Salon, perhaps hoping to redeem itself after publishing Robert F. Kennedy Junior’s dishonest mercury/autism piece, has published a series of four articles exposing Scientology. You’ll need a subscription (although I believe you can get a temporary day pass), but it is a worthwhile read.
The first piece is on Tom Cruise himself – his history with Scientology and why he is speaking out so much now:
Cruise is acting as though he "feels he's more in control over his environment and can convince more people to look into the organization," Kent said. "In the high OT levels one supposedly gains the skills to master one's universe. One is removing countless entities that have been holding people back. Cruise feels that he has freed himself from thousands of errant thetans, and he seems to be in a kind of euphoria he hasn't experienced before."
The “thetans” referred to above are the souls of dead aliens that supposedly inhabit us all, and that Scientology can help remove. This section contains some interesting insights on the cult and Cruise’s level within it (supposedly “Operating Thetan (or OT) VII”). Apparently Hubbard decreed that Scientologists are not allowed to discuss what they're learning with lower members, or even with each other, so Katie Holmes will not learn any of this from Tom.
My favorite is the second piece, a review of the Dianetics book, Hubbard’s foundation of Scientology. This review contains some very good writing (unlike “Dianetics”, apparently), and takes Hubbard’s book apart in a very amusing way. Some excerpts:
The first thing you notice about "Dianetics" is that it is spectacularly dull. L. Ron Hubbard promises, in this seemingly endless treatise, that his "modern science of mental health" will cure everything from schizophrenia to arthritis, claims for which he presents no credible evidence whatsoever -- unless you consider merely insisting that you've got evidence to be the same thing as offering it. But I am here to testify that "Dianetics" is a phenomenal remedy for at least one widespread affliction: insomnia.
"Dianetics" begins with a stern admonition: "Important Note: In reading this book, be very certain that you never go past a word you do not fully understand. The only reason a person gives up a study or becomes confused or unable to learn is because he or she has gone past a word that was not understood." This seems a bit punctilious, as everyone knows that one of the main ways people learn the meanings of new words is by hearing or reading them in context. Since only a few pages later, we're promised that only "basic language" will be used in "Dianetics," how tough is this going to be?
Alas, it is not only individual words that can cause confusion. Perfectly clear words can be dragooned into sentences so grammatically torturous and incoherent that any meaning once inhabiting those words runs screaming from the wreckage. Context only helps you figure out a word's definition when the context itself makes sense, and in "Dianetics," it often doesn't. Still, there's a certain twisted panache to preemptively scolding your readers for not trying hard enough to grasp your point before you bedevil them with logic-defying exercises in the hanging modifier and the passive voice. You don't get it? That's because you didn't look up enough words! What did I tell you, idiot?
The reviewer concludes that Hubbard was a very disturbed man.
The third piece is entitled, the press vs. Scientology. It discusses earlier attempts by Scientology to muzzle the press through aggressive lawsuits, and contrasts the way it tries to present a positive image to the press these days.
The final piece is about Scientology's war on psychiatry, which exposes how Scientology aims to expand through Narconon - its pseudo-scientific drug rehabilitation program. Getting schools to agree to these programs is key to this plan, and Narconon representatives have given lectures on drug prevention to millions of students. Unfortunately Narconon actually doesn’t work because it is based on completely false premises on how drugs act on the body:
According to the Scientology handbook, "Answers to Drugs," the core treatment for those who abuse drugs like marijuana, Ecstasy or cocaine is sweating out drug residuals and other toxins by taking saunas and jogging. Remedies also include the B-complex vitamin niacin, oils and other minerals, a detoxification service which "is available under expert supervision in Scientology organizations and missions around the world."
In the past year, thanks in part to a series of articles by Nanette Asimov in the San Francisco Chronicle, city officials and school districts in California have taken a closer look at the Narconon curriculum. In a letter to the San Francisco Unified School District, Steve Heilig, director of health and education for the San Francisco Medical Society, wrote: "One of our reviewers opined that 'this [curriculum] reads like a high school science paper pieced together from the Internet, and not very well at that.'"
A study by the California Healthy Kids Research Center for the California Department of Education established that Narconon imparts inaccurate information. Narconon's discredited teachings include the pronouncements that drugs burn up the body's vitamins and minerals, that these vitamin deficiencies cause pain (which prompts more drug use), that rapid vitamin and nutrient losses cause the "munchies" among pot smokers, and that drugs build up in fat tissue and spur flashbacks and a hunger for more drugs.
"This theoretical information does not reflect current evidence that is widely accepted and recognized as medically and scientifically accurate," the study found.
School administrators need to be aware of the dangerous and pseudo-scientific nature of Narconon, and its real purpose which is to attract more members to the cult. Already the California State Superintendent has recommended a ban on Narconon, and San Francisco and Los Angeles school districts have outlawed it. One hopes other districts will realize what Narconon is and ban it too.