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

Why we want to believe change is possible--and what happens when it's not

Daniel Gonzales

September 29th, 2009

Part I, “Pseudo-psychology and selling hope for unrealistic changecan be found here.

Frustrated with your slow progress moving up the Bridge To Total Freedom? Then book a cruise on Scientology's very own private ship, the Freewinds.  The above ad states it's an experience that's guaranteed to be "completely theta" and free of "enturbulation!"

Frustrated with your slow progress moving up the Bridge To Total Freedom? Then book a trip on Scientology's own private cruise ship, MV Freewinds. The above ad states it's an experience that's sure to be "completely theta" and free of "enturbulation!"

A direct comparison

When I first began reading the stories of former Scientologists I was captivated by the similarities to those of ex-gay survivors.  Both groups of people made huge investments seeking to change their lives and both groups of people must eventually confront the fact that the sort of changes they were promised are not possible.

Ex-gays and Scientologists:

  • Both can invest huge sums of money in the endeavor. (Some ex-gay services are low-cost or even zero cost but good luck getting a free copy of Dianetics or free audit-counseling.)
  • Both are desperate for major change and improvement in their lives, however unrealistic.
  • Both spend years of their life involved in programs.
  • Both sever ties with family members and friends who are not supportive or critical. (Scientology even gives the policy a name, disconnection.)
  • Both are sometimes drawn into programs initially to control peripheral problems like substance abuse. (Scientology has  recruitment programs called Narconon and Criminon and admitting Scientology doesn’t work would call into question the program which helped you initially get your life back together.)
  • Both are constantly bombarded by stories of success cases from those around you in the programs. (In Scientology these are called “wins” and after each program you are expected to share yours.)
  • Both experience the greatest sense of change (or “wins”) at the beginning and spend the rest of their time chasing after the hope of more success.
  • Both find that admitting you’re having difficulty in a program or reporting a lack of success will result in huge hassle and additional expenses.  (Cause enough trouble as a Scientologist and you can be sent to their slave labor camp called Rehabilitation Project Force.)
narconon-case-supervisor

Narconon is one of many gateway and recruitment programs based on the foundational teachings of Scientology.

The numbers

Before we move on to the next section filled with anecdotal quotes let’s have a look at some statistics regarding how many people buy into Scientology’s promises and for how long.  TruthAboutScientology.com analyzes data published by the Church of Scientology about which members pass various classes and levels.  TruthAboutScientology.com reports 65% of Scientologists become inactive within one year of achieving Clear. For those who continue on to the Operating Thetan levels 35% become inactive after completing their first OT level with an additional 5% becoming inactive with each subsequent year.

Dare I say it’s because they realize they’ve been had?  That despite the church’s own definition people who achieve the level of Clear are forced to confront the fact they still experience “fears, anxieties and irrational thoughts” like all human beings. And for the OT’s they realize they’re not gaining the supernatural abilities they were expecting?

Jason Beghe, formerly an OT 5 level Scientologist turned critic.

Jason Beghe, formerly an OT 5 level Scientologist turned critic. Image from Xenu TV.

Jason Beghe

Former Scientologist and actor Jason Beghe gave an exhaustive two hour interview to anti-Scientology website Xenu TV and provided some amazing quotes that could just as easily be about what keeps someone in an ex-gay program and brilliantly illustrate the above bullet points.  All of the following quotes from Beghe are from that Xenu TV interview.

About achieving the most success at the beginning of a program and then just hoping for more later on:

The biggest win I ever had in Scientology was on that first day.

About not wanting to admit your huge investment of time and money has been for a fraud:

The best traps, you get a guy to just keep himself in jail, right… and that’s what Scientology does, you just keep yourself in jail and that’s it, it’s a perfect theta trap, because you believe it, you’re investing your time and your money, so you can’t be a fool, that’s too much to confront.

