I just finished watching the newly released film called Going Clear, a documentary based upon the book by Lawrence Wright called Going Clear: Scientology, Hollywood, and the Prison of Belief (2013) (which just today I found in a used book store for a bargain!). Over the last few days I have been seeing on the internet many reports about this film and peoples’ reaction to it. After seeing these reactions I badly wanted to see this film and see for myself what all the hype was about. What might a person who has spent the last decade of his life learning about different religions and the psychology of belief think about such a film? After searching the internet I finally came across a website that currently hosts it. You may want to watch this film soon in case the website is hit with a DCMA take-down order.
I had looked a little bit into Scientology many years ago (Sadly, the videos I had posted are no longer at their original hosts. One of them was the infamous video of Tom Cruise, which is featured in this documentary, and it can currently be found here) during the process of researching many different religions, prior to becoming an atheist, and I was surprised by several of the things I saw. It didn’t take me long to see that it was a cult. But this documentary blew me away, and I learned a lot more about it. I’m sure once I read the book I will come away with even more shocking information.
After watching the film I have come away with a few observations. 1) L. Ron Hubbard was a manipulative psychopath. The film reports that he convinced his girlfriend to marry him by threatening to commit suicide. After their marriage, they had a child, and it was reported that Hubbard convinced his wife to give him sole custody of the child. He then took the child out of the country and he proceeded to call his wife to tell her that he had killed their child by chopping her up in little pieces. Then he would hang up. He would soon call back and tell her the child was fine and then repeat the process. This manipulative behavior can be seen within the church hierarchy. A comment in the film about the followers eventually thinking like Hubbard and becoming just like him seems like a fairly accurate statement to me. Why anyone would want to act in such a manner I will never know. But judging by the footage I saw of Hubbard he seemed to be a very charismatic individual and a very likeable individual (at first glance). Like most cult leaders he made use of that charisma and gained a massive following because of it. With his skill at manipulation he was able to control those followers and that is likely how it all started. 2) Scientology is one of the worst cults I have ever seen. 3) I am convinced that the goal of this cult is to make each Scientologist into a mold of L. Ron Hubbard, in all of his sociopathic glory. The stories I heard about the physical beatings, the forced labor and confinement (click this leak to be taken to Wikile@ks to view these “prison system” documents), and in particular the emotional manipulation, are signs of a dangerous cult
I am dumbfounded about why people stay. Why do these people, with all of these revelations out in the public, stay in this abusive and emotionally manipulative cult? I am thankful everyone who did has left the organization. I believe it is like any religion. People stay because for whatever reason it is emotionally satisfying and any conflicts that arise are rationalized away. The only difference between this film criticizing Scientology and a film criticizing Christianity is the vast majority of the population can see clearly that Scientology is a dangerous cult that utilizes emotional manipulation in order to control its members. Well, there is not that much difference from Christianity, with its doctrine of sin.
I saw an interesting parallel between the Christian doctrine of sin and confession to Scientology’s process of Auditing. In both doctrines, the goal is to confess sins so as to cleanse yourself, and in the case of Scientology, attain ever higher stages of oneness and enlightenment. Both make use of shame and making the believer feel sinful or feel as if they are a defective person in order to make them believe that they need to believe, and that they need to confess all their sins so they are able to purify themselves. The only difference is Hubbard utilized bullshit psychology to fool people into thinking they’re actually doing something that works. And what is with that device called an E-meter?? It looks like some fancy child’s toy. Does the Auditor manipulate the needle I wonder? Or does the needle just move randomly? Is the goal of the Auditor to manipulate the whole process to make the client believe the needle is actually measuring something? It sounded that way during the discussions about it. It clearly is not detecting your thoughts as the Scientologists argue, so how does this prop actually work?
The film was very well done and the former believers who agreed to speak on camera about their stories touched me, especially Sara Goldberg’s because her daughter cut off contact with her. That just broke my heart. In the closing moments of the film one of the former members mentions never once reading anything critical about Scientology and this is often like many religions as well. Take Christianity for instance, with their mega churches, religious music, religious movies, religious schools, etc. All of these things are designed to keep religious believers in a bubble. A number of years ago I dated a woman who was a very devout Catholic. She didn’t know anything about atheism and she told me she viewed my Facebook profile and said she was “shocked, SHOCKED” that I was an atheist because I was so “moral.” I explained to her that this is a common misconception about atheists. She was raised in a very religious home and I believe she was mostly kept in a bubble with religion being her life’s main focus. She hadn’t even listened to any “secular” music until a few years before we had met. Much like Scientology, they try as much as possible to keep people isolated in order to control them and their thoughts.
I am glad this film is getting as much exposure as it is. Maybe it will even get some to rethink their own religious beliefs since many of the criticisms of Scientology can also apply to other religions, like Christianity, as Sara briefly mentions near the end of the film. I hope this film convinces most of their members to leave in droves.