Scientology: Know Anything Positive about It?

To my knowledge, I know no one personally, or even by second or third degree, who is a member of the Church of Scientology. Therefore, I begin with this disclaimer: my knowledge of the religion of Scientology stems from only secondary sources. Examples:

  • Going Clear: Scientology and the Prison of Belief (Gibney, 2016) – a documentary by filmmaker Alex Gibney, adapted from the book, Going Clear: Scientology, Hollywood, and the Prison of Belief (Wright, 2013) by journalist, Lawrence Wright.
  • My Scientology Movie (Dower, 2016) – a British documentary directed by John Dower
  • Scientology Atlanta’s web site (“Atlanta’s Spirit of Freedom Shines Bright as Georgia’s First Ideal Scientology Church Opens,” 2016, Apr 2).
  • Media coverage of Tom Cruise over the years. According to the movie, Going Clear: Scientology & the Prison of Belief,

The only thing most people know about Scientology is that Tom Cruise is a member.

Thus, I am hard-pressed to complete this assignment to write about positive aspects of the religion of Scientology, apart from what I wrote about it in September 2016. Last year, Movies on My Mind magazine screened and critiqued Steven Soderbergh’s Side Effects (Soderbergh, 2013), about which I wrote in “Side Effects of Civilizing” (Reed, 2016, Sep 9),

It is well known that Tom Cruise is intense and controlling, and I believe he found an unusual form of a higher power to channel his tendencies. Consider Tom Cruise’s career and the fabulous shape he is in after four decades n the movie business. Putting his bizarre behavior aside, that is remarkable. If Tom Cruise needed the structure of Scientology to achieve that, then so be it (Huddleston, 2016).

Leah Remini, Anything Positive about Scientology?
Leah Remini, in A&E series on Scientology

However, recent news coverage of Scientology is distressing Continue reading Scientology: Know Anything Positive about It?

How the Church of Scientology Appeals to Otherwise-Sane People and Why They Stay

A cult organization proclaimed tax-exempt in the US in 1993 (Levathan, 1993, May 15), the Church of Scientology appeals to  people for any number of possible reasons, but I’ll name two. Its main appeal may be that it promises ultimate truth that will conform one into a supreme being. Second, the Church of Scientology demands a significant amount of time and money.

That second reason may also be part of why members stay. In some cases, it’s also because Scientology owns their secrets.

Scientologists Possess Ultimate Truth

Scientology members believe that they can possess the “ultimate truth,” thus become godlike, in control of their lives, and “have it made.” According to the documentary film, Going Clear: Scientology and the Prison of Belief (Gibney, 2015), this idea is offered to members through the structures of “The Bridge,” a hierarchy of eight levels, where at each level a member strives towards the next for the sake of rising in prestige and becoming more godlike. Thus the various principles of Scientology are revealed piecemeal to members as they reach one level and move on to the next. Continue reading How the Church of Scientology Appeals to Otherwise-Sane People and Why They Stay

Are You Persuaded to Join the Herd?

Over the last several months, we have watched a number of movies that have served as catalysts for discussion on the topic of persuasion. Via Blossoms in the Dust (LeRoy, 1941), we learned about the work of Edna Gladney, and how major and lasting social change can come about through the activism of a passionate person acting alone. Of course, that person acted within the context of her world at the time, thus one could argue that it was a village that produced the outcome (Clinton, & Feinman, 1996) or that the person didn’t really do it without help (Obama, 2012).

If you were successful, somebody along the line gave you some help. There was a great teacher somewhere in your life. Somebody helped to create this unbelievable American system that we have that allowed you to thrive. Somebody invested in roads and bridges. If you’ve got a business – you didn’t build that. Somebody else made that happen.

One may, of course, proclaim that same message for any positive human achievement since Adam and Eve; and, further, we are intensely aware that many powerful ideas and actions have come from within the ranks of people who have benefited from American citizenship. However, the same “unbelievable American system” has also produced scores of others who were not persuaded to take action to move humanity to a higher level. So, it seems that those achievements of some individuals involved something beyond that village or simply the American system. Continue reading Are You Persuaded to Join the Herd?

The New York Times’ Abe Rosenthal, promoter of myth

Newspapers, along with other communications media in America, are important sources for information. Atop the ivory tower of American newspapers is The New York Times. Since its start in the mid 19th century, The New York Times has been awarded the Pulitzer Prize 122 times, which is more than any other publication worldwide. (“Pulitzer Prizes”, 2017; “The New York Times“, 2017). Impressive circulation numbers show that The New York Times is a main source of local, national, and international news for Americans from the well-educated to the merely informed. The New York Times’ heavy influence is demonstrated time and time again; just recently its reporter Emily Steele is credited for bringing down Fox News’ highly successful host Bill O’Reilly (Lutz, 2017, Apr 20).

The ideals of journalism are facts, confirmed sources, and unbiased reporting. It should be the mission of every news source to adhere to these principles, but the reality is that human nature interferes—opinions, emotions, and personal agendas. Thus, we are surrounded by biased media who cherry-pick sources, manipulate narratives, and report with the intention to influence public opinion. As revealed in The Witness, the 2015 documentary film about the Kitty Genovese murder, the well-renowned The New York Times is not above such questionable means (Solomon, 2015). Continue reading The New York Times’ Abe Rosenthal, promoter of myth

Where were the heroes for Kitty Genovese?

The Witness documentary about Kitty Genovese chronicles Bill Genovese’s quest to find out why not one of the reported thirty-eight witnesses stepped in to help his beloved older sister (Salomon, 2015). After her murder in 1964, intense grief and inner turmoil  plagued Bill Genovese’s life until, four decades later, he set out proactively to find the truth. Through the course of his personal investigation, his questions multiplied exponentially—specifically those about human nature.

Bill Genovese tracked down and spoke with witnesses who had heard or seen portions of Winston Moseley’s two attacks on Kitty. The Witness shows an interview in which a former neighbor claimed to have called the police. Records of these calls cannot be found. Continue reading Where were the heroes for Kitty Genovese?

Gaslight Controversy

It has been three quarters of a century since Gaslight (Cukor, 1944), filled its first audiences with eerie vibes that have not diminished with passing generations. Having stood the test of time due to intriguing plot, superior acting, and solid movie making, the film Gaslight continues to have a lasting impact on viewers, especially those who can apply its meaning to current events. Patrick Hamilton, a little known British playwright, wrote the original play, “Gas Light (known in the United States as Angel Street),” in 1938 (“Gas Light”, 2017), and unknowingly coined a term that has survived to become, most recently, part of American political jargon.

Continue reading Gaslight Controversy