Saturday, May 31, 2008

Scientology and "Anonymous"

I got a comment from "Louis" who has a hidden profile. Louis claims to be a member of "Anonymous," a cyber gang whose activities range from puerile pranks to crime and outright terrorism.

Louis said:
We don't want to discuss if scientology is a religion or not. It's not our goal to destroy the practice ... there are wrongs being made, there is a need to right them. We are attempting to right them- we do not intend harm to any person.

Louis, please explain to me how the following activities of "Anonymous" a) are attempting to "right" anything, b) are not trying to destroy the practice and c) don't harm any person:
  • Bringing down Scientology related web sites with DDOS attacks.

  • Bringing down the Human Rights educational website of a group that was started by some Scientologists

  • Bringing down the website of an organization that documents and reports psychiatric abuse.

  • Bringing down the website of an anti-drug campaign.

  • Bringing down the website of a drug rehab organization.

  • Spamming Scientology related web sites with millions of emails.

  • Sending envelopes containing white powder (possible anthrax) to Churches and Missions.

  • Calling up and threatening receptionists at Churches.

  • Making Bomb threats.

  • Making arson threats.

  • Making death threats.

  • Picketing outside Churches whilst wearing intimidating masks.

  • Painting graffiti on Church buildings.

  • Creating web sites that use long disproven lies to attack Scientology

  • Creating web sites that make unsubstantiated and unproven accusations against Church members, leaders and founder.

  • Creating obscene videos with the heads of Church members, leaders and its founder superimposed on obscene figures.

  • Creating videos that mock Church members, leaders and founder

  • Creating videos that spread long disproven lies.

  • Creating videos that make unsubstantiated and unproven accusations.

  • Urinating on the door of a Church and then posting a video of it.

  • Going onto blogs and news sites to post reams of lies, attacks and obscenities against the Church, its members, its leaders and its founder.

I'd really be interested to hear your explanation.

Also Louis, can you tell me what steps you personally have taken to actually engage in dialog with Church members or leaders to address the accusations you have made in your comment?

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Myths about L. Ron Hubbard

More answers to Google Ninja's questions:

Lastly, LRH seemed to have been prone to illness, a consumer of both cigarettes and alcohol, and prone to accidents. Aren't all of those things either evidence of being around someone suppressive, or things that should be gone by the time someone is Clear?

it is very difficult to address generalities. You'd have to give me some specifics before I can directly answer the things you bring up. But, I will address them as best I can.

On smoking: I know that LRH smoked up until some time in the seventies. I know that he stopped. I don't know why you would consider smoking to be a sign of connection to a suppressive person. I don't consider it as such. (BTW: I don't smoke.)

On alcohol: what are we talking about here? An occasional beer? Wine with dinner? A six pack a day? A whiskey every half-hour? Just FYI, you can't get auditing within 24 hours of drinking alcohol and on some auditing actions you have to be audited every day. During most of his life after 1950, LRH was either getting auditing or researching it, so when was he supposed to have had time to indulge? Another piece of related data is demographics on Alcohol use by Scientologists. You will notice that we drink very little alcohol. (I don't drink any.) Do you think that would be the case if our founder was a boozer?

On "prone to illness": you'd have to give me specifics. I can't answer a vague generality. As far as I know, L. Ron Hubbard was in good health all his life.

On "prone to accidents": again I can't answer a generality like that. I don't know of any "accidents." As a young man he did stunts in airplanes and gliders and in later life enjoyed riding motorcycles. Someone who was accident prone wouldn't have lasted very long at activities like those.

You also seem to have been given the idea that a Clear would not smoke, drink alcohol or ever get ill. I have never come across such claims in Scientology. I don't smoke but if someone wants to then they can, it is a personal choice. Same applies if someone wants to drink (although I don't mean "to excess"). Do you think a French Scientologist is going to give up wine just because he goes Clear?

As to getting ill. If you live on planet Earth in a human body then I think you are extremely optimistic if you expect to never get ill. It doesn't say anywhere in Scientology that you will never have a physical problem after you go Clear. Actually what LRH says is: "The body is capable of having physical illness, acute (momentary) or chronic (continual). Broken bones, pinched nerves, diseases can any of them occur to a body independent of any mental or spiritual action. ... On a sick or injured person, you can reduce the time of healing or recovery by removing the spiritual or mental upset ... usually after effective physical treatment."

