Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Hearts and Clubs

The New Yorker piece on Scientology is online here, all 26 pages.

Mostly it reminded me that religions, cults, single codes of beliefs, can gather followers of any intellectual level. They aren’t appealing to reason or intelligence, but a primal longing. I suppose the primal goes without saying; longing is visceral, and doesn’t always make us act in our own best interests.

Longing can make us believe the impossible, even when we know it's impossible. And so we draw for that inside straight, over and over again.

The deck is stacked, really, as given the power, heads of these organizations usually are or eventually become the worst human nature can dish out.

I lost many friends to groups like this. Friends who were so much smarter than I was or am. But I have one thing they didn't -- skepticism. Heaps of it, in spades.

44 comments:

  1. Good gravy! I have an eastern philosphy class, and our first area of study has been Hindu beliefs. Talk about makin' your head spin. Looks to me like a longing to defer a fear of death.
    Shoot, I been dead three times over, and it ain't as scary as you'd think - calming, actually.
    My answer (kept to myself) was get a truckload of chickens, cut their heads off one by one and as they run in circles "read" the blood splatter to decipher the "answer".

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  4. About 35 years ago I attended the backyard wedding of an old high school friend. The bar was open before the wedding so by the time the service started I was on my second or third margarita. The groom's brother was a member of scientology, and still is. I was seated between my best friend and my mother when the bride and groom came out along with his brother who was attired in a clergy outfit including collar. We thought perhaps it was a joke. The brother then proceeded to perform a generic wedding service that concluded with "by the power vested in me by the Church of Scientology, I now pronounce you man and wife." I noted that he didn't include "and the state of California." My good friend and I thought it all very amusing and we continued to drink more margaritas. I never knew if it was a legal marriage. Didn't matter since they are now divorced, but I don't blame that on the Scientology service. I have Catholic, Jewish, Protestant, Agnostic and other friends who are also divorced.

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  6. Don't get me started about Scientology - I'm skeptical enough about so very many religious aspects of my Christian faith - but if you really want to know what they're about watch this:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hfu7Sr50N7U&feature=player_embedded

    Then know that many, many of the people named in the presentation woke up the next day saying, "WTF??? I don't have anything to do with this mess." Kimora Simmons was not happy.

    wv diansher
    dianetics is creeping into everything

    PS they'll prolly be monitoring your blog after this

    PPS Sorry about littering up the comments, but I posted the wrong link.

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  7. I read every word of the article and by the time I was done I was skeptical that it needed to be 26 pages long.

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  8. Sonny Bono was my second mayor when I was PIO for the City of Palm Springs. He was a huge icon in the Scientology world back then (mid-'80s). When he was elected, the first thing he wanted to do was bring on a Scientology-based management firm to retrain city staff and change the way the City of Palm Springs did business. I advised the city manager immediately of this, the city manager put the keebosh on it right away, and it took Sonny some time to get over that one.

    The city manager, Norm King, said something to the executive leadership that I'll never forget: "He's going to need us." And sure enough, Sonny learned from us and became a very good mayor.

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  9. as with a lot of cult issues, in this article, there seems to be a wandering to explain the long and storied past. I felt like I'd been locked in room doing auditing while reading it. While I have some attention issue, whew, this is long. Have agree with K...not sure it needed to be 26 pages long.

    what cults provide most people is a place to belong, a place to relieve their stress and unhappiness. as with prophets---some cults make sense. many, don't.

    a lack of ability to speak with others, a lack of ability to live a regular life, talk with whomever you wish and lack of ability to do things outside "the church" are big indicators that something is amiss.

    blindly following, without asking questions, without having control over your own life, is not faith, it is a cult, it is mind control, it is a way to corner sheep into a pen.

    reminds me of the quote I blogposted last week from Alice Walker
    "No person is your friend who demands your silence or denies your right to grow."

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  10. Nothing is impossible. Didn't you see the Nike ad?

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  11. "And so we draw for that inside straight, over and over again." This is one of your GREAT lines!

    I still posit that the western Kansas night sky viewed from a dirt road out there is a whole that's more than the sum of its parts. Ditto some writing, some art, some bits of science I do-don't understand. Is that religious? Yes or no is OK with me.

    But why the need to codify and imprison? Why do we need the middle men--er, persons? They would stand between us and spirituality in order to get us to spirituality? That's a doozy. That's a very old used car built tomorrow.

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  12. Bandit, I like to shake the chicken leg. Maybe that's cheating.

    Paula, you scared me, I thought it was THEM. That vid, I wonder how many times the speech writers consulted ye olde thesaurus. Talk fast enough and no one will notice.

    DB, next wedding, I hang out with you guys.

    K and Trish, yeah. A less kindly editor should have wandered through this ruthlessly. What I found most compelling was the link to the blog maintained by the kids who were born and bred in scientology and found their way out. What strength, what heartbreak.

    PIO, high five to you and Norm King. Listening to Paula's clip, it sounded like one miserable day at one of those excrutiating marketing seminars.

    Kenny Mac, my mistake.

    Banjo, lovely. A few kicks to the engine and it never stops.

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  13. There's a reason that the article was 26 pages:

    Scientology is massively, pathologically litigious and the writer had to make sure that every little, teensy, eensy, thing in the article was lawsuit proof. Unlike what I just wrote.

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  14. Those children's stories are very sad, allegedly. Or is it the children's stories are allegedly sad? Or maybe, the alleged children's stories are sad? Cover all the bases.

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  15. I'm not going to tell you what I know about Scientology, but I know quite a bit.

