From the outside, Scientology looks like a combination of a religion and a social club ("Save your soul, and network with the stars, all at the same time!"). But once they get you into their clutches, they'll explain how all of your problems are due to some psychological blockages that they can cure (Of course, it's not really a "psychological" block, because they hate psychology... so it's a blockage... maybe it's a "Thetan blockage"... oh, just keep reading, maybe you'll understand soon... maybe not...). Then they put you through a combination of religious training and brainwashing, all in the name of "helping" you. And you get pulled into their cult gradually. Almost painlessly.
I'm sorry. Did that last paragraph sound a little negative? Well, let's look at their core beliefs. (Hold on, this is kind of a bumpy ride.)
You see, 75 million years ago, there was a huge space empire run by a guy named Xenu. He gathered together billions of dissidents from all over his empire, transported them to Earth, and piled them up around volcanoes. He then blew up the volcanoes with hydrogen bombs. But these dead people didn't disappear. Their souls stayed on Earth, and clustered around all of the survivors. This is one of those "blockages" that Scientologists want to help you with. It's called "Incident II," and they cure you by locating clusters of "body Thetans" and peeling them off of you.
OK, "peeling them off" isn't quite right. But if I said that they located them telepathically, would that sound any less crazy? But I'm getting ahead of myself.
Now, all of these "Thetans" (remember them? They're the souls of the people Xenu blew up) were gathered up by Xenu's forces using electronic ribbons, and taken to get processed (they call this the "R-6 Implant") in what looked like giant movie theaters, where they were brainwashed with "all kinds of misleading information." As a result of this processing, humanity gets religion, psychology, and doesn't believe science fiction (but, oddly enough, it doesn't keep us from watching movies).
Once they were processed, these Thetans also lost their sense of personal identity, which is why they started clustering around the surviving humans.
You can understand why something like that would be traumatic, right?
Now, L. Ron Hubbard wrote a lot of this stuff down in 1967 and 1968, while drunk and on drugs (as he said in a letter to his wife, "I'm drinking lots of rum and taking pinks and grays"). But he probably developed these ideas before 1960, when he published a book called Have You Lived Before This Life?, where he gave details of 41 case studies of Scientologists and their memories of reincarnation. (He didn't actually write the book; it was put together by Scientological "auditors," which is what they call the guys who run the "e-meters." I would explain e-meters, but pseudoscience just makes me tired.)
There are plenty of other details to the story, about how Earth (or "Teegeeack") was actually a prison planet, run by evil beings ("entheta"), but why go on? With Scientology, you get to learn the "actual history" of Earth and the universe by going through training. The whole Xenu story is revealed in OT III ("Operational Thetan, Level III").
Scientologists are a secretive bunch, and don't like letting the details out. So how, you might ask, do we know all this information about them? Well, some people go through the training, and the brainwashing doesn't take. Robert Kaufman, for example, wrote a book in 1972 called Inside Scientology: How I Joined Scientology and Became Super Human. And the Church of Scientology sued Steven Fishman, who claimed that he had been assigned to murder his psychologist (Dr. Uwe Geertz) and then commit suicide. And in the course of Church of Scientology International v. Fishman and Geertz, Fishman introduced, as evidence, the textbooks for OT-I through OT-VII. (There was apparently also a fake document, claiming to be OT-VIII, which talked about pedophilia being a good thing. But let's not deal with all that.)
That is how Scientology tries to protect itself. It sues. They've never argued that the OT-I through VII documents were lies. Instead, they have gone to court claiming copyright violation, and several times they’ve said that even rewording the documents would reveal trade secrets. And they've sued a bunch of Internet providers for reprinting the documents, too. Fortunately, since the entire story was introduced in court documents, it’s all available for people to read.
Do your own research. Check Wikipedia. (And then, because it's Wikipedia, verify everything.)
None of this stuff really affects most people's lives. But it does get in the news once in a while. Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes are obvious examples. Plus, there's the South Park controversy. Matt Stone and Trey Parker, the creators of the show, had an episode where they revealed most of the Xenu story, with a footnote at the bottom of the screen reading "This is what Scientologists actually believe." They were going to rerun the episode on March 15, 2005. On March 13, Isaac Hayes released a statement that he was quitting because Stone and Parker were insensitive to "personal spiritual beliefs." (It’s possible that he never released this statement directly, since he apparently suffered a stroke in January and hadn’t been seen by his friends since then.)
Finally, Comedy Central pulled the episode and replaced it with the "Chef's Salty Chocolate Balls" episode. (If you've seen the show, I don't need to explain that last sentence. If you haven't... well, hell, I'm not even going to try to explain...) Why would they do pull the episode? Well, remember that Viacom owns Comedy Central. Viacom is also tied to Paramount, which was about to release Mission Impossible III. And there are some anonymous sources who've suggested that Tom Cruise threatened not to promote the movie.
I don't know the truth. I just lay out the facts. You figure it out. But remember that Stone and Parker released a statement to Daily Variety where they said:
So, Scientology, you may have won THIS battle, but the million-year war for earth has just begun! Temporarily anozinizing our episode will NOT stop us from keeping Thetans forever trapped in your pitiful man-bodies. Curses and drat! You have obstructed us for now, but your feeble bid to save humanity will fail! Hail Xenu!!!It sounds a little odd that thousands of people have been taken in by this crappy science fiction script. But remember that billions of people have believed in an invisible man in the sky who, despite being omnipotent and omniscient, gets testy if you don't debase yourself to him every day. (See? It hurts when it's your religion that's getting mocked, doesn't it?)
I just know one thing. Scientology must be destroyed. But not because it's a cult: I don't care about that. All I know is, they're responsible for that steaming cinematic turd called Battlefield Earth.
That's enough reason for me.