Ellie Gunderson Professor Tavis English 101 February 26, 2013 Scientology: A Ticking Time Bomb In Jones Town over nine hundred people are found dead in a murder/ suicide massacre. Charles Manson’s attempt to start a race war, Sharon Tate dead. It has been a while since headlines like these have been seen in papers or on the news. This does not mean that cults and cult killings are things of the past. The church of scientology will be the next of these violent cults. With celebrities like John Travolta and Tom Cruise playing up the church of scientology, the church is establishing itself as one of the most rich and powerful religions.
All of this attention doesn’t come without criticism though. Scientology has had some controversy surrounding it. Some of these critics, including the German government and other prominent individuals, have gone so far as to claim that the Church of scientology is a “destructive cult with values that conflict with modern society. ” As much as the church denies all negative statements such as these, there is an overwhelming amount of evidence that shows them to be true. The word cult can be defined in many different whys depending on who you ask. It can be defined one way by major religious groups and another by sociologists and psychologists.
The most accurate way to define cult when it is describing the church of scientology is with the popular definition used by most media and common people: A religious group that is associated with unorthodox and sometimes aggressive and violent behavior. There are a few guidelines that determine whether an organization is a “dangerous cult. ” These include a charismatic leader, punishment for criticism, legal accusations, strict control over members, polarized world views, and large required donations (American Journal of Sociology p. 1377). The church of scientology, more often than not, fits that description.
The core of every cult is the leader. For scientology it is the creator of the religion, Ron Hubbard. Similar to most cult leaders, Hubbard abused drugs regularly. Although the church of scientology has a strict no drug policy he hypocritically did drugs his entire life (Corydon, 137). In this way he was similar to Jim Jones. Jones was a famous cult leader who founded The People Temple. This was a cult that is now well known for the events that took place in Guyana. Over nine hundred people died at the Peoples Temple Agricultural Project, now commonly called “Jonestown” in an organized mass suicide/killing.
Jones’s temple “didn’t allow drugs” they even had programs to help people quit using. But Jones, like Hubbard, frequently used drugs and the highest people in his temple did as well. Hubbard was also a liar. He claimed to all of his followers that he was a Nuclear Physicist. He in fact had no degree for a very long time and when he finally got one, much after the creation of scientology, he got it from Sequoia University in Los Angeles. The school was eventually shut down by the Californian state government for being a “degree mill,” (Smith, Graham).
He also lied about being a great war hero when the reality was that he was relieved from duty three times within an eighteen month period of time. Like many other cult leaders he did not follow the traditional ways in relationships. He was charged with bigamy for taking on two wives at the same time. The most unsettling aspect thing about him is his criminal record. While the charge was nothing more than fraud, he still spent four years in prison. The only thing that differs from the single charismatic cult leader description is the fact that he is dead.
The organization is very large and has many churches all over the world. This allows there to be any number of leaders of each church. Any one of them could turn out to be the next leader of a violent group. The programs made by a lying criminal mind could easily affect the people learning them in a negative way. Beyond the creator, scientology has many other questionable features. At one point in time aggressive behavior was encouraged against people that opposed the organization. This policy within the religion was called Fair Game. When individuals or even groups reach a certain “enemy” status they become Fair Game.
As defined by the creator of the religion L. Ron Hubbard, “Fair Game: May be deprived of property or injured by any means by any scientologist without any discipline of the scientologists. May be tricked, sued or lied to or destroyed (L. Ron Hubbard, Suppressive Acts – Suppression of Scientology and Scientologists – The Fair Game Law). ” The church openly encouraged aggressive behavior and some followers went along with it. After intense criticism from inside and out of the organization and many lawsuits for harassment, the policy had cost the church hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Hubbard officially canceled the use of the term “Fair Game” but the Church’s aggressive response to criticism but members never stopped harassing people. It does not take much for one person to take these extremist teachings too far, and there are multiple examples of that happening. Scientologist Lisa McPherson died under the care of the Flag Service Organization, a branch of scientology (Lisa McPherson Memorial Page). The Church was indicted on two felony charges in McPherson’s death; abuse or neglect of a disabled adult, a second-degree felony, and unauthorized practice of medicine, a third-degree felony.
