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The Scientologists

I've been making jokes about Scientology for a long time now. I make jokes about all religions, but I think my personal favourite religion to joke about is Scientology. Either that or Mormonism. I think they're both pretty much identical in terms of how attractive they are to kooks of all sorts, anyway.

Recently, though, I was thinking about Scientology (don't ask why) and I realised that, aside from the fact that it's somewhere between a joke and a cult of celebrities, I don't know the first thing about it. I didn't know when it was founded, by whom, or why it was able to convert the likes of Tom Cruise and John Travolta (to name but two) from being moderately intelligent actors to being, well, idiots, really. So I asked my all-knowing friend Google about it. Having read through a Wikipedia article and a couple of other sites about Scientology, I can now claim to know more than most practicing Scientologists today, so I figured I'd record my findings in a blog.

Scientology was founded by an American author called L. Ron Hubbard. Hubbard, from what I can see, was never fully in command of his mental faculties and had lost them altogether by the time he gave birth to Scientology. He has the (possibly unique) distinction of dropping out of George Washington University. He then joined the US Navy, "sunk" a Japanese submarine that no one else believes existed and - in a move that even Donald Trump would have considered poorly-planned - had his crew fire on the Coronado Islands, which belonged to the US's then-ally, Mexico. At this point, the US Navy came to its senses and relieved him of command.

Shortly before his naval misadventures, Hubbard got rather high during a dental procedure and had a "near-death experience" (read: drug trip) during which he came up with the idea of the "one command", which is one of the central themes of Scientology. He wrote down this idea in a document which he called "Excalibur" and which a more seasoned literary critic would have called "Toilet Paper". Shortly after, he moved to the mansion of John "Jack" Whiteside Parsons, a man who apparently had a lot of trouble choosing a first name and an odd fondness for occult lunatics. Following the change of scenery, Hubbard became a hypnotist, as well as working in Hollywood as a "swami" (Goodness knows, incidentally, why Hollywood needed Swamis, but apparently they were quite employable in the late 1940s. Perhaps I ought to abandon computer science and take up being a Swami as a profession...)

In 1950, Hubbard published an article in Astounding Science Fiction about his new religion, which he called "Dianetics". Now, personally, I fail to see how you can credit anything you see in a magazine called "Astounding Science Fiction" as being the basis for a religious framework, but there you are. Initially, Dianetics was meant to be a tool for psychotherapy. Hubbard claimed it eradicated memories of past trauma, allowing people to be more rational. He even went so far as to submit papers on Dianetics to the American Journal of Psychiatry. They rejected the papers, and dismissed him as a quack. The people who read his article, however, as well as the people who read his book, which he published in 1950 as well, began to report seeing experiences from past lives. Hubbard then gave his followers the concept of "Thetan", an immortal being. From what I understand, the Thetan is basically supposed to be an individual's soul.

Shortly afterwards, Hubbard turn Dianetics into Scientology. It was the same thing, but this time, it was a religion. People couldn't practice it themselves, either - they had to join his "Church of Scientology". And here's the thing: you had to pay to join the church! You still have to pay to join the Church of Scientology, and all of the rituals they do cost money, too. This way, Hubbard turned Scientology from a club for broke hippies into a club for rich kooks.

Now, I have nothing against religion in itself. I don't particularly care what people believe, as long as it doesn't hurt anyone else. I just find it funny, that's all. Now, if you'll excuse me, I need to go buy some drugs. I'm thinking I'll start a religion and get rich.


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