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.

Reza Aslan

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.

It appears that noted religious studies scholar Reza Aslan has become of a spin-doctor for Scientology. The best-selling author of three books and professor of creative writing at the University of California, Riverside will host a series on CNN titled “Believer” to premiere Sunday March 5th.

Here is what the public intellectual had to say to UCR Today about the controversial organization Scientology, which has frequently been called a “cult” by its critics.

“People know about Scientology, but they don’t really know what Scientologists actually believe or do. What I wanted to do was shed light on that aspect of it, including auditing. … I had the opportunity to visit Scientology groups around the world and to really focus on what makes this a successful, and perhaps the most successful, new American religion of the 20th century.”

Reza Aslan

Reza Aslan

What Scientology does has been widely reported for decades including the Time Magazine cover story “Scientology: Cult of Greed,” to more recent accounts such as the book “Going Clear” by Pulitzer Prize winning author Lawrence Wright and the documentary “Going Clear” by Alex Gibney. Historically, Scientology has frequently been accused of exploiting its members and in some cases brutal treatment through its Rehabilitation Project Force (RPF). Apparently Professor Aslan spent little if any meaningful time studying such historical information.

Instead Aslan says, “Scientology is a very secretive religion, a religion that, in their view, has not had a fair shake from the media.”

Aslan then talks about “being audited” and that he “went through four or five hours” and it “was an extraordinary experience.”

Aslan appears clueless about how Scientology’s auditing, confessionals, done with the aid of an e-meter machine, which can be seen as a crude lie detector, is used by Scientology as leverage to manipulate its members. Moreover, notes taken during the auditing process by a Scientology auditor are routinely passed along and become part of person’s permanent file within Scientology. And such files have allegedly been used to intimidate Scientologists and denigrate former Scientologists.

Has Reza Aslan become an apologist for Scientology?

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Leah Remini’s new book is out “Troublemaker: Surviving Hollywood and Scientology.” And once gain people struggle to understand why anyone would join something as seemingly outlandish as Scientology. But the fact is that no one knowingly makes such a choice. Certainly not before the Web and social media made Scientology’s secrets so easily accessible. When Leah Remini entered Scientology as a child she simply believed what Scientology told her and what her mother encouraged her to accept.

That’s how “normal” people get tricked and trapped into groups called “cults” like Scientology. No one truly enters such an authoritarian high demand group with fully informed consent.  Groups like Scientology deliberately withhold their secrets and refuse to let potential recruits fully understand how the group actually works, what it is really all about and what its ultimate demands might be. Remini reportedly gave millions of dollars to Scientology, but was only allowed to learn what Scientology was willing to share step-by-step per a price list.

There have been many young people brought into Scientology through family ties like Remini. This list includes the rocker Beck, actor Danny Masterson and Elvis’s daughter Lisa Marie Presley. People are often introduced to groups called “cults” by someone they trust.

It has been stated or implied that somehow the victims of Scientology are to blame in some way for their own victimization. They supposedly had “blind faith.” a personality flaw, deficiency or lack of judgement that ultimately led to their demise. Nothing could be further from the truth. And anyone who seriously researchers in any depth the process of Scientology’s recruitment and retention tactics can easily see this.

The initial TRs (training routines) in Scientology amount to little more than breaking people down, engendering dependency and submission rather than promoting some deeper understanding of anything to improve and empower people. As Scientologists move through this training and courses their dependency upon the organization is intentionally nurtured and grows until the typical Scientologist finds it difficult to make independent value judgements or critically think outside of Scientology’s closed system. That system becomes a kind of box of containment or mental prison.51228S+Y3TL._SX326_BO1,204,203,200_ (1)

Every Scientologist learns an internal group vocabulary of loaded language established by Scientology founder and former science fiction writer L. Ron Hubbard, which is filled with thought terminating clichés. This manipulative verbiage is an excellent example of what author George Orwell called “doublespeak” in his book “1984.” Scientology’s founder and its current leader David Miscavige could easily fulfill the role of Orwell’s character “Big Brother.”  Scientology knowingly produces what can be seen as “blind faith” by confining and blinding people within its own alternate reality. Scientologists can essentially become mindless pawns manipulated by L. Ron Hubbard’s system and replicated to embrace his worldview.