The ex-gay movement has had it’s fair share of high profile falls from John Paulk getting caught in a gay bar to two of Exodus’ founders leaving their wives for each other.  Jason Beghe experienced the same sort of disillusion at seeing high level Scientologists whos’ behavior failed to match their prestigious position in the church:

All these f*cking OT’s that aren’t OT.  [I’m like] that’s a f*cking OT?

[interviewer:] And what’s an OT supposed to be?

Someone who’s at least able, someone who can at least walk and chew gum. I mean there’s people who are OT that are some of the most incompetent stupid people, my definition of stupid doesn’t have anything to do with data or education, it has to do with being able to say… I mean I’m talking about people putting their hand on the stove and saying “hey hey hey my hand is hot!”

[snip]

I know people that are trouble to death and they just finished OT 8 and they have migraines. Migraines?!?!  A f*cking Clear [mid level Scientologist] doesn’t have migraines, this is an OT 8 for God’s sake.  Migraines?!?!  Migraines is an engram that you can handle in… [trails off mockingly]

OT-panel

Images Xenu TV's panel of former OT 7's. From left to right: Greg Barnes, Debra Barnes, Tory Bezazian. I LOVE listening to Tory speak, she's like the Peterson Toscano of ex-Scientologists.

The OT Panel

In the year 2000, Xenu TV assembled a panel of four former Scientologists who all achieved level OT 7, the church’s second highest level.  These people provided amazing insight as to why they chose to continue to believe in Scientology even when they started having doubts.  All of the following quotes are from Xenu TV’s OT Panel video.

About keeping your mouth shut when you’re not experiencing success:

[Debra:] I never really told anybody at flag [Scientology headquarters] that I wasn’t doing well on that level because then I’d have to write another check.  And I kind of learned early on in the level there were certain things that one never said because one got hassled if one did, or it cost one money, or cost one time, and there was never any resolution to it anyways.

About thinking you’re “just not doing it right” while being bombarded with others’ expectations and stories of success:

[Tory:] I just kept thinking, “well maybe it’s something that I’m not doing right.”  And I kept trying and you’ve got all this agreement, “this is a fabulous level,” and people are telling you, “yeah you’re on OT 7 this is really gunna do it.”

And it wasn’t doing it for me, it was in fact getting worse and worse and worse, so it’s a major reason why I left.

[snip]

People sit on the level just like we did for 7 years or longer and go “it might be right because everyone is having so many wins.”

This one stands on it’s own:

[Greg:] We don’t have to justify the things that don’t make sense anymore.

About losing the life you’ve built around being a Scientologist:

[Greg:] You’ve spent all this time and money, are you now going to go look in the mirror and go…

[Tory:] [interrupts and says sarcastically] It isn’t working?!?!

[Greg:]  I mean you’re mentally trapped.  All your friends are Scientologists, your family are Scientologists, your kids are Scientologists… and if you go “this is bunk!” then they disconnect from you and you’re declared [to be a “suppressive person” by the chruch] and you’ve lost everything.  I didn’t think of it from that perspective but it’s like there was this thing going “this has gotta be true… this has gotta be true…”

I’ll periodically receive emails from other former patients of my ex-gay therapist asking if I can put them in contact with other various former patients.  Even after attending conventions for ex-gay survivors I’m still blown away by how many former ex-gays there are.  It turns out Scientologists experience the same surprise after getting out:

[Tory:] When someone leaves the Church of Scientology they dispose of them “quietly and without sorrow,” and that’s actually in writing by [L. Ron] Hubbard, you’re just, you’re gone…

[snip]

[Tory:] And it is really weird, when I went to leave I literally only thought I was going to know three people when I left the church.  Well of course I came over on the other side and here’s thousands.  Most of my friends are here.  I was amazed, oh here’s all the people I’ve been looking for for years.  I didn’t know it but you never hear about it in the church.

Ex-gay survivors, myself included, who dare to speak publicly about the ineffectiveness of programs are often told by critics that we weren’t “doing the programs right” and that’s why we failed.  Big surprise, former Scientologists hear the same thing:

[Greg:] I’m surprised at how many people can stand by and watch Debra and I, go through what we went through, right and go “well you must have pulled it in.”

