Understanding Scientology

A new book examines the controversial church.

Going Clear: Scientology, Hollywood, and the Prison of Belief, by Lawrence Wright, Knopf, 448 pages, $28.95.

The last several years have been rough ones for the Church of Scientology. Since 2008, a number of high-ranking defectors have come forward and condemned the church’s current leadership, followed by a long list of books by ex-members that detail a shocking array of abuses within the church. Withering exposés of Scientology have appeared in The St. Petersburg Times and on CNN’s Anderson Cooper 360, while the faith’s innermost secrets were mercilessly ridiculed in a 2008 episode of South Park. Most recently, the church has been the focus of three major books: my own academic work, The Church of Scientology, and two journalistic accounts: Janet Reitman’s Inside Scientology and Lawrence Wright’s Going Clear.

Of these last two, Wright’s book is arguably the more balanced, thoughtful, and empathetic, offering not an “exposé” but rather an attempt to understand the effects of religious beliefs in people’s lives, exploring the allure, the benefits, and the perils of involvement in this complex new religion. Indeed, at certain points, Wright bends so far over backward to be fair to the church that he risks undermining the credibility of his own narrative.

Wright, a staff writer for The New Yorker, begins his account by focusing on one ex-Scientologist, movie director Paul Haggis. Wright uses Haggis’ case to introduce the initial appeal of Scientology, the church’s powerful role in Hollywood, and also Haggis’ progressive disillusionment with the contradictory, unsettling, and bizarre aspects of the movement.

Wright then offers a remarkably sensitive portrait of Scientology’s enigmatic founder, L. Ron Hubbard, telling in a compelling way how a penny-a-word pulp fiction author wrote a tremendously popular self-help book, Dianetics, then went on to create one of the most successful new religions of the 20th century. While the Church of Scientology presents Hubbard as the most important man who ever lived and critics denounce him as a madman and a charlatan, Wright offers a more complex and human portrait, trying to account for the tremendous influence this figure has had on millions of readers. In Wright’s narrative, Hubbard appears as neither a monster nor a saint but as a man who was often surprisingly insightful, yet also egotistical, manipulative, and abusive. Wright narrates particular pieces of this tale especially well, such as the suicide of Hubbard’s gay son, Quentin, after which Hubbard allegedly complained, “He’s done it to me again!”

The heart of Wright’s book is part two, “Hollywood,” which explores the church’s success among celebrities and entertainers, at once attracting stars with the promise of unleashing their unlimited creative potential and exploiting their star power for public relations and advertising. Wright details John Travolta’s early entry into the church in the 1970s and provides the fullest account to date of Tom Cruise’s intimate relationship with the church’s current head, David Miscavige. Not only does Miscavige regularly work out and ride motorcycles with the actor, but apparently he also ordered an elaborate search for a new girlfriend for him after he broke up with Penélope Cruz.

Wright remains poker-faced throughout the book, even when narrating the more astonishing allegations of violence, abuse, and just plain weird behavior. Thus he provides graphic yet calm descriptions of the church’s infamous disciplinary program, the Rehabilitation Project Force, where members have allegedly been crowded into pitch-black basements, dressed in black boiler suits and filthy rags, and deprived of food, sleep, and rest. And he calmly narrates what is surely one of the most surreal episodes in American religious history, when Miscavige allegedly forced his senior executives to play a brutally violent all-night game of musical chairs to Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody.”

Wright works so hard to present a fair and balanced account of Scientology that in some places the reader may have trouble keeping a straight face. In his concluding remarks, Wright offers the following assessment of Hubbard’s work: “It would be better understood as a philosophy of human nature; seen in that light, Hubbard’s thought could be compared with that of other moral philosophies, such as Immanuel Kant and Soren Kierkegaard, although no one has ever approached the sweep of Hubbard’s work.” L. Ron Hubbard compared to Kant and Kierkegaard? Even for a sympathetic scholar of comparative religions like myself, these sorts of statements are difficult to take seriously. I suppose Hubbard’s work is greater in its sweep if we include his elaborate speculations about the past history of the universe and space-opera adventures on other planets going back 60 trillion years. Even so, I don’t see it being read in college philosophy classes any time soon.

