tampabay.com/news/: Either several former ranking, long-term members of the Church of Scientology have all simultaneously decided to lie to the St. Petersburg Times, in a thorough, orchestrated and masterful conspiracy…
Or else they are not lying, and they confirm that the church is led by a man, David Miscavige, with serious issues of power and paranoia, even given to not-infrequent physical attacks, all of which permeate the culture of the church's upper echelons.
The articles in the Times these past three days by my colleagues Joe Childs and Thomas C. Tobin have been extraordinary. We haven't had a look inside a religious organization like this since Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker, or the Rev. Henry J. Lyons.
Let's make a distinction here between the church's doctrine, what it claims to be teaching, and the practices documented in these articles, which veer into the surreal.
The street-level message of Scientology actually is pretty standard: We have a spiritual essence; we are imperfect; through the religion's guidance we can improve.
True, Scientology refers to this essence as a "thetan" and requires the believer to hook up to a meter to be measured, which is not my cup of tea. But then again, neither do I believe in reincarnation, the karmic wheel, or that I have to obey all 613 commandments in the Old Testament, although I do not disrespect people who do.
Anyway, lots of people say their lives have been improved by Scientology, and I believe them. Any external structure can be an improvement for people who need it. But as these articles by Childs and Tobin show, at its higher levels Scientology is more of an insidious loyalty cult than a benign self-help society. And the punishment for being disloyal is severe.
Frankly, a lot of the church's reaction to its apostates has been histrionic and weird. (As for the ex-Scientologists, I have mixed feelings, since they used to perpetuate with a vengeance the same tactics to which they are now victim).
Come on — bringing in their ex-spouses, still in the church, to denounce them? Publicizing the bizarre, ritualized "confessions" that the church makes its people write for "ethics files"? For a while, Scientology tried to appear reassuringly beyond such tactics. No more.
CNN on David Miscavige, leader of Scientology
CNN HLN from June 22, 09 on David Miscavige, leader of Scientology. Former Church of Scientology members report that Miscavige has spawned a culture of brutality by beating his underlings and encouraging them to attack others. This is based on a recent special report from the St. Petersburg Times.