Organised religion has never been a stranger to the more bizarre side of human nature. Even our everyday, ‘normal’ religions are a source of much amusement and hilarity at times, with components that baffle and defy logic and reason. So whether it is God’s hatred for birth control or a custom involving ‘unlucky’ girls being made to marry trees or dogs or what have you, we see our fair share of moments that make us wonder if perhaps religion might not be preaching the brightest ideas.
But then there are those religious movements who decide to take it a step further and crank the crazy up to the next level. These are replete with WTF moments right from the get go and never fail to amuse and amaze the casual bystander. And well, if you find yourself inducted in one of these lovely belief systems, your life can get pretty interesting.
Scientology is probably the one you’ve heard about. Hollywood’s crazy cult of choice, Scientology was founded by L Ron Hubbard, a science fiction writer who decided to make some money the old fashioned way and established the Church of Scientology. Today, this religion is huge, with a presence in multiple nations, tax exemptions as a religious organisation and a host of superstar members who spring to its defence from time to time as some new controversy looms.
Scientology’s beliefs are ordinarily shrouded in secrecy, with multiple ‘levels’ that members must pay to unlock. At each successive level, more and more ‘sensitive’ information is revealed to the member. Fortunately, we know some of the hogwash being sold to thousands, thanks to defectors (yeah, more about that in a moment) from the religion. Scientology’s belief system involves an intergalactic dictator called Xenu who brought humans to Earth from out of space, placed us in groups in volcanoes and detonated nuclear bombs around us. This led to ‘thetans’ attaching themselves to human beings, and we must now pay the Church of Scientology thousands of dollars to clear ourselves of these thetans through scientifically dubious methods and machinery. These sessions are called ‘auditing’ and involve ‘trained’ Scientology staff taking members through various techniques and therapies.
Scientologists are also known for their active and vocal dislike of psychiatry, which they believe to be harmful and a false science. Celebrity Scientologists like Tom Cruise have publically spoken out against psychiatry and psychiatrists, insisting that Scientology’s trademark methods of thetan removal and auditing are what the world needs today.
Perhaps most disturbingly of all, the Church of Scientology is excessively actively involved in the lives of its members. The Church often knows all there is to know about members through auditing sessions – their secrets, shames, fears and hopes. And it isn’t shy to use these against the members themselves when they decide to question the doctrine of the Church. Scientology has a reputation for being a terrible ex – it has harassed thousands of members who became disillusioned and left, using things like social exclusion, blackmail, and even intimidation and violence.
And then there are the various shady organisations within the Church. The most notable of these is the Sea Org, which is basically a paramilitary/naval force with over 5,000 members and 4 ships. This forms the highest echelons of Scientology and is considered by many to be the ‘elite’ group within Scientology. Sea Org members, upon recruitment, sign a billion year contract, wherein they promise to serve the Church tirelessly for, you guessed it, a billion years. The Sea Org imposes strict disciplinary norms on its members, who aren’t allowed to have pre-marital sex and are housed in little community units with other members.
Scientology preys on the weak and the vulnerable, by identifying individuals going through a difficult time and bringing them within its fold. It then extracts money, information, and anything else they can out of these faithful, if foolish, individuals. It is known for being terrible to those who leave it, and guards its secrets with the jealousy of a dragon in a cave full of gold.
So if you find yourself in The Church of Scientology’s offices right here at Mathura Road in New Delhi, and an intergalactic alien lord seems like a cooler deity to throw your lot in with, remember, it isn’t all fun and games in Scientology.