A few weeks ago, the New Yorker ran an interview with Oscar-winning screenwriter Paul Haggis (he wrote Million Dollar Baby and Crash – which he also directed – among others).
Haggis was a Scientologist for 34 years but resigned after the San Diego chapter of the Church of Scientology added its support to California’s Proposition 8 law, which effectively banned gay marriage by defining marriage as being between a man and a woman. (A Scientology spokesman claims that this was done by one member who was disciplined for it.) Haggis’ anger at this and the refusal of Scientology to publically support gay marriage caused him to go online to research opposition to Scientology. According to a Panorama documentary last year, this is a big no-no. He saw things that shocked him, such as a video of Scientology’s spokesman denying the existence of a policy Haggis knew existed. The policy is to ban people from contact with their relatives who leave Scientology.
Scientology’s highest level secrets are utterly preposterous. In the pre-internet age, they were kept secret but they became public knowledge after they were disclosed in a lawsuit in 1985. According to the New Yorker article, 1500 Scientologists descended on the courthouse to try to stop it, but The Los Angeles Times read the papers and published an account.
“A major cause of mankind’s problems began 75 million years ago,” the Times wrote, when the planet Earth, then called Teegeeack, was part of a confederation of ninety planets under the leadership of a despotic ruler named Xenu. “Then, as now, the materials state, the chief problem was overpopulation.” Xenu decided “to take radical measures.” The documents explained that surplus beings were transported to volcanoes on Earth. “The documents state that H-bombs far more powerful than any in existence today were dropped on these volcanoes, destroying the people but freeing their spirits—called thetans—which attached themselves to one another in clusters.” Those spirits were “trapped in a compound of frozen alcohol and glycol,” then “implanted” with “the seed of aberrant behavior.” The Times account concluded, “When people die, these clusters attach to other humans and keep perpetuating themselves.”
People joining the Sea Org, part of Scientology, can be asked to sign contracts which include their future lives; these can be up to a bliion years.
According to the article:
Many Sea Org volunteers find themselves with no viable options for adulthood. If they try to leave, the church presents them with a “freeloader tab” for all the coursework and counselling they have received; the bill can amount to more than a hundred thousand dollars. Payment is required in order to leave in good standing. “Many of them actually pay it,” Haggis said. “They leave, they’re ashamed of what they’ve done, they’ve got no money, no job history, they’re lost, they just disappear.” In what seemed like a very unguarded comment, he said, “I would gladly take down the church for that one thing.”
The church says that it adheres to “all child labor laws,” and that minors can’t sign up without parental consent; the freeloader tabs are an “ecclesiastical matter” and are not enforced through litigation.
It’s very disturbing. I think all religions are a bit mad, but I have to agree with the German judiciary who decreed that Scientology is a cult, not a religion.