I don't want to offend you, but I think you have been reading too many anti-Scientology web sites. Just because someone makes a claim and puts it onto a web site on the Internet doesn't mean it is true. Go read some of the Holocaust denial sites out there. You'll see just how crazy the lies can get and how logically they can be explained when religious and racial hatred are allowed to run wild.

I am trying to not be offensive or anything, but as I read more about your faith these are some of the bigger logical problems I wonder at.

I appreciate your questions and the fact that you have been as inoffensive as possible. I like to be able to answer questions from people like yourself who are genuinely interested.

I hope I've answered everything. If I missed anything or if my answers bring up more questions, then please feel free to post some more comments.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Scientology and Critics

More answers to Google Ninja's questions:

Thirdly, the world has been hearing more and more from longtime ex-scientologists who are telling us incredible stories of abuse at IntBase, and in the SeaOrg. I realize that you believe this is just slander, but it is happening more and more. The sheer number of people who used to be scientologists in good standing who are now talking about this are getting harder and harder to dismiss.

I can only answer this from my own personal experience. I was in the Sea Org. I enjoyed my time there. There were no "abuses." My two kids were both in the Sea Org for several years. They enjoyed it and they saw no "abuses."

I have many friends who are currently in the Sea Org and so do my kids. These friends are happy and they are aware of no "abuses." My kids know people who used to be in the Sea Org and those people were happy with their time there and saw no "abuses".

So my opinion is based on my own experiences and those of people I personally know and have spoken to. I don't want this next sentence to sound harsh, if is merely a statement of fact: My opinion is not based on reading things on the Internet written by people I don't know and have never met.

I think if you examine the people complaining carefully you will find that the term "sheer numbers" does not actually apply. Like any other organization there is a turnover. People come and people go. If you count the number of complainers and count the number of people who are currently in the Sea Org or who have left and are not complaining, you will find that the proportion of complainers is very small. (This is also what sociologists have found - see the links below.) Trouble is you don't hear from the people who are not complaining because ... they are not complaining.

If you compare the number complaining to the total number of happy and satisfied Church of Scientology members, you will find the proportion of complainers is tiny.

The false impression of "sheer numbers" comes from the fact that if you come up with a good "atrocity" story then you get attention. So when an obscure actor wants some attention, perhaps to help his failing career, he comes out with an attack on his former religion. A girl who has some familial tie to a top Scientologists wants some attention, so she comes up with an atrocity story. (BTW, my son knows this girl from his time in the Sea Org and he knows her stories are not true.)

Where is the proof that any of these "abuse" stories are true? Did these people go to the police? No. Did they file charges? No. Did they report the abuses to Church authorities? No. They left and went straight to the Internet and began making accusations that cannot be substantiated.

I knew a person who is now a very loud critic. When she was a Scientologist I never heard one complaint from her. Not one. And I was a friend of hers, I spent time with her. If she had been dissatisfied she could have easily told me or other friends. But all I ever heard from her was that everything was great. Then one day she disappeared and next thing I know she's out there yelling about how bad it all is.

Firstly, I know for a fact that the things she yells about aren't true. I knew her. Secondly, if any of these claims were true then why didn't she report them to the correct authorities in the Church? The Church has many self-correcting mechanisms set up to fix things when they go wrong. These mechanisms handled such things as the Guardian's Office going off the rails in the late 1970's. She didn't use these mechanisms because the abuses didn't exist, but she saw a chance to make some big bucks. In the late 90's an ex-banker was trying to extort money from the Church. This woman ran off to join him and his crew. A simple, if debased, motivation.

If you read (and I do mean actually read) what sociologists have to say about such people, after extensive research, you will see that these atrocity stories are not reliable and you will also begin to understand the motives these people have for saying the things they say.

- The Reliability of Apostate Testimony About New Religious Movements
- Apostates and New Religious Movements.)

If you are truly interested in this topic and in understanding it then I urge you to read these two articles. They are by highly respected sociologists who are also religious scholars.

I'll answer the rest of your questions tomorrow.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Scientology and Results

Google Ninja asked several questions. I'll answer them in several posts. Here is the first:

I find Scientology fascinating, and have been reading quite a bit about it recently.

That's cool. I'll do my best to answer your questions.

I have a few questions. First of all, since we are talking about scientific technology, why is the results so varied? I mean, some people will say they LOVED OT3, and that it completely changed their lives, but others will say they didn't get much from it? By definition, a science has reproducible, provable results.

