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Part I of a Clear Comparison: Scientology and Ex-Gay Programs

Pseudo-psychology and selling hope for unrealistic change

Daniel Gonzales

September 28th, 2009

Part II, “Why we want to believe change is possible–and what happens when it’s not” can be found here.

Introduction

Imagine if an ex-gay program claimed you could spend over $100,000 on self-study materials and counseling exercises, after which you would be completely straight and not subject to relapse back into homosexuality.

They’d be laughed out of business.

But that sort of give-us-lots-of-money-and-we-promise-you-unrealistic-life-change is exactly what the Church of Scientology is offering.

Scientology’s public ads however prefer to remain a bit more vague, like their newest campaign which the LA Times Business section brought to my attention:

YouTube Preview Image

Scientology’s big promise

Ultimately all the introductory books, classes and self-study programs Scientology offers form the foundation of the “Bridge To Total Freedom,” the master chart which shows how one progresses up the path of Scientology.

The Bridge To Total Freedom: A map of every level and course of Scientology

The Bridge To Total Freedom: A map of every level and course of Scientology

If you enlarge the above chart you’ll see about halfway up is a level called Clear. I’ll allow Scientology’s own website to define Clear:

When a person becomes Clear, he loses all the fears, anxieties and irrational thoughts that were held down by pain in the reactive mind and, in short, regains himself. Without a reactive mind, an individual is much, much more himself.

Until an individual is cleared, no matter how able he has become by virtue of earlier auditing, it is inevitable that he will sooner or later sink back into the reactive mind. That is why clearing is vital. Clear is total eradication of the individual’s own reactive mind. Thus, Clear is a stable state, not subject to relapse.

Actor and former Scientologist turned critic Jason Beghe was certified Clear, twice as a matter of fact. After leaving the church he gave a rather frank and colorful interview to anti-Scientology website XenuTV. Regarding Clear, Beghe said:

There’s no Clear, it’s too good to be true, it’s a con.

And the colorful part I promised:

If Scientology is real then something is f*cked up because it ain’t delivering what is promised. That’s for God d*mn sure, it is not.
Where’s the f*cking Clear?
Let me meet a mother f*cking Clear.
I would like to meet a f*cking Clear.
I’m Clear, right.
I’m declared Clear as a f*cking bell.
I went Clear twice as a matter of fact.

And much like ex-gay programs the APA issued a statement in 1950 (the year Dianetics came out) stating it has no scientific validity:

These claims [of Dianetics] are not supported by empirical evidence of the sort required for the establishment of scientific generalizations.

And just like ex-gay programs, Scientology has been accused of being little more than a mish-mash of pseudo pop junk psychology. From the essay “The Hubbard Is Bare” by cult-expert and author Jeff Jacobsen:

Hubbard did no credible research of his own. Instead he distilled ideas from books he had read, the few college courses he took, his own experiences, and his very fertile and disturbed mind, and came up with a mish-mash of bizarre theories which he wrote down in scientific-sounding phrases and words.

Note the claim of an IQ of 138.

From Validity Magazine, a Scientology publication. Note the claim of Clears gaining an IQ of 135.

This will cost me how much?

So assuming Clear is real, and a person can really eliminate all their fears, anxieties and irrational thoughts (plus the 135 IQ!) how much will this miracle of mental health set you back?

Xenu.net, a site critical of Scientology, used the church’s own bookstore catalog from 2006 to calculate how much you’d spend reaching Clear. The price?

$128,560

But wait there’s more.

Clear is only halfway up the Bridge To Total Freedom. At the top of the Bridge are 8 different levels of “Operating Thetan.” Again, I’ll let Scientology’s own website define Operating Thetan:

“An Operating Thetan (OT) is able to control matter, energy, space and time rather than being controlled by these things.”

Scientology keeps it’s highest levels shrouded in secrecy but the Wikipedia page titled “Supernatural abilities in Scientology doctrine” documents claims of magic powers for Operating Thetans including the ability to use your brain to shoot electricity, extra sensory perception, remote viewing, and psychokinesis (moving remote objects).

Let’s look at that Scientology bookstore catalog again – how much to reach Scientology’s highest level of OT 8?

