Reza Aslan apparently has joined the ranks of apologists willing to spin for Scientology and other groups called “cults.” In a video tied to his CNN series “Believer” Aslan states, “Scientology is probably the most successful new American religion of the last hundred years.” Aslan admits there are questions about “the control that the leaders of Scientology have over the lives of many of its members.” But he concludes, “Scientology is at a crossroads in its history, if the church can learn to give up some of that control in a hundred years from now it might be one of the great religions of the world.”
It’s been reported for years that “Scientology membership [is] in drastic decline.” Some Scientology watchers say that church membership probably peaked at about 100,000, but now may include little more than 20,000 members worldwide.
Aslan, an author and professor of creative writing at UC Riverside, is certainly no investigative journalist. But his incredible ignorance and/or willingness to seemingly disregard the facts demonstrated by his ridiculous pronouncements about Scientology make him look at best stupid, or worse like an apologist spinning for the purported “cult.” Aslan should know that Scientology’s leader David Miscavige, called its “undisputed dictator,” is guilty of gross abuse of power, according to the allegations of many former Scientologists.The online CNN report “What is Scientology?” quotes noted cult apologists David Bromley and J. Gordon Melton. Both Bromley and Melton have been recommended as “religious resources” by Scientology. Melton wrote a book about Scientology riddled with errors. Nothing these “scholars” have to say about Scientology can be considered either completely objective and/or accurate. Instead Bromley and Melton represent a category of spin doctors, often financially subsidized by the controversial church (i.e. Melton has made a bundle from groups called “cults”), who often support its positions and apologize for Scientology’s behavior. Though in the CNN piece Bromley tacitly admits that Scientology’s secrets are disclosed “only to more advanced Scientologists” (e.g. Scientologists who have paid large sums of money to the organization for its courses, training and “spiritual counseling” known as “auditing”). Bromley doesn’t question the propriety of such rolling disclosure by a supposedly legitimate religion.
Religious scholar Benjamin Beit-Hallahmi of the University of Haifa questioned whether “Scientology is a religion or a racket.” Beit-Hallahmi concluded that the founder of Scientology “Hubbard’s actions reflected a kind of criminal megalomania, a morality of those who see themselves as above conventional moral edicts.” According to this academic scholar L. Ron Hubbard “consistently displayed…the components of what has been called psychopathy: selfishness, deceitfulness, and callousness.” Perhaps it is for this reason Time Magazine dubbed Scientology the “Cult of Greed.”
Interestingly, in a CNN video Reza Aslan says that cults can be “good.” Aslan states, “Cults are as cults do…if it works towards evil in the world then it’s a problem.” At this point cable viewers must wonder if Aslan has Internet access or follows the news regarding Scientology, which has a long, long list of very serious problems and whose leader David Miscavige, according to his father Ron Miscavige, is “hooked on power” and reportedly “lives a lavish lifestyle while many of his followers are mired in poverty.”
Despite Reza Aslan’s opinions CNN has a history of reporting the facts about Scientology and its abuses. In 2010 Anderson Cooper did a week-long examination on his show, “Anderson Cooper 360,” investigating “allegations of violence and physical abuse within the Church of Scientology.” And for his effort Cooper was attacked by Scientology.
Scientology can be vicious when exposed by investigative journalists digging into its problems. The BBC and St. Petersburg Times (now known as the Tampa Bay Times) were both attacked when they reported less than flattering facts about the controversial church.
Most recently sitcom star Leah Remini has spoken out (A & E “Scientology and the Aftermath” ) about Scientology policies that destroy families through a deliberate policy known as “disconnection.” Mayor George Cretekos of Clearwater, Florida, a Scientology stronghold said, “They are just awful. And they also need to understand that … churches support families. They shouldn’t divide families. … The Church of Scientology ought to think twice about its policy on families.”
So given all the disturbing facts that are so widely known and reported about Scientology how could a seemingly smart guy like Reza Aslan get it so wrong? Is he a Scientology stooge? Or is Aslan so politically correct that he just can’t get his head around how bad Scientology really is among so-called “new religions”?
Whatever the answer is Aslan looks like an ass.
Note: The Cult Education Institute (CEI) has one of the largest historical archives online about Scientology. It represents more than 20 years of work and research and covers everything Scientology, from real estate holdings to Scientology’s damaging policy of “disconnection.” CEI founder Rick Alan Ross, author of the book “Cults Inside Out” and a court qualified expert on Scientology, explains within an educational video how Scientology manipulates and controls people.