A second problem with Wright’s book is methodological. Throughout his narrative, Wright relies heavily on the accounts of ex-Scientologists, whose versions of history he appears to accept largely at face value. Certainly the official accounts provided by the Church of Scientology need to be read skeptically and critically, and Wright rarely takes Hubbard’s or Miscavige’s versions of history at face value. But it is less clear that he has applied the same critical analysis to the accounts of ex-members, who surely also have agendas, axes to grind, and simply their own subjective views of events.

One final disappointment is Wright’s almost exclusive focus on the role of high-profile Hollywood figures in the church. As Wright sees it, “Scientology orients itself toward celebrity, and by doing so, the church awards famousness a spiritual value.” Obviously, this is what most general readers will want to hear about, and Wright does narrate this piece of Scientology’s tangled history in an engaging, thoughtful and entertaining way. Yet by continuing to focus our attention on the church’s comparatively tiny celebrity side, Wright perpetuates the most common stereotype of Scientology and also obscures the lived reality of the vast majority of ordinary Scientologists. What is it like to be a non-celebrity Scientologist in Cincinnati or Akron, someone who never “goes Clear” and neither knows nor cares about the Xenu story? What is it like to grow up as a child in the Sea Org, which Wright himself tells us is the true inner core of the church?

These and many others aspects of this complex movement remain to be explored and understood. We can only hope that another writer as thoughtful, even-handed, and eloquent as Wright takes up these other chapters in the long, strange story of Scientology.

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  • Best Of All Possible Tyrannies||

    the faith’s innermost secrets were mercilessly ridiculed in a 2008 episode of South Park.

    But it still wasn't as good as the one about the economy!

  • Ted S.||

    What about the episode about Islam?

  • Almanian!||

    I learned more about Mormon from the South Park episode than most history programs and books. Good stuff.

  • PapayaSF||

    "Dumb-dumb-dumb-dumb-dumb!"

  • celena7ron||

    Start working at home with Google! It's by-far the best job Ive had. Last Monday I got a new Alfa Romeo from bringing in $7778. I started this 9 months ago and practically straight away started making more than $83 per hour. I work through this link, mojo50.com

  • Palin's Buttplug||

    SP best religious episode was the one where Randy was cured by the dual religions of AA and Catholism when the statue of the Virgin Mary bled out of her butt on him.

    The Mormon episode was great too.

  • Irish||

    The Mormon episode was awesome. What I loved about the Mormon episode was how it spent the entire episode shitting on Mormonism, and then at the end the lesson was 'Sure Mormonism is crazy, but the real assholes are the ones who are pointlessly rude to Mormons.'

    You spend the whole time laughing at the stupid Mormons, and then at the end South Park basically calls the viewer an asshole.

  • ||

    I've never met a Mormon that I thought was an asshole. Not many groups I can say that about.

    And Mormon chicks are HOT!

  • Ted S.||

    Yeah, but they don't put out until you marry them. And to do that, you have to become a Mormon yourself.

    I couldn't give up coffee or wine.

  • ||

    The lapsed mormons are still attractive and are willing to put out. I sampled while in SLC.

  • Jayburd||

    You have no idea what you are talking about. And Mike Crapo never got a DWI.

  • Jayburd||

    "I couldn't give up coffee or wine."
    Old Idaho joke- 'If you go fishing with a Mormon you always go with two. If you go with one they drink all the beer.'

  • SQRLSY One||

    What is missing here is how the “Church” of Scientology gets away with FAR more “religious freedoms” than other churches do. I have to get a prescription for a “dangerous medical device” known as a “lung flute”, which is nothing but a cheap plastic flute; a toothbrush is more invasive into my body that a flute is. Yet the Scientologists use a quasi-medical device known as an “E-meter”, in violation of Government Almighty court order, no less, which has been going on for decades. See http://www.catholic.org/nation.....p?id=41507 … And also http://www.religionnewsblog.co.....s-than-god is excellent, it clearly shows that in the USA we have separation of Government Almighty and ALL religions EXCEPT for Scientology, which is darned close to the official religion of Government Almighty. Clearly then we are in need of my new church, see the link buried in my name up top …

  • Sevo||

    Cult = (less than symbol) 1,000,000 votes.
    Religion = (greater than symbol) 1.000,000 votes.

  • Ted S.||

    So Obama's a religion and not a cult?

  • Sevo||

    Exactly.

  • Irish||

    So when people call libertarianism a cult, that's actually not true. Gary Johnson got over 1,000,000 votes, despite many libertarians not going to the polls. Therefore, at the very least, we're a religion.