Although Scientology is a religion and not a science, its principles and how to use them are very exact. Like any other technology its results depend upon it being applied correctly. As a software developer you will understand that two people can write a program using the same language and one program can run great and the other can be a piece of @#$#$%. Does that mean the language is invalid? No. It means that one of the developers didn't apply it correctly.

Same goes for Scientology. When I did OT3, I applied the technology correctly and I got a fantastic result. The Church does everything possible to make sure the technology is correctly applied. We call it "Keeping Scientology Working" and it gets a tremendous amount of attention. But in the end it comes down to the individual.

When you complete a course of study in Scientology you get tested to make sure you got it. This is objective: you answered the questions right or you didn't. When you complete Scientology Auditing (counseling) it is a more personal and subjective thing. So the end product is named very clearly and the individual is asked to sign a statement that he or she has achieved that end product to his or her satisfaction. We call this attesting.

When you attest, you state very clearly that you got the result from the action and that you are very happy with it. If someone says "it was okay" or "it sucked" then actions are taken to correct whatever went wrong so that the person is "over the moon" about the action. No one is allowed to complete a major auditing action unless they are "over the moon" about it. What this means is that anyone who says they "didn't get much from it" was either lying at the time they attested or is lying now. Sorry to be so blunt about it, but that is the logical conclusion. (See this article: Any Reasons For Difficulties And Their Correction.)

Secondly, why has nobody been able to pass OT8 in over 13 years? Is it another "Wall of Fire" like OT3? Because by all accounts, it is pretty much the same kind of thing as most of the other levels.

I don't know where you got that data from, but Scientologists have been completing OT8 since it was released in 1988. In fact several of my friends have finished it in the last few months. They all rave about how great it is and how much of an impact it has had on their lives. I guess the place you read that was not a reliable source of information.

I'll answer more of your questions tomorrow.

Monday, May 26, 2008

What do Scientologists Believe?

Odin's Servant asked:

Hi grahame, I would like to start by letting you know that I am not being sarcastic or malicious in any way with my question. I do not know a lot about scientology, so my little knowledge may even be incorrect. But from my understanding, scientology believes that everyone is controlled by the spirits of dead aliens. and that when you die you will be rejoined with a mother ship or something like that.

Now i have to ask, how does one actually come to believe in this? Now I am no stranger to criticism for my beliefs. I am Asatru, that is, i believe in the old pagan gods of the norse tribes of scandinavia. Odin, Thor, Freya, etc... So I am not some self righteous dumba** who wants to badmouth someone.

But i would like to note that my beliefs have been grounded in my heritage for thousands of years. Scientology however seems to have been dreamed up by a science fiction writer. The stories behind scientology are quite interesting but i'm not sure i could believe in them. Could you inform me about how you came to this religion and what your actual beliefs are if my knowledge is incorrect. Thank you!

Hey Odin's Servant, thanks for your question and thanks for not assuming that what you have heard about our beliefs is correct. The beliefs you describe are not Scientology. You ask "How does one actually come to believe in this?" Simple answer is that one doesn't.

So, what do we believe? Let me start by saying that Scientology is also grounded in a heritage that goes back thousands of years. We look at our roots as being in Buddhism and the Veda (the basis for the Hindu religion). Religious scholars have also compared Scientology to eastern religions: Scientology And Its Interrelation With Other Religions, Scientology: A Comparison with Religions of The East and West.

The most basic belief of Scientology is that man is a spiritual being. But what does that mean? You can watch this video to get a good idea of it: Scientology Beliefs: The Parts of Man. I could start trying to explain it all in this blog but I think the video does a much better job.

The Scientology home page also puts it very well:

Man is an immortal, spiritual being. His experience extends well beyond a single lifetime. His capabilities are unlimited, even if not presently realized — and those capabilities can be realized. He is able to not only solve his own problems, accomplish his goals and gain lasting happiness, but also achieve new, higher states of awareness and ability.

In Scientology no one is asked to accept anything as belief or on faith. That which is true for you is what you have observed to be true. An individual discovers for himself that Scientology works by personally applying its principles and observing or experiencing results.

Scientology is actually an extremely practical religion. Belief plays a very small part in it. Application of the principles and observation of how they work plays a huge part in it.

