I got the following questions from an Australian college student, regarding my thoughts on Scientology.
1. Can you explain both how and why you became involved with The Church of Scientology?
I made a fairly detailed answer of that question of how I got into Scientology on my Scientology Parent site. But I can sum up here for you.
My mother and father became Scientologists a few years before I was born. The bits of Scientology terminology & philosophy thrown around in daily life had my interest, and on my own volition at around age 9 I began taking courses at my closest Church – which was, unfortunately for me, a good 2-hour drive from my house in Maine. I continued my studies after that, and continue to consider myself a Scientologist.
2. Can you give a personal summary of what the Church of Scientology is about, and why you find it to be favourable?
Two questions to be answered there. I’ll try to do justice to them both.
With respect to what the Church of Scientology is about, that’s fairly simple. Scientology is a religious movement, and is a philosophy that’s meant to be actually put to use in day-to-day life to allow one to improve conditions in their life. There are churches where folks come in and get spiritual help, counseling, and where they can study Scientology courses. Each course or action in Scientology has an exact end goal in mind with respect to YOU, and you only finish each when you yourself are positive that you have benefited as such. These courses & actions deal with communication, marriage, with work & productivity, ability to organize & get things done, with helping others, or with much more personal subjects such as one’s ability to deal with change or with persistent attention on past upsets, or one’s ability to locate the source of problems rather than keep them around forever.
I find it an intriguing subject.
But that gets into the broad and quite personal question of why I find Scientology to be favourable. Not personal meaning “private and touchy” but personal in the sense that my answer to this is likely vastly different from what your answer might be, or the other guy’s answer. Sort of like asking a catholic why they go to church – you’re not likely to get the same answer from anyone.
But to answer you, there are a number of things Scientology offers which I like quite a bit. They are, in no particular order:
- Answers for day-to-day problems in life: Probably the one thing I like most about Scientology is that I’m very seldom left with lingering questions about things I run into daily in life. Questions like, “Why did that guy just act that way to me?” or “How can I improve my relationship with my parents?” or “Can I trust that guy?” or “How can I be a better parent?” or anything like that. In my personal experience, there has not been one question that I haven’t been able to get an answer for in Scientology – and an answer I personally am satisfied with, and not just one that someone tells me authoritatively and I’m meant to believe or something like that. So, that’s one thing.
- The Scientology community: One thing I love about being involved in Scientology is getting to hang around other Scientologists. By and large, Scientologists are extremely good people, and are genuine, caring & responsible. Scientologists I am around are genuinely interested in helping each other, helping the environment they are in, and do really give a crap about important issues that surround them. So, that’s another thing I really enjoy and which is a real plus about being a Scientologist.
- A reliable long-term path for enhancement: There’s another thing that I’ve come to enjoy as a Scientologist, which is that as I do various counseling actions in the religion, take various courses, etc – I am steadily handling shortcomings I feel that I have – or enhancing areas of my life that are ok but I would like to be better. Every time, in Scientology, that I’ve put effort into handling one of these areas – be it communication skill, study speed, my own personal ethics, my family, etc – each has been improved with Scientology. The take-away I get from that is that for the future, I don’t need to be “worried” about getting worse, or about “growing old & dying and I still am [blankety-blank-stupid-random-problem]”. I know for myself that these issues get handled in Scientology, and I can always turn to Scientology for self-improvement.
There’s a lot more I could say on the above, but I hope that gives you a sense of my personal estimation of Scientology.
1. Does Scientology impact any decisions you make in terms of education?
Scientology has had one major impact, and it’s in convincing me that I’m capable of learning anything. There are some tools & techniques in Scientology with respect to study (a good video & synopsis of such is available here) which make it much easier to overcome barriers to learning, and greatly help one’s ability to comprehend and apply what one’s learned.
That probably did impact one of the major decisions I made in terms of education, which was my decision to leave college and pursue study of Internet systems engineering on my own. At the time I was in school (1994-95) there were no degree programs in my area that covered this new “Internet” thing, so I decided to just pick it up and learn what I could on my own. Turned out well, too. Not to say that “being a Scientologist made me quit college” or something, but to say that as a result of it I did have enough trust in my ability to learn that I could take the plunge into the job market and learn on my own.
2. Are children provided with a mainstream education? Does a person’s education consist of infant and primary school, lower and upper high school, followed by the option of attending university or continuing on with tertiary education if desired?
Being a Scientologist doesn’t prescribe or change at all what primary, secondary or tertiary education someone gets. That’s totally up to the individual and their family to work that out. My personal friends consist of an utter smorgasbord of home-schooled, private-schooled, public-schooled, college, no-college, doctorate-degreed, etc individuals depending on what they chose to do in life.
3. What is different or the same about the education of Scientologist youths?
I’d say if there’s anything different, it’s that Scientology families encourage kids to learn things for themselves and not for “tests”, and to educate themselves so that they can form their own viewpoints on things and really take responsibility for their own education.