$277,010

By comparison, under Love In Action’s current prices, $277,010 will get you just over 45 years of ex-gay treatment but alas no psychic powers.

In the second half of my post tomorrow

Dare I say that like ex-gay programs, people can become so invested in Scientology that they’re willing to fool themselves and keep chasing the hope of unrealistic promises? Tomorrow’s continuation of this post will feature quotes from former Scientologists that sound eerily like things ex-gay survivors say too.

Part II, “Why we want to believe change is possible–and what happens when it’s notcan be found here.

Comments

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Dan
September 28th, 2009 | LINK

I’ve been involved with Scientology for several years back in the early 90s.

I have MANY issues with this organization, but I think they’re getting a bad rap, at least from my own experience.

You don’t need to believe in aliens and all that stuff as it is portrayed in the media. The people there are really good people who mean well and want to do good.

As for being gay, it was never an issue. Their moto is that truth is what is true to you, and that statement had a lot of appeal to me as I literally hated all organized religions and their dogmas.

Dianetics/Scientology auditing are very effective processes! I know from my own experiences! Can they make you straight? Probably in the same way that they can make you gay, meaning that if this is something you really want you can be whatever you want to be.

The thing is that gay people don’t want to be straight anymore than straight people want to be gay.

Yes, Scientology considers being gay an aberration, but I made peace with it with the fact that they consider almost everything to be an aberration including the fact that we are stuck in human bodies.

Also people need to keep in mind that not all Scientologists are the same and that Scientology has a policy to let people be particularly on sexual related matters.

Burr
September 28th, 2009 | LINK

This isn’t really about Scientology’s attitude towards gays, though it’s interesting to hear from you about it. Not particularly encouraging even though apparently they aren’t outright hostile to it..

It’s more about the similarities in the ungrounded claims, impossible and nebulous promises, and money leeching practices that both ex-gay organizations and Scientology share.

Dan Gonzales
September 28th, 2009 | LINK

You’re spot on Burr. I’ll be illustrating the similarities of ungrounded claims in tomorrow’s post.

Johnson
September 28th, 2009 | LINK

Just another organization banking on the fact that there are stupid, desperate people everyday willing to turn over their lives and MONEY to charlatans.

Priya Lynn
September 28th, 2009 | LINK

It’s more about the similarities in the ungrounded claims, impossible and nebulous promises, and money leeching practices that both ex-gay organizations and Scientology share.

While Scientology may be on a level of its own for money leeching practices, all religions make ungrounded claims and impossible and nebulous promises. I find it a bit holier than thou to be complaining about one and not the others.

Alex
September 28th, 2009 | LINK

I was just about to say that, Priya Lynn.

Alex
September 28th, 2009 | LINK

And I’ll add that not only is it holier-than-thou to focus on one religion and not the others, it also has an air of political correctness.

Dan
September 28th, 2009 | LINK

I’ve had this argument with gay people many times throughout the years. Can people change their sexuality? Yes! but with a caveat! Our (anyone’s) sexuality is dynamic. For example, when I was 20 I could not see myself with a 40 year old. I used to consider anybody without a 29-inch waist to be unattractive to me. That is no longer the case – My sexuality has changed.

Can people go from being gay to being straight? I believe SOME people can, depends on where they are on the Kinsey scale and depends on whether they really truly want to be straight. I never wanted to be straight. I never felt guilt about it, or thought of suicide or anything that so many others have experienced.

What I find intriguing is that so many gay people find it so patently offensive the mere notion that people can change. Why not? We can be whatever we want to be; That’s empowerment! There is just no good reason to be straight! Other people’s wants and expectations are definately not good reasons and neither are religious superstitions.

Chris McCoy
September 28th, 2009 | LINK

The definition of Clear is similar to the Buddhist description of the state of Samadhi and those who attain that state who are called Arahant

Each of the major religions has a term for this state of being/consciousness, and the Signs of the attainment of that state of consciousness are well documented in the Eastern Religions.

The trouble with Scientology is not that they are lying about the qualities of someone who has attained Enlightenment.

I view Scientology like I view the movie The Matrix. Mystics throughout the ages have said, “The true reality is hidden from plain sight” (cf Jesus Christ “Those who have eyes to see, let them see”). The problem with Scientology (like the Matrix), is that they then proceed to tell you that the true reality is a horrible nightmare from which you need to be saved.