Here are some more sources of accurate information on what our beliefs are:
- Introduction to Scientology
- Scientology Video Channel
- The Creed of the Church of Scientology
- What is Scientology?
- Dianetics Video Channel
For some of the actual practical principles that can be applied to everyday life:
- The Scientology Handbook

Please tell me if that answers your questions and if not then please post more.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Scientology and Weird Stuff

Julia just wrote an interesting post about a piece of nonsense a dentist told her co-worker: Scientology and... Mint?.

It reminded me of a story I was told a few years ago. A friend of mine who was a musician, and consequently had long hair, got into a conversation with a guy on a plane and the subject of Scientology came up. The man said, "But you can't be a Scientologist. You have hair." When my friend asked him what he meant the man told him that he'd been told Scientologists had to shave their heads.

The epidemic of mis-information about Scientology is easily remedied. Just check out some actual sources such as the Scientology Video Channel or the Dianetics Video Channel.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Blogging for Human Rights

How important are human rights? Well, without them you can be imprisoned without trial, you can have your property taken away, you can be enslaved, you can be discriminated against because of your race or beliefs, you can be tried in a secret court, you can have your letters opened and your phone tapped without due process, you can be arrested for expressing your opinion, you can be tortured and more.

Why should you learn about human rights? It is vital to know what your rights are, otherwise they will be taken away from you and all the abuses of the centuries, abuses that the Universal Declaration of Human Rights was written to stop, will come about again.

Where can I learn about my human rights?
- Universal Declaration of Human Rights (Abridged Version)
- Universal Declaration of Human Rights (Full Version)

What organizations should I know about and help?
- United Nations
- Youth For Human Rights
- Human Rights Watch (formerly Helsinki Watch)
- Amnesty International
- Bloggers Unite

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Scientology and Disconnection

Brazen Laird brought up the issue of "The 'disconnection' from family members". I thought the subject deserved its own article (especially on Mother's Day), so here it is:

The "disconnection policy" that anti-religious extremists claim the Church of Scientology follows does not exist. It is a lie made up by people who don't like Scientology.

Examples of the truth: I am the only member of my family who is a Scientologist. Have I disconnected from them? No. I'm in touch with my family every week even though I live in a different country. My wife is the only Scientologist in her family. Has she "disconnected" from them? No. In fact her family are some of the friendliest people I've ever met. We hang with them all the time.

The bottom line is that the "disconnection from family members" story is just another lie.

Now, what if your Aunt Ethel decides that your choice of religions is wrong and every time you talk to her she tells you how bad it is. You speak to her and ask her to respect your choices in life and she won't. She continues to berate you about your religious choices. What are you going to do? Let's say you've tried reasoning, you've tried having Uncle Sam talk to her, you've tried everything you can think of, so what do you do now? Well, you have the right to stop communicating with her. That is your right. People do it all the time in life. Someone is nasty, so you avoid them. At family get togethers you don't talk to cousin Joe because he's the biggest jerk you've ever met. However, if you are a Scientologist and you do this, suddenly you are "disconnecting" and anti-religious extremists make propaganda out of it.

That's the truth about Scientology and Disconnection.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Scientology - More Questions and Answers

On another blog I contribute to, Brazen Laird asked about the following issues:

- John Sweeny's accusations: There are two sides to every story. Please investigate the other side, BL, before passing judgement. The other side of the story is presented here; BBC reporter John Sweeney.

- The real story of Lisa McPherson is a tragic one, but it is not the story you have been told, BL. Please read this: Lisa McPherson and the articles it links to.

- You feel psychiatry is of "proven good" and you feel that Scientologist's opposition to it is somehow a black mark against the religion. You are entitled to your opinion. Scientologists, however, are interested in the facts about psychiatry and not opinions. However, just to clarify one point: we are not opposed to psychiatry as such, we are opposed psychiatric abuse. There is plenty of factual data on the large number of abuses in that field. Here are some links for you to check out: International Coalition for Drug Awareness, SSRI Stories, The Antipsychiatry Coalition, Stop Shrinks, ADHD Fraud, Mind Freedom International (I specifically didn't link to Citizens Commission on Human Rights or any other site connected to the Church of Scientology just to show you that the opposition to psychiatry is widespread.)

- Disconnection from family members. I'll post about this tomorrow.

Friday, May 09, 2008

Scientology In Libraries

I just got the "Scientology News" magazine and I thought I'd pass on some of the great things from it.

Since the new Basic books were released last July, the two Scientology Publications organizations (Bridge Publications in the US and New Era Publications in Europe) have had to increase their production capacity by four times!

