Scientology - A modern day cult?

27 Nov 2013

* November Article of the Month *

 

As I was walking down Tottenham Court Road only a few days ago, I was approached by what appeared to be someone giving out flyers. As I do the same thing for my Student Union I have sympathy for just how tedious and draining this is, and thus normally accept flyers from these unfortunate souls. However, as it turned out, I had condemned myself to a discussion with a type of person I revile the most, the cultist. A well-meaning, I imagine, but deeply indoctrinated Scientologist proceeded, as I took the flyer, to string out some tripe about ‘dianetics’ (indeed as I write this, Microsoft Office refuses to recognise it as a word, thank god) using poorly referenced and very unsubstantial ‘science’ to claim I was only using ten percent of my brain and due to my ignorance thus must come in and watch a video of how dianetics will change my life.

 

I watched the propaganda piece and was approached by another volunteer in a suit, whom appeared to be incredibly enthusiastic about pushing the view of this cult onto others – who tried to get me to buy L. Ron Hubbard’s large volume on dianetics. I assured the volunteer that I lacked such funds and proceeded to leave, with my promise to look into the topic further, feeling rather strange that Scientology was not mentioned once (perhaps they were too embarrassed to reveal the true insane face of this cult?). Therefore, investigate I did – and it’s shocking what I discovered. Corruption, bribery, fraud were apparent in abundance – and I find it shocking that this organisation even exists in our society. 

The fact that they were literally dragging people off the streets to tell them about Scientology is what caught me by surprise. I suspect that those who are desperate or in a poor mental state would be perfectly moulded by the enthusiasm of the volunteers outside such scientology centres, a tragic situation. Indeed they appear a professional organisation at first – one that offers this ‘dianetics’ service to unlock parts of our brains. Naturally it’s all drivel, but said with enough rhetoric it can sound very convincing. Yet once you’ve done the tests required, then things get weird, opening up a world of strange beliefs centring on an alien deity called Xenu and how he oppressed the human race. I won’t bore you with the details of the theology – just watch an episode of Star Trek it’s broadly similar. Anyway, once you see through the façade of dianetics and look into the actual ‘Church’ of Scientology you see an almost fascistic corporation. They rake in huge sums of money off gullible celebrities and unsuspecting members of the public and go out of their way to supress any who attempt to silence them. Journalists who write critically about the Church are often followed by private investigators hired by the cult, whilst harassing others. I know Scientologists amount to a minute number of the population – yet they are a very, very loud group for having such small members and have the money to perform such highly illegal actions as mentioned above. 

As well as this, the cult also manages to exert political influence. This is when things get scary. For instance, a former representative in the United States Congress, Ben Gilman, was given thousands by the cult to assist his political campaigns. In return, as the then chair of the International Relations Committee, he publically lambasted European nations for ‘discriminating’ against the Church of Scientology and was then praised in return by the cult’s official magazine, Freedom. The fact Scientology was able to exert its poisonous influence on influential policy makers in international affairs is very chilling for such a small and dangerous group. They also manage to have friends on both sides of the political aisle in the United States – indeed they opened a PAC (although it has fizzled out recently) called ‘Citizens for Social Reform’ that donated to both Democrat and Republican candidates in a variety of states. The fact their PAC doesn’t bare the name of their own ‘religion’ looks shady enough, but the amount of political influence they are exerting is shocking – it’s certainly fine holding personal beliefs if you’re a politician, I have no qualms with you if you do, but if you are backed by a Church that gives vast sums of money to ensure you win your campaign, then I have problems with you. It’s not democratic and very, very suspicious. 

It can come across that the cult only exerts non-direct influence, subtly donating to politicians and hiring private investigators to do their dirty work – acting on the edge of legality. But Scientology has led to some real damage for many people. Not only do they constantly milk money from their small, indoctrinated following, Scientology’s weird quasi-psychological practices often ban many actual psychological practices, something that can have truly serious consequences. One family who were part of the cult used Scientologist methods in an attempt to treat the schizophrenia of their son, yet since he effectively went untreated due to the ineffectiveness of such methods he stabbed his mother, Elli Perkins. A tragedy which certainly shows just how dangerous Scientology can be to individuals – yet Scientology requires its members to sign a waiver saying that they, or a family member, cannot bring legal action to the Church in the event of injury or death. Absolutely unforgivable; it’s as if they know full well people will die from their ill-informed practices and thus, rather than solving it, want to protect their financial assets. It’s a disgrace. 

Thus, I feel that this cult must be stamped out. I find it shocking that in many nations it’s regarded as a tax-exempt religion yet, and it pains me to say this, other organised religions at least have benefits such as inspiring others to do good and excellent charitable deeds; Scientology has none of this. It doesn’t produce any Martin Luther King’s or Malcolm X’s – it just churns out brain-dead cretins like Tom Cruise, whom I hardly see as going down in the history books as a driver of social and political change. It corrupts political institutions and forces many poorly informed members of the public into debt, and consequently I’m thankful groups like Anonymous are protesting about the organisation and that countries like France have taken the rational approach of banning the cult. We however need to do the same. As my experience in London serves to show, Scientologists are still trying, under the façade of dianetics, to expand their membership. One shudders at the thought of the possibility of them exerting influence in Westminster-based politics, and let’s not forget that they have the resources to do so. Thus, like any other dangerous cult, they must be dealt with – Scientology isn’t an organized religion, it is simply an affront to humanity. 

By Rory Claydon

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