[Panel facilitator laughs]

[Greg:] Right, yet I’m amazed at how many other people…

[Debra:] [interrupts] No the other one they like to say is “you didn’t handle it right.”

[Whole panel laughs]

[Tory:] Yeah, and like someone told me the other day “well you didn’t really get it.” [Tory looks into the camera and raises eyebrow] Thirty years?…

Conclusion

Writing this two part series has made me realize the mechanisms that keep people believing in promises made by Scientology and ex-gay programs are not unique to just those two types of programs.  Rather, the bullet-point list at the very top of this post list seems to be the universal recipe for how to fool human beings into devoting huge portions of their lives and fortunes to chasing false promises.

For simplicity I have limited my post to utilizing quotes from Jason Beghe and the OT 7 Panel videos – There are far more accounts by former Scientologists available on the net for those who seek them out.

Having read/watched many more stories I am struck by how much more life shattering the accounts of former Scientologists are compared to ex-gay survivors. In my opinion, Scientology consumes more peoples’ time and money, destroyed more families and even claims more human lives than ex-gay programs.  For those trapped living and working in the church’s most elite and cult-like division, a hotline has even been setup for those who want help getting out.

Lisa Mc

In 1995, Lisa McPherson died while under the care of the Flag Service Organization (FSO), a branch of the Church of Scientology.

Based on the previous paragraph mentioning destroyed families, deaths, and a cult rescue hotline, there are many more alarming things about Scientology than what I can cover in this post.  If your interest in Scientology has been piqued and you want to research more I’d suggest these sites:

http://www.xenutv.com/blog/ My favorite Scientology “watch” site and source for current news is Xenu TV’s blog.  Xenu TV also has an extensive library of video interviews with former Scientologists.

http://www.xenu.net/ (don’t confuse the URL with XenuTV) The nearest thing to a Scientology encyclopedia is this site called Operation Clambake.

http://www.exscientologykids.com/ Ex-Scientology Kids.

http://www.tampabay.com/specials/2009/reports/project/ This is the home page for a huge multi-part series by St. Petersburg Times on abuse at Scientology’s HQ in nearby Clearwater FL.

Part I, “Pseudo-psychology and selling hope for unrealistic changecan be found here.

Comments

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Priya Lynn
September 29th, 2009 | LINK

Its certainly interesting to have the chance to watch how religions come to be and fool huge numbers of people

elaygee
September 29th, 2009 | LINK

There’s a sucker born every minute. Not much difference between Scientology, Christianity, Islam, Hiduism, etc…

Deck Moss
September 29th, 2009 | LINK

Excellent comparisons. Really well thought out.

In its first two years, 1950 to 1952, Dianetics — before it became a “religion” to avoid the medical associations which shut them down — attracted a lot of gay men. One of the first “clears” was gay.

Hundreds of gay men probably flocked to it at that time, thinking that if the traumatic incident (engram) in their past could be cleared, they’d be straight. But fairly quickly, most of the gay crowd quit, because it simply didn’t work. Didn’t cure blindness or insanity either. Some got stuck in the trap that Scientology is.

Later it morphed into “making the able more able.” They might as well have claimed that it would make the gay, gayer.

I grew up gay in a time period well after Scientology’s start and before any ex-gay program was going.

As a Christian kid, who hoped my gayness would just go away, I prayed about it, and tried my own methods of trying to force myself to think of girl parts when I orgasmed etc., to no avail.

As okay as the MCC is or other gay friendly church, by the time I was near those, I pretty much lost my faith, and it was partly because of being gay. The realization of being gay was traumatic for me because I always wanted a wife and children and I thought that something that important, gayness, should be dealt with more clearly in the Bible. Coming to grips with being gay made me question everything about religion, and other things I was raised to believe.

This thinking of sexual orientation of being “a choice” was preposterous to me, just as silly and nonsensical as Scientology’s story about Xenu.