  • ||

    Movin on up!

  • Ted S.||

    To a deeeeeeeee-luxe apartment in the sky?

  • General Butt Naked||

    Don't you mean that he stole those million votes from the mouths of Mitt Romney's 80 children?

    For shame, libertarians. For shame.

  • The Immaculate Trouser||

    Close, but not quite:

    Cult = Metaphysical views elites in popular culture won't tolerate
    Religion = Metaphysical views elites in popular culture grudgingly tolerate

  • albo||

    A Religion equals Cult plus Time.

  • The Immaculate Trouser||

    Cult + time + popular support, more like.

    Kabbalah is still considered a cult, after all.

  • ||

    "Cult" has been deprecated in favor of "new religious movement" for precisely that reason.

    I got into it with a religious cousin when he was going on about how crazy the story of the Mormons was and I said it probably wouldn't seem as crazy in a few hundred years. He said he didn't believe that to be true so I started screaming "MOSES, OVER HERE, YEAH THIS FLAMING TUMBLE WEED, I NEED YOU TO TAKE CARE OF SOME SHIT FOR ME"

    He didn't seem to think I had made my point, but everyone else in the room conceded it.

  • Irish||

    The real issue is what people use the religion to do. I don't understand why I should give a shit if people want to live in a commune and don't hurt anybody. For every one 'cult' that does something really bad, I'm sure there are plenty of small religious movements that are just like any other religion.

    Plus, if someone uses Islam as an excuse to blow up a synagogue, I don't think his actions are less horrible because he did it in service to a 'religion' as opposed to a 'cult.'

  • The Immaculate Trouser||

    As a practicing Christian, I have always been baffled by the attempt to normalize the supernatural events in the Bible.

    The main issue with the Mormon faith in my mind is not that it makes claims that are... over the top, but that some of the fundamental claims that it makes about its prophet and recent history are easily disproved with the evidence available. With religions developed in times without such historical documentation, the worst you can say is that evidence is lacking -- but tbh, I think there's a fair amount of supporting evidence for, say, Buddhism and Christianity which is lacking in some other religions of that same time period.

  • BakedPenguin||

    Hell, how about "God has a kid, and then has him killed, all to facilitate himself being able to forgive the things he's pissed at humanity about."

    There's a reason why religion requires faith.

  • Ken Shultz||

    I think that standard theology has it that Satan killed Jesus. And if you're a Christian, and saved by his death, then you're supposed to take personal responsibility for his murder yourself.

    If the God of the New Testament is really omnipotent and omnipresent, then he's a radical libertarian--more so than any of us are.

    I mean, he puts everybody who can't handle treating each other well for eternity out of their misery at the end of the book, but in the meantime, he'll let you murder his perfectly innocent son.

    Or murder innocent children over and over again. And he'll forgive you for it, too!

    That's why it always seems to me like those of us who are trying to disabuse Christians of their religion are barking up the wrong tree. The three temptations of Christ were really about tempting God to intervene in human events--he refused to do so! Also, Jesus went to great lengths to explain to his disciples that government wasn't the answer.

    We've got tons of ammunition against those fundies who would use Christianity to oppress the rest of us by way of government. Don't try to make them abandon their Christianity--use their Christianity against them.

  • ||

    I think that standard theology has it that Satan killed Jesus.

    That's a novel theory, and one that I was never exposed to in over a decade in a protestant denomination, nor in the admittedly minimal exposure I've had to catholicism. Standard theology has it that the Jews turned Jesus over to the Romans to be killed in accordance with prophecy from Isaiah as a living sacrifice, through which salvation can be accessed by anyone with faith. Jesus stands in for the animal sacrifice that was required in the old testament. Hence the Christian belief that faith in Jesus is the only way to God/heaven/salvation.

  • Robert||

    Won't work, here's why: Moses was around at a time, if he was around any time at all, when records were so bad that you can't prove or disprove anything from then. Mormonism came about in modern times, when credible witnesses for things and records abound. Therefore it's far easier to take Mormonism as a hoax than it is to take Judaism as such.

  • ||

    Religion = Tax exempt
    Cult = not tax exempt

    no other difference

  • Sevo||

    Result, not precondition.

