Scientology on tomorrow night’s Panorama

Panorama are tomorrow night broadcasting an investigation into the ‘church’ of Scientology. The ‘church”s response has been to post a youtube clip of the show’s reporter, John Sweeney, ‘losing it’ during an interview. It’s not pleasant to watch. He shouts at a clearly hostile representative of the ‘church’ in a rather undignified way. If anybody were to get the impression from this that the reporter is biased and his investigation flawed, it’s a shame. I actually don’t think the clip reflects all that badly upon the reporter: it’s unprofessional, but he only lost his temper and shouted. That’s it. He wasn’t abusive or violent, and as breaches of reporter’s conduct go, it’s fairly minor.

Publishing such a clip is a pretty pathetic way to rebut claims you’re a brainwashing cult, if you ask me. I’m hoping this week’s papers will be full of articles detailing the problems surrounding Scientology, but you don’t need much more than this: imagine the concept of a religion that grants knowledge on the basis of money received. It’s like Christianity refusing to tell you of the resurrection until you’d paid hundreds of thousands of pounds. Most people would immediately agree that this is clearly a con. It’s obvious, and was brilliantly mocked by South Park a couple of years ago. When eventually you do reach the upper tiers, you get this:

[…]75 million years ago, an evil galactic warlord named Xenu controlled seventy-six planets in this corner of the galaxy, each of which was severely overpopulated. To solve this problem, Xenu rounded up 13.5 trillion beings and then flew them to Earth, where they were dumped into volcanoes around the globe and vaporized with bombs. This scattered their radioactive souls, or thetans, until they were caught in electronic traps set up around the atmosphere and “implanted” with a number of false ideas — including the concepts of God, Christ and organized religion. Scientologists later learn that many of these entities attached themselves to human beings, where they remain to this day, creating not just the root of all of our emotional and physical problems but the root of all problems of the modern world.

Levels higher than this apparently allow the acquisition of superpowers. It’d be funny if it weren’t so sad. This is all from L. Ron Hubbard, a man who once said “[t]he way to make a million dollars is to start a religion”.

If the interview clip encourages more people to watch the show, it’s definitely worth it. Scientology is revolting, and spreading the word can only help. Having read up on the ‘religion’, I find it an utterly repulsive organisation. I can completely understand how a decent person could be so upset by an investigation into Scientology that they would lose perspective in this way. Rolling Stone’s 2006 article on Scientology is the best piece I’ve read on the subject. goes much further, appearing to back up its disturbing claims with links to court records. It is difficult to get any impression other than that Scientology is a cult engaged in despicable practices that border on abuse.

Scientology isn’t violent, nor is it an imminent threat to society. But it’s a sinister, creeping organisation who’ve cowed the US media via litigation. It turns people against their families, and treats those who would leave as the worst kind of scum. Its pseudoscientific teachings say psychiatry is evil, and it uses massive movie stars to dupe the young. There was a Scientology tent at the Cavalcade festival of 2006, and genuinely interested people were being given ‘stress tests’ and flogged copies of Dianetics. I don’t blame John Sweeney for losing it, especially when you hear of the kind of harassment he and his family suffered after he began his investigation. The further the word is spread the better.