It worked out fine though. In ways I’m glad I never had the responsibility of kids.

John
September 29th, 2009 | LINK

The feelings expressed by the ex-Scientologists strike me for how similar they are to ex-Mormons.

I suppose the common thread is feeling betrayed and lied to by an organization that one really believed in.

Common similar complaints about Mormonism by ex-Mormons include the church’s obsession with money, flat out falsehoods in the Book of Mormon and other texts, splitting up families between believers and non-believers, and the amount of time devoted to the Mormon Church that is demanded of Mormons.

Ex-Mormons seem particulary bitter about the amount of control they felt they ceeded to the Mormon Church, particularly local bishops and stake presidents. It seems Scientologists also feel trapped and part of that is due to social and family relationships being limited to fellow Scientologists, just as Mormons (due in part to their heavy obligations to the church) gradually associate mostly with fellow Mormons.

I think studying a group like the Scientologists can give great insights into all sorts of other groups, in addition to the ex-gay movement.

I think that most of us want to be better people. We just need to realize that some people and organizations will try to exploit that desire to take our money and control our lives.

greg barnes
April 4th, 2010 | LINK

Funny to see my picture on yourwebsite regarding ex-gay and scn. I met so many “ex-gay” guys who were in scn. and some of them still might be..

Yes they were married but still had the gay thoughts and desires. It took me about 1 year after leaving scn to finally come out of the closet. What a freeing of my spirit and true identity that was.

The damage some of these groups do to change you to be in their likeness has caused too many to take their own lives, or to live in misery because of a belief.

It was free to realize who I was after spending some hundreds of thousands in scn.

I can even say that one of scn big celebrities is gay and married…marriage of convenience and no its not Tom Cruise.

Scn like many other groups promises the world and delivers bigotry,paranoia and hate. Funny how religion does that.

YOu can not change being gay like you can not change being born black.

If people can not accept you for who you are then they are not your friends even if they are family.

All the best,

Greg Barnes Gay OT 7 (LOL)

Travonda
March 28th, 2012 | LINK

I am always highly offended when gay people compare themselves to black people. Being black is obvious, but where’s the obvious sign that you are gay?? Clearly, there is no valid reason to compare the two. Anywho … I decided to write respond to this article because I am impressed with the potential for becoming sane by using the auditing tool. After becoming Clear, it is important to have a rule book. And if the rule book is followed, it will sufficiently sustain the state of a Clear and a Thetan. I was informed that the book entitled “The Way to Happiness” is such a book. And to the degree that a Clear follows this book, that is the degree of his ability to remain Clear. So if anyone has regress into anxieties, phobias … more specifically, psychoses, neuroses, compulsions and repressions … then he or she has deviated from “The Way To Happiness.” This booklet is a key to sustain your treatment and to unlock your unlimited potential. So I would ask anyone who is now an “ex-” Scientologist, in particular, to check your data to acknowledge and confirm to what degree you have abandoned your rule book that has is used to help you remain “Clear.”

Priya Lynn
March 28th, 2012 | LINK

Travonda said “I am always highly offended when gay people compare themselves to black people. Being black is obvious, but where’s the obvious sign that you are gay??”.

Travonda, what does it matter that being black is obvious but being gay is less so? Are you suggesting that because gay people can pretend to be straight they should do so to avoid discrimination? That’s not just. Both blacks and gays are unjustly discriminated against and while there are many differences there is also much in common so you have no grounds upon which to be offended when gay people compare themselves to black people.

There is no science behind scientology, its all quackery, a cruel joke played on people by a science fiction writer. No one will find happiness through scientology, what they’ll find is themselves broke, depressed, manipulated, and confused.

StraightGrandmother
March 28th, 2012 | LINK

Travonda said “I am always highly offended when gay people compare themselves to black people. Being black is obvious, but where’s the obvious sign that you are gay??”.

StraightGrandmother = And yet we protect people from Discrimination based on their religion, and that is something you can’t tell by looking either is it Travonda?

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