Give Scientologists a Chance

May 19, 2015

Leah Remini and Tony Ortega

This past Sunday, CFI Los Angeles and our Orange County group each hosted author Tony Ortega and Paulette Cooper to discuss Tony’s new book, The Unbreakable Miss Lovely: How the Church of Scientology tried to destroy Paulette Cooper.  Monday, I was fortunate enough to attend a book launch party at the home of ex-Scientologist Spanky Taylor who, with Tony, is featured in Alex Gibney’s HBO documentary, Going Clear. Many other ex-Scientologists were also at the party.


Leah Remini, another ex-Scientologist (and former co-star of King of Queens) was there, and mentioned at one point that most Scientologists were good people.  That shouldn’t have surprised me.  I was sitting in the midst of a crowd of people who to a person were kind, fun-loving, decent people. Many were at one time not just Scientologists, but big hitters in the church with serious positions and responsibility.


But, my years of criticizing religion kicked in when Leah said that, and I mentally raced through the looooooong list of nasty deeds the Church of Scientology has been accused of. One need not look very far – Lawrence Wright’s Going Clear, Russell Miller’s Bare-Faced Messiah, Janet Reitman’s Inside Scientology,,, and Paulette’s book from 44 years ago, The Scandal of Scientology—to see mountains of evidence that this so-called church is not only based on the flimsiest evidence, but also run by a number of people of low moral character.


To us skeptics, this evidence is all painfully obvious. Scientology is a crock, and is apparently engaged in activities most people would find abhorrent – especially for a “church.”


So why should we look upon any scientologist with compassion?


Most scientologists, I would argue, are trying to improve themselves, improve the world, or both. Joining that church to do so may not be a good way to achieve that, but certainly the sentiment is admirable.


If you’re a believer in any kind of religion, chances are good that something you believe in – resurrection, talking to God, the parting of seas, etc. – is every bit as implausible as Scientology’s ludicrous story about intergalactic aliens visiting earth 75,000,000 years ago on modified DC 8s. So don’t knock Scientologists for getting conned into buying an e-meter and then tell me about a guy walking on water.


Even if you’re not a believer in religion, you probably believed something wacky at some point in your life that you now see as silly. I certainly did. Erich von Däniken’s Chariots of the Gods had me convinced in the ‘70s that aliens had landed on earth. I also believed psychic powers could be developed through various techniques that anyone could learn. These weren’t strong beliefs, but I held them nevertheless, and would be wrong to hold Scientologists to a standard I myself once failed to meet.


So what I want to say to those who paint all the people in the Church of Scientology with the same brush is: Give them a chance to see the light.


Give the next batch of Scientologists a chance to step away from their beliefs. Know that by doing so, many will risk losing cherished relationships with friends and family. Know also that it takes courage to say “I was wrong,” and even more courage to say “I was wrong and it cost me tens of thousands of dollars”… or more.


Let’s open the door for the rank and file believer to question and evolve without making it harder than it already is.




#1 Christine Rose (Guest) on Tuesday May 19, 2015 at 3:09pm

I have a lot of sympathy for Scientologists, as I do for all the religious, and I don’t even find their beliefs less rational than various mainstream religions. What I especially object to is their organized and ubiquitous hate campaign against the mentally ill. Try doing a search for say, “Prozac side effects” and you’ll get some extremely biased advertising, some sites publishing the standard package inserts, a few support boards full of confusion, and the Scientologists. Guess which of these looks to be of the highest quality to someone who doesn’t know the buzzwords? To be fair, it was a lot worse 20 years ago when the Internet was much smaller and filters were coarser.

Did you know that if you’ve ever been alone with a psychiatrist, you were (supposedly) hypnotized and contain a subconscious trigger to murder Scientologists? Or that you will be refused Scientology services if you’ve taken an antidepressant? Or that they’ve killed a fair number of people indirectly by convincing someone to go off their meds? Or that Hubbard’s solution to severe mental disability involved institutions and euthanasia?

One of the virtues of being a fringe group is that you don’t have the moderating force of social pressure. A focused fringe group can have an effect way out of proportion to it’s size.

#2 Paul V. Tupointeau (Guest) on Tuesday May 19, 2015 at 9:53pm

The article’s implication that critics “paint[ing] all the people in the Church ...with the same brush” is somehow making it harder for doubters to leave misses the mark by a wide margin. The guilt lies with the cult itself telling members that horrible things will happen to defectors and then encouraging disconnection. The accusation itself is unsupported: the critics target the leadership for personal rebuke, but common members are considered victims and their misdeeds blamed on the cult’s “ethics” policies. Meanwhile, the more noise we make, the fewer new recruits the cult gets to harm. Several “exes” have said that the protests and criticisms played a part in their waking up.

#3 Gary Wallin (Guest) on Wednesday May 20, 2015 at 7:16am

Give Scientoligists the information they need to correct their behavior. They are victims of their own delusions. When their behavior threatens others, expose them, and contact appropriate authorities. Don’t just wait patiently for them to see the light. They need help, and it will often be hard for them to accept help. Human history is littered with wrong thinking, we all have engaged in it on occasion, but we should still move forward with constructive criticism.

#4 Pete Attkins (Guest) on Wednesday May 20, 2015 at 10:50am

@Gary Wallin, #3— Critical thinking skills is an epistemic extension of our fundamental words used for the purposes of enquiry (aka inquiry): Who, Where, When, Why, What, Which, and How?

You wrote “… They are victims of their own delusions. …” This might seem to answer the question “What are Scientologists?” within the context of only its followers.

Obviously, those who run the organisation are not victims of their delusions, they are beneficiaries of promoting their doctrines. But much more importantly, anyone who is in charge of an entity is responsible (usually, legally responsible) for promoting and maintaing that entity — whether the entity is a for-profit or a non-profit organisation. This addresses questions along the lines of “Why does Scientology recruit members?”, but it does not address the very important questions:

“How does it attract members?” i.e., what techniques does it use?;
“Who does it target, and why?”;
“Why does its membership consist mostly of people who could not be accurately described as having been (or still are) uneducated, unintelligent, stupid, delusional, psychotic, or ignorant?”

On that last point, I strongly suggest that it might be those of us who tend to blame the victims of exploitation (for their current delusions and their promotion of the very organisation that recruited them) who are the ones demonstrating our ignorance and our dire need of further education.

I think it very important to heed your warning: “When their behavior threatens others, expose them, and contact appropriate authorities. Don’t just wait patiently for them to see the light.”

You followed that with: “They need help, and it will often be hard for them to accept help.” This is very difficult in the context of morals, ethics, and human rights. People are entitled to hold personal and religious beliefs, even to evangelise them. If someone doesn’t ask for our help then trying hard to help them is, technically, unwanted and unwarranted interference with their rights.

Gary, nothing I’ve written is in any way intended to be a personal attack (an ad hominem) on yourself. I think the points you’ve raised are crucially important to the cause of identifying, and hopefully resolving, some 21st Century problems that frequently lead to unnecessary suffering and conflicts.

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