On Jan. 14, a widely read (and now removed) sponsored post that appeared on TheAtlantic.com went further, extolling these churches, or Ideal Orgs, as proof of the religion’s 2012 “renaissance” — a “milestone year” that saw 12 of these lavish buildings open around the world. […]
The Ideal Orgs certainly look great, make headlines, and serve as flashy totems of Scientology’s (literally) unspeakable wealth. […]
But inside the church, the Ideal Orgs are sparking insurrection. Across the country, donors and high-ranking executives say that the aggressive fundraising and construction scheme is used to enrich the central church at the expense of the rank and file, helping to grow the Scientology war chest to over a billion dollars. Two former members, Mike Rinder and Mark Elliott, went so far as to call the project a “real estate scam.” To some of these defectors, the structures are metaphors for the religion itself: garish on the outside, empty on the inside. The irony is that the very expansion that Scientology lauds as its renaissance is actually a symbol of internal dissent and decline.
If you read that article, there are certainly some sympathetic victims in there who were defrauded at a vulnerable point in their lives.
But at a certain point (e.g., after getting over $1 million sucked out of you), the shackles of victimhood come off and the responsibility of abject stupidity sets in.
I know it sounds harsh, and I’m only half-joking when I say it – there really should come a point when civic-minded individuals realize how incomprehensibly stupid they are, and then promptly off themselves to permanently eliminate their particular brand of stupidity from the gene pool.
That’s my humanity improvement tip for the day.
I don’t know about you, but I am certainly gonna preorder this baby when it’s officially announced:
New Yorker staff writer and Looming Tower author Lawrence Wright is writing what his agent calls “the most profound reckoning to date” with Scientology, told through the eyes of director and apostate Paul Haggis. This should be good.
Haggis spent 35 years as a Scientologist before angrily and publicly ditching the cult in 2009 after he became convinced that leader David Miscavige is a violent nut. He hasn’t spoken publicly about Scientology since, but a “blown” celebrity (to use the Scientological term for leaving the fold) like Haggis is Scientology’s worst possible nightmare—it can smear and threaten rank-and-file detractors all it wants, but when one of its former leading lights is making the charges, it’s harder to strike back.
The Academy Award winning writer and director, Paul Haggis (Million Dollar Baby, Crash), spent three decades in the Church of Scientology. Haggis was one of the church’s Hollywood trophies, along with Tom Cruise and John Travolta, whose paths cross with Haggis’s. His resignation from the church in August of 2009 was a crushing disappointment to the organization. This is the first time Haggis has spoken about his experience.
The roots of Scientology are explored in this book, particularly the life of its eccentric founder, L. Ron Hubbard, whose flashes of brilliance and insanity are woven into the fabric of this elaborate belief system. Through Haggis’s eyes, we discover the appeal of Scientology, especially to talented and ambitious members of the entertainment industry. Haggis conducted a personal investigation of the church, in which he was told about the wanton physical abuse on the part of its current leader, David Miscavige, of senior members of the organization. He was told that young volunteers in the Scientology clergy, called the Sea Org, are subjected to conditions approaching slavery or imprisonment, and that many female members have been forced to have abortions.
The most profound reckoning to date with this powerful and secretive organization, The Heretic of Hollywood is also a moving human story of the lure of extreme faith and the price of leaving it.
h/t Anne Laurie
Update: An interesting tag-on to this is that the FBI is investigating the Church of Scientology for human trafficking:
Members of an FBI task force on human trafficking have been investigating the Church of Scientology for more than a year according to an article in this week’s New Yorker.
As expected, New Yorker staff writer Lawrence Wright‘s massive profile of ex-Scientologist writer-director Paul Haggis (Million Dollar Baby, Crash) contains many interesting revelations about the Church of Scientology and the life of a prominent member. Chief among these is the existence of an ongoing FBI investigation into allegations of abuse by Scientology’s leader David Miscavige, and the enslavement of members of Scientology’s religious order, “Sea Org”. (Recently, former Sea Org members claimed to have been forced to have abortions.)
According to the article, agents from an FBI task force on human trafficking have been interviewing former members of Scientology about abuse in the church since at least December, 2009, and the case remains open. Why human trafficking?
The laws regarding traﬃcking were built largely around forced prostitution, but they also pertain to slave labor. Under federal law, slavery is deﬁned, in part, by the use of coercion, torture, starvation, imprisonment, threats, and psychological abuse. The California penal code lists several indicators that someone may be a victim of human traﬃcking: signs of trauma or fatigue; being afraid or unable to talk, because of censorship by others or security measures that prevent communication with others; working in one place without the freedom to move about; owing a debt to one’s employer; and not having control over identification documents. Those conditions echo the testimony of many former Sea Org members…
Let’s talk about your TV show Bullshit! Will you ever run out of theories to debunk and people to expose? If you build a kingdom on bullshit, you’re not in danger of running out of it. Our producer says that Teller and I can take any subject in the news and do a credible show on it. Sure, we like to have a villain, something to call “bullshit” on, but if we don’t, we can depart from that model.
