The two faces of Scientology
November 20, 2009
Scientology is just a big joke to most of us. The religion that every other religion laughs at and teases in the theological playground. But people still subscribe to its pseudo-Freudian science fiction based beliefs.
Scientology has always been very secretive about its practices and vague about underlying parts of its faith, although never secret about the celebrity membership it shouts from the rooftops. In Senator Nick Xenophon's remarkable speech under parliamentary privilege to the Senate on Wednesday we got a significant glimpse through letters of ex-Scientology members. The authors collectively tell a story of Scientology's suggested mafia-like tendencies, alleging blackmail, imprisonment, coercion, forced separation of loved ones and even murder and forced abortions.
The Church of Scientology strenuously deny these accusations. But with allegations like these and an increasing number of leaked internal videos on the internet, will more knowledge of the alleged abuses and bizarreness of this institution be Scientology's undoing? Do people just need more credible information about the organisation's true goings on to turn away?
The church has been growing since it was established mid-last century. Its principal spokesman Tommy Davis says, scarily enough, that ''Scientology has grown more in the last five years than in the last five decades combined''.
This is despite an avalanche of information that points to some strange activities within the church. There is even an anonymous internet group called, originally enough ''Anonymous'', which is dedicated to tracking down the stuff the church does not want you to see. This interview in which actor Tom Cruise basically rants and laughs while using apparent Scientology codes like KSW (keep Scientology working) and SP (suppressive persons) as the music to Mission Impossible plays in the background, is the most infamous example and went viral across the internet. The church in fact was so cut about this internal leak going public that they tried to sue YouTube for keeping the videos up, claiming copyright infringement.
Scientology.org is the Church of Scientology's official line of communication. Hours and hours worth of videos describing on a glossy website the ins and outs of a fuzzy sort of philosophy and vague truisms such as ''understanding is obtained through knowledge and information''. This is the very public face of the self-help version of this philosophy, which emphasises freedom of religion and equal rights. The videos also run on a dedicated YouTube channel showing just your average Scientologists as race car drivers, fashion designers, soccer players and other glamorous careers. This public face of the church online has also been attacked by Anonymous, taking down the Scientology.org website repeatedly and sending messages of cyber destruction to the Scientology community.
Even without those on the outside trying to destroy Scientology, people on the inside seem to be doing plenty of that on their own. There have been amazing allegations from those in the inner sanctum against the current leader of Scientology, David Miscavige, who took over in the '80s shortly after the Big LRH (church founder L. Ron Hubbard) died, including a rather chilling game of musical chairs, before which 30 members of staff were cooped up for weeks and forced to think up strategic plans for the future of the church. When these ideas were rebuffed they had to prove their devotion to the church by winning the game, played to the sounds of Bohemian Rhapsody. Those who lost would be flung to far corners of the earth on Scientology postings, Miscavige saying if families were broke up, well, too bad. There were also serious allegations that Miscavige even physically beat up those around him.
Davis, the church's new PR spokesman, has also been doing a pretty good job of wrecking its image. The most infamous and embarrassing was his interview with Nightline's Martin Bashir, where Davis, when asked about Xenu (the galactic emperor who plays an important role in the church's version of history), pulled out his microphone and stormed off. Davis allegedly even went down to ABC headquarters and tried to stop the footage from being aired, unsuccessfully.
Celebrities, the church's most valuable asset, have also spoken out in recent times. Oscar-winning director of Crash, Paul Haggis left the church and sent a damning letter to Davis that spread quickly over the internet. In the letter he talks about homophobic behaviour in the church and the policy of disconnection. Haggis also says that he decided to leave the church after looking up videos and articles online, including articles on the Miscavige behaviour and Davis' denial of the policy of disconnection.
The public face with its self-help and vague Freudian philosophy seem to contradict revelations of this secret side of the Church of Scientology.
Bella Counihan is The Goanna.
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