Scientology's Anti-Commie, Space Opera Beginnings, and Other Nuggets From New Academic Book

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There's a new academic treatise on Scientology coming out this September, and it's a very welcome addition to the literature surrounding L. Ron Hubbard's odd organization.

Hugh B. Urban, Ohio State University religious studies professor, has given us, in his Princeton University Press tome, a history that does its best to keep above the fray between claims and counterclaims about Scientology, and, for the most part, he succeeds.

But along the way, if Urban is somewhat charitable to Hubbard at times, The Church of Scientology: A History of a New Religion also holds very little back about the controversies that Scientology has found itself in, and that are largely of its own making.

For this longtime Scientology watcher, much of the material in the book was familiar, but Urban's book is valuable for how well he organizes a massive amount of information in a well-paced, enjoyable read, and in only 216 pages.

Throughout that journey, what Urban does better than most is continually put Scientology's bumpy beginnings and notorious scandals in a larger context of American history and the development of American culture and ideas about religion.

HughUrban.jpg
Urban, from his OSU page
From the start, for example, Urban skillfully portrays L. Ron Hubbard and his early ideas about a "science of the mind" as utterly and completely a product of his time. Describing Hubbard as a "bricoleur" -- someone who cobbles together whatever ideas are within his grasp into a kind of pastiche -- Urban shows that the pulp science fiction writer was a man of the moment, debuting his Dianetics in 1950, right when a postwar America was hungry for new ideas and new religions.

As Hubbard then develops his "science" into a religion in fits and starts over the next two decades, and plunges it into paranoid secrecy and top-down control, Urban shows how much that was also a product of its time, with Hubbard and Scientology developing against a paranoid Cold War that gripped the American mind.

Repeatedly, Urban gives Hubbard and Scientology credit for reflecting what was going on in society as a whole, and there is no shortage of the church's point of view about its various controversies. But for the most part, those controversies are delivered in healthy portions. We get at least something -- including copious original quotations -- about many familiar Scientology waterloos:


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50 comments
Scott
Scott

Thanks for the review Tony.  I need to read the book, although it doesn't sound exceptionally insightful if you've read other books on the history of religion in this country, and the formations of the guru personality type.  I consider myself extremely familiar with Scientology, having had a father who's been involved for over thirty years, and having taken courses myself.  I basically think of it as a really, really crappy corporation selling a fraudulent self-help product, and that it was invented by Hubbard's reactive mind rather than a remedy from it.  That's how I categorized them now, after many, many difficult and personal attempts to describe what they are.  The word "cult" has always been too subjective for me to stand behind completely, but they're actions line up quite often with the term.

AnnNiNymous
AnnNiNymous

Nice review. I have a problem with the title. The author seems to take sides - like academic apologists sometimes do - but your conclusion mentions a more balanced view. Maybe a question mark would have been appropriate ?

Chuckbeatty77
Chuckbeatty77

Thankyou Tony!   I'ved love the Village Voice since the Norman Mailer days.   You gotta come to our "East Coast SP Party", I'm inviting you!    Guaranteed some people who met Alan Ginsberg will tell stories about Burroughts and Ginsberg.   Tony you are Jewel to American Journalism.   Thankyou Village Voice, keep up the Tradition!!!!.    - Chuck Beatty, 412-260-1170, Pittsburgh, ex Scientology lifetime dupe staffer (staff training department, Hubbard admin rules writing compilations department) (1975-2003), I help "serious" researchers as best I can, chuckbeatty77@aol.com  (Scientology is space alien exorcism, which makes it a spiritual practice, although the "rituals" are really talk therapy and telepathic talking to oneself therapy!!)

MarkStark
MarkStark

Prof. Urban's book could do particularly well if Reitman's book ends up a best seller. I can't wait to see the propagandalanche the cult will attempt -- with MEET A [CRAZY] SCIENTOLOGIST ads, and "press releases" -- to distract from the release of Reitman's book.

Right now I'm just praying (to Xenu) that there will be no natural disasters or VIP penis pictures  around the time of the launching of Janet Reitman's book!

Roberto
Roberto

Nixon's book "Six Crisis" comes to mind when thinking about Scientology. What is the cult up to now, two hundred and fourteen? Well, let this book be number two hundred and fifteen. How many nails does it take to close a coffin?