Priya Lynn
September 28th, 2009 | LINK

Dan said “We can be whatever we want to be”.

I want to be 25 again and 7’2″ so I can dominate in the WNBA. That’s about as likely as anyone changing same sex attractions into opposite sex attractions.

Burr
September 28th, 2009 | LINK

If you’re on the theoretical Kinsey scale as not being 100% gay already, then finding someone of the opposite sex you’re attracted to doesn’t mean you’ve “changed” it just means you’ve finally found a reason to explore a different part of your sexuality. And some nominally gay people can be as close-minded about their attractions as nominally straight people are.. One thing for sure though, it’s not about the degree of WANTING things to be different, it’s about recognizing the reality of your personality that already exists within you.

However, change proponents are promoting the notion that you can somehow conjure a desire that’s never existed in you to begin with, and that’s extremely dangerous to push onto people that are struggling with something that they and the society around them refuses to accept, to the point that they’re willing to take desperate measures, and even their own life.

I don’t find the notion of change itself offensive (though definitely mistaken in definition), just the notion that you can coerce it from individuals who would be so much happier otherwise.

Penguinsaur
September 28th, 2009 | LINK

I never thought about it before but its distubing how accuraate a comparison it is. The only difference is that scientology has to charge those ludicrous amounts because their goal is making money, the ex-gay researchers use similar methods and propoganda, but they dont have to charge nearly as much because they have churches that will gladly pay all their bills. They can focus their full efforts towards coming up with reasons why its okay to hate and discriminate against homosexuals.

Alex
September 28th, 2009 | LINK

“What I find intriguing is that so many gay people find it so patently offensive the mere notion that people can change.”

Dan,

To echo what Burr said, I have no problem with the notion that gay people can change. What I find offensive is the notion that we SHOULD change.

Penguinsaur
September 28th, 2009 | LINK

“I don’t find the notion of change itself offensive (though definitely mistaken in definition), just the notion that you can coerce it from individuals who would be so much happier otherwise.”

I wouldn’t care in the least if an actual scientist were trying to figure out if sexuality can be changed, just like I dont care if an actual scientists starts probing holes in evolutionary theory. What pisses me off is the horde of religious whackos with afew PHDs that dont even try to pretend they ever have or ever would consider an answer other then “gay people are degenerate perverts who need to change” or “evolution is completely false and god created the world”.

Daniel Gonzales
September 28th, 2009 | LINK

Speaking of coercion let’s not forget Scientology’s goal is to “clear the planet.”

Priya Lynn
September 28th, 2009 | LINK

And Christianity’s goal is to bring the planet to Jesus.

Daniel Gonzales
September 28th, 2009 | LINK

…and turn us gay folks straight, even if we don’t want to.

Nancy Heche spoke at a Focus On The Family / Exodus International conference about how to ask god to turn your child straight.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6JTXMh7-b2Q

Chris McCoy
September 28th, 2009 | LINK

Daniel Gonzales said:

Speaking of coercion let’s not forget Scientology’s goal is to “clear the planet.”

I think a planet full of Enlightened individuals would be great.

I believe it was Plato who first proposed the idea that Philosophers (lovers of wisdom) make the best rulers. Why not then a planet populated entirely by Enlightened humans?

I just don’t think Scientology has a proven track record of getting people there.

William
September 28th, 2009 | LINK

“…they consider almost everything to be an aberration including the fact that we are stuck in human bodies.” – Dan

I would say that any religion, philosophy or organization that regards the real world and human incarnation as aberrations is itself an aberration.

Although I can still just about call myself a Catholic, I can’t now bring myself to say the Salve Regina. “To you do we send up our sighs, weeping and mourning in this vale of tears”? Well, sometimes perhaps, but if this world were a vale of tears per se, would life really be worth living? Why not ring down the curtain now?

Similarly with a Catholic “golden oldie” hymn like “Sweet sacrament divine”:

“Sweet light, so shine on us, we pray,
That earthly joys may fade away.”

Is that what we really want? If so, then we’re batty.

