Billion year contracts. Audits. Hip hip hooray. Tax exemption. Xenu. Tom Cruise jumping on a couch. Tom Cruise telling Brooke Shields she sucks for taking Xanax for post-partum depression.
Man, those Scientologists are a cooky bunch.
My selection for book club this month (and by month I mean the three or four that has passed since the last book) was Inside Scientology by Janet Reitman. The timing with the whole Katie Holmes/Tom Cruise divorce was (I guess) perfect- why the hell she waited this long to bail is beyond me. Prior to reading the text I had known that the religion was a bit weird, but now, well now I know more about it than I need to. I could probably go on for paragraphs and paragraphs, but here are some of the very basics:
Scientology was invented by science fiction author L. Ron Hubbard in the 1950s as an extension of his first program, Dianetics. Basically, the premise is that people have to learn to help themselves by discovering everything about themselves and by blindly serving the organization. Scientologists believe that they are immortal and that they merely inhabit their physical forms before moving on- hence the need for billion year contracts. Scientologists join the church and pay for audits- specialized counseling sessions. They progress through different levels of awareness, passing over the "Bridge to Total Awareness."
Money, Money, Money
Money is at the heart and soul of Scientology- they charged money to be audited, to be trained, and if they decide to leave the Church. They pressure members for donations and expect local orgs to raise million of dollars. A huge war of sorts went on with the IRS in order to obtain tax exemption- the Scientologists insisted that they were no different than the Catholics, Protestants or any other church in the nation. Some serious, serious harassment went on and then poof the IRS granted the Scientologists exemption. Oh, and they were off the hook in regards to paying what they owed when they weren't exempt. Sweet deal.
I think up until I read this book I thought of the organization as just being a little weird, but not necessarily dangerous. Now I'm not so sure. Punishments include time in isolation, manual labor, forced exercise, lack of medical care, and disregard of mental well being, just to name a few. The text told of one specific case, of a young woman named Lisa McPherson, who ended up dying because she was not given the care she needed. McPherson was heavily involved in the Church, but eventually reached her breaking point- after a fender bender she stripped her clothes off and started walking around the street naked. She was taken to a hospital after asking for help but was intercepted by several other members and taken back to the Church. She was kept in a room alone and received inadequate care, eventually dying. Her death was first listed as an embolism as a result of dehydration and forced bed rest. She had cockroach bites on her and contusions. The Church later forced the county to change their records to basically say it was an accident.
Convincing celebrities to join was a huge component for the Scientologists- celebrities meant more attention and more money. Tom Cruise is of course one of the famous, as is John Travolta. Others include Jenna Elfman (haha, anyone remember Dharma and Greg?), Elizabeth Moss, Kristy Alley, Juliette Lewis, Beck, Jason Lee and Leah Remini.
I really don't care what religion people decide to be, as long as they're not trying to convert me, are tolerant, and aren't endangering others. You can go ahead and worship a magical talking purple hippopotamus named Fred from the planet Nanu Nanu if you'd like, as long as you're a cool person who plays nice. Scientology doesn't necessarily follow Christine's Religious Guidelines, though. They're all about making money at the expense of others, demean those who need medicine and psychological care, and have used unethical techniques to get what they want. I'm sure there are a lot of normal, decent members, but some of the actions of the Church have been questionable in my eyes (not to say that other religious groups are perfect).
As with any book like this, the author definitely had an agenda. Why else would she write it? There were also some grammatical mistakes that should have been caught (for example "well-do-to" instead of "well-to-do"). At times it was a little boring and since there are so many acronyms and names your mind can't wander for a second or you'll have to go back and reread. That being said, I did find it very interesting. I was also a little disturbed by the fact that so many of the older compounds and ranches (including a massive headquarters called Gold Base) were/are located near the area where I currently live, a bit outside LA (this article has some interesting pictures).