Tom Cruise and Scientology, still crazy... Posted by: Jon Henke
on Friday, January 18, 2008
I'm not sure what it is about Scientology - and especially the Scientology evangelism of Tom Cruise - that fascinates me, but this is going to be the second time I blog about it. The first time, I wrote...
Let's face it, even by the standards of semi-obscure cults, Scientology is weird. Is it a religion? A philosophy? A self-help program? A science? (Hint: No!)
Scientology is a riddle, wrapped in an enigma, wrapped in a scam. And practiced, apparently, by quite a lot of wealthy celebrities. In fairness, with luxurious resorts around the world and a cruise ship, Scientology does offer a lot of very nice earthly benefits that you just don't get from your mainstream kooky cults. I mean, sure, followers of Jim Jones got a trip to exotic Guyana and free drinks, but Scientology has more return business.
I'm halfway convinced that Scientology is really just a performance art parody of religion in general, complete with its own implausible origins, supernaturalism and rules (e.g. Xenu, Body Thetans, opposition to drugs and psychiatry, etc) That would certainly explain things like this...
Another potential explanation might revolve around the Scientologist rejection of psychiatry and psychiatric medication. I mean, c'mon...."To LRH! [salutes]".
So, I bring this up because of a Tom Cruise/Scientology video that was recently leaked. The New York Post has some of the details.
Tom Cruise ... takes credit for saving the lives of hundreds of supposedly poisoned workers at Ground Zero in a wacky new Scientology video. [...] In another video on the Internet, Cruise is seen receiving a Freedom Medal of Valor from Scientologists. Then he stiffly salutes a giant portrait of church founder L. Ron Hubbard and shouts, "To LRH!"
Cruise, said to be Scientology's No. 2 man, has been under the microscope all week after another video showed him describing his dedication to the sci-fi-theme faith, ranting, "It's rough and tumble! It's wild and woolly! It's a blast, it's a blast, it really is fun."
Actually, that makes the video sound a lot less crazy than it really is. Gawker suggests the "Church" of Scientology may be trying to suppress it with legal threats (it's consistent with their prior methods). Despite that, and because it is now a legitimate news story, Gawker has posted the video in all of its earnestly wacky 9 minute glory...
Let's just quote Andy Richter: "Uh, listen. I wasn't gonna say this before because I wanted to be supportive and non-judgemental, but your religion is laugh-out-loud stupid."
All religions are laugh-out-loud stupid. I mean, the Christians’ ask you to believe that there is one god, in three forms, all of which are distinct, but the same entity. And they do it with a straight face. Animists believe that there are gods that have nothing better to do all day than inhabit bushes; they sometimes pray to the bushes, which involves cutting off bits of the bushes. And they do it with a straight face. Mormons wear special underwear for no discernible reason. Meanwhile Buddhists seem to think that the key to inner happiness is watching ants on a wall, or sitting very, very still for a long time.
See, all religions have these oddnesses. Admittedly, Scientology also has other oddnesses (such as the tendency to sue anyone who talks about them in anything but fawning terms) that are less laugh-worthy, but from a belief point of view, they don’t seem any odder than any other religion.
I got the impression that Scientology was a crude form of psycho-therapy but it was repackaged as a religion to protect itself from the authorities. Its main technique is the use of a lie detector (called an e-meter) to uncover suppressed memories, i.e. evasions and lies.
Back in the 1950s, crack-pot psychiatry, like Wilhelm Reich’s orgone machine, led to legal prosecution. Hubbard, no doubt, saw the writing on the wall and repackaged his ideas into a religion. Perhaps Scientology’s hostility towards the psychiatric profession stems from those days.