Candace
September 28th, 2009 | LINK

One charges to get you to see you’ve been Superman all along and one charges to get you to see you’ve been straight all along. I see two groups of hucksters with not much difference between them and a whole lot of desperate people who are grasping at straws.

Timothy Kincaid
September 28th, 2009 | LINK

I do believe Scientology can change people; just look at Tom Cruise. He certainly didn’t start out as a raving loon.

XenuLovesU
September 28th, 2009 | LINK

While Dan describes his experience in Scientology as not being one where he was subjected to blatant homophobia, it’s worthy to note Scientology’s “official” classification of where LGBT folks fall on their “tone scale.”

To quote L. Ron Hubbard, in Dianetics: The Modern Science of Mental Health

“The sexual pervert (and by this term Dianetics, to be brief, includes any and all forms of deviation in dynamic two such as homosexuality, lesbianism [sic], sexual sadism, etc., and all down the catalog of Ellis and Krafft-Ebing) is actually quite ill physically.”

Hubbard rated gays as “1.1” on the tone scale (between “fear” and “anger”).

So… what did Hubbard think should be done about gays and others at 1.1 or below on the tone scale?

“Such people should be taken from the society as rapidly as possible and uniformly institutionalized; for here is the level of the contagion of immorality, and the destruction of ethics…No social order which desires to survive dates overlook its stratum 1.1’s. No social order will survive which does not remove these people from its midst.”

It’s also worth noting that the experiences of a “public” Scientologist (as in, someone who doesn’t work for Scientology) is VERY different from that of Scientologists who are in the “Sea Org” (i.e., the management arm of the organization). Join the Sea Org, tell them you’re gay, then see just how fun and non-homophobic Scientology really is.

For your additional reading pleasure:

http://www.religioustolerance.org/hom_scie.htm

John
September 28th, 2009 | LINK

If the focus of an organization is money, then it isn’t hard to figure out who or what their deity really is.

Dan
September 28th, 2009 | LINK

You guys ignore one major fact which is that dianetics/scientology auditing does work!

You can choose to believe the media hype. You can choose to look at an overly excitable (and very annoying) people like Tom Cruise and make your decisions from there. That is fine.

As for the “being institutionalized” comment… Does that conjure visions of being dragged into a mental institutions 1950’s style? Again, totally out of context. There is no organization that is anti-psychiatry and all the harm they have perpetrated on people than that organization.

Again, I do not consider myself a Scientologist. I have not done anything with them for about 15 years, and I definately have my issues with them, particularly the money issue (that one unfortunately is very true), but I will also say that you gotta choose your sources of information because the public got this one terribly wrong.

Edwin
September 28th, 2009 | LINK

Sounds like another bunch of idiots to me. Just like all the rest as long as you have a lot of money they can clear you. Yeah Right!

Jon
September 28th, 2009 | LINK

Wow . .the L.Ron cultists just can’t/won’t.

They’ve come a long way from conducting “personality tests” on the streets, but there’s no conversation to be had. . .the old line of “I don’t want to have this coversation”, “this conversation is finished” is the typical language of the person questioned. . . .engaging in logic is futile.

Pliny
September 28th, 2009 | LINK

For other interesting reading in this vein, people might find googling Quentin Hubbard worth their time…

Daniel Gonzales
September 28th, 2009 | LINK

To quote Jeff Jacobsen’s essay “The Hubbard is Bare:”

I am similarly cautious about Hubbard’s experiments, especially since there seems to be no record of how they were done, what exactly the results were, what kind of control group was used, whether the experiments were double blind, how many subjects there were in each experiment, and other pertinent data. I have asked ranking scientologists for this data, and have fervently searched for it myself, and have yet to see it. This brings up the question about whether Hubbard can call his original research science.

Generally speaking, it is my contention that Hubbard did no credible research of his own. Instead he distilled ideas from books he had read, the few college courses he took, his own experiences, and his very fertile and disturbed mind, and came up with a mish-mash of bizarre theories which he wrote down in scientific-sounding phrases and words.

Deck Moss
September 29th, 2009 | LINK

Dan, Kinsey went from from mostly het, to mostly gay, on his own scale.

For most people, yourself and Kinsey excepted, sexual orientation is fixed throughout life.