I suppose I could give you my own personal experience with this. I went to kindergarten and grade school like any normal American youth from the age of 5 until the age of 11. But in the fifth grade, I found that my zeal for learning & knowledge was actually being continually teased and mocked by my classmates. I was the butt of jokes, I was the “teacher’s pet”, etc, despite being quite athletic and the fastest runner in the school. My teachers, with one notable exception, were tired, generally annoyed, and mostly disinterested in the task at hand of educating the future generation.
When I saw that it was only going to get worse as things went on (drugs, etc) I came home after the end of the fifth grade with an ultimatum to my mother that I wasn’t going back to public school. I found a pamphlet for a school called The Delphian School in Oregon – one which uses L. Ron Hubbard’s Study Technology as part of its curriculum, and I told my parents that I’d be going there.
Well, being that I was 11 and we were living in Connecticut at the time (a few thousand miles away from Oregon) they decided instead to let me go to a sister Delphian school in Boston. I stayed with a family in Boston for a year, going to the school there, and upon convincing my parents that it was amazing, got them to move the family to Boston. A few years later, my family up and moved out to Oregon so that my sister and I could attend the aforementioned Delphian School, whilst my parents actually became staff at the school so they could help other kids while also watching us learn.
And I actually can’t say enough about that amazing school and its methods. I could write several thousand words about it. Don’t get me started unless you’re ready to read.
4. What are the reasons behind this?
1. What hobbies/interests are common to people who follow Scientology? Is there anything specific which most people partake in?
This one is about as varied as the people of earth.
I’d say if there was anything that’s more common among Scientologists, it’s that volunteerism is quite common and encouraged. Community clean-ups, anti-drug awareness groups, groups to raise awareness of human rights issues, etc. We have a corps of Volunteer Ministers who have found quite a bit of success in helping at disaster zones, mainly because of their general efficacy in handling the confusion & chaos that goes with any of these natural disasters such as earthquakes, floods, wildfires and the like. Such activity is definitely encouraged within the church, and basically everyone I know within the church has participated in community activities in some regard – mostly because when you know there’s something you can do to help, you generally feel enjoined to help.
2. Do your Scientology beliefs impact the medical choices you make in your life?
Not dramatically. We still seek medical care if needed, go to doctors, get checkups, go to the dentist, and so forth just like any normal person. The places where it may differ is that we make a pretty firm dividing line between areas that are medical in nature where there is an exact malady that has an exact, known physical handling (i.e. broken bone, the flu, a cavity, etc), and areas which are not – strictly speaking – medical in nature, and should be left to other fields to deal with. To wit – if someone’s depressed after getting dumped by a girlfriend – this is NOT a medical problem. If someone can’t focus on study because they keep thinking about the rest of their life that’s blowing up – this is NOT a medical problem.
As such, we’re not into drugs, not into psychotropic & chemical handlings for things that folks should work out for themselves, with their church, their friends, their pastor, their wife, etc.
3. Do you have children? If yes, do you believe that your children (and the beliefs of their children) should be kept within the Church of Scientology. Inclusive of who they choose to marry.
I do – a girl who’s 4-going-on-16 and a 3-year-old-future-mountain-bike-terror of a boy.
In terms of their own beliefs, what they believe is up to them. They’re going to be exposed to Scientology quite a bit, for sure – just as the family religious choices would be for any other religion. But they’ll also be encouraged to get exposure with and an understanding of other religions as well, and make their own choices with regard to such. Religion is a deeply personal thing. It’s about YOU. Nobody can enforce upon you how you feel about yourself spiritually, so I’d reject the idea of that being enforced on my kids. Growing up I also read the bible, read a good portion of the Quran, read the Bhagavad-Gita, and went to religious services of other religions in my area so that I could compare & understand them. I’d encourage my kids to do the same, and make their own choices.
This extends of course in who they choose to marry. I’d want to make sure they have a good idea of what marriage is, and how long it lasts (a pretty long time), and that whomever one marries should have at least compatible beliefs to yours so that the raising of children and the goals of the family aren’t a constant argument and destructive philosophical melee. But that’d just be my suggestion. My wife is a Scientologist, and we get along great.
4. Do your beliefs impact who you form social relationships with?
Well, to a degree. One’s always going to form stronger social relationships with folks who you find agreeable, and that extends to your moral and life choices as well. I hang around with all manner of people, regardless of their background. I have Scientologist friends and non-Scientologist friends, and have fun with each.
I don’t drink much at all, nor do I do drugs, so that cuts out drunken clubbing and wild ecstasy-laced rave parties from my list of activities. But, that doesn’t limit me from having friends at a mens-league soccer team or from work that I’d go mountain biking with.
As a further example of such, we’ve recently had two au pairs the last two years, one of them from Brazil (Catholic background), and the other from South Africa (Pentecostal Christian). We got along fine. Wrote a lengthy blog post about that here, that’d likely be of interest.
1. Do harsh comments/perceptions about the Scientology religion affect you and your everyday life? How? Do you ever feel that you should hide your religion because of it?
I have occasionally gotten some pretty callous and thoughtless remarks sent my way due to my religious beliefs. It does make it a bit rough when some media outlet does some sensationalist hatchet-job news piece on some already-completely-debunked myth – as then I have to explain repeatedly to people what the actual story is. It’s more sort of a bore than anything else. But no, it doesn’t make me want to hide my religion at all – makes me actually even more interested in getting the truth out there.