Scientology’s organizational glue, which holds its adherents rigidly in place, is its ongoing check and countercheck system of enforcement that is implemented through a multi-layered organizational machine as conceived and constructed by L. Ron Hubbard. This operational machine includes key components such as auditing (enforced confession with the help of an e-meter that measures nervous tension ) coupled with the formation of files composed of personal information obtained through the auditing process and other sources such as “knowledge reports” from Scientologists (e.g. spouses, family, friends within Scientology). All of this ongoing policing is done by dedicated Scientologists performing their relegated roles within the Hubbard machine. This includes designated twins in training routines, auditors, course supervisors and ethics officers.

There is a kind of bullying and intimidation known as “handling” that goes on in Scientology.  Having people handled is part of the policing process within Scientology and it is used to keep people under control. There are also substantial exit costs involved if a Scientologist considers leaving, which further reinforces control and silences dissent or critical questions. The exit costs of leaving Scientology can include the probability of being declared a PTS (potential trouble source) or worse an SP (suppressive person). Subsequently, the former Scientologist can be disconnected from family, friends and business associates. Instead of taking the risk of being so marked many Scientologists suffer in silence, suppressing their doubts and negative feelings about the organization. Some that cannot suppress their feelings sufficiently may find themselves facing a punitive process, which might ultimately put them in RPF (Rehabilitation Project Force) as punishment. Reportedly RPF can be a horrible experience that includes what can be seen as slave labor, personal humiliation, general degradation and at times brutal physical violence. These factors keep many Scientologists silent and trapped for many years.

Scientologists ultimately become bound by what Scientology calls its “technology” or its “tech,” which is essentially the L. Ron Hubbard proscribed way of being, thinking and feeling about everything.

The idea that anyone really chooses Scientology knowingly and stays happily without some level of coercion is simply a myth perpetuated by ignorance. It does not reflect detailed research and analysis about the deceptive recruitment and indoctrination process used by Scientology. Groups like Scientology are often quite deliberately deceptive and use coercive persuasion and influence techniques to gain advantage over people and control them.

scientologyThe Machiavellian way in which Hubbard designed the interlocking mechanisms of his Scientology machine represents whatever real “genius” the former science fiction writer possessed.

People placing blame on Scientology’s victims frequently say they should have noticed “red flags” or “warning signs” when they went through their recruitment and indoctrination process. Somehow common sense should have saved them.

But these notions again reflect a basic ignorance of how Scientology and other groups called “cults” really work. There are no red flags that are evident to people who have had their critical thinking and ability to make independent value judgements deliberately shut down by a group like Scientology. The training, auditing, courses and policing done within the organization effectively blinds people so that they cannot see the warning signs and their common sense is strategically short circuited by the group’s coercive persuasion tactics.

Individual accountability is only possible if people have the ability to genuinely reflect and critically evaluate a situation free of undue influence. People in groups called “cults” don’t truly regain their individual autonomy until after they leave the group and have effectively unplugged themselves from the system and exited the box that held them. After leaving the group environment and its control of information and communication former members can then begin an independent process of sorting through and unraveling their experience.

We are all vulnerable to persuasion. If this were not true there would be no advertising, political propaganda or money paid for celebrity endorsements. It’s wrong to blame or shame people for simply being human. We are all vulnerable to deception and manipulation. By accepting this reality we can better understand and recognize the tricks and traps used by destructive cults.

Groups called “cults” can be seen as a confidence game. But unlike the typical con man who moves on after his scam has succeeded–the cult leader keeps conning and exploiting the same people indefinitely.

Specifically focused education about the recruitment and retention tactics of groups called “cults” is a crucial factor in avoiding their con game.

Knowledge about coercive persuasion, influence techniques and corresponding behavior modification began decades ago through the research and published work of MIT professor Edgar Schein (1961), Harvard University instructor, researcher and medical doctor Robert Jay Lifton (1961) and UC Berkeley professor and clinical psychologist Margaret Singer (research and published work 1953-2001). Later, authors and communication experts Flo Conway and Jim Siegelman (“Snapping” 1978, “Holy Terror” 1982), ASU professor of psychology Robert Cialdini (“Influence” 1984) and sociologists Richard Ofshe (research and published work 1974-2000), Benjamin Zablocki (research and published work 1971-2001) and others significantly added to this growing body of research.

