This past Sunday, CFI Los Angeles and our Orange County group each hosted author Tony Ortega and Paulette Cooper to discuss Tony’s new book, The Unbreakable Miss Lovely: How the Church of Scientology tried to destroy Paulette Cooper. Monday, I was fortunate enough to attend a book launch party at the home of ex-Scientologist Spanky Taylor who, with Tony, is featured in Alex Gibney’s HBO documentary, Going Clear. Many other ex-Scientologists were also at the party.
Leah Remini, another ex-Scientologist (and former co-star of King of Queens) was there, and mentioned at one point that most Scientologists were good people. That shouldn’t have surprised me. I was sitting in the midst of a crowd of people who to a person were kind, fun-loving, decent people. Many were at one time not just Scientologists, but big hitters in the church with serious positions and responsibility.
But, my years of criticizing religion kicked in when Leah said that, and I mentally raced through the looooooong list of nasty deeds the Church of Scientology has been accused of. One need not look very far – Lawrence Wright’s Going Clear, Russell Miller’s Bare-Faced Messiah, Janet Reitman’s Inside Scientology, www.Xenu.net, www.tonyortega.org, and Paulette’s book from 44 years ago, The Scandal of Scientology—to see mountains of evidence that this so-called church is not only based on the flimsiest evidence, but also run by a number of people of low moral character.
To us skeptics, this evidence is all painfully obvious. Scientology is a crock, and is apparently engaged in activities most people would find abhorrent – especially for a “church.”
So why should we look upon any scientologist with compassion?
Most scientologists, I would argue, are trying to improve themselves, improve the world, or both. Joining that church to do so may not be a good way to achieve that, but certainly the sentiment is admirable.
If you’re a believer in any kind of religion, chances are good that something you believe in – resurrection, talking to God, the parting of seas, etc. – is every bit as implausible as Scientology’s ludicrous story about intergalactic aliens visiting earth 75,000,000 years ago on modified DC 8s. So don’t knock Scientologists for getting conned into buying an e-meter and then tell me about a guy walking on water.
Even if you’re not a believer in religion, you probably believed something wacky at some point in your life that you now see as silly. I certainly did. Erich von Däniken’s Chariots of the Gods had me convinced in the ‘70s that aliens had landed on earth. I also believed psychic powers could be developed through various techniques that anyone could learn. These weren’t strong beliefs, but I held them nevertheless, and would be wrong to hold Scientologists to a standard I myself once failed to meet.
So what I want to say to those who paint all the people in the Church of Scientology with the same brush is: Give them a chance to see the light.
Give the next batch of Scientologists a chance to step away from their beliefs. Know that by doing so, many will risk losing cherished relationships with friends and family. Know also that it takes courage to say “I was wrong,” and even more courage to say “I was wrong and it cost me tens of thousands of dollars”… or more.
Let’s open the door for the rank and fi
le believer to question and evolve without making it harder than it already is.