Are there any groups you won’t go after? We haven’t tackled Scientology because Showtime doesn’t want us to. Maybe they have deals with individual Scientologists—I’m not sure. And we haven’t tackled Islam because we have families.
Meaning, you won’t attack Islam because you’re afraid it’ll attack back … Right, and I think the worst thing you can say about a group in a free society is that you’re afraid to talk about it—I can’t think of anything more horrific.
Of course, it might please some Islamic fundamentalists to hear you say that you won’t talk about them because you’re afraid … It might, but you have to say what you believe, even it if pleases somebody you disagree with—that issue comes up all the time in moral discourse.
You do go after Christians, though … Teller and I have been brutal to Christians, and their response shows that they’re good fucking Americans who believe in freedom of speech. We attack them all the time, and we still get letters that say, “We appreciate your passion. Sincerely yours, in Christ.” Christians come to our show at the Rio and give us Bibles all the time. They’re incredibly kind to us. Sure, there are a couple of them who live in garages, give themselves titles and send out death threats to me and Bill Maher and Trey Parker. But the vast majority are polite, open-minded people, and I respect them for that.
Right on for Senator Xenophon (yes, that’s his real name):
An Australian senator has called for a criminal investigation into Scientology, alleging that the cult is “an abusive, manipulative, violent and criminal organization.” The senator’s name is Nick Xenophon. This is going to be good.
From the Sydney Morning Herald:
Senator Xenophon yesterday used parliamentary privilege to attack the church, after being contacted by a number of former Scientologists who accused the organisation of ”shocking” crimes.
”Scientology is not a religious organisation; it is a criminal organisation that hides behind its so-called religious beliefs,” he told the Senate.
”The letters received by me which were written by former followers in Australia contain extensive allegations of crimes and abuses that are truly shocking – crimes against them and crimes they say they were coerced into committing.
Senator Xenophon said their correspondence implicated the organisation in a range of crimes, including forced imprisonment, coerced abortions, embezzlement of church funds, physical violence, intimidation and blackmail.
We can’t imagine a more appropriately named crusader to take on Scientology in Australia—where, by the way, it has spent an extraordinary amount of resources and developed a strong foothold. We have to think that “The Rise of Xenophon” was prophesied somewhere by L. Ron Hubbard, and that his followers are rummaging through the archives as we speak searching desperately for written instructions on how to defeat him.
I can just picture it: Xenophon v. Xenu (the scientologist god creature). Brilliant.
The bad news keeps rolling in for the Super Adventure Club:
In an unprecedented effort to crack down on self-serving edits, the Wikipedia supreme court has banned contributions from all IP addresses owned or operated by the Church of Scientology and its associates.h/t Sully McBearderson
Closing out the longest-running court case in Wikiland history, the site’s Arbitration Committee voted 10 to 0 (with one abstention) in favor of the move, which takes effect immediately…
According to evidence turned up by admins in this long-running Wikiland court case, multiple editors have been “openly editing [Scientology-related articles] from Church of Scientology equipment and apparently coordinating their activities.” Leaning on the famed WikiScanner, countless news stories have discussed the editing of Scientology articles from Scientology IPs, and some site admins are concerned this is “damaging Wikipedia’s reputation for neutrality”…
“The guys I worked with posted every day all day,” Tory Christman tells The Reg. “It was like a machine. I worked with someone who used five separate computers, five separate anonymous identities…to refute any facts from the internet about the Church of Scientology.” Christman left the Church in 2000, before Wikipedia was created.
In the ensuing few days, serious questions have been raised as to whether John Travola’s Scientology-inspired beliefs about mental illness (i.e. that autism doesn’t exist and the complete refusal of all mental health medications) contributed to his son’s death.
Because the reporting at this point seems highly speculative, I’ll withhold full judgment until more facts are out.
However, here is a general construct that, if true, should make people truly outraged.
1. Fact: John Travolta is a member of the “Church” of Scientology, a trumped-up cult with loony beliefs on mental health and how life started on earth. Part of these beliefs requires parents to refuse medication for their children for mental illness (i.e. anti-seizure medication, anti-depressants, etc.).
2. Travolta’s son had some kind of mental illness that required the presence of a 24-hour nanny. Many have speculated that his son showed signs of severe autism along with a seizure disorder.
3. It has been reported that Travolta’s son’s symptoms could have been helped with certain medications, which Travolta’s beliefs would have required him to refuse.
4. As a result of not being properly medicated, Travolta’s son suffered from a serious attack that killed him.
If all this is true, Travolta (and other religious nuts like him who refuse lifesaving treatments on behalf of their minor children) should at least be prosecuted for child endangerment or criminally negligent homicide.
Update: For the sake of fairness, it was reported that the Travoltas had their son on an anti-seizure medication for some period of time.
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