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July 22, 2005

Krassner on Scientology

I don't know how much of of Paul Krassner's latest NY Press article is true, but I can attest that it's 100% funny.

In 1971, I announced in an ad the features that would be included in the 13th-anniversary issue of The Realist. Among them, "The Rise of Sirhan Sirhan in the Scientology Hierarchy." The Church of Scientology proceeded to sue me for libel; they wanted $750,000 for those nine words, the title of an article that I had not yet written.

What's relevant here is the paranoid mindset of Scientology, as revealed in this excerpt from their complaint:

"...Defendants have conspired between themselves and with other established religions, medical and political organizations and persons presently unknown to plaintiff. By subtle covert and pernicious techniques involving unscrupulous manipulation of all public communication media, defendants and their co-conspirators have conspired to deny plaintiff its right to exercise religious beliefs on an equal basis with the established religious organizations of this country."

(I'm inclined to believe every word of it, especially the part about attempt to force The Realist to publish an article by Chick Corea, but Krassner is a satirist.)


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It's seriously depressing to learn that Chick Corea is a Scientologist.

I may be biased, but there is nothing on earth funnier to me than pleadings filed by crazies.

I can agree with both statements above.

My ditto, Cranky... It sounds like they went with a "patriot/spy adventure novelist" (eg Clive Cussler) instead of hiring a lawyer to write this thing... OH, wait- is this an El-Ron "original"? ^..^

I wonder if there is any allure generated by their aggressive tactics. If I were an intelligent crackpot (and I'm seriously considering it as an option) I would be quite impressed with Scientology's dedication to protecting its crackpottedness.

Hey if you'er for religious freedom, why exempt Scientology? It's no crazier or greedier than any other religion. And at least Scientologists preserve old buildings (at least in LA.)

Republican Party sold out its far right wing reactionary libertarian base today by extending the USA PATRIOT Act in the house. So to defend our "way of life against terrorists", we just threw out the bill of rights.

I am now officially a Right Wing Gun Nut Democrat.

There's a big difference between Scientology and real religions.

If I've got a problem, I can walk into any Baptist or Catholic church, any synagogue, or any mosque and find someone willing to try to talk me through it. If I'm a parishioner, I can get extensive aid from most churches. I never have to put a dime in any collection plate.

I can name several people in my neighborhood who would be virtually without furniture if not for the Evangelical church nearby. They also provide clothing for some of the kids in the area. None of the recipients of this aid that I happen to know are members of that parish. For the services they provide to the community, I'm certainly willing to be polite during their semiannual attempts to get me to accept a Chick tract and invitation to a complimentary Sunday breakfast.

If I want to join a religion, be it the Catholics, the Latter Day Saints, the Jehovah's Witnesses, etc., I don't have to pay a dime. They might request that I take classes, but they will offer the classes free of charge.

You can't say any of this about Scientology. The whole "religion" is based on extracting money from its members. If you want some info about the Scientology business from the inside, check out the site that some former members put together:

Hey if you'er for religious freedom, why exempt Scientology?

I don't think anyone here want to restrict the religious freedom of scientologists. What we object to is the way they use libel and copyright laws to keep other people from saying bad things about them. In the US, at least, it is the scientologists who are working against free speech. (The German case may be different)

By the way, I have officially declared that the difference between a cult and a religion is not number of followers or wackiness of views, but longevity. To be a religion, you must survive 100 years past the death of your founder, thus ensuring that you are not just coasting on his charisma.

By this rule, the Mormons ceased to be a cult in 1944. The scientologists will have to last to 2086.

My wife’s people, the Quakers, have never been very numerous, and always had out of the mainstream views, but they have been a religion since 1791.

The scientologists will have to last to 2086.

According to Scientologists, L. Ron Hubbard hasn't died yet.

Cults (in the non-academic sense) are generally distinguished from other religions by their recruiting and intimidation tactics. The mormons may be weird, but to my knowledge, they never sequestered new members or exiting members, limited their food and water intake, etc. You could make a good case that Opus Dei is a cult. It's not how long it's been around or how weird the beliefs are, it's how it operates.


Your definition is no fun at all. It requires people to make nuanced judgements about ethics.

With my method, you can just make declarations: cult, not cult, cult, etc.

What if your founder dies, and comes back? What if the founder never dies? I think you should make it about 150 years after the founder is born. Of course, people are living longer now, so, just to be on the safe side, how about 100 years after the founder would be eligible for social security.

I may be biased, but there is nothing on earth funnier to me than pleadings filed by crazies.

