Sunday, October 26, 2008

Tom Cruise, Please Don't Harrass Me

I've decided to look at Scientology in Australia.

The reason is I'm having one of my Scientology obsession days.  Every several months or so, I become really obsessed with Scientology and go googling on the Internet.

As most people know, Scientology is incredibly controversial.   Some call it a cult.  Some call it a religion.

I really don't know if I'd call it a cult or not.    I guess it would depend on your definition of cult.
Dictionary.com gives multiple definitions.

One is a group or sect bound together by veneration of the same thing, person, ideal, etc.   Most religions fit this.

Another is a religion or sect considered to be false, unorthodox, or extremist, with members often living outside of conventional society under the direction of a charismatic leader.

I think the latter is the definition most of us go by.

I think the "false" part is where things get confusing.   Who gets to decide which religion is false and which is true?    Well..... unorthodox too.   Who  gets to define that?

Who gets the role of pointing out people in the crowd?   Your religion is cool and acceptable.  Yours is too weird.

In MY eyes, a cult (in the negative connotation of the word) is a religious group that:
A) uses dishonest methods to attract members
B) feeds on people who are lonely and desperate
C) causes financial strain to it's congregants
D) works to turn it's members against family and friends who are not of the religion
E) uses various types of intimidation (ie. psychological and legal) to make it difficult for the individual to leave the religion. 

I think all religions have some of these aspects in small doses.   I think Scientology has them in much larger doses.  That's what I don't like about the religion.

I have nothing really against most of their actual belief system.   Some of it seems pretty cool and interesting to me.   I think their alien Xenu story is a bit bizarre, but no more bizarre than the tales behind Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Hinduism, Aboriginal religions, etc.

I think it's immature and suspicious that Scientology tries to keep this Xenu thing a secret.   But I also don't think this should be the basis of criticism of their religion.   It reminds me of when someone is in a political debate online, and instead of arguing against the essence of what the other person said, their opponent attacks them on their spelling and grammar mistakes.

I don't think there's anything wrong with a show like South Park poking fun at Xenu.   To me, jokes are fine.  Humor is good.   And a show like South Park makes fun of EVERY religion.   Anyone who tries to censor a show like that because it offends them--well, I think they need to take the stick out of their ass.   Or just don't watch the show.   There's no need to get everyone else to not watch the show.  Well, unless you have something to hide.....

There's a lot of controversy regarding Scientology because they're anti-psychiatry.  I'm not a big fan of psychiatry myself so I actually somewhat like this part of them.   I'm not against all psychiatric drug treatment.  I think sometimes it can be helpful.   But I do agree with Scientology in that there is too much diagnosis going on and too many prescriptions being handed out.   I think psychiatric drugs should be used as a last resort.  

I believe if Scientology wasn't so secretive, and didn't use such bully tactics, it would be a worthy antidote to our ovedependence on psychiatry.  

Okay I've rambled on and on and haven't even talked about Australia yet.

The official Scientology Site of Australia provides a fair amount of information but it seems fairly vague to me.  It also fails to address the issue of Xenu, whether or not it's a cult, and all of it's controversy in the news.  

Instead what they do is not just avoid  talking about this issue themselves, but use legal and other pressures to try to shut down other media that mention these things.  

Because of the Internet, there really is no way to withhold information from the public anymore.   If Scientology had the brains, they'd realize this and just be open and honest about everything.

Just come out and say.  Yes, we believe in Xenu.   Is that any more weird than believing a piece of bread can become the body of a man who died over two thousand years ago?

According to Lord Wiki, there's a huge discrepancy regarding how many Scientology followers there are in Australia.   The census put the number at 2500 while the Church itself claims there are 150,000 members.   I know a census is not always completely accurate, but that seems like quite a difference in numbers.   I am  guessing the Church is overestimating; but I also can imagine that some people might not have admitted, to the Census people, that they were Scientologists.

There's one Scientology school in Australia; The Athena School.   It's located in Newtown in Sydney.  It looks okay to me.

At Chemsfield Private Hospital in Sydney a medical treatment called Deep Sleep Therapy was used from 1962-1979.  This involved putting psychiatric patients into a deep coma.    Twenty-six people died and various celebrities and others (including Scientology) fought against it.   

This is the aspect of Scientology that I DO like.

In 1965, in Victoria, Scientology was banned from using their psychological/counseling techniques on people for a fee.   A new law was formed that said anyone providing psychological treatment must register with the Victorian Psychological Counsel.   HOWEVER, religions recognized by the government were exempt from this law.  For example, a Catholic church could provide Catholic marriage counseling without registering.  

Eight years later, the government recognized Scientology as a religion and they became exempt too.  Although according to Lord Wiki, it went back and forth via appeals court and all that.  It gets a bit too confusing for me to try and figure out.

I don't know.

Personally, I think there are changes that need to be made on both sides.

First, Scientology needs to be more open and stop trying to suppress information.  They need to act less defensive.  It's only making them look bad.

Second, (if the above is done by Scientology) than I think us outsiders need to give the religion more respect.  I think if we're going to attack it, we need to do so only on valid grounds (such as the above if it is not changed by Scientology) and not their beliefs, lifestyle, Tom Cruise jumping on a couch, or isolated incidences of members dying from medical neglect.  

Third, Scientology should get a sense of humor because a few jokes about Xenu are not going to hurt anyone.  

You know what would impress me?  If Scientologists all had a day where they wore t-shirts that said We Love Xenu.   This would prove that they have a sense of humor about it all, and are not a bunch of uptight bullies who shut down websites they disagree with.