The Twilight of Scientology

Soon after I moved to Berkeley, someone I met on the street invited me to a dinner in the Berkeley Hills. I thought it was a religious group; it turned out to be more cult-like. The cult wasn’t named. Maybe it was Moonies, maybe Scientology. At the dinner, after the guitar-playing leader learned I was a psychology professor, she ignored me.

The New Yorker has just published a long fascinating piece about Paul Haggis’s defection from Scientology. It reminds me of a piece in Spy — an exchange of faxes between the screenwriter Joe Eszterhas and Michael Ovitz, who at the time was the head of CAA (Creative Artists Agency) and considered the most powerful person in Hollywood. Eszterhas called Ovitz a bully. It seemed to mark the beginning of the end of Ovitz’s career.

My interpretation of the piece and associated material is that Scientology is dying. Just as Eszterhas wasn’t afraid of Ovitz, quite a few people, the New Yorker piece reveals, are not afraid of what Scientologists might do to them. The New Yorker website has a great deal of fun-to-read source material, which provides a vivid picture of what you can expect if you decide to join. The famous people associated with the movement, such as Cruise and Travolta (and Greta Van Susteren) are getting old. Simple-minded celebrities will always be with us, sure. But any aspiring actor who considers joining Scientology now faces two hurdles not faced by Cruise and Travolta: (1) Fear of ridicule. The Xenu stuff, for example. They tried to keep that stuff secret for a reason. Anyone can now read endless damaging stuff about Scientology. (2) Fear of professional damage. After South Park ridiculed Scientology, Isaac Hayes, a Scientologist, quit the show. Was he forced to quit by his Scientology superiors? Well, one of his South Park bosses said, “He said he was under great pressure from Scientology, and if we didn’t stop poking at them, he’d have to leave.” Loss of that job must have really hurt him.

5 Replies to “The Twilight of Scientology”

  1. Someone I loved many years ago was a member of this cult. That’s what it is. It broke my heart to see how this group manipulated it’s members, including this dear friend.

    I’m amazed that anyone is still “sucked in” by this gibberish (I read the L. Ron Hubbard “bible” Dianetics at the time) but it still seems to appeal to many people, searching for some answers to life’s tougher questions. My advice: Keep looking, you won’t find them at the Church of Scientology.

  2. We also seem to be witnessing the end of Masonry. It used to be that one had to be a Mason to get ahead in certain industries/companies. Now those people have all retired or died.

    Scientology was created by the SF author Ron Hubbard to prove some people will believe anything, wasn’t it?

  3. I don’t like the Church of Scientology (for reasons that I’ll explain below), but I consider them to be mere pikers, Johnny-come-lately dilettantes when it comes to the business of evil cults. By contrast, consider the Catholic Church, which has a long, rich history of abominations (think indulgences, Inquisition, castrati, Galileo, birth control, etc.). However, far fewer people seem to get upset by Catholicism than by Scientology. But I digress from the point I wanted to make.

    I certainly hope that the Scientologists are on their way out. They, unfortunately, adopted anti-psychiatry as one of their pet causes (also one of my pet causes), and thereby besmirched the whole movement. In my more cynical moments, I can imagine Big Pharma making under-the-table payments to the Church of Scientology, in exchange for the Church’s staunch opposition to psychotropic drugs. “Look!”, cries Eli Lilly. “The enemies of Prozac are whacked-out loonies who believe in UFOs and galactic overlords!”.

  4. Thank you for the mention, that was a very interesting article in the New Yorker. I have read a fair amount about Scientology just out of a twisted curiosity, and have even had a Scientologist try to sign me up in a bar once.

    The science and mythology behind it are so obviously ridiculous that I can’t believe anyone would take it seriously, but obviously some do. The New Yorker article did seem to make the point that some useful techniques for resolving interpersonal conflicts, focusing one’s energies, and getting ahead in your career might be taught, which I think would be interesting to learn about, if that could be separated from the cult aspects.

    I have to admit though that “Battlefield Earth” (written by L. Ron Hubbard) is one of my favorite sci-fi books, I’ve read it about 5 times (all 1000+ pages). The movie was a total failure but the book is pretty good.

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