Unless it's the claim that this wine will turn into the blood of Christ if sanctified. All religions are psychotic, beginning with the solipsistic belief that we don't die.

What is objectionable about Scientology is the intimidation of critics. Do they actually use the word fatwa in Scientology?

And, off topic:
It has been kindly pointed out to me, by Saurabh, that a previous claim I made that the mitochondrial DNA in a cell exceeds the weight of the nuclear DNA is incorrect. Sorry.

Rob-Helpy Chalk,

The Mormons are still a cult. I say 200 years from the date that they finalize their core canonical texts.

Gordo...try to get a Scientologist to shut up about Scientology...believe me, they will talk you thru it. They will talk you thru it and never let go once they think they have chance at converting you, just like any "real religion" does. Once they get their hooks into you they start asking you for money and/or service, preferably both.

You open a whole hornets nest, anyway, with your "real religion" statement. And my two cents is that all "real religions" are about money, not about saving souls. Even religious charities have to be self-sustaining (at least before Bush's Faith-bases Initiative CRAP that I, an atheist, am paying for) in addition to being open to corruption.

Infact, the sex scandals of the Catholic Church serve only to distract from their money scandals.

Please, don't talk to me about "real religions." They're all too real, unfortunetly, and they're all trying to sell you thier line of bullshit.

(I like the bit about a cult having to survive 150 years after the death of it's founding leader in order to qualify as a religion. That's sounds fair.)


The Patriot Act has to pass the Senate yet so there is still hope, but Americans need to wake up fast.

Bush organized his secret police inside of the FBI already. There a counter terrorist group inside of the Bureau but report to Negroponte rather than to the Director of the FBI. Negroponte reports directly to Bush which upset veteran agents.

The USAPATRIOT Act in its revised form dispenses with Judicial oversight as described in the fouth amendment and gives unlimited search and seizure power to the FBI... no "just cause" establishment needed.

In short if Bush didn't like someone, say a political opponent like Wilson, he could have him declared a "person of interest" have him picked up and detained indefinitely without being charged with a crime. His business and home can be searched and property can be seized and held indefinitely and they wouldn't need a Judges order to do it. It would all be at the whim of the President.

Oh Yeah one more thing... Karl Rove would get to read all of the reports and go through your records, financial, medical, mail, e-mail, computer communications. Isn't that sweet????

I like the bit about a cult having to survive 150 years after the death of it's founding leader in order to qualify as a religion. That's sounds fair.

Not to me. It opens you up to Kool-Aid cults claiming they are the true interpreters of the ancient religion.

Science has its arbitrary beliefs just as religion does, as the religious rightly point out. We make assumptions to overcome our lack of trust in cause and effect, since Hume, our shaken faith in our very logic, since Kurt Goedel, and our shattered confidence in the whole scientific enterprise of testable models, since Copernicus.

But there are two distinguishing factors between religion and science: the inviolable, sacred texts of religion, as opposed to the scientists' belief that their most deeply held theories can be improved on; and the more parsimonious premises of science.

Religion claims to be certain about things that aren't true, and science claims to be uncertain about things that are.


Like you, I'm an atheist. I don't, however, think that all religions are scams designed to make money. If the Catholic Church was all about making money, wouldn't the clergy live a lot better than they do? Just who is making all the money? Why do they maintain so many parishes that do nothing but bleed money? I've had several close friends who were Catholic priests (attended a Jesuit college), and I can't think of a single one who wouldn't have been considerably better off materially if he had chosen a different profession. For example, the lowest paid faculty members at the college were all priests.

As I said, donations to the Church are not a condition for receiving spiritual services, and that's what makes it far different from Scientology. In the 1940's, L. Ron Hubbard was struggling financially. He told several friends that the best way to make a million was to start a religion. By the 1950's, his "religion" was born, and he quickly became rich beyond his wildest dreams.

Several people here have used what I think is a nonsensical definition to claim that Scientology is a cult. I think Scientology is a group that is both a cult and a business, but I don't base this on an arbitrary timeline or an evaluation of the group's financial assets.

Scientoloy is a business because it operates on a fee-for-service basis. Like peddlers of timeshares, Scientologists might offer something for free to get you in the door (usually, a free evaluation), but if you want the services the group provides, it's going to cost you.

I consider Scientology a cult because there are so many cultic aspects present. The leader, first Hubbard and now David Miscavige, is exalted to divine or near-divine status. To this day, Scientologists believe that Hubbard is alive, having transcended his material form. There are no theological debates within Scientology--what Miscavige says is The Truth.

