Term Paper: Scientology: Its Origins

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[. . .] This is where the image of scientology as a cult comes from.

It is true that people who have joined scientology have been witnessed to withdraw more and more from society and more toward the members of the religion. In fact, scientology teaches people to be paranoid of the outside world, believing drug companies, psychiatrists, and financiers to be trying to control the general populace while reporting to even more remote and sinister masters. Further, once adherents to scientology have become thoroughly brainwashed into the religion, they reach the mental state known in scientology as "clear." In the clear state, they are told the story of Xenu, a warrior who gathered up all of the excess population of this sector of the galaxy, brought them to Earth, and exterminated them with hydrogen bombs. The souls of these people are said to inhabit the bodies of everyone on Earth, causing by their presence all of the mental problems that we experience here. Adherents to scientology are told to exorcise these spirits by re-creating the memories of them being killed by hydrogen bombs. Once these spirits go away, the scientology adherent is told that they are now free to let their own spirit rule their body, free from mental anguish or difficulties. At this point, some scientologists go crazy, while others are so thoroughly assimilated by the religion that there is little hope of getting them back from it.

Some critics of scientology call the religion a cross between the Moonies and the Mafia (Touretzky). This is because it has been demonstrated over and over again that scientologists are very adept at the techniques of mind control, social control, high pressure sales, and rhetoric (Touretzky). Despite spending a great deal of time and effort, as well as money, in recruiting people into scientology, the origins of the religion as well as its actual teachings, remain shrouded in mystery to the new initiates. This is largely so that they will be more easily brought into the religion and controlled by it, with the revelation of the true teachings not coming until well after the brainwashing portion of the initiation is complete. Scientology, in fact, outlaws any meaningful discussion of its teachings or analysis of them for anyone in the religion. To be given access to the inner secrets of scientology is to devote many years of devoted practice and huge monetary donations to the organization. Very few other religions require one to give large amounts of money in order to learn what the religion is all about, thus increasing the suspicious nature of scientology.

Then, of course, are the wrongful deaths and mysterious disappearances involving people who were part of scientology. One of the most infamous recent cases is that of Lisa McPherson. Lisa McPherson was an adherent of scientology who was part of the Clearwater, Florida branch of the organization. Lisa was involved in a minor car accident and appeared to be unhurt. However, she got out of her car and took off all of her clothes and seemed mentally unstable. She was taken to the hospital, where she seemed to be physically unharmed, but the doctors wanted her to be psychologically evaluated. This is when the real trouble began for Lisa.

Her friends and associates from scientology arrived at the hospital and informed the doctors that Lisa did not believe in psychiatry. Therefore, Lisa was checked out of the hospital and left with the scientologists. The scientologists put Lisa into a program the religion runs for those who have had psychotic episodes. Less than a month later, Lisa was dead, being found to have severe dehydration, bruises, and bug bites, as well as being severely underweight. The scientologists were charged in her death. Although the group was eventually found to be not culpable for Lisa's demise, the fact that she died while under their care and from apparent neglect is a chilling commentary on the religion's dangers.

Lisa McPherson appeared in all respects to be a relatively normal person from an average background. In fact, many of the people who join scientology are of normal backgrounds, and many are even wealthy and famous. Scientology has a lot of celebrities who have joined the religion, most notably actor John Travolta. This, then, answers the question of who joins scientology. The answer is everyone. Scientology is able to attract people from all walks of life, because it speaks to something inside all of us -- namely, that universal longing to know the truth about our existence and to end our pain. However, people in a weakened state of mind or who have experienced a recent tragedy may be particularly susceptible to being drawn in by scientology's promises. The church has recently come under new criticism for trying to use the terrorist attacks on New York City as a means to draw in new members (Harder). The church set up counseling booths for those who wanted it after the terrorist attacks, and was able to draw a good sized number of people in to take advantage of this counseling.

Since scientology has been shown time and time again to be mercenary, false, and dangerous, it is interesting that so many people continue to be drawn into its clutches. Can scientology survive its criticisms and forge a place for itself in the future, or will it gradually decline and fade out of existence as more and more people discover its dangers? Currently, scientology is one of the fastest growing religions on the planet ("Future Prediction of Scientology"). This speaks volumes of the basic human nature to find belonging, answers, and peace. That people are still seeking out scientology as a means of providing them with these things is telling. While there are certainly other means to use to gain enlightenment, scientology offers what seems to many to be a fast and relatively easy and guaranteed way to get these things. Since scientology has gained so much money from its members, it is a financially stable organization, able to continue to put money into recruiting efforts. Its current large and worldwide membership is the only vehicle that the religion needs to continue operating in the foreseeable future. By promoting themselves as a religion rather than a science, the members of scientology are giving people just enough hope for a spiritual awakening to keep new members continually coming in (Cooper).

Scientology has only been around as a religion for a little more than two generations. Yet, it has experienced a meteoric growth in that time. By speaking to people and their emotional needs on a basic, primal level, scientology has been able to draw people in from all walks of life on a continual basis. It's teachings are benign and hopeful, however, its practices are suspicious and even sinister. While it is unclear if scientology's motives are purely selfish and evil, it is impossible to say that they are not. However, the future of scientology, based on its large membership and financial stability, seems assured.

References

Cooper, Paula. "From Dianetics to Scientology." The Scandal of Scientology. n.d. www.clambake.org/archive/books/tsos/sos-01.html

Future Prediction of Scientology." Scientology.Org. 1996. http://www.scientology.org/wis/wiseng/30/30-idx.htm

Lisa McPherson's Death." Fact Net. n.d. http://www.factnet.org/scientology/Lisa_McPherson_Scientology_Deaths.html?FACTNet

Scientology: Its Background and Origins." What is Scientology? 2000. http://www.whatisscientology.org/html/part01/chp02/index.html>.

Scientology." Scientology. 2003. http://www.scientology.org/.

The Fair Game Policy." Operation Clambake. n.d. http://www.xenu.net/fairgame-e.html.

Touretzky, David S. "Secrets of Scientology." n.d. David S. Touretzky. http://www.2.cs.

A cmu.edu/~dst/Secrets/>.

What is Scientology?" Operation Clambake. n.d. http://www.xenu.net/roland-intro.html. [END OF PREVIEW]

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