  • Ted S.||

    [Alt-text approved by Scientology]

  • ||

    "Miscavige allegedly forced his senior executives to play a brutally violent all-night game of musical chairs to Queen’s 'Bohemian Rhapsody.'"

    I'm pretty sure this is also how they chose the new pope.

  • Mensan||

    Scientologists chose the new pope?

  • fish_remote||

    sssshhhhhhhh.......top secret

  • Zombie Jimbo||

    Nope, Cosi Fan Tutti. Freddy is still not approved.

  • General Butt Naked||

    OT:

    Has anyone here tried Ghostery yet?

    I started perpin' it this morning and reason is loading way fucking faster.

  • ||

    Yep love Ghostery.

  • General Butt Naked||

    I love the little purple box that gives me a list of all the bullshit that will NOT be gettin' all up in my grill piece.

    Though I did set it for 3 seconds as it was annoying me on its default setting.

  • ||

    Yeah I've slowly moved that down to nothing. I'm quite aware how much bullshit websites are trying to give me.

  • General Butt Naked||

    I put it to block everything and have had no problems yet. What do you allow? Is it unwise to block everything?

  • ||

    I block everything but unblock some whole sites that don't work with it on. ESPN is one I can think of.

  • ||

    I usually unblock everything under "widgets". Yeah that means there are some gaping whole wrt social networks and the like tracking me, but it breaks many fewer sites that way.

  • General Butt Naked||

    It's nice not watching the "waiting for: bullshit.spy" at the bottom of Reason's page when refreshing.

  • Ken Shultz||

    "Yet by continuing to focus our attention on the church’s comparatively tiny celebrity side, Wright perpetuates the most common stereotype of Scientology and also obscures the lived reality of the vast majority of ordinary Scientologists."

    But that wouldn't sell as many books.

    I suspect the answer is subjective, and sometimes fiction has better subjective answers than incomplete histories have explanatory facts. If you saw the movie "The Master", my guess is that the movie got it right.

    People join these organizations because they're lonely or they have problems we're still not very good at dealing with. If you're struggling with depression, for instance, because your all alone in the world and your life sucks, maybe a psychiatrist can give you some psych meds to take the edge off--but you're still all alone in the world.

    I think being in a cult or religion can remedy that. If you're more of a mainstream person, you can find a lot of friends and understanding people who will act like they care about you once a week at a mainstream church. If you're somebody who, for whatever reason, never really fit into mainstream society, then a cult that revels in its outsider status might be a better fit for you.

  • Irish||

    If you saw the movie "The Master", my guess is that the movie got it right.

    The Master is one of the most disappointing movies I've ever seen. It was such a ripe subject, had some great performances, and I love PT Anderson, but that movie was just weird, slow and pretentious.

    I think being in a cult or religion can remedy that. If you're more of a mainstream person, you can find a lot of friends and understanding people who will act like they care about you once a week at a mainstream church. If you're somebody who, for whatever reason, never really fit into mainstream society, then a cult that revels in its outsider status might be a better fit for you.

    This is true, but I also think many cults start out as being relatively normal and slowly become crazier and crazier. Take Jonestown. Jim Jones' church started out as kind of a left-wing, weird, San Francisco church that wasn't really that extreme. Many of the people who joined wouldn't have done so were it obvious how out of control things were going to get. They join what they see as a moderate, fun church, and it become more extreme with time.

  • Ken Shultz||

    "I also think many cults start out as being relatively normal and slowly become crazier and crazier."

    I thought "The Master" handled that, too. And the point was that both the Master and his wife were getting off on their own power...it's just that we always assumed that, didn't we? That the people who profit from these new religions do it for the power and the money?

    The interesting question is why believers go along with these things--even when they don't believe in them. In the movie, the recruit starts out getting a psych discharge from the military because he screws a sculpture of a woman the other guys in his unit made out of sand on the beach. That's why he kept going back to the Master, too. He knew it was created out of thin air, but even though it was all manufactured bullshit, it made him feel like he was a part of something.

    And that feeling was why he was willing to violently attack anyone that questioned the Master--even though he knew the Master was full of shit!

    I think Gangs and skinheads and Al Qaeda and cults like The People's Temple and Scientology and a whole lot of other things all work the same way.

    I think that basically explains people like Tony--who must realize on some level (after all these years) that his beliefs have no basis in reality. ...he just doesn't care because being a progressive (and persecuted as such) makes him feel like he's part of something.

