director Alex Gibney
I watch a lot of movies with my kids and we talk about all kinds of topics. Recently, the topic of Scientology came up. Celebrities Beck or Jason Lee, for example. I said, yeah, they are pretty cool, but when I find out that someone is a Scientologist, I have to realize that in some way they are also an idiot. This triggered more questions. More than I could answer concisely or fully, so I remembered that Alex Gibney’s documentary was available, so I suggested we watch it and they could learn from it.
Gibney is one of the most prolific of the big documentary filmmakers these days, with movies on a plethora of topics. I’ve read a number of articles about Scientology, some of the ones that probably started as source materials for this film, like the stuff written about director Paul Haggis coming out against the church and Lawrence Wright’s book, Going Clear (I read articles perhaps culled from the book, not the book itself.)
Going Clear is actually an excellent primer on the topic. For anything you read, it’s hard to underestimate the power of hearing L. Ron Hubbard himself in archival footage, or hearing the words from the mouths of people who have left the church, insiders at high echelon’s in its structure, or even seeing and hearing the frightening David Miscavige in his wild speeches. It delves into the origins of the church, of Hubbard’s writings and reasonings, its transition after Hubbard’s death, its achievement of “church status” by the IRS and its insane beliefs and nasty practices of lawsuits and harassments.
I don’t typically feel that much about Scientology. I don’t have a particular interest in it, nor in any religion.
What is clearer than anything is how specific Hubbard was about why he formed the “church” and his “Sea Org” was to dodge taxes. The pop psychology behind it is perhaps a moderate form of therapy, but the whole system of achieving higher levels is such a total racket, it’s hard to believe that anyone would fail to see it. The whole Xenu thing and the thetans? That’s just hilarious. And yes, I’ve seen Battlefield Earth (2000).
It’s also telling how the people that have left were indeed not idiots, but actually intelligent, real people. People who now feel like idiots for having been a part of the church, a cult by any other name. So, how to feel about current members? Pity?
We are atheists. I am happy to say.