Scientology is a choice. You can choose to get involved in the brainwashing methods of a deluded sci fi writer who thought he had all the answers…”Dr. Hubbard, nuclear physicist and medical doctor” (as printed on one of his books about radiation.) Or you can choose to be part of the rational world and get an education, or at least read books by people with real ideas, not mind-control money-making scams.

Deck Moss
September 29th, 2009 | LINK

And Dan, of the hundreds of gay people I knew growing up in the 70’s, nearly all of them, as adolescents, would have chosen to be straight, if it were at all a choice.

There may be a few, but I’ve never met a straight adolescent who sincerely wished he could be gay.

Although you say you aren’t a Scientologist now, your thinking was severely twisted by Hubbard cuckoo.

Deck Moss
September 29th, 2009 | LINK

Back to this perceptive post by Daniel G…Ex-gay has a primary focus on one thing, sexual orientation.

Hubbard promised the moon, and everything else…all the answers to the universe. That Scientology was the only viable alternative to shooting yourself in the head, which you might as well do, if you walk out that door now… (from their old propaganda piece)

This all from a huckster who popped pills, chain-smoked, and lied about practically everything!

If a person can ignore the part about Xenu and DC-8 airplanes 75 million years ago…Hubbard’s early study of Satanism with a disciple of Aleister Crowley…dozens of tapes of his voice where he sounds like a ranting raving lunatic, and about a thousand other things about Hubbard and his cult, that’s it, your mind is fried.

Dan Gonzales
September 29th, 2009 | LINK

“Hubbard promised the moon, and everything else…all the answers to the universe.”

Well Deck Moss, you pay more, you get more :)

Deck Moss
September 29th, 2009 | LINK

That you pay more, you get more, is actually what a lot of people think about Scientology. That’s why celebrities are attracted to it, because they want only the best wash, be it for their cars or their brains.

I never paid a cent into it. I was born with a “magnetic personality,” and didn’t need to go “clear” to get one. Plus, I was almost uncontrollably creative.

Now maybe if they’d said going clear would give you cavity-proof teeth, perfectly formed bowel movements every time, or that you could eat cheese by the brick with no ill effects…sign me up!

XenuLovesU
October 1st, 2009 | LINK

Dan said:

“You guys ignore one major fact which is that dianetics/scientology auditing does work!”

*laugh*

Here’s a deal — you point me to one reputable, double-blind third-party study that affirms any of Hubbard’s nonsense… and I’ll eat my hat.

Here’s one great example of Hubbard’s “science:”

LRH claimed that engrams (a type of thought) had mass… and that it was a “fact” that Scientologists who had undergone auditing using an E-meter actually MEASURABLY lost weight as they were freed from negative engrams.

Sounds like an easily testable claim, no? Especially since LRH claimed POUNDS of difference… not micrograms or something more difficult to measure.

So, rather than bash LRH as a liar and a fraud (ad hominem being so passe)… I’m left to wonder why Scientologists haven’t gone out of their way to clearly and, ahem, scientifically prove their dear leader’s words to be true.

You know — as opposed to requiring everyone to write up their anecdotal “wins” prior to advancing to the next level of wallet biopsy.

cd
October 2nd, 2009 | LINK

Generally speaking, it is my contention that Hubbard did no credible research of his own. Instead he distilled ideas from books he had read, the few college courses he took, his own experiences, and his very fertile and disturbed mind, and came up with a mish-mash of bizarre theories which he wrote down in scientific-sounding phrases and words.

I was a participant, though minor, on alt.religion.scientology back in the heyday of the uprising against the Church of Scientology.

I came to the conclusion that Dianetics/Scientology is a therapy system L. Ron Hubbard created to fight the symptoms of mild schizophrenia he suffered from (for which there is some direct evidence and the whole of D/S as indirect evidence). Most Scientology goals and methods are quite intelligible when that premise is assumed. The state of ‘Clear’, for example, is essentially a state in which sensory and auditory hallucinations and hallucinations of thought no longer occupy the subject. Real superhuman, eh.

Oh, if you want some great fun with Hubbard, find the tomato experiments where he discovered that they scream when sliced. If you want to know just how far Scientology goes (or used to go, it’s just about money and power now), try looking up ‘auditing process R2-45′ or ‘Operation Snow White’.

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