Of the stories that go around about Scientology, how much is fact and how much is fiction? That's a particularly difficult question to answer given the highly secretive nature of the organization. And yet, despite Scientology's attempts to keep to itself, the religious movement repeatedly finds itself in people's consciousness by virtue of news stories, books, films, and other features about the organization. Of course, it cannot be denied that superstar Scientologists like Tom Cruise and John Travolta contribute to keeping Scientology in the spotlight. But is the organization truly worth all the fuss?
Here are ten facts about Scientology that might help you make up your mind about it:
10 In 2004, the Church of Scientology claimed a worldwide membership of 15 million.
9 Scientology wasn't originally designed to be a religion.
8 There is a lot of controversy surrounding Scientology's status as a religion.
7 Auditing often involves the use of a device called an E-meter.
Auditing sessions often involve hooking members up to a device called an electropsychometer, or E-meter for short. The gadget, which has never been the subject of clinical trials, is believed by Scientologists to possess sufficient sensitivity to measure skin conductance and electrical resistance. In fact, the church is convinced that it was through an E-meter that Hubbard discovered the ability of fruits to experience pain, exemplified by a tomato that "screamed" when sliced. In auditing sessions, however, the gadget is used by auditors to determine whether or not the auditee has been freed of the impediments of past experiences. The way the E-meter works is perhaps best described by Hubbard himself:
In Scientology it has been discovered that mental energy is simply a finer, higher level of physical energy. The test of this is conclusive in that a thetan "mocking up" (creating) mental image pictures and thrusting them into the body can increase the body mass and by casting them away again can decrease the body mass. This test has actually been made and an increase of as much as thirty pounds, actually measured on scales, has been added to, and subtracted from, a body by creating "mental energy." Energy is energy. Matter is condensed energy.
6 The Church of Scientology has had a rocky relationship with the law.
5 Scientology has been known to be very hostile towards its critics.
Scientology founder Ron Hubbard instituted "attack the attacker," a formal policy for dealing with criticism against the religion. In 1966, he noted the proper procedure for dealing with enemies of Scientology, the steps including,
(1) Spot who is attacking us.
(2) Start investigating them promptly for felonies or worse using own professionals, not outside agencies.
(3) Double curve our reply by saying we welcome an investigation of them.
(4) Start feeding lurid, blood, sex, crime actual evidence on the attackers to the press.
4 The Church has repeatedly been accused of using litigation to harass its enemies.
3 The Church has been accused of forcing its members to sever ties with anyone who criticizes the faith.
2 Scientologists believe that Xenu brought millions of people to Earth in a spacecraft some 75 million years ago.
1 Several wrongful deaths have been attributed to the Church.
Among the most widely publicized of the deaths attributed to Scientology is that of Lisa McPherson, a 36-year-old Scientologist, who displayed what many believe to be symptoms of mental illness. In 1995, the Church prevented McPherson from obtaining psychiatric treatment and instead kept her in its custody. Just weeks later, Lisa was brought to a hospital and pronounced dead on arrival, an autopsy showing that she had suffered from a pulmonary embolism. Strangely, the prosecuting attorneys dropped the criminal case against the Church, while a $100 million civil lawsuit ended with a settlement, the terms of which were sealed by the court. The deaths of Elli Perkins (a senior auditor who was stabbed 77 times by her son after she refused to seek psychiatric help for him), and Noah Lottick (a student who jumped off from the 10th floor of a hotel window after taking Scientology courses), among others, were also blamed on the Church.
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