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  16. thanks for the link--can't wait to read it

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  17. What I'd really like to say would make me too many enemies. So I'll just say they're bad, and some other groups aren't much better.

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  18. Why is it that so many people are suggesting the same thing but afraid to say it? Scientology is a fraud. No doubt they have many true believers who believe their world is better, but it's still a tax-avoiding cult.

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  19. Every tribe has it witch-doctor.
    And its own brand of medicine.

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  20. I've started reading the article. Quite a story.

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  21. I was around when Scientology first came into being. The adherants were very insistant that "this is not a religeon, it's a philosophy of life". I can no longer remember how long it took someone to figure out that a philosophy of life isn't tax-exempt, and it suddenly became a religeon.

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  22. Have you seen the "store" in Old Town? They're selling something.

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  23. Most stores do sell something, Margaret. Actually, they try to sell lots of things.

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  24. I've heard about their personality test that uses something like orange juice cans to determine whether you're "clear" or not. Of course, no one is ever "clear," and then coursework is suggested. My guess is the first one's free.

    When I was in Rome in the 1990's, a guy tried to recruit me. I must have looked lost. Wonder if their numbers are shrinking.

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  25. I shouldn't admit this, but I once got my tarot cards read. The reader said my soul needed clearing, for $400. I'm happy to say the skeptic in me kicked in at this point.

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  26. Seems to me that an awful lot of people who are very smart get sucked into cult-like things. Skepticism is a good thing.

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  27. One time in Berkeley....

    A very attactive woman asked if she could join me at my table for lunch. I thought, "Huh? That doesn't happen in the real world. It it IS Berkeley, however. But there must be a catch here." We started to chat, I had bought my lunch. She offered me an apple from her lunch bag. She had two apples in her lunch bag. Then she saw a guy, whom she knew and called him over to the table. The guy offered me a sandwich from his lunch bag. He had two sandwiches in his lunch bag. He also had two apples. They invited me to dinner at a big house they lived in up on the hill with lots of other people. It was a great place, they told me. It had a name. Some kind of fellowship. I was taking a very intensive summer course and I had 3 hours of homework each night, otherwise I might have gone out of curiosity. A couple years later, the Chronicle did an expose on the Moonies, and I recognized the name of the place they'd invited me to. It was a Moonie front organization.

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  28. "clear"? Barry Bonds used that stuff, or not. Wonder if he'd pass the tests...oh wait, he's on trial for that right now...ooops!

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  29. Miss Janey is a regular ol' heathen. But she has been baptized so her soul is saved, amen! If she ever goes on a murderous rampage and finds herself on death row, no doubt she'll find Jebus soon enough. Until such time, she prefers to avoid ALL organized religion.

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  30. Here here, Ms. Janey. I'm 'onna join your church!

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  31. a number of years ago, we did a community choir thing, hosted that year by the LDS church. While waiting around for sheet music to appear, I happened to pick up the book of mormon to not be bored (that second m is silent, right?). I thought every member there was going to clamber to grab me and convert me right there. I explained that I have my own faith that I believe in, I also believe in continued learning about things that are unknown to me and if I convert anything in the future it will be cash to another currency if I travel, period. Like fly paper, these people would NOT leave me alone...wanting to "help" me understand the book...sigh. what, do they get extra points for my kind?

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  32. I'm using a orange juice can as a cell phone, Hiker.

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  33. LA Observed remembers when LA Times broke the story http://www.laobserved.com/archive/2011/02/meet_the_heroes_of_early.php

    Joel Sappell was one of The Times' best writers. On top of which, he was an all around good guy. No doubt he still is.

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  34. Card carrying? Hearts up yer sleeve? I'm watching you!

    Not as dumb as I look, Pippi Karinina. At least, I'm clear on that. It's a hobby of mine to take pictures of people in front of the center after they've knocked down a few at Lucky Baldwin's next door. I'm going to send them all in an unmarked envelope to Kevin McCollister.

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  35. Oh man, then -K- will put me through the three step program.

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  36. "like a whale vomiting its golden grease on the beach"

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  37. Reverend Billy TalenFebruary 18, 2011 at 10:20 AM

    The Church of Earthalujah is a fundamentalist church in which the only fundamentalist belief we have is that there is no such thing as fundamentalism, because we get on our knees to the natural world, which is mysterious. Send us your "we believe" statements for this Sunday's Church of Earthalujah service. You send them, we sing them!

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  38. I don't know what you mean exactly when you say you "lost many friends to groupsl like this."

    Isn't Tom Cruise a Scientologist? And, Madonna a Kabbalist?? Well, we're all a part of some belief system.

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  39. Many cults started as a simple blog with a band of commenters.

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  40. But Mr Earl, will you offer us redemption for our transgressions?

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  41. I'll do better than that, Paula. I'll offer redemption for your Green Stamps.

    WV: grablo. grab lo.

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  42. Back in the day. There were cults, communes, and everything in between. Many times they whole things were put together and run by a svengali type. I lost several friends to these groups and never saw them again. The ones i did see, were totally different and not open to ANYTHING any longer.

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  43. The niece of one of my mom's friends, who was about 19 or 20, visited the Bay Area from Minnesota in the early 70s. She met some people on the street in SF who invited her to a location in Booneville, a ways north. It was a Moonie recruitment camp. She spent a weekend there, but they let people leave if they wanted to. She told me that they fed them very little protein. The were assigned to a "buddy," who'd been around awhile. One time she and another recruit were in the bathroom and one said, "This is like Nazi Germany." A buddy immediately came in and interrupted the conversation.

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