Today’s “Party Hard” Protests seems to have gone well, although the “leader of Anonymous” was arrested in Atlanta for “protesting without a permit”. The good ol’ Southern boys also handed out numerous tickets for honking, as that is apparently against the law (selective enforcement, anyone?). “Leader” of Anon…so silly. The idiot did have a megaphone though, from what I understand…way to make yourself stand out from the crowd.
Even more interesting is the new website Ex-Scientology Kids, where people talk about what it was like to grow up in “the church”. One of the girls who created this site is David Miscavige’s niece, and all of their stories are terribly sad. They were raised in the church, decided to leave, and were subsequently astrocized by their more devout family members, and also directly harassed by Co$.
What happens is, if you leave you are not allowed to say negative things to your family about the church If you do not jump through the right hoops in the way when you leave and in what you say, people in the church are ordered to not speak or communicate with you at all. Many of these kids have not spoken to their parents/brothers/sisters/uncles/aunts in years!
Although under Scientology Reform Code family disconnects and fair game policy were canceled, in practice they still occur all the time. Reading these girl’s accounts makes it clear that while the policy was canceled, the practices surrounding those policies has stayed in play. Publicly criticizing any church practice or belief is automatic grounds for disconnection, and disconnection is total. If they church does allow you to see them, your family members will have to take special auditing courses to make sure they were not exposed to anti-Co$ ideas.
As someone who grew up in a religious family and later left, I know from personal experience that disconnects happen even with the best of intentions. Even when you love your family and they love you right back, and there is no official policy. The fact that you don’t share in a engrossing time/mind commitment like Evangelicalism or Scientology means that you are now out of community with each other. Try as hard as you want you are never going to be as close as you were when you had the same mission.
Scientology shares this aspect of religion, this full devotion and heartfelt desire to save the world from all bad things. They have a fervent belief that they are special, and that they know something that other people don’t know, and that this thing is important on a universe sized scale. That shared belief is a powerful community builder and a powerful motivator, as obscure and confusing as it may seem to an outsider.
The real question is whether this New Religious Movement is dangerous or not. The fact that Scientology continues to support disconnects makes it even harder for them to defend themselves. The question is whether fixed rate “donations” can be tax deductable. The question is how closely related are corporations and religions, and where can you draw the line to differentiate between the two.
Someone on Slashdot had this to say about defining Dangerous New Religious Movements:
* Physical barriers or a social hierarchy which prevent leaving.
* Financial dependence (and exploitation) of members.
* Isolation (especially physical) from non-followers.
* Sometimes, psychological control tactics, such as never allowing an individual member to be alone (where they might think for themselves and realise that This Is A Bad Idea) or hypnotic controls that encourage a trance-like state (physical exhaustion + certain rhythms = bad) . link
Scientology fits this definition disturbingly well, as even a small amount of research will show. Getting access to actual Scientology documentation is slightly harder, but it is available on the net and absolutely supports the view of a domineering bureaucratic corporate religion. Their obsession and trust in “Tech” is complete, as much as a fundamentalist’s belief in inerrant scripture. If you follow the Tech and still have problems, it’s your fault, not the Techs.
But modern Christianity does not usually lead to physical barriers against leaving, financial dependency, Isolation, and psychological control, although some in some extreme cases it does. Scientology has a choice to make now; whether to be benign or dangerous. So far the record isn’t looking very good, and their current actions aren’t helping.
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