Terr Smith
Terr Smith

Thanks for a comprehensive book review Mr. Ortega.  Thanks Mr. Urban for this vital book, looking forward to your insights.

"Urban shows how much that was also a product of its time, with Hubbard and Scientology developing against a paranoid Cold War that gripped the American mind."And it seems the "Church" of Scientology is still stuck in that traumatic terror the way they abuse human rights and maliciously launch calumny operations.  They're turning the internet into a tabloid of sneaky defamatory "black propaganda ops" ... or they would if the world wasn't so wise.  We owe much to those who have sacrificed to stand up to this sinister "Mafia Religion."  (Fro specifics, read the book!  And google:  "Paulette Cooper and Tom Cruise",  Rex Fowler Scientology Minister, 'OSA Black Propaganda.'

LStanton
LStanton

Brilliant overview of a culturally important book.

✵ "While there's no question some (increasingly fewer) number of people do find something valuable in their "religion" of Scientology, there's no doubt that Scientology, as an organization, has acted less like a faith than like a money-grubbing business that will stop at nothing to fight its critics." ✵

Guest
Guest

Thank you, Tony, that was a great book review, and quite fair and even-handed all things considered.  These scientologists attack you constantly, yet you still give an even minded review.  Congrats. 

Sciosupporter
Sciosupporter

why not find out for yourself instead of reading someone else's opinion of something.

Guest
Guest

 Terryeo, if you and Louanne represent the benenfits of Scientology then I think I could just pass on it and act "shady", for want of a better word, on my own accord, for free.

Terr Smith
Terr Smith

Sciosupporter: Please!! No More. Soundbyte. Issue. Script.   "Why don't you find out for yourself?"  "You are misinformed."  "Why don't you look for yourself."    How arrogant and offensive and, plainly, ignorant.   ✵ ✵These people and so many others coming forth about the duplicity of Scientology abuse ✵have✵ looked for themselves ✵✵ The trite  Sceintology robot "handlings" abound all over the net and social media.  They suppose the world is all ignorant or can facily be introverted to believe they have not see what they've seen.   An excellent example of Scientology failure to even communicate, let alone respect life and humanity.

Urban 41
Urban 41

I couldn't agree more. But why not do both? They are not mutually exclusive. 

MarkStark
MarkStark

They are mutually exclusive in Scientololand. It is entheta, and I think you know that, LOL. As commenter #1 pointed out, their OSA members comment on books they haven't read, and they rarely read the articles. In addition, we here in Wogsville have established most public commenting by Scilons is done by one or two people, with dozens of sock accounts. They are immune to reason. This is factual...

Banchukita
Banchukita

The IRS is not, nor has it ever been, the arbiter of religion. . It can only determine tax exemption based on whether the applicant organization aligns with the requirements by how the law is written.  Scientology, Inc. uses the IRS decision *as though* it somehow determined the organization's "religiosity."  For an organization that is supposed to provide simple answers, it seems to have a purposefully complicated organizational structure, especially when it comes to following the money.

t1kk
t1kk

The IRS 501(c)(3) test is actually two parts: the applicant organization (1) must be organized and operated for "religious, charitable, scientific, testing for public safety, literary, or educational purposes" and (2) the practices associated with the organization’s beliefs must not be “illegal or contrary to clearly defined public policy.” Crudely restated, a qualifying religious organization must not be a sham, and its conduct must be lawful (a/k/a the "organizational' and 'operational' tests).

The first test is easier to satisfy than the second; indeed, per the courts, the first test is considered satisfied by having filled out the paperwork correctly. Complicating matters, religious groups have it easier than charitable groups in satisfying the first test because religious groups do even not have to fill out a Form 1023 (an exhaustive 28-pages)--they are considered presumptively religious (though most fill out the form anyway b/c it more easily enables their members to deduct donations).

So while the IRS doesn't actually decide what is or isn't a religion (you are because you say you are; and the first amdt has been interpreted to preclude the courts from inquiring as to the question of what is and isn't a religion), it is far easier for religious entities to prove their 501(c)(3) bona fides than it is for a secular, merely charitable organization, whose Form 1023 responses can at least be measured for their non-profit qualities.

But as noted, the 501(c)(3) test is two parts--and the second part Scientology has already lost on, the courts having found that money was inuring (Hubbard was a private beneficiary), and that Scientology was operating as a for profit business. Scientology's exempt status was revoked on these bases. As all veteran Scientology watchers know, Scientology has changed in only nominal ways since Hubbard's reign.

