Post Sat May 15, 2010 12:18 am

Scientology: Cult?

It seems like, every few minutes, there's another ex-Scientologist coming forward with the "truth" about the religion. Scientology is clannish; Scientology is abusive; Scientology asks you to believe crazy things. Most folks with internet connections have watched the Jim Beebe interviews; last year, Paul Haggis denounced the religion's involvement in California's Proposition 8. Now, Amy Scobee has written a book, Scientology: Abuse At The Top. In it, she describes her experience at the religion's "celebrity centers". Scientology is, she claims, "a dangerous cult".

Now, I'm not a Scientologist, and the idea that any religion would value celebrities as somehow superior to mere mortals...concerns me. And, to be brutally honest, there's a lot about the religion that seems strange to me. But, this all being said, the tenets of any religion sound downright bizarre when taken out of context.

My own religion has, in unfriendly hands, been made to seem bizarre. I've had people ask me, how could you believe that drivel? My response is usually to explain that, well, I actually don't believe it--because my church doesn't teach it. There's a lot of information out there. I've said before that, whatever your position on Christianity, or organized religion in general, it's not a good idea to learn about Mormons from ex-Mormons--and that same reasoning applies to all religions, to some extent.

Of course ex-members have an agenda. Sure, some (or all) of what they're saying may even be true, but they're not saying it in the spirit of conciliation--but, rather, in the hopes of swaying you to their point of view. There's a big difference between explaining the tenets of a religion in the hopes of helping others understand it better, and "explaining" how stupid it is.

Which, of course, is not to say that there isn't tremendous value in books like this. Scobee is chronicling her personal experience, and that takes bravery. The fact that a group calls itself a "religion" doesn't make it immune from criticism--or accountability. If a religion doesn't police itself effectively--e.g. by taking meaningful steps to prevent abuse--then the outside world must step in. We all have an obligation to each other, regardless of our beliefs. Some of Scobee's allegations--particularly that David Miscavige, a man Tom Cruise praises as "a leader of leaders", "viciously beats" his staff--are mind-boggling.

So will you read it?
"Be the change you want to see in the world."