I wanted to approach this review with a completely open mind, ignoring all the stuff I’ve read over the last couple of years, to give the Church of Scientology a chance to impress me. Obviously this is neurologically impossible but I did try so don’t blame me for the conclusions I came to.
Some of you may be wondering why I am even bothering to review this DVD ( http://www.scientology.org/#/intro_scroll ) which got delivered to my place of work a couple of weeks ago. Well, it’s for the same reason as I used to watch Top of the Pops. It’s important to know your enemy. I have read plenty of stuff about the COS but its all come from “haters” intent on letting people know about some of the more eccentric aspects of this “religion”. I have never actually had any dealings with members or read any of the official blah and any scientist will tell you that this is not objective.
The DVD package is slick and corporate, and warnings about trademarks abound. The disc is divided up into:
1. Beliefs and Practices
2. Human Rights
4. The Way To Happiness
6. Applied Scholastics
7. Volunteer Ministers
The tone is slightly defensive from the outset as if it is a video rebuttal to all the “misconceptions” that are out there, but surely as an introduction to the COS they should approach the viewer as a blank canvas? Poor grammar is endemic throughout the presentation with a reverential tone being sought but missed. These facts coupled with “Brass Eye” visuals and the upbeat New Age music make it look overwhelmingly like a corporate video, and as such I was already finding it quite difficult to remain objective. I was literally three minutes into it.
After the basic introduction, they begin to set out their stall giving some specifics about their purpose and how they aim to enrich the lives of people prepared to join, but this is couched in such a way as to create validity for themselves. The video talks about “inalienable rights” to free speech and human dignity, concepts which are very difficult to argue against, but they are explained in such a way as to make anyone criticising the COS look like a regular Mugabe, rather than someone who has healthy skepticism.
The film goes on to talk about their beliefs that mentally ill people should not be dealt with “outside of religion”, the first mention of their anti-psychiatric principles. The idea that even established religions should be the sole carers of the mentally ill is such a grotesque vision that I don’t feel any need to talk about this further. They also talk about their role in disasters of both the natural and man-made kind. Sadly they are not claiming responsibility for them but they do, somewhat outrageously, claim to have been at “the forefront” during such events as the New Orleans floods and 9/11. I personally can’t see Police and Firefighters allowing Scientologists to pitch in, but I have no proof that this is the case so I’ll give them that one. This extended sequence of interviews with real live Scientologists gives me a little more knowledge. Scientologists have beautiful teeth and come in all ethnicities. They are usually young and beautiful and it’s always sunny where they are. There are also a disproportionate number of attractive (if somewhat earnest) young women. Sounds pretty good huh?
After this section comes the “Basic principles of Scientology”. This is the fun bit where they start giving out advice on how to be a human and understand other humans. It’s like watching a weird naturalization video for alien invaders. They assign a scale of numbers to human emotions. How does a number make an emotion easier to understand? They talk about the “urges to survive” and arrange them in concentric circles from the desire to survive as an individual (on the inside) to the desire to survive as a “universal entity” in the outermost circle. The science on display here is not that complicated and for me it is a way of making people feel amazed at things they already know, so that the COS can take the credit and welcome them to the fold. This strange explanation of the meaning of life is topped off with the first mention of some of their darker secrets. “You have a body. You have a mind. You are a Thetan”. Their explanation of “thetan” as stemming from the Greek letter “Theta” or consciousness sounds innocuous but anyone who knows about “Operating Thetans” and the levels they can ascend to will be beginning to see the light. Or dark as the case may be. Then comes my favorite bit of COS twaddle: auditing. Auditing (via the e-meter) is carried out by an auditor (duh) who is “highly trained” to ask probing questions which get you to reveal areas of difficulty in your life. The auditor does this with an e-meter ( http://www.cs.cmu.edu/~dst/Secrets/E-Meter/ ) which if you look at the basic information on it does …well… very little.
The next section of the DVD is the highlight for me, a sort of apocalyptic mini-movie telling us how we are all trapped in a cycle of anger and hate because we never deal with our desire to want to go back to a state of child-like innocence. The smooth narration plays out over weird crypto-fascist marching and stock footage of riots whilst at one point there is a symbol of a crossed lightning bolt and a sickle in the background while a Nazi-esque man rants from a podium. There is a certain anti-New World Order feel to it all and it makes me wonder whether, in their bid for limitless appeal, they are not only attempting to appeal to the rich and poor, black and white but also those disenfranchised of their government; a tough market to break but lucrative.
After this comes a barrage of human rights promos covering the thirty basic human rights as endorsed by the UN. The adverts are ultra slick and obviously very expensive, their only downfall being that they are utterly nauseating. Being that they were designed to raise awareness of these rights, I can’t justifiably condemn them. It is interesting that the COS itself does not take the credit for them but an arm of it “Youth For Human Rights” ( http://www.youthforhumanrights.org/index.htm) .
This is one of a few satellite organizations that are extensions of the COS. The others (namely Narconon (http://www.narconon.org ) and “Freedom” magazine ( http://www.freedommag.org ) also pursue philanthropic work whilst simultaneously raising the profile of Scientology. And this profile is worryingly high. In video testimonies to the work of Freedom, a large number of unnamed politicians and advisors laud the investigative nature of the magazine. In some cases they credit Scientology but in some they only refer to the magazine, but amongst the number prepared to appear in this C.o.S funded venture were four members of the House of Representatives, one member of the House of Congress and a member of the Philippine cabinet. I also learn that there is a Centre for Scientology Studies at the University of Mexico. It seems that the Church of Scientology is making a bigger play for developing countries than developed ones, and with the money that they appear to have at their disposal it might get them the sort of widespread following they currently lack in the developed world.
After this bout of self aggrandizement they decide to give me a little light relief with some G’s doing some beat-boxing in “da city” while someone does a rap about human rights. I don’t like rap about human rights. I like rap about smackin’ ho’s and lickin’ shots but that’s hardly commendable is it?
Then I’m treated to the “United” music video (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nptzg2odTKw ) In my opinion this is a happy-clappy, gospel hip-hop, shite-fest of immense proportion, so bad in fact that no musician actually takes any credit for it. It did do one useful thing though, it made me so angry that I had to turn the DVD off. After an hour I was only half way through and I had to give up. So this is not a complete review. I failed to watch the whole DVD and so any conclusion I could come to has been rendered flawed. In light of this I am going to suggest that my quick, alternate review would say this:
Scientology is a pyramid-scheme religion for robotic losers and naive, emotionally unstable yuppies. It is a cult that does not even have the advantages of wild-eyed charismatic leaders, unless you count Tom Cruise. They don’t even wear matching tracksuits and all of this comes from the mind of L. Ron Hubbard. That should tell you all you need to know.