monastery” and headquarters in California, and the abuse inflicted by higher-ups in the Scientologist chain of command. Apparently that abuse has been enough to attract the attention of the F.B.I., who are investigating the church for – get this – slave trafficking:
The laws regarding trafficking were built largely around forced prostitution, but they also pertain to slave labor. Under federal law, slavery is defined, in part, by the use of coercion, torture, starvation, imprisonment, threats, and psychological abuse. The California penal code lists several indicators that someone may be a victim of human trafficking: signs of trauma or fatigue; being afraid or unable to talk, because of censorship by others or security measures that prevent communication with others; working in one place without the freedom to move about; owing a debt to one’s employer; and not having control over identification documents. Those conditions echo the testimony of many former Sea Org members who lived at the Gold Base.