To better understand how the basic building blocks of coercive persuasion, thought reform and influence techniques work together to gain undue influence see the following:

“Cult Formation,” by Robert Jay Lifton, MD

“Thought Reform and Psychology of Totalism,” by Robert Jay Lifton, MD

“Coercive Persuasion and Attitude Change,” By Richard Ofshe, PhD

Six Basic Principles of Influence, from the book “Influence” by Robert Cialdini, PhD

Thought Reform Programs and the Production of Psychiatric Casualties,” by Margaret Singer, PhD

Chart demonstrating distinctions between various forms of persuasion (education, advertising, propaganda, indoctrination and thought reform), by Margaret Singer, PhD

A list of persuasion techniques by Margaret Singer, PhD

Edgar Schein’s seminal book “Coercive Persuasion : A Socio-psychological Analysis of the ‘Brainwashing’ of American Civilian Prisoners by the Chinese Communists” (1961) and Conway and Siegelman’s classic “Snapping: America’s Epidemic of Sudden Personality Change” (1978) explain how people can be tricked and trapped through coercive persuasion and communication tactics.

Schein (1961) and Lifton (1961) established the foundation of coercive persuasion or thought reform and how it is used to shape and mold a predetermined and preferred mindset. Singer (research and published work 1953-2001) and Ofshe (research and published work 1974-2000) extensively explained how coercive persuasion and behavior modification worked within the process of cult indoctrination. Conway and Siegelman identified what they called “information disease” (1978), which is accomplished through the control of information and communication. They further described the role of “emotional control” in schemes of coercive persuasion within their second book “Holy Terror” (1982). Taken together this body of work explains how behavior modification, information control, thought reform and emotional control can function in tandem together  as strategic tools used by authoritarian high demand groups called “cults” to effectively break people down and shape their consciousness for the purpose of exploitation through undue influence.

In his book (1961) about coercive persuasion Edgar Schein described this process in three basic stages, which he calls “unfreezing,” “changing” and then “refreezing” the person subjected to this process.

Scientology promises many things and presents itself in various forms, such as drug rehabilitation, study technology and other incarnations. Whatever works to draw people into the system Hubbard devised to break them down, force them to change and ultimately freeze them within his system. This process has hurt many people.

The key to freedom from Scientology is understanding and unraveling Hubbard’s system of control and breaking out of his machine.

Reading the writings of the previously listed authors can make a huge difference in the recovery process of any former member of a purported cult like Scientology. It allows the ex-member the ability to identify and unravel the specific programming done by the group, which has affected their thinking and feelings. Education is the key that unlocks the box.

My book “Cults Inside Out: How People Get In and Can Get Out” (2014) includes a detailed history of modern cults beginning with Charles Manson to groups called “cults” today. There are two chapters devoted exclusively to Scientology. One about the history of Scientology and another about a successful family intervention to get a 27-year member out of the group. The book explains what is commonly called “cult brainwashing” and identifies the nucleus for a definition of a destructive cult. My book is a synthesis of properly attributed and footnoted research regarding the coercive persuasion and influence techniques used by destructive cults to gain undue influence. There are more than 1,200 footnotes and an 18-page bibliography, which can help the reader delve more deeply into various aspects of the cult phenomenon. This is an important issue today as the world faces the violence of what President Obama has called an “apocalyptic cult” known as ISIS. Destructive cults have become a global concern.

What Scientology does has been done by many other groups called “cults” over the decades and it’s important to contextualize Scientology within that history.

Leah Remini has heroically managed to unplug herself from the L. Ron Hubbard machine. She has effectively left the box that once contained her and courageously shared her story to help others find their voice and follow in her footsteps. Remini can now communicate in her own words instead of the stilted verbiage once imposed upon her by Scientology. Remini is not being handled by Scientology and no longer needs to suppress her independent thinking. She is free to live her life without the fetters of Hubbard’s technology. Remini is also fortunate that she has managed to leave Scientology with her family intact.

Most former Scientologists to some extent and at some point beat themselves up over their past. They can be quite hard and self-critical about their time in Scientology. It serves no useful purpose and only compounds their pain to blame them or somehow imply that were in some way complicit in their own victimization.

In my opinion L. Ron Hubbard’s innate ability as a master manipulator was his real skill. Hubbard’s conception and construction of a relatively complex multi-layered control system to break people and keep them in silent submission was his ultimate achievement and the fact that this machine is still running today is Hubbard’s lasting legacy. The evil genius of this machine is that each of its individual parts is composed of people under the influence of Hubbard’s mindset dutifully performing their function to enforce Scientology control. The “brainwashed” unknowingly perpetuating Hubbard’s brand of “brainwashing.”

The Cult Education Institute has one of the largest archives of information about Scientology on the Web. This online database, which is a nonprofit public library, was initially launched in 1996 and continues to be added to and updated on an ongoing basis.

