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Posts for October, 2009

“Crash” Filmmaker Quits Scientology For “Intolerance, Homophobia and Fear”

Jim Burroway

October 26th, 2009

paul_haggisAcademy Award winning filmmaker Paul Haggis announced late Friday his resignation from the Church of Scientology over the church’s support for Proposition 8, which Haggis called “a hate-filled legislation that succeeded in taking away the civil rights of gay and lesbian citizens of California.”

Haggis, who won Best Film Oscars for Million Dollar Baby (2004) and Crash (2005, where he also won for Best Original Screenplay), released his letter of resignation to the web site Scientology Cult, had been a member of the church for thirty-five years. In a letter addressed to Scientology media spokesperson Tommy Davis, Haggis also denounced the church’s leadership for lying about their policy of disconnection (in which the church demands members to “disconnect” from friends and family members who are critical of the church) and their practice of publicly revealing highly personal and embarrassing details of former members who go public with their criticisms. Haggis begins his letter recounting his outrage over the church’s stance on Proposition 8:

As you know, for ten months now I have been writing to ask you to make a public statement denouncing the actions of the Church of Scientology of San Diego. Their public sponsorship of Proposition 8, a hate-filled legislation that succeeded in taking away the civil rights of gay and lesbian citizens of California – rights that were granted them by the Supreme Court of our state – shames us.

I called and wrote and implored you, as the official spokesman of the church, to condemn their actions. I told you I could not, in good conscience, be a member of an organization where gay-bashing was tolerated.

In that first conversation, back at the end of October of last year, you told me you were horrified, that you would get to the bottom of it and “heads would roll.” You promised action. Ten months passed. No action was forthcoming. The best you offered was a weak and carefully worded press release, which praised the church’s human rights record and took no responsibility. Even that, you decided not to publish.

The church’s refusal to denounce the actions of these bigots, hypocrites and homophobes is cowardly. I can think of no other word.  Silence is consent, Tommy. I refuse to consent.

…I reached a point several weeks ago where I no longer knew what to think. You had allowed our name to be allied with the worst elements of the Christian Right. In order to contain a potential “PR flap” you allowed our sponsorship of Proposition 8 to stand. Despite all the church’s words about promoting freedom and human rights, its name is now in the public record alongside those who promote bigotry and intolerance, homophobia and fear.

Ironically, the Church of Scientology of San Diego is listed as a member of Hate Free San Deigo.

Meanwhile, Tommy Davis’ appearance on ABC’s Nightline didn’t go well. He stormed out of the interview after being asked about the galactic emperor Xenu. His interview begins at the 3:41 mark:

YouTube Preview Image

[Hat tips: Queerty, Towleroad, and Daniel Gonzales]

Nightline Examines The Church Of Scientology

Daniel Gonzales

October 24th, 2009

I recently wrote a two part comparison piece for BTB examining how Scientology and exgay programs both sell false hope for life change.  It was a narrowly focused post and there was a great deal about Scientology I wasn’t able to get into.

Scientology watchblog XenuTV brought my attention to Nightline which ran a very comprehensive two day series about Scientology last week looking at:

  • Physical abuse by the head of Scientology, David “Slappy” Miscavige.
  • The “Rehabilitation Project Force” a slave labor camp Scientologists who “misbehave” are subjected to if they wish to remain in the church.
  • “Disconnecting” from family members who leave the church and the stories of former high ranking Scientologists.
  • How Scientology attracts and uses Hollywood stars including Tom Cruise’s anti-psychiatric batshittery and accusations pressure from Scientology affected treatment of Jett Travolta’s kawasaki syndrome autism.
  • Scientology’s sham treatments such as the “e-meter” and a dangerous drug detox program called the “purification rundown.”
  • Confidential high level church teachings about galactic emperor Xenu which cause Scientology spokesman Tommy Davis to walk out of the interview.

For all the video from Nightline’s series on Scientology head over to XenuTV.

About Those Scientology Ads On BTB

Jim Burroway

September 29th, 2009

smaller-anim2Daniel Gonzales wrote two posts critical of Scientology, and that led Google Ads to decide that BTB readers might want to click on ads paid for by the Church of Scientology. We have very little control over what ads get run, although I can block ads for specific destination URLs. But why bother? As I see it, if you click on an ad, it does to things: it helps to pay for the server that BTB runs on, and it costs them some money for every click. I see that as a win-win myself.

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.

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:

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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.