Due to a few mistakes in the autopsy her cause of death was changed from unknown to accidental. The charges were dropped but the church still paid a hefty amount of money to the family. The church has also conducted many spy like missions against people who were fair game. One of the most well-known one was Operation Freakout. The goal of this mission was to have Paulette Cooper imprisoned or committed to a mental institution because of the book, “The Scandal of Scientology,” which she had written against the church of scientology.
They started by having operatives “attack her in as many ways as possible” and undertake “wide-scale exposure of PC’s sex life”, a plan which was named Operation Daniel. Cooper responded by suing the church for harassment (Church of Scientology of California vs. Paulette Cooper). That only caused them to step up their harassment. They then framed her for making bomb threats. She got in trouble for that but charges were later dropped. Their last attack was to try “to get P. C. incarcerated in a mental institution or jail, or at least to hit her so hard that she drops her attacks. This was an elaborate plan that consisted of framing her of multiple threats. The plan failed overall and the church was caught. Members of the church were charged with theft, burglary, conspiracy, and other crimes. The church has been connected to twenty two other crimes that mirror this one. This shows how passionate people become about the cause. Some scientologists are not afraid to break the law and ruin people’s lives. Extremists like these can very easily become very dangerous. All of the court cases and books about the church isn’t the only thing they are getting noticed for.
With so many lawsuits against them the church needs a very large bank account. The church recently had a commercial in the super bowl; thirty seconds costs approximately $3. 7 million (Scientology Runs Super Bowl Ad – NYTimes. com). They get this from their overpriced classes. They draw you in with the first few classes costing about fifteen dollars each. After you are done with those you won’t see another low cost class again. Although the costs are constantly changing it costs a person on average around fifteen hundred dollars to finish all the courses (Official Church of Scientology).
Conveniently enough another set of classes is coming out soon that will likely be hundreds of dollars too. Once you invest such large sums of money into something it is really hard to just walk away from it. This is a way that the church keeps members. Polarized world views are never a good thing, but they become even worse when they are shared by a group. The church of scientology teaches that psychiatrists were an ancient evil that had been a problem for billions of years. Hubbard came to believe that psychiatrists were behind a worldwide conspiracy to attack Scientology and create a “world government. Hubbard created this history for scientology and cast psychiatrists in the role of assisting Xenu’s, dictator of the “Galactic Confederacy,” genocide 75 million years ago (Hubbard 122). With a hate for all psychiatrists being taught and accepted who knows what else could be. Scientology is becoming increasingly popular by the day and there are some reasons behind that. Like other religions it fills the human needs of acceptance and curiosity. It provides answers and comfort about death. That’s it though; it’s like any other religion. You could become Christian or Wiccan and still feel these same needs.
With other religions you don’t have to sign a billion year contract and it won’t end up costing you if you decide to leave. There are countless horror stories about people trying to leave the church and losing all of their friends and family by doing so. They are also harassed until the point where they have to leave the area. When you try and leave you are labeled a suppressive person. No members are allowed to have any contact with suppressive persons. Most people who join make friends within the church and many people are raised in scientologist families.
When these people leave they lose almost everything. They have to start over finding new friends and having no family. The Church of Scientology clearly has the makings to be the biggest cult since Jonestown. It fills every dangerous cult component including the leader, punishment for criticism, legal accusations, strict control over members, polarized world views, and large required donations. It is only a matter of time before more people are hurt by the church. It would only take one charming person to lead the church in a deadly direction.
The public needs to be aware about how a cult can manipulate them and hurt people. A cult and its leader are only as strong as its followers. If people can realize what they are getting into before they do it, things are less likely to go bad. Work Cited Anderson, Brian . Interview by Douglas Wood. Tape recording interview. 28 May 1995. Church of Scientology of California vs. Paulette Cooper, et al. , Los Angeles Superior Court, Docket No. C18558 Church of Scientology of California v. Queen Magazine Ltd. , High Court of Justice, Queen’s Bench Division, 1970-C-No. 5751 Cooper, Paulette.
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