Scientology makes apostates into non-persons, and in some cases pursues them ruthlessly (frivolous lawsuits, slander, picketing ex-members' homes and leafleting their neighborhoods, etc.). Scientologists do not maintain friendships with those who leave the organization.

Scientologists engage in cultic brainwashing techniques, including imprisonment (several members have gone to jail for this).

The heirarchy keeps some aspects of their dogma from the rank-and-file. Paradoxically, a non-Scientologist can learn more about the core beliefs of the group than can rank-and-file members. We can read what high-level defectors have written about Scientology, while Scientologists can be chucked out for doing this.

Finally, Scientologists deliberately deceive people with front organizations. Looking to overcome an addiction? Make sure you contact Narcotics Anonymous (aka NarcAnon) and not Narconon, a Scientology front. Looking for information on cults? If you Google "cult awareness network" in an attempt to find Rick Ross's Cult Action Network (CAN), your first hit will be a Scientology front called CAN, the NEW Cult Awareness Network.

So, based on the evidence, I conclude that Scientology is a business and a cult, bearing only passing resemblence to mainstream religions.

Catholics = men in red hats
Scientology = men in tinfoil hats

Interesting analysis gordo.
Hope they don't start picketing your house.
Do you know some defector, or have some other personal interest in Scientology?

I keep trying to find that classic Wiley comic with two people, a card table, one of those thermometer charts, and a sign: "Help Us Reach Our Goal." The hierarchy went something like Two Crazies/Cult/Sect/Minor Religion/Church" and at the top, Major World Religion.

Scientology differs from other religions in one important way: yes, they'll talk your ear off, but they wait for you to be "ready" before they tell you about the loopy theology all that "getting clear" stuff is aiming toward. And yeh, it's depressing that so many folks in California one would otherwise respect (for me, the musician -blank>Beck Hansen is the =blank>big grief,) subscribe to it. (At least Beck is second-generation.)

p.s. One of the ex-Scientologists' sites gives us =blank> this guide to their business structure, with a note that this piece that came out in 1980 still describes the way it works.

Gordo...most priests live very well. A vow of poverty is voluntary (unlike a vow of celibacy.) The Catholic Church/Vatican is the largest real estate holder in the world (thru-out recorded history.) And if you go by the Funny Hat Standard (and I do) the Catholic Church still qualifies as a cult.

"To this day" Catholics, and indeed all Xians, believe their founder, you know, the one they call Christ, never died, or he did die, but not really cuz he was resurrected to live in our hearts, or something along those lines. If you ask me, that belief rates right up there with any of the crazy shit that Scientologists believe

And yeah, the money thing w/Scientology is high pressure, but there are numerous ways of getting around that, plus they (Scientologists) also do a lot of missionary/charity work.

And if you think that Catholics don't get pressured to contribute, you're not living in the real world. That's one religion that knows how to wrap you in a blanket of guilt.

World leaders attend to, are recieved by, and curry favor with the pope, not the other way around. I say Rome never died, and still rules the world.


I haven't personally known any ex-Scientologists, but I've read a fair amount about the organization. They've never taken any interest in me, and I don't think it would be possible for them to go after all of their critics. They tend to pursue the ones who can do serious damage to the organization, like ex-members and anti-cult activists.


I agree that some of the beliefs of any religion will seem bizarre to non-believers. I mean, transubstantiate bread into flesh all you want, but don't EAT it! You may have noticed that I haven't referred to some of the more bizarre beliefs of the Scientologists, and that's because my criticism of Scientology isn't based on how "weird" it is.

Also, just about every religion will have one or two cultic elements. What distinguishes the cults is that they have most of the elements.

I've been Catholic, and never felt any pressure to contribute. It's considered very bad form to watch the collection plate as it passes through the pews, and at every mass I attended, the priest made a big show of not looking at the congregation as the plates (or in this case, baskets) were passed.

As for priests, I don't know where you got the notion that the vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience were voluntary, but they aren't. Taking these vows is an integral part of the sacrament of Holy Orders. Most priests live comfortably, in that they have all that they need, but not luxuriously. "Poverty," in this case, means that they only get use of apartments, houses, cars, etc., but don't own them.

Higher up the ladder, you do find bishop's estates that have swimming pools and such, and I've always had a problem with that. Many people seem to imagine, though, that the life of a bishop or cardinal would rival that of Ken Lay, or Dennis Kozlowski, or Pat Robertson. That's simply not the case. The the leaders of Scientology, on the other hand, have a flock roughly 1/1000 the size of the Catholic church, and they live in the kinds of places you'd expect to find the likes of Bill Gates.

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