But as we also know, the IRS--which was the very entity that had successfully argued that Scientology was operating as a for profit business--completely and utterly caved in order to make the thousands of lawsuits go away (and/or, some argue, for other more nefarious reasons) despite that the only difference between the time Scientology's exempt status was revoked (in 1969) and when it was restored (in 1993) was a new leader and a byzantine corporate restructuring. And the IRS is as protective of that 1993 Agreement as is Scientology. A huge shame.

Guest
Guest

Ah, the IRS strange bedfellow mystery.  This is The Story never told and is The Key enabler and protector of Scientology's continuous alleged crimes and human rights abuses.  I understand the IRs Commissioner, Fred Goldberg Jr, who did the caving, still helps corporations with tax issues as a tax attorney and I believe consultant on some rather powerful committees.  Many have tried FOI (Freedom of Information) Act to peek behind the curtain.  Let's just say if Scientology had to show their financial records, the truth would be revealed for real.

Looking forward to Urban's research.  I understand Janet Reitman's Inside Scientology also addresses IRS issue, as best as anyone can. 

Urban 41
Urban 41

Yes to all of the above. Very good points. See chapters 2 and 5 of the book. Sincerely, the author.

T Anderson
T Anderson

Excellent summary, Tony.

I will be getting a copy as soon as it is available.

t1kk
t1kk

I was initially fearful that this book was Scientology's rigged response to the also upcoming Janet Reitman book, being that Urban is a religious studies academic-- a pool from which Scientology has found mush-headed apologists before. So I'm glad that apparently isn't the case. Looking forward to reading and thanks for previewing Tony.

TonyOrtega
TonyOrtega

Urban makes a point of positioning himself somewhere between the abject apologist Melton on the one side, and maybe a little less outright critical than Kent. From that position, he is able to make the case that he can see both sides, while not really holding back on all the of the criticism of Scientology. I think he succeeds pretty well.

MarkStark
MarkStark

However, I wonder how he could have left out Disconnection? It plays such a big part in controlling employees, and public members as well, and it is the culmination of the SP ethos. Trapping employees, pandering to celebrities, spitting out people after their life savings and credit is gone...I want to read about the dynamics of that from a religio-academic point of view.

Urban 41
Urban 41

That is a valid criticism and a gap in the book. My only defense is space limitations;  I only had 100,000 words, and a huge amount had to be cut. Probably I should have left that discussion in and cut something else. But that just leaves more for others to write about

Mark Miglio
Mark Miglio

Mark-- I suggest you study Scientology bit by bit in some sort of orderly manner, making sure you have someone who can help you understand any part that contradicts what you think SCN is saying.

LStanton
LStanton

Wondered the same thing. Disconnection is a key raging issue of Scientology abuse that has thrashed and trashed many families, to this day.

Gary Lee-Nova
Gary Lee-Nova

Excellent summary, Tony. Eager to read any summary you might write and publish about Janet Reitman's forthcoming book.

And Kudos to MarkStark for noting the significant elements of the 1950s/60s cultural zeitgeist out of which this wacko cult emerged.

I had been thinking that it was simply a situation involving one psychopath + amphetamine psychosis + access to power tools that led to the mess that dianetics/scientology is in today.

Tony's article and MarkStark's comments have yielded a broader & deeper perspective for which I am very grateful. 

Thanks to both of you!

MarkStark
MarkStark

Sounds like a book worth reading Tony. Thanks for the “rundown.”

Even though my criticism tends to be one sided, from the beginning of my involvement in reading about and criticizing the cult -- launched by seeing the Tom Cruise video -- the ONLY way I could really understand how something this loopy got off the ground, was to understand the time in which it started. Having grown up then, it gave me a jump start in my understanding.

It was a time when seeing a psychiatrist was expensive, carried the onus of being insane, and Dianetics was fun and could be done in the parlor. People thought science fiction and flying cars would all be here tomorrow, and possibilities were endless, including a science of the mind.

Society was and still is, in a major transition from agrarian to industrial, to the computer age.

Now with the internet, ordinary people have access to not only read all levels of material, but also discuss it, and that includes Scientology and all their "secrets."

This access is what makes Scientology so obviously nutty, insidious, fascist, derivative, fascinating and often dangerous.