Hubbard made many claims. But apparently in the end Scientology was unable to save him from himself. He reportedly died isolated, medicated, estranged from family members and seemingly terrified of perceived dark forces.  Ironically the life of L. Ron Hubbard ultimately disproved his self-improvement theories.

Again, it is vitally important not to shame or blame the victims of groups like Scientology. We must not indict them with accusations of “blind faith,” but rather question who systematically blinded them and endeavor to comprehend how this process was accomplished. Shame and blame must not become am impediment that former cult members are forced to overcome.  No one who has endured a group like Scientology deserves such recrimination and treatment as they go through what is often a painful and challenging process of recovery.

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By Rick Ross

In a recent opinion/editorial New York Times piece titled “The Cult Deficit” columnist Ross Douthat stated, “the cult phenomenon feels increasingly antique, like lava lamps and bell bottoms.” He concluded, “Spiritual gurus still flourish in our era, of course, but they are generally comforting, vapid, safe — a Joel Osteen rather than a Jim Jones, a Deepak Chopra rather than a David Koresh.”

Interestingly, Deepak Chopra was a disciple of Indian guru Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, who was often called a “cult leader.” Maharishi was the founder of Transcendental Meditation (TM), a group frequently included on cult lists and still quite active amidst allegations of abuse.

Douthat doesn’t seem to care much about destructive cults or the damage they do. He laments that the Branch Davidians were “mistreated and misjudged.” Apparently the columnist hasn’t bothered to do much research as he has ignored the facts reported in the press about the Davidians and as established through the congressional record, the Danforth Report and submitted through court proceedings. Suffice to say that despite anti-government conspiracy theories David Koresh was one of the most vicious cult leaders in modern history. He was a deeply disturbed man that sexually preyed upon children and stockpiled weapons for the purpose of a violent end.

Journalist Tony Ortega at Raw Story points out that “The same week the US goes to war with one, NYT’s Douthat asks, where are the cults?” Ortega recognizes that many terrorist groups today are little more than personality-driven cults, such as al-Qaeda once was under the influence of Osama bin Laden. History is strewn with examples of the destruction wrought by totalitarian cults from the Nazis led by Adolf Hitler to the family dynasty that continues to dominate and control North Korea.

Not surprisingly following up Douthat doesn’t quote Ortega’s response, but instead prefers “Reason Magazine,” a Libertarian leaning publication that essentially agrees with him. Calling a column written by Peter Suderman a “very interesting response” Dauthat again ignores the facts and reiterates his opinion, as supposedly supported by a “religious historian” and venture capitalist. Suderman doesn’t dispute Douthat’s claim that cults are in decline, but rather uses it as a hook for his own spin about the “rise of subcultures.”

However, despite all the liberal or Libertarian posturing performed by these pundits the cult phenomenon has actually expanded around the world.

Unlike the United States, other countries in Europe, Asia, Africa and the Middle East have taken steps to respond to cults both through regulation and law enforcement. For example, in Japan and Germany cults have been closely monitored and in China some have been outlawed. Recently in Israel cult leader Goel Ratzon was convicted of sex crimes. Ratzon’s criminal conviction followed a lengthy government investigation and raid by law enforcement.

In addition to malevolent cult movements that have captivated nations the old familiar groups called “cults” that Douthat thinks have faded away actually are still around such as Scientology, the Unification Church, Hare Krishnas, Divine Light Mission, International Church of Christ, and Est (the Forum), although they may now use new names to avoid easy recognition.

In fact the United States has become something of a destination point and haven for groups called “cults.”

Dahn Yoga, led by Ilchee Lee, which started in South Korea, later set up shop in Arizona and now has a following across America.

Another recent arrival is the World Mission Society Church of God led by Zhang Gil-Jah, known to her devotees as “Mother God.” Not long ago Zhang opened her first church in New Jersey. Since then the group has grown rapidly across the US and Canada. Mother has even rented space in Manhattan not far from the New York Times.

Exiled “evil cult” leader Li Hongzhi, founder of Falun Gong, had to leave China, but found refuge in New York. According to researchers Li now has a flock of about !0,000 followers in North America. He claims to channel miraculous healing powers, which has allegedly led to medical neglect and death. The group has regular parades and demonstrations in NYC, Apparently Mr. Dauthat missed that.