2. Do you believe Scientology is a culture/sub-culture and how do you think the constructs of a culture potentially affect the Church’s ability to be recognized as a religion?
I don’t really feel it’s a “sub-culture”. Most Scientologists I know are pretty out there about their beliefs, and I don’t know of any group that’s put as much effort into broadly exposing what they’re all about – all the way down to getting books donated to libraries around the world so that folks can just walk in & find out on their own what Scientology’s about.
Unfortunately, there are very well-funded parties at work who fund quite a bit of what we all ingest in mass media, and I think it’s an undisputed fact that this mass media is skewed based on what the individuals in power want it to say. With respect to Scientology, we do have our enemies, mostly in big pharma. Essentially, their end goal is to have each and every one of us medicated for every behaviour trait we have. Scientologists haven’t agreed, and repeatedly expose them for their various & sudry dirty deeds, causing billions of dollars in fines for them. They hate that, and so pay to have our name repeatedly sullied.
It’s a well-documented fight, and whilst it is onerous sometimes, it’s fun to be one of those ones putting the fight to the trillionaire companies who are trying to keep us under their thumb.
3. Scientology is legally viewed as a commercial enterprise in Switzerland. Do you think this is rational, plausible and fair? Why/why not?
Scientology fits every definition of “religion” that I’m aware of, though obviously the legal definitions of such change from country to country. Some countries define “religion” as only a certain list (and sometimes that list is just one name) of state-sanctioned religions.
We’ve been a religion in the USA since 1993, and are on equal footing with any other religions here in this country.
Obviously that also means that we have to exist, have to have staff that have to live someplace, have to have a building that people can actually get to and which has room for our services, etc. That means we can’t exist in a vacuum where things don’t cost anything, so yes – there’s money that gets donated so that the church can exist and do what it needs to do. Some would say that means we’re commercial. But most folks I’ve engaged in discussion about that also think that ALL churches are commercial. The more you discuss it the less the argument against it holds water.
So, no – I don’t think it’s plausible & fair to call one state-sanctioned church a “church” and then not allow another church with similar purpose, yet different beliefs, to be called a religion.
4. How are those who chose to leave the Church of Scientology treated upon departure and once they have left? Reasons behind this? Do you agree with it?
A person’s religious beliefs are up to them. If someone decides Scientology is not for them, that’s totally fair for them to decide and leave if they wish. The only place where we’d draw the line on acceptability is when someone decides to leave Scientology and then publicly make a big drama show of it, go to the media and explain all of the reasons they left, etc. That’s not cool.
Of people I know personally that have left the Church, the overwhelming majority (i.e. all but one, really) have left owing to the fact that the Church has fairly high expectations of moral fortitude – and frowns on things like breaking the law, recreational drug use, promiscuity, alcoholism, etc. For folks that want to be able to have a lifestyle that includes all that manner of stuff, Scientology may not be for them.
I think this video explains things pretty well in that regard.
5. Scientology is often viewed as demonstrating a cult-like culture. Why do you think this is so?
I think most folks who say that are attempting to levy that like a slur, one that doesn’t really impart any better understanding of what Scientology is.
The definition of the term ‘cult’ as provided by the Merriam-Webster dictionary covers a variety meanings:
1 : formal religious veneration : worship
2 : a system of religious beliefs and ritual; also : its body of adherents
3 : a religion regarded as unorthodox or spurious; also : its body of adherents
4 : a system for the cure of disease based on dogma set forth by its promulgator <health cults>
5 a : great devotion to a person, idea, object, movement, or work (as a film or book); especially : such devotion regarded as a literary or intellectual fad
b : the object of such devotion
c : a usually small group of people characterized by such devotion
But in popular usage, you can levy it at some religious group to intimate that something about them is crazy or dangerous. But saying so doesn’t engender any better understanding of what they are. I guess I could take offense to the intimation, but “taking offense” also doesn’t help. I just tend to find out what their intention is with calling it a cult – if their intention is to just try to make me mad, I tend to ignore them. If they simply have a misguided or incomplete understanding of what my beliefs are, that’s easily handled with communication – as Scientology is certainly “unorthodox”, so it does require some explaining.
6. Something about celebrities and their endorsement of Scientology. Do members of the Church agree or disagree with this? Why or why not?
I think one of the most-common things people find in Scientology is that it enhances one’s ability to communicate. This, obviously, lends itself to the arts, as that is the core of what art is anyhow. So, actors and musicians and the like tend to be very successful via their involvement in Scientology.
And yes, of course people in the Church agree with people being successful. Obviously, it can be trying to have your religious beliefs identified with such-and-such a celebrity, but the extra media exposure celebrities tend to get does help things, as they can help set the record straight. Unless its a tabloid who specializes in sensationalizing every made-up story that can possibly be imagined by the dark minds of man, in which case it doesn’t help.
Hope that answers your questions well, and let me know if you’d like any clarifications or expansions on any topic you mentioned (or forgot to mention).