Any sane person with a reasonable education, reading the fuller story, hearing Hubbard lecture, reading the experiences of hundreds of ex-members, thinks, “How could people believe this crap?”

It’s that very understanding of how times have changed, that leaves Scientology back in that dated period of fear of commies, everything new is exciting and worth trying, and colorful liars like Hubbard become Buddha, Jesus and Einstein rolled into one, for the super-deluded narcissist who gets brainwashed anyway.

This nutty, controlling cult ran right into the information age, and went splat. This book will help but I’m hoping the Reitman book will really raise the discussion level.

For me, no academic’s book is as powerful as the stories I read by ex-scientology kids. Although Russell Miller's book was very powerful too, simply because he told the stories of so many people, including the complete story of Hubbard.

Miller's book gave Hubbard continuity. Hubbard was a blowhard and pathological liar from childhood to the end.

mark miglio
mark miglio

Mark Stark-- It takes a good bit of intelligence to be able to understand Scientology. Quite a few people are all tangled up from contradictory indoctrination.

Anon A
Anon A

"It takes a good bit of intelligence to be able to understand Scientology."LOL - quite the high opinion of your little pseudo-scientific scam there.  Good thing you guys have great intellects like Tom Cruise and Jenna Elfman as your flagship members.  Now, how many Scientologists are there who are currently leaders in science, politics and industry as opposed to flaky actors, chiropractors or salesmen of quackery in some form or another?

DuckBenway
DuckBenway

Live in harmony with the vile, corrupt cult of $cientology? Surely, you jest, Sir? Nope, not in this lifetime will I ever harmonize with a cult full of retarded idea and "principles."

DuckBenway
DuckBenway

Mark Miglio; I highly recommend that you learn to spell the words in the English Language correctly. You lack literacy skills. A real education can help you with that.

dagobarbz
dagobarbz

Testimonials are meaningless. Documented proof is what we demand, no exceptions.

Mark Miglio
Mark Miglio

Meaningful testimonials are based upon successes people have applying principles.

Guest
Guest

 Terryeo, or if you want to call yourself Mark Miglio now, anecdotal marketing testimonials are not priniciples.

Chuckbeatty77
Chuckbeatty77

L. Ron Hubbard's book, with its current introduction, is pseudo-scientific:"Have You Lived Before This Life"   That's public domain evidence of the science fictionesque character of Scientology that has plagued it and caused a lack of serious research into Hubbard's Scientology pseudo-therapies.  The Class 8 lectures are now in the public domain, lectures Hubbard gave in 1968, where he emphatically states that "body thetan" therapy and the 4th dynamic engram incident ARE FACT.   He practically screams at the Class 8 course attendees that our "body thetan" mental troubles, and the effects of the Xenu R6 implants on our "body thetans" and on even us, since we also experienced Xenu's R6 implanting for 36 and 1/2 days, per Hubbard, THAT open discussion to the Class 8 course attendees is absolute rock hard evidence of Hubbard's pseudo-scientific/pseudo-psychotherapy practices.Dead space alien souls exorcism takes place as we speak, at the Advanced churches of Scientology, where "upper level" Scientologists learn the telepathic talk therapy exorcism practice to "free" the "body thetans" that are infesting us all.   THAT is pseudo-science and THAT is pseudo-therapy.   Hubbard's own public domain writings and lectures, prove this argument if the public wish to Google search and read Hubbard's writings, and listen to Hubbard tell the Xenu story about how Xenu caused the 4th dynamic engram, an engram so damaging that 3 of today's Scientology's "upper levels" (OT 3, OT 5 and OT 7) are needed to exorcise the "body thetans" that are the result of that Xenu caused tragedy!Chuck Beatty, ex Sea Org (1975-2003) chuckbeatty77@aol.com, Pittsburgh, USA

Mark miglio
Mark miglio

Lisa --Don't you think we would all  be far better off if we made an effort to  live in harmony? I hope you do, but I don't see how you are following that principle.

lisa lirones
lisa lirones

living in harmony Ha!..by branding people who disagree with Scientology as suppressive persons..Louis Farrakhan who is the newest shining example of a Scientologist living in Harmony

said in a recent speech according to what he learned while training at the Celebrity Center that "all white people were suppressive persons and sociopaths

real harmony that Celebrity Center is cranking out!

