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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    Bad day? At least you’re not a Scientologist

    I had my first close encounter with Scientology a couple years ago, while wandering around Coral Gables, Fla. After a long day of road-tripping, my friends and I wanted to do some souvenir shopping. We entered what appeared to be a bookstore, hoping to look around.

    Immediately upon entering, we realized our mistake. The books we had seen through the window were all copies of “”Dianetics,”” the “”self-help”” book written by sci-fi author L. Ron Hubbard and the basis for Scientology. Hubbard’s sci-fi writing includes “”Battlefield Earth,”” which you may remember as the terrible flop of a movie produced by John Travolta back in 2000.

    A woman in a gray uniform welcomed us to the Church of Scientology, asking how she could help us. One of my friends was studying psychology at the time, and he sparked up a debate with the woman; Scientologists do not believe in psychiatry. They say that our mental problems are really caused by ‘Body Thetans,’ the ghostly remains of murdered aliens, and of course the only way to remove these invisible ghosts is to pay the Church of Scientology to remove them.

    I took out a camera and started taking pictures. A different woman with the same gray suit and the same deadpan expression asked me why I was taking pictures – what would I use them for? I told

    Scientology is a great boon for those who delight in absurdist comedy.

    her that they were just for my personal use, and then I continued exploring. I found an office with a mahogany desk, hemispherical fish tank and name plate reading “”L. Ron Hubbard.”” Every church of Scientology has an office for Hubbard, in the event that he should return from the dead. I took some pictures of this office, and then both women were behind me, saying in very polite yet menacing tones that I had to put my camera away and leave.

    The Church of Scientology delights in secrecy and does not like it when people take pictures or ask questions. They regularly sue people who use their founder’s image without permission or who criticizes their methods – said to include brainwashing, intimidation and fraud.

    One of the most common tools of Scientology is the “”E-Meter.”” A person is attached to the device in the same manner as a lie detector, and it measures electrical charge on the surface of the skin. According to a 1971 court ruling, “”The E-meter has no proven usefulness in the diagnosis, treatment or prevention of any disease, nor is it medically or scientifically capable of improving any bodily function.”” The Church of Scientology still uses the device, claiming that it measures something called “”mental mass”” and can solve all sorts of problems.

    Just as Dianetics should move from the self-help section of the bookstore to the fantasy section, and “”Battlefield Earth”” should just be moved to the garbage bin, biographies of Hubbard should be placed in the comedy section. Those sponsored by the Church of Scientology describe him as “”larger than life, attracted to people, liked by people, dynamic, charismatic and immensely capable in a dozen fields.”” Other accounts describe him as being greedy, paranoid, a pathological liar, and an abusive husband and father. Hubbard is widely quoted as saying that a good way to make a lot of money would be to start a scam religion.

    A Belgian prosecutor announced last week that the Church of Scientology will stand trial in Belgium on charges of fraud and extortion. The charges come after a 10-year investigation of the activities of Scientology in Belgium, as church officials allegedly violated privacy laws and made use of illegal business contracts. Up to 12 defendants may face criminal sentences if found guilty. This news made me very happy. The Church of Scientology operates in many countries and is based in Los Angeles, so the ruling of a Belgian court can’t exactly bring the whole scam to its knees – but it will raise awareness and further damage the organization’s credibility. With any luck, the trial will weaken Scientology’s ability to attract followers, coerce them to cut ties with friends and family, and then drain them of their life savings.

    At the very least, it will be amusing. Scientology is a great boon for those who delight in absurdist comedy. The next time you fail a test or get into a fight with a friend, or you’re just having a bad day, do what I do. Turn on your computer, and go to Youtube. Find the clip of Tom Cruise flipping out on Oprah. This serves as a happy reminder that things could always be worse – I could have been born as the child of two Scientologist celebrities, for example – and then things don’t seem so bad. Scientology is a damn funny thing, just so long as you’re not one of the people stuck inside it.

    Eric Moll is a sophomore majoring in environmental science and creative writing. He can be reached at letters@wildcat.arizona.edu.

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