Just as there will always be con men running schemes to take people’s money, there will always be destructive cult leaders exploiting the vulnerabilities of humanity. For con men and cult leaders it’s a business and it seems to be quite profitable. When Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard died in 1986 his estate totaled hundreds of millions of dollars. Today, Scientology reportedly has a billion dollars in cash and vast real estate holdings. When Maharishi Mahesh Yogi died he left behind a spiritual empire valued in billions. Rev. Moon, the founder of the Unification Church, likewise left behind a hefty financial legacy, which is now managed by his children. Whenever there is cash and assets someone will step in to take over. And in the United States cults can operate with relative impunity as an unregulated industry.

No one knows exactly how many cult members there are in the United States. But almost every day I learn of a new group or organization that seems to fit the core criteria, which forms the nucleus for most definitions of a destructive cult. These core criteria were established by Robert Jay Lifton back in the 1980s. Rather than focusing on what a group believes Lifton’s criteria focus on the structure, dynamics and behavior of a group.

First, the single and most salient feature of a destructive cult is that it is personality-driven and animated by a living, charismatic and totalitarian leader. It is that leader who is the defining element and driving force of the group. Whatever the leader says is right is right and whatever the leader says is wrong is wrong. He or she determines the relative morality of the group and its core identity.

Second, the group engages in a process of thought reform to break people down and then redevelop them according to a predetermined mindset, which includes a diminished ability to think critically and/or independently. This is accomplished through a synthesis of coercive persuasion and influence techniques, relentlessly focused on individuals subjected to the group process.

Finally, the third criteria, is that the group does harm. This may vary from group to group as some groups are more harmful than others. One groups may simply exploit its members financially or through free labor, while others may make much more intense demands such as sexual favors, medical neglect or even criminal acts.

Whatever the group may present as its facade, be it religion, politics, exercise, martial arts, business scheme or philosophy, it is the structure, dynamics and behavior of the group that sets it apart and aligns it with the core criteria, which forms the nucleus for a definition of a destructive cult.

For those who would attempt to diminish the power of persuasion used by cults we have only to look at the pattern of behavior within such groups. Why would people act against their own interests, but instead consistently behave in the best interest of the cult leader? Why would cult members allow their children to die due to medical neglect or surrender them for sexual abuse? The most compelling explanation for such otherwise improbable behavior is that cult victims are under undue influence and therefore unable to think for themselves independently.

The dirty little secret about cults and their bag of tricks, is that we are all vulnerable to coercive persuasion and influence techniques. And this is particularly true when we are at a vulnerable time in our lives. This might include a period of grief, financial instability, isolation or some other personal setback. It is at these times that cults can more easily and deceptively recruit people. No one intentionally joins a cult. Instead, people are tricked by cults, through deceptive recruitment practices and a gradual indoctrination process that doesn’t immediately fully disclose the group’s expectations and agenda.

If people were not vulnerable to persuasion and influence techniques there would be no advertising or political propaganda. Every person approached isn’t taken in by cult recruitment tactics, just as everyone doesn’t buy a product promoted by slick advertising. The question is not why don’t cults recruit everyone, but rather how do they recruit people and why do those people often stay to their determent.

Instead of denial and fanciful claims about the decline of cults our best response regarding such groups is education and increased awareness. Understanding the basic warning signs of a potentially unsafe group is a good start. And utilizing the Web to find information about specific groups before becoming more deeply involved is always a good idea. More information helps people make more informed choices. Ignorance may lead to devastating consequences.

As Tony Ortega concluded, “As long as the media remains in the dark about destructive cults and the way they work, we’ll continue to get bewildering statements about ISIS, and ignorant columns from the New York Times.”

An ordained Scientology minister from Santa Barbara is scheduled to speak to Cal Poly (California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo, CA ) students tonight on campus. His sponsors are enrolled in the school’s religious studies program, but ironically the venue chosen for his presentation is “in the Science building” reports Mustang Daily.

Scientology, which believes as an article of faith that alien spaceships have visited earth and subscribes to an assortment of health remedies concocted by its founder L. Ron Hubbard (photo below conducting an experiment), is hardly “Science.”

62325053_a8e032d751.jpgHubbard, neither a scientist nor a doctor, was a pulp-fiction writer turned purported “cult leader.”

His bizarre beliefs about the human mind and health have frequently been derided as “psuedo science.”

This is why Scientology specifically chose to become a “religion,” where in addition to tax-exempt status; it could position its claims outside the realm of serious scientific scrutiny.

For example, Hubbard’s ridiculous claim that human bodies are supposedly capable of storing toxins and/or the residue of drugs indefinitely.