The project to get the Basics into all libraries all around the world is running in high gear and the stats (percentage of libraries with Basics packages) looked like this as of mid-March:

Africa: 12%
Australia, New Zealand and Oceania: 18%
Canada 55%
Europe: 19%
Latin America: 22%
United Kingdom: 22%
USA: 100%

You can see what is in a Basics package here: Full Scientology Basics Package

Thursday, May 08, 2008

Scientology on YouTube

There is a new Church of Scientology Video Channel on YouTube. It has about 3 hours worth of videos on all aspects of Scientology, from what Scientologists think about their religion, to what the Church does to help others in the fields of Human Rights, Disaster Recovery and more.

Check it out and tell me what you think.

Sunday, May 04, 2008

Scientology and Brainwashing

I got a comment regarding my article Is Scientology A Cult?. The comment said a lot and you can read it here, but the main thing in it that I want to address is the author's depiction of "brainwashing". This term gets thrown around a great deal and it seems to have whatever definition the person using it wants it to have. Someone buys a used car that turns out to be a lemon and they accuse the salesman of "brainwashing" them. A family member joins a new religious movement and their relatives claim they have been "brainwashed". We see it used in movies and mentioned in books, so I thought this a good opportunity to address what it really is.

The term "brainwashing" (sometimes relabeled "mind control", "mental manipulation" or mental destabilization") is a term that is used by anti-religious extremists and self-appointed anti-religious experts as a tool of discrimination against new religious movements. The term was originally dreamed up by a CIA agent to describe the phenomenon of Americans in Korean POW camps making anti-American statements and in some cases even remaining in Korea after being released. The fact that only 21 out of 20,000 refused to return home was not given much publicity and the impression was created that "brainwashing" was an effective technique that threatened the very foundations of democracy. [1]

In the 1970's the "anti-cult movement" (ACM) hijacked the term and changed the definition so it included almost any human activity that involved changing somebody's mind. It could be applied to the entire spectrum from salesmen to torturers. It thus became a tool for the ACM in its quest to legitimize its activities and make money. [2]

The idea that the ACM created, was that people were forced into "cults" by the use of "brainwashing" and that once in they would robotically follow whatever orders the cult leader gave them and that they could never leave. Religious scholars who actually did research into the phenomenon of people joining new religious movements and then leaving them observed that the most controversial groups criticized as "cults" (including Scientology, the Hare Krishna Movement, and Reverend Moon's Unification Church) had a high turnover rate, a fact hardly compatible with their possession of "magical" techniques for keeping members within the fold. [2]

In the United States the theories the ACM had used to validate their abusive practices, such as kidnapping and coercion, suffered a death blow in 1987 when the report from the "APA Task Force on Deceptive and Indirect Techniques of Persuasion and Control" (DIMPAC) was rejected by the American Psychological Association. The report had been prepared by some of the leading lights in the ACM and it heavily promoted the "brainwashing" theories. The reviewers from the APA threw it out, stating, "it (the report) lacked scientific rigor and an evenhanded critical approach to carry the imprimatur of the APA".

In his comments on the report an external advisor to the APA, Benjamin Beit-Hallahmi of the University of Haifa, stated that "lacking psychological theory, the report resorts to sensationalism in the style of certain tabloids" and that "the term 'brainwashing' is not a recognized theoretical concept, and is just a sensationalist 'explanation' more suitable to 'cultists' and revival preachers. It should not be used by psychologists, since it does not explain anything". [3], [4]

One of the DIMPAC authors, Margaret Singer and an associate, sociologist Richard Ofshe, subsequently took the novel approach of suing the APA and the ASA (American Sociological Association) for having rejected their theories. The suit included respected scientists who had criticized the shoddy research methods of the two. Singer and Ofshe complained that the defendants had conspired to deny them employment as paid expert witnesses in the anti-religious community. The judge dismissed their complaint as "absurd".

And so the "brainwashing" theory died in the United States. In Europe however, which does not have a history of religious tolerance, the "brainwashing" theory is still bandied about by anti-religious groups, however, religious scholars do not support the theory. [2], [4]

So, according to experts, including the American Psychological Association and most religious scholars, "brainwashing" is a myth created to excuse attacks upon groups with different ideas to those of the attacker.

- [1] Brainwashing and the Cults: The Rise and Fall of a Theory
- [2] "Brainwashing": Career of a Myth in the United States and Europe
- [3] APA Memo of 1987 with Enclosures
- [4] Documents on Brainwashing Controversies and the APA