29/07/2010 7 Comments
The two things one should not blog about during dinner parties, so I have been told, are politics and religion. On this blog I may have strayed once or twice into the former, so it’s probably high time I did the latter.
I sometimes think Scientologists are given a bit of a hard time. Recently, for example, we had the Twitstorm where some Lib Dem Councillor or other tweeted:
I didn’t know the Scientologists had a church on Tottenham Court Road. Just hurried past in case the stupid rubs off.
Scientologists grew outraged and the rest of us all had a jolly good laugh at their stupid beliefs and their stupid ire.
I realised when all this broke that although I too thought all of this was funny, I actually had a rather poor grasp of exactly what it was they believed. I thought it was probably stupid but was it really? I decided to do some research.
My first point of call was the official Church of Scientology UK website. It proudly states:
The word Scientology is taken from the Latin scio, which means “knowing in the fullest sense of the word,” and the Greek word logos.
Ok. That makes the word Sciology though, doesn’t it? After all the study of living organisms is biology, not biontology.*
It goes on to define their ‘Creed’ which includes:
That all men have inalienable rights to their own lives
That all men have inalienable rights to their sanity
That all men have inalienable rights to their own defense
That all men have inalienable rights to the creation of their own kind
That the souls of men have the rights of men
So far, so sexist but it would be hard to single out Scientology from other religions for sexism. Also I couldn’t really argue that these were stupid. Dull perhaps; vague definitely but not exactly stupid.
The rest of the content on the website, other than their community projects, is similarly vague. Trying to get a specific understanding of exactly what their beliefs are from the website is a bit like asking David Cameron pre-election what his fiscal policy would be:
I believe taxes should be fair.
Fair? Brilliant, what a novel idea! I’m voting for you – I require no further detail.
I was getting nowhere. I tried Wikipedia. According to Wikipedia, Scientologists believe that Xenu, the dictator of the Glactic Confederacy, came to Earth 75 million years ago with billions of his people, stacked them around volcanoes and killed them using hydrogen bombs.
Shit! Now that’s more like it! Wikipedia goes on to explain that the Xenu story is a secret teaching which Scientologists don’t discuss outside their church. The problem with Wikipedia though is that anyone can edit it. Is this the true Scientology belief or just people up to mischief?
The official website links to another called What is Scientology?. Although this mentions nothing about Xenu it does have rather a lot on the practice of ‘Auditing’.
The goal of auditing is to restore beingness and ability. This is accomplished by (1) helping the individual rid himself of any spiritual disabilities and (2) increasing individual abilities. Obviously, both are necessary for an individual to achieve his full spiritual potential.
Auditing, then, deletes those things which have been added to the reactive mind through life’s painful experiences and addresses and improves one’s ability to confront and handle the factors in his life.
What does auditing use to do this exactly? Ladies and gentlemen, I give you the E-Meter!
Despite looking like a futuristic goat milking machine, this is in fact referred to as a ‘religious artifact’.
One of the primary reasons auditing works is because the strength of the auditor’s dynamic thrust is added to the preclear’s dynamic thrust…
Steady on. Despite the racey language, I had found some claims being made in an official context. So were they stupid ones? Could the claims be backed up?
At this stage, I must come clean about something. I am, by education at least, a scientist. I have a background in developing understanding through the scientific method. I believe in developing a hypothesis and testing it against experience, experiment and evidence to determine whether or not it is correct.
Sadly, the website presents no evidence for the validity of auditing. There is a section called validation of results which says:
…the Church makes no claims or guarantees of the gains someone will make in auditing. Church staff, however, have seen so many remarkable improvements in parishioners that they expect such results as a matter of course.
That’s not really a validation of results. I don’t think I could win a Nobel Prize for my cheese sandwich, no matter how much I stress unnamed colleagues have seen it performing excellently as a cold fusion reactor.
But religious claims without evidence aren’t exactly new are they? When asked why I don’t believe in a god, I generally say something like, “The overwhelming lack of evidence.” I may then get a response along the lines of “It’s not about evidence – it’s about faith.”
‘Faith’ is something I’m afraid I just don’t understand. I don’t understand how any subject no matter how unlikely it all seems can be arbitrarily raised above logical conjecture and the need for evidence. But let’s put that to one side and suppose everyone has their own faith ‘get out of jail free’ card they can use to circumvent any such inconveniences:
- Scientologists played their faith card with Xenu, Thetans and Dianetics.
- Christians played theirs with god, miracles and the immaculate conception.
- Ancient Greeks played theirs with Zeus, Poseidon and Hades.
- Vikings played theirs with Odin, Loki and Valhalla.
- I played mine on my cheese-sandwich-cold-fusion reactor.
None of these things is any more likely or has any more evidence than any of the others. They are all simply things which if you believe, you must take based on ‘faith’. It is therefore impossible for me to agree that Scientology is any more stupid than any of these other creations; that thetans are less likely to exist than Biblical miracles or that Dianetics has any greater or lesser substance than prayer. I disbelieve all of them in equal measure.
There are plenty of stories suggesting that Scientology has an unhealthy recruitment policy, preying on and brainwashing the vulnerable. If this is indeed the case, I can only say I find it absolutely repellent. This and perhaps other points I have not researched may well mean it has other negativities but that’s not something I know enough about to pass judgment and an unhealthy recruitment ethic doesn’t necessarily make its beliefs any more or less stupid than the competition.
Stupid or not, there is one thing I do know about which Scientology pisses me off more than other faiths:
Fuck off with the name which tries to make you sound like you have any basis in science because you don’t.
Science is beautiful. Science is everything you are not. Science is ours. Leave it alone.
* Latin and Greek are hardly my strongest subjects, so I am probably going to get egg on my face once all my old Etonian followers read this.
P.S. Despite the title, this post was not written by Jane Austen.