Mark miglio
Mark miglio

"pseudo-scientific scam" you say? This just proves that you don't understand principles.Anon, I highly recommend that you get will the program. The senior program today is to learn how to live with others in harmony.

dagobarbz
dagobarbz

The other new book by Janet Reitman, "Inside Scientology," isn't even released yet. But somehow, the Scientologists (who certainly haven't and never will be allowed to read it) are already posting negative reviews on Amazon.

Such honest, ethical swabbies they are, aren't they!

Mark Miglio
Mark Miglio

Dagobarbz--- please cut your crap about SCNTS not allowed to read (whatever). The question that begs an answer is why would a sensible SCNTS even want to read all that garbage. I sure don't.--There is already too much garage in the world to read. I sugest you should read less garbage yourself.

DuckBenway
DuckBenway

I agree, Mark. Way too many garages in the world to read. I can't decipher them, can you?

dagobarbz
dagobarbz

I have no idea why a Scientologist would want to look at both sides. Before dismissing it as "garbage," you should see what your "church" is supporting. Fraud, human trafficking, child labor, human rights abuses, it's all there and you grant tacit approval by defending it.

That said, in order to apply your own motto and "Think For Yourself," it is necessary to evaluate the positive and negative, consider the sources of the material read, and draw your own conclusions.

Sure, Scientologists technically could "read anything." But they won't. Repairs are expensive, and you wouldn't want to be branded a Suppressive Person. It's funny when you guys claim freedom to do anything, yet "choose not to." Punitive cult is punitive. Disconnection and loss of your eternity just isn't worth risking for a book.

dagobarbz
dagobarbz

I have enjoyed the attention of your stupid cult for over ten years. Hang up calls. Having my bike towed. Threatening my family. Playing stupid juvenile tricks. I have confronted Real Scientology. You haven't experienced it yet.

Join the Sea Org. Then come talk to me after you escape from the razor wired compound at Int Base. I've been there, too.

What are these "contributions" of which you speak? Dangerous detox? Unqualified medical advice? Human rights? LOL, human rights.Funny story, the international head of CCHR just got arrested for covering up the ongoing molestation of a minor at the hands of a Scientologist.

Jan Wendy Eastgate Meyer (got enough names for a few aliases) could do 14 years of hard time. I know real Scientology a lot better than you do. Buncha con men, easy buck chasers, brainwashed retards.

Helping you? I don't think so...

Mark Miglio
Mark Miglio

Oh, thanks SO much for the editorial advice, Dagobarz. It is so much easier than, like, addressing the issues, isn't it, don't you think? The thing is, D., that you are not confronting the very real dangers that we all face, and you are not confronting real Scientology, and real Scientologists. If you could really see the multitude and magnitude of the dangerous situations before us and the real contributions that the Church has made in the last 50 years, you would be helping us rather than being so mean.

Guest
Guest

 Technically, Mark Miglio is Happy Ho-hos Terryeo.

dagobarbz
dagobarbz

Oh, thanks SO much for the editorial advice. So much easier than, like, addressing the issue, isn't it?

"Your comments would have been a lot better if you have left off the word, technically, and the quotation marks on the words, read anything."

This sentence suggests English isn't your primary language. "If you have left off the word" sounds kind of German to me.

If you're not an ESL grad, perhaps you attended a Delphi school?

That poor, butchered sentence of yours, created while actually criticizing another's writing, suggests you have delusions of adequacy.

Use of quotations around "church" suggests that, while you call it one, I do not agree. Use of quotations around "read anything" demonstrates that I am quoting someone.

Award-winning author trumps clam-bot once again. It's okay, you weren't to know. Thanks for playing!

mark miglio
mark miglio

Dagobarbz --You this part correct, more or less: Scientologists technically could "read anything."Your comments would have been a lot better if you have left off the word, technically, and the quotation marks on the words, read anything. 

Terr Smith
Terr Smith

Calumny and blind slander.  It is the Scientology Way.

TonyOrtega
TonyOrtega

I'll be reviewing that one next. Wanted to get Urban done first.

dagobarbz
dagobarbz

Of course, and we eagerly await your review. I only mentioned it because of the err, premature reviews by an obvious Scilon. They think we can't tell, but they broadcast their sickness unintentionally. They can't fake woggishness. Too much havingness of the clamminess, I suspect.

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