Respected researchers have dismissed this belief repeatedly.

A Scientology program called “Narconon” was ultimately purged from California schools, when it was learned that Scientologists were teaching such Hubbard hokum to schoolchildren.

Another example of Hubbard’s penchant for blurring the boundaries between science and religion is the Scientology ritual known as the “Purification Rundown.”

This regimen closely connected to Hubbard’s claims about toxins includes a regimen of saunas, ingesting large doses of niacin and vegetable oil to allegedly purge poisons from the body.

Tom Cruise once tried to promote this routine in New York in the guise of “detox” clinics, even encouraging city firemen exposed to chemicals at Ground Zero through 9-11 to try it.

However, the New York Fire Department’s chief medical officer told the New York Times that there is no “objective evidence” to support Hubbard’s theory that somehow people can sweat out toxins.

Moreover, an Irish professor that heads a university pharmacology department stated that the purification rundown is “not supported by scientific facts” and “not medically safe” reported the Irish Times.

Never mind.

1101910506_400.jpgScientologists believe whatever Hubbard said and/or wrote, and it is not legitimately subjected to scientific scrutiny, but rather accepted on faith.

As noted believer Isaac Hayes once said Hubbard’s pronouncements remain forever true and therefore “immutable.”

In fact, Scientologists feel so strongly about this that the words of L. Ron Hubbard have been enshrined. The church has spent millions building vaults to serve as perpetual repositories of their founder’s supposed knowledge, in New Mexico and most recently Wyoming.

Hubbard’s writings date back to the 1950s and the man himself died more than 20 years ago in 1986.

Of course since that time science has moved on, well beyond Hubbard’s quaint theories and observations.

Relatively more recent discoveries in science concerning the chemistry and synaptic connections of the brain and the role of genetics in human illness were not known and/or understood by Hubbard. Perhaps this is why so much of what passes for his “holy wisdom” now seems so hopelessly out of date and disconnected from reality.

According to Rolling Stone when Hubbard died the coroner’s report “described the father of Scientology as in a state of decrepitude: unshaven, with long, thinning whitish-red hair and unkempt fingernails and toenails. In Hubbard’s system was the anti-anxiety drug hydroxyzine (Vistaril), which several of his assistants would later attest was only one of many psychiatric and pain medications Hubbard ingested over the years.”

Perhaps Hubbard himself was disconnected from reality?

This might in part explain his claims, which appear to be more fantasy; than anything grounded on scientifically proven facts.

Cal Poly has an excellent academic reputation.

Scientology is known as a fringe “new religion,” often called a “cult.”

Perhaps the best place for a Scientology lecture isn’t in the Cal Poly Science Building, but nearer to the fiction stacks at the university library?

Postscript: Apparently at the Scientology lecture Cal Poly faculty would not allow probing questions, which raised meaningful issues about Scientology’s troubled history. They instead insisted that students submit their questions through attending professors, who then filtered and edited them as they saw fit. One person commenting about this process said, “Questions were offered to the professors who hosted the event regarding the substantive issues… For example, a direct question on the ‘Disconnection’ practice of Scientology was so watered down into a softball that asking it in the re-worded way it was phrased was the functional equivalent of filtering reality…A disservice was done…to the students of Cal Poly…at best failing to fully disclose the nature of the subject matter, and at worst exposing students to one of many deliberate recruiting methodologies of the cult.”

CultNews congratulates “Anonymous,” Scientology’s latest Internet nemesis, with the notable exception of its distributed denial of service (DDOS) attacks at Scientology Web sites.

The Anonymous movement managed to turn out the largest protest through picketing ever coordinated against Scientology.


On February 10th thousands of protesters marched lawfully in front of Scientology centers around the world, effectively drawing greater attention to the questionable practices and bad behavior of the controversial group.

But is must be noted that DDOS attacks are not consistent with the precepts of freedom of speech on the Internet.

Scientology’s repeated effort to thwart free speech on the Net has drawn strong criticism.

It seems that Anonymous has apparently decided to drop its DDOS attacks, which is a welcome development.

CultNews has been repeatedly subjected to DDOS attacks over the years by disgruntled cultists and others attempting to crash this Web site in an effort to suppress the free flow of information.

The Internet should remain a pivotal place for the free exchange of ideas.

Scientologists have a right to preach, teach and proselytize. And others have the right to critically respond to Scientology’s efforts, discuss its beliefs and religious practices.

In the United States Constitution the same First Amendment that protects freedom of religion also safeguards free speech.