  • Irish||

    Well, Tony has totally lost his mind. This conversation actually occurred the other day.

    Tony: The Republican party has become totally run by the religious right.

    Me: Why do you only attack Republicans for falling in bed with social conservatives when the inner city Democratic machine is basically based on hardcore, bible thumping, anti-gay social conservatives?

    Tony: There's a difference. Black Christians put religion in its proper place, whereas white Christians allow religion to rule their political thoughts.

    This seriously happened. He honestly believes that when a white Christian is anti-gay, doesn't believe in evolution and has his life completely run by his religious beliefs, he is an evil fool. However, when a black Christian holds identical beliefs it's okay, because the black Christian is apparently more noble, somehow.

    This is your brain on liberalism.

  • Heroic Mulatto||

    What about the inner-city, hardcore, Koran thumping, anti-gay social conservatives who call themselves the Nation of Islam?

    Don't they also unflinchingly support the Democrats, and especially, Obama?

    Does Tony argue that Louis Farrakhan also puts religion in its proper place?

  • Heroic Mulatto||

  • Irish||

    There's also an incredible amount of anti-semitism in inner city religious communities, which you don't tend to find as frequently in white areas.

    See: Louis Farrakhan

    Farrakhan: How many of you are lawyers? Only have one in the house? No wonder we go to jail so much, brother! But at the top of the law profession, who are the top in law?
    Audience: Jews.
    Farrakhan: Sorry I didn't hear you.
    Audience: Jews!
    Farrakhan: Any doctors in the house? Ain't got no doctors? Oh there's one way in the back. At the top of the medical profession, the top in that are members of the Jewish community. Anybody in media? Who's the top in that field?
    Audience: Jews.

    See: Al Sharpton

    Sharpton rushed to defend Jeffries, and in the middle of the swirling controversy, declared, “If the Jews want to get it on, tell them to pin their yarmulkes back and come over to my house.” Instead of calling for calm, Sharpton incited the rioters, leading marches in the streets that included chants of “No Justice, No Peace!” and “Kill the Jews!” At a funeral for the boy who had been run over

    This = Not letting religion run your life.

  • Heroic Mulatto||

    You forgot the Rev. Jesse "Hymietown" Jackson, who made his remarks while campaigning for the nomination in the motherfucking Democratic Presidential primary.

  • ||

    It's not their fault HM, it's their environment defining their belief structure.

    /Tony

    The whole conversation Irish cites was just weird. Why try to wedge a racial component into it if you can find plenty of other racial groups who are equally defined by their religious belief.

    Korea has some CRAZY religious communities. There's nothing like being grabbed by some crazy-eyed Korean woman on the street corner while she screams DO YOU BELIEVE IN THE HOLY MOTHER!?

  • Heroic Mulatto||

    The populace of the Hermit Kingdom are just crazy in general.

  • ||

    Nah, North Korea drove most of it's weird religious stuff south. Historically the southern part of Korea was known for settled agriculture and established religious movements (Confucianism, Buddhism and later Christianity), while the north was known for mystics, oracles and persistent animist and folk beliefs. After the war those were driven south (there can be only one faith, faith in the Kim family) which is why you find more expression of native mysticism and folk belief in the south than you would have a hundred years ago.

  • John C. Randolph||

    North Korea drove most of it's weird religious stuff south.

    No, they replaced it with a deified leader cult. The religion they built up around the Kim crime family would make Mao blush.

    -jcr

  • Ken Shultz||

    Korea certainly has been a hotbed of thought control.

  • Ken Shultz||

    Regarding Tony, yeah, nobody's ever going to convince him of anything, and because his beliefs are just based on a sense of group identity--and not reason--then there's no way to get any traction with him through reasoning.

    We see him spout things that we've heard other people say for reasons they have, so we tend to assume that Tony has those reasons behind why he says them. ...but there aren't any reasons there.

    He says them out of a desire to be part of what he considers his in-group.

    Seriously, arguing with Tony about whether the capital gains tax should be higher is like arguing with a Moonie about whether Reverend Moon was an idiot. Nothing will ever come from it.

  • Ken Shultz||

    Irish,

    Yeah, for years and years now, Tony has demonstrated that he is willing to attack anybody who says anything against the Democrats--regardless of the facts.

    Furthermore, he's willing to support anything the Democrats do or say--regardless of the facts, too!

    He will condemn the Republicans for giving away money to the rich and defend Obama for giving Wall Street $350 billion in the same breath!

    That's cult behavior. That's Scientology in a nutshell!

    It doesn't matter how crazy the things in Scientology are, and it doesn't matter how if the members themselves know in their hearts that what they're defending is ridiculous either--they'll defend it to the wall and attack their critics anyway.

    It's just like the Scientologist in that film attacking someone for dismissing one of L. Ron's Dianetics books as ridiculous. He doesn't believe in L. Ron himself--but that doesn't mean he won't defend L. Ron all the way to the wall.

    We should remember that when we're trying to disabuse some Baptist or Muslim or whatever of their religious beliefs. Much better to convince people that religious individuals will be better off too in a more libertarian world--than try to disabuse them from believing in things for reasons that don't really have anything to do with logic anyway.

    "This is your brain on liberalism."

    I'm not sure that's all liberals, but it explains a lot of them. They're Democrats for the same reason they cheer for their favorite football team.

  • Palin's Buttplug||

    I agree that 'The Master' was a big letdown - especially after the brilliant religion of 'There Will Be Blood' and the religious of Capitalism (which is also a belief system when viewed as fundie extremist dogma).

  • Sevo||

    "and the religious of Capitalism (which is also a belief system when viewed as fundie extremist dogma)."

    So, if you make it into a religion, it becomes a religion, is that what you're saying?

  • Ken Shultz||

    No, he's just lashing back at people who are criticizing democrats.

  • ||

    So Buffett practices the religion of Capitalism? I mean he IS the preeminent capitalist on the planet.

  • ||

    If you're struggling with depression, for instance, because your all alone in the world and your life sucks, maybe a psychiatrist can give you some psych meds to take the edge off--but you're still all alone in the world.

    For Christ's sake, that's what alcohol is for.

  • Ken Shultz||

    Yeah, that's another way people avoid unsolvable problems in the real world.

    Point is that...sometimes people's problems don't have solutions in the real world.

    And when that's the case, looking for some way to get through the night that maybe isn't entirely rational--that may not necessarily be irrational.

    No culture survived into the historical record without some form of religion. That would seem to suggest that religion is an adaptation. Whatever itch that adaptation scratches, whatever advantage it gives us, I'm not sure whatever advantages it conferred disappeared with the publication of "The Origin of Species". If people continue to find it more valuable for their own reasons than it costs them, then I suppose it's more valuable for those people than it costs them.

    Hell, I think this is why so many people treat progressivism and their weird ideas about socialist economics the way they do--even the progressives who are atheists, they're still instinctively religious people. They "believe" in socialist economics for the same reasons Catholics believe in transubstantiation.

  • Almanian!||

    Let me know when you cover the REAL story - how the Masons run Scientology as a for-profit arm of Koch Industries®.

    *adjusts Reynolds Wrap™ hat*

  • Heroic Mulatto||

    ON THE MORNING OF 9/11, 4,000 SCIENTOLOGISTS WHO WORKED AT THE WORLD TRADE CENTER CALLED IN SICK!!!!

    SCIENTOLOGISTS DID 9/11!!!!!!!

  • Almanian!||

    Yeah, that's what the Bigorati want you to think.

  • Sugarsail||

    My high school chemistry teacher was one of Hubbard's college roommates and he was telling us that even back in college L. Ron wanted to see if he could start a religion. He knew full well what he was doing. He was a very smart charlatan.

  • Ken Shultz||

    The question is whether what he's selling is something people want to buy.

    Strippers relieve lonely guys of their money by creating a little illusion, too, for a while. But I bet most guys walking out of the bar, at the end of the night, think they got more than what they paid for.

    I don't know--it's seeing this same behavior in non-religious contexts that's really interesting to me. Like I keep saying, I see the same kind of behavior in political contexts.

    What's the difference between the Obama people and the LaRouche people? The Obama people never engaged in "ego stripping"--is that the only difference? Is it possible to be a progressive and disagree strongly with Barack Obama? Do Obama believers assume that everyone who isn't on their side is their enemy?

  • Irish||

    Is it possible to be a progressive and disagree strongly with Barack Obama?

    Yes. In fact, the really far left doesn't like Obama for not being socialist enough. The people who fall into the Obama cult are the wishy, washy low information voter left that mostly consists of very young voters and the poorly educated.

    Many far left progressives don't like him that much because they see him as too conservative.

  • Irish||

    I'd also like to point out that many people make the same claim about hardcore Paulite libertarians as being a 'cult,' and there is some truth to that. Some of the really hardcore Ron Paul fans don't really know anything about libertarianism or politics and simply fall in with Paul out of a weird adherence to a cult of personality. So this stuff does go on with libertarians too, and its important to remember that when we're going after the progs for their cult-like behavior.

  • Sevo||

    "Some of the really hardcore Ron Paul fans don't really know anything about libertarianism or politics and simply fall in with Paul out of a weird adherence to a cult of personality."

    Fans of various 'celebrities', fans of sports figures, fans of XXX.
    Some people get 'imprinted' and thereafter that object can do no wrong.

  • Ken Shultz||

    It isn't just Paultards who have been accused of a cult of personality--the O people have been accused of that, too.

    I think Reasonoids may be almost immune to a cult of personality. Nobody's harder on our heroes than we are.

  • Alien Invader||

    I think Reasonoids may be almost immune to a cult of personality.

    Maybe...(but I think that a certain ingrained obstinacy is just part of the culture and that's not quite the same thing as objectivity).

    But they've replaced personality cult with a cult of ideas. There's a worn ideological path in the libertarian universe that Though Shalt Not Question.

    God help he who attempts a rational discussion of foreign policy or immigration, just for beginning examples. Around here we believe what we believe, dammit.

    And to listen to the music around here, you'd think gay rights and pot laws are on the short list of the most important problems this country faces.

    "Around here" is, on average, better than most of what's "out there". But it's far from immune to the same human failings.

  • Ken Shultz||

    "God help he who attempts a rational discussion of foreign policy or immigration, just for beginning examples. Around here we believe what we believe, dammit."

    I catch plenty of flack around here for not towing the line.

    I supported the invasion of Afghanistan; opposed the invasion of Iraq; supported Obama on what he did in Libya; and I'm not as hostile to the Syrian rebels as some around here...

    People get upset and nasty, sometimes, but if we're ever gonna have a truly more libertarian society, we're gonna have to learn how to stick up for ourselves (and each other).

    Oh, I get ranked on around here for chastising people for not being sufficiently sensitive to women--and some of my fellow libertarians got pissed off about that for a while. ...and then it kind of turned into a running gag:

    "C-word" appearance in 3...2...1...

    It's all part of what makes this libertarian trailer park so special.

  • ||

    Anybody that doesn't understand how important pot laws and the WoD are doesn't understand dick about how much it has allowed the government to get away with.

    And just for the record, I don't smoke, and rarely drink.

  • ||

    Exactly. The WoD isn't about drugs, it's about control.

    It's about asset forfeiture, police militarization, privacy and illegal searches, our massive prison system...it's incredible how long that arm stretches.

  • PapayaSF||

    I once met L. Sprague de Camp and asked him about Hubbard. He said that Hubbard had told him, pre-Dianetics, that "the way to get rich is to start a religion."

  • Sevo||

    I remember (45 years ago) rumors that Hubbard had bet one SF writer or another that he could get rich starting a religion.

  • The Immaculate Trouser||

    The bet was between Hubbard and Heinlein, IIRC.

  • Sevo||

    Rings bells.

  • Sevo||

    And the question is not whether you can get rich; Asimov offered the (free) advice that anyone can get rich promising eternal life.
    The question is whether you can do so without Mephistopheles calling the tune. Hubbard danced.

  • Rhywun||

    Wright perpetuates the most common stereotype of Scientology

    Scientology perpetuates the most common stereotype of Scientology - they have a monthly magazine called "Celebrity", for crying out loud.

  • WomSom||

    Sometimes man you jsut have to roll with it.

    www.AnonNow.tk

  • ||

    Any "religion" that makes you pay to learn their "sacred truths" is nothing but a con.

  • wwhorton||

    This equation gets real simple if you're an atheist:

    Cult = Religion

    Is Scientology ridiculous? Sure it is. But explain the Trinity to me with a straight face. Or the Buddhist idea of cosmology. From the outside, the main difference between all of these beliefs is the degree to which they cause misery to people outside of their club, and from that perspective Scientology is certainly no worse than the Judeo-Christian religions.

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