Monday, July 9, 2012

Scientology: religion or racket?

Perusing a longish article in The Hollywood Reporter about Katie Holmes' and Tom Cruise's divorce — a subject which, I hasten to add, I have not been following in any detail (oh shut up, "methinks he doth protest too much"-ers) — I was struck by the lengths to which the Church of Scientology goes to discredit its critics. Some people consider the Catholic Church to set the bar for insular, self-protective organizations, but the Catholic Church is almost masochistic in the amount of self-criticism it tolerates compared to Scientology.

Then it occurred to me that the only thing that makes people more defensive than assailing their cherished truths is threatening their livelihood.

If you're still on the fence about whether Scientology is a religion or not, ask yourself this: does a belief system worthy of respect expend so much energy, time and money on silencing dissent and preventing believers from ceasing to follow the belief system?

(Yeah, certain sects of Islam might. Does that mean it's acceptable for Scientology, or anybody else, to follow their example?)

While I've always felt that Scientology is a dangerous cult, it now seems clear that its leadership isn't just a bunch of misguided zealots. They're scam artists who are fighting to keep their income stream flowing, and that won't happen if bad press turns off would-be recruits.

But don't take my word for it. Here's an observation by Charles Kimball, a professor of religion whose book When Religion Becomes Evil is a good read so far.

Authentic religion engages the intellect as people wrestle with the mystery of existence and the challenges of living in an imperfect world. Conversely, blind obedience is a sure sign of corrupt religion. Beware of any religious movement that seems to limit the intellectual freedom and individual integrity of its adherents.
It's actually hard to prove that Scientology limits the intellectual freedom and individual integrity of its adherents, because it does such a stellar job of limiting their physical freedom. That's about as strong a sign as can be that the most charitable interpretation of Scientology is that it is a corrupt religion.

The far more plausible explanation, though, is that Scientology is a colossal scam.

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