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RESOURCE CENTER AND ARCHIVES

Church of Scientology founded by sci-fi writer Hubbard makes millions, gains media attentioncomment (0)

September 14, 2006

By Grace Thornton


Over the past year or so, A-list actor Tom Cruise has become a science-fiction star as he’s never been before — and not just on the silver screen.
   
Touting the teachings of sci-fi writer L. Ron Hubbard, founder of the Church of Scientology, Cruise carved out a regular spot for himself in headline news with his unpredictable behavior and explosive criticism of those who don’t adhere to Scientology’s tenets. As incidents came and went, many Americans were left shaking or scratching their head.
   
Paramount Pictures called the media escapades grounds for a breakup. The studio recently severed its 14-year tie with Cruise’s film production company, according to CNN.
   
Those close to Scientology, though, said Cruise’s uninhibited behavior might be the result of new abilities he received from reaching one of the highest levels of Scientology — mainly the ability to control “one’s universe,” according to a 2005 article in online magazine Salon.
   
But for many non-Scientologists, the natural question after “What is Tom Cruise all about?” has been “What is Scientology anyway?” History shows that Scientologists seem to be glad to answer that question for any who ask — for a price.
   
For Gitta (name changed), that price was her husband and the more than $315,000 she lost to the organization before her eyes were opened, according to a Feb. 10, 1997 article in the Chicago Tribune.
   
For Lisa McPherson, the cost was her very life. She died in the organization’s Clearwater, Fla., facility in 1995, just after telling friends “she was ready to get out” of Scientology, according to a Dec. 15, 1996 article in The Tampa Tribune. The county medical examiner said the autopsy showed that McPherson was severely dehydrated and her arms and legs were bruised and bitten — possibly by roaches, according to a Jan. 23, 1997 article in the St. Petersburg Times.
   
“The Church of Scientology started by science-fiction writer L. Ron Hubbard to ‘clear’ people of unhappiness, portrays itself as a religion. In reality, the church is a hugely profitable global racket that survives by intimidating members and cities in Mafia-like manner,” read the May 6, 1991 Time magazine cover story, “The Cult of Greed.” 
   
Why does a man go from being a sci-fi writer to an author of scripture? Some critics and ex-members would say it was for the money. According to “A Piece of Blue Sky,” written by ex-Scientologist Jon Atack, Hubbard made millions between the early 1950s, when he released his book “Dianetics: The Modern Science of Mental Health” and founded the Church of Scientology, and his death in 1986.
   
Hubbard’s book, according to www.dianetics.org, has been translated in dozens of languages and is the “all-time self-help bestseller ... remain[ing] a bestseller for more than fifty years.” It offers “methodology that can help alleviate unwanted sensations ... often caused or aggravated by mental stress.”
   
According to “What is Scientology? (pages 144–146, 546),” the goal of Dianetics is to help an individual achieve the state of “Clear.” In Scientology, the mind is divided into portions — the “analytical mind” and the “reactive mind.” To achieve Clear, an individual must rid the reactive mind, which handles intense pain, from “engrams,” or negative experiences that have occurred in the past — even in what the religion believes to be past lives.
   
How does an individual become engram-free? By taking expensive Scientology courses in which one is “audited” — attached to an E-meter, an “electropsychometer” (a crude lie detector), and asked questions to uncover those “buried” experiences (“A Description of the Scientology Religion,” pages 60–75). 
   
Until Scientologists pass a certain number of these auditing courses, they are kept from upper-level knowledge, such as the idea that “75 million years ago the cosmic ruler Xenu paralyzed billions of people in our galaxy, stacked them in volcanoes and destroyed their bodies with H-bombs, though the traumatized souls survived. Those alien spirits invade human bodies today” (Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, July 31, 2005).
   
According to Bob Waldrep, vice president and Alabama state director of Watchman Fellowship, while the beliefs of Scientology “may appear quite strange, one must be careful not to become so focused on disproving them that he or she fails to share the gospel.”
   
Scientology converts — rather than using this bizarre information as a point of entry — are sometimes lured in on the basis of initial audits introduced as “free stress tests,” according to Wikipedia.org. Other times, people come to the church out of curiosity as Scientology boasts a star-studded following including Cruise and his converted fiancee, actress Katie Holmes; actor John Travolta and his wife, actress Kelly Preston; actress Kirstie Alley; and Lisa Marie Presley. 
   
Including Scientology’s base church in Los Angeles, there are more than 6,000 of the churches in 159 countries — the closest to Alabama being in Atlanta; Nashville; Memphis, Tenn.; Biloxi, Miss.; and New Orleans. These churches hold Sunday services with sermons that offer “solutions” to problems such as “fears, anxiety and depression” that segue into lectures, seminars, courses and counseling, according to www.scientology.org.
   
“It is not unusual to hear a Scientologist say that one can be a practitioner or adherent of another religion and also be a Scientologist; in other words, one does not have to stop being a Christian in order to be a Scientologist,” Waldrep said.
   
According to “What is Scientology?,” their religion “respects all religions” and “does not conflict with other religions or other religious practices.” The book even states that “Scientologists hold the Bible as a holy work and have no argument with the Christian belief that Jesus Christ was the Savior of Mankind and the Son of God. ... There are probably many types of redemption. That of Christ was to heaven” (page 545).
   
Christ said narrow is the way that leads to salvation — in fact, He said He was the only way, Waldrep pointed out. And though they claim Scientology is compatible with Christianity, it’s simply not the case, he said. 
   
Some of Hubbard’s teachings were:
   
• “The whole Christian movement is based on the victim. ... We can win by converting victims. Christianity succeeded in making people into victims. We can succeed by making victims into people” (“Hubbard Communications Office Bulletin,” July 18, 1959).
   
• “Somebody somewhere on this planet, back about 600 B.C. found some pieces of R6 [a false concept] ... . But since that time they have used it and it became what is known as Christianity. The man on the cross. There was no Christ” (“L. Ron Hubbard, Messiah or Madman?,” page 362).
   
It’s more probable that Hubbard wasn’t who he said he was, according to former Scientologist Gerald Armstrong. When Hubbard appointed Armstrong to write his biography and Armstrong compared Hubbard’s autobiography with what he found to be the real story, he left the church — and took the evidence with him. 
   
When the Church of Scientology charged Armstrong with stealing private papers, it lost the case. With documentation, Armstrong demonstrated that Hubbard was not educated in higher mathematics or physics, was not crippled and blinded during World War II and did not even see combat, as he claimed. These were a handful of the inaccuracies Armstrong rebutted in court and the judge wrote in response that Hubbard was “a pathological liar when it comes to his history, background, and achievements” (Church of Scientology v. Armstrong, No. C420153 California Supreme Court, 1984).
   
Though there is a time and place to develop a dialogue on Scientology’s credibility, it should not be “at the expense of a dialogue about the real gospel,” Waldrep said. “Discuss what it really means to be a follower of Jesus Christ, and use the gospel to contrast what Jesus taught with that of Scientology.”
   
For more information, visit www.watchman.org. (Watchman Fellowship contributed)
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