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A Religion That Cures The Common Cold!
Scientology makes more wild promises than a late-night infomercial. While religion in general typically requires a lack of skepticism and a sequestering of rational thought, Scientology takes the cake.

Sure, there are those stories from Christianity, like immaculate conception. (If you're 16, and you get knocked up, what do you want to tell your daddy, "the unwashed, long-haired stable boy is the father," or..."God did it!"?) At least those myths in Judaism, Christianity, and Islam are thousands of years old. Scientology's unbelievable story is what, 40? And what proof is there of it? Never mind that, it's true because L. Ron Hubbard said so!

Anyway, in my prep to be on Tammy Bruce today, I came upon this article by an American Studies major named Joey Falco, who did a little Scientology test-run, and lays out some of the silliness:

Scientologists supposedly believe that our emotional and physical problems emerged 75 million years ago, when an evil galactic warlord named Xenu attempted to fight interplanetary overpopulation by dumping trillions of bodies into Earth's volcanoes. Eventually, their radioactive souls attached themselves to the spirits of human beings - hence the plethora of modern mental disorders.

So no wonder Tom Cruise had the munchies for his tyke's placenta. His soul was actually locked in battle with the tortured spirit of a 75 million-year-old alien! Give the guy a break.

Well, I was going to do just that, and in my quest to achieve true solidarity with the guy who had me from hello in "Jerry Maguire" and the girl who stole my heart while making out to Sixpence None the Richer songs on "Dawson's Creek," yesterday morning I snuck into the Founding Church of Scientology of Washington, DC.

Upon entering, I was not only struck by the lavishness of the chapel which held the Sunday service - mahogany walls and bookshelves, beautiful stained glass covered in esoteric Scientology symbols, a large portrait of the deific Hubbard and comfortable wicker chairs that could have doubled as patio furniture - but also the size of the place. While the overall building was a palatial mansion, only 25 to 30 people could even fit into the tiny chapel itself.

We began the service by reciting a creed, and then followed that with some readings from a massive collection of Hubbard's writings. To be honest, I was pleasantly surprised by the scriptural part of the service - Hubbard's teachings did seem to offer thoughtful insights on how to cleanse one's soul and become a psychosomatically sound individual.

But then things just got weird.

The minister dragged out an E-Meter - a laptop-sized electromagnetic sensor that measures an individual's stress levels - and proceeded to test it out on a member of the congregation. Then, the doors to the chapel were ominously slammed shut as the lights were dimmed, and I grabbed my wicker chair expecting my soul to be sucked out by an alien warlord with an E-Meter.

Instead, we ended the service with an activity called group processing, in which those of us in the congregation proceeded to roll our necks, nod our heads, find the floor, envision the walls, find our heads and bodies and shout words like "Okay!" and "Here!" back and forth with the minister. I literally felt like I was a four-year-old with ADD playing Simon Says with my psychiatrist and therefore had no desire to stick around after the service to sign up for the extremely expensive weekday processing sessions.

Still, with absolutely no mention of aliens, silent births or Tom Cruise, I have to admit I was a little disappointed with the whole Scientology experience - except for the part where I got to watch middle-aged men and women shouting things like, "My head is a part of my body! My body is in the chair! The chair is on the floor!"

If L. Ron Hubbard really did start this whole thing as a lucrative practical joke, then it's safe to say the joke was on these idiots.

Posted by aalkon at May 10, 2006 11:22 AM

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You sound cool on the radio.

I think Hubbard was a student of human nature... A shitty man, but a gifted student. Scientology adherents have three particular characteristics:

1. They're contentious.

They like to sue and argue and quibble and counterattack and so forth. Much of this is human nature, and snotty families also inculcate this demeanor. (This makes me fonder of traditional American churches, which teach children not to wiggle and whine.)

2. They're needy -- specifically, lonely.

They need someone to argue with. Their aversion to therapy notwithstanding, they want to talk about themselves and how wrong the rest of the world is for hours at a time in an intimate setting (as in precious auditing sessions). And they want to believe that these qualities make them special and part of something larger than themselves. (Needing to look down on others is a big part of human nature too. Mock Judeo-Christian faiths if you want to, but the best of them set limits to condescension. Scientology doesn't.)

3. They're credulous.

Once Scientology has answered those first two needs, they don't sweat the details. Xenu, spaceships, whatever. They no more worry about the theoretical underpinnings of their church than they understand the physics of airplane flight; They're convinced the pilot knows what he needs to know, so to hell with the particulars. People are often contentedly uncurious, and Hubbard knew that too.

I don't know how we could contain the cancerous Church of Scientology without correcting these fundamental human weaknesses, which doesn't seem likely. I'd settle for taxing them like any other business.

Posted by: Crid at May 10, 2006 12:15 PM

I'm with you there. And thanks for listening. I love doing Tammy's show. We disagree on a number of issues, but she's always very smart, and we have an interesting discussion. And seriously, if she did run for public office, I'd vote for her, despite our differences.

Posted by: Amy Alkon at May 10, 2006 12:26 PM

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