Editors Note: This 20thcentury religion seems a lot worse than the most oppressive forms of Christianity, though they have a lot in common. /Linda LaScola
By Bob Ripley
I watched director Alex Gibney’s Going Clear: Scientology and the Prison of Belief. This 2015 two-hour documentary is loosely based on Lawrence Wright’s book of the same name. Going Clear uses archival clips and interviews with eight former Scientologists such as screenwriter Paul Haggis (who first joined the church in my city, London Ontario, in the Scientology office above Woolworth’s downtown, but I digress).
You go from chuckling at the lunacy of the claims of this multi-billion dollar bogus religion to being horrified at the cult behavior, including indoctrination, punishment, brainwashing, and human rights abuses.
It’s also a reminder of the power exerted by a group when faced with criticism. Going Clear premiered in January 2015 at the Sundance Film Festival. Ten days earlier, the Church of Scientology took out full-page ads in The New York Times and Los Angeles Times to denounce the doc. Director Gibney said that he was grateful for the Church’s advertising, as it had attracted publicity for the film; he only wished “they’d put in show times”.
But this notoriously litigious “religion” has continued its massive campaign to intimidate distributors, theatres and reviewers. Prior to its television premier of Going Clear, HBO said that it had put probably 160 lawyers onto the task of reviewing the film in anticipation of legal challenges from the Church.
and John Travolta to give it some semblance of credibility and how smart, skilled people can fall into this belief.
So yes, it was brave for some people to leave the Church knowing the price it would exact on their lives, and brave for them to be interviewed and brave of Gibney to take on a powerhouse like Scientology. But as I walked away from the theatre, all I could think of were the parallels.
- The big money
- The real estate holdings
- The outlandish stories
- The controlling hierarchy
- The claims on individual adherents above family members
Let me be clear, Scientology takes manipulation of the masses to horrifying extremes. But in some form or another we have seen the horrors of faith before in more gruesome terms and over longer periods of time. The Inquisition lasted 600 years. Heretics were burned at the stake and the property of those convicted of heresy was forfeited to the Roman Catholic Church. Today we have ISIS videos of the burning or beheading of infidels.
Going Clear is not only a courageous expose of the Church of Scientology; it is also a wake up call to the danger of blind faith. It is a worthy reminder that it is possible for anyone to fall into a belief system and end up doing irrational things because that belief system becomes so much a part of their identity. There are many ways in which we can become hostages of faith, unable to think outside a dogmatic box.
If you are ever not allowed to ask questions, if you are not even encouraged to ask questions or if your questions are not answered, then it might be time to take a fresh look the beliefs you hold dear.
Bio: Bob Ripley, was a syndicated religion columnist, broadcaster, former preacher and author of Christian devotional material. His book, which came out in October 2014 is titled Life Beyond Belief: A Preacher’s Deconversion. Find out more about the book and his other writing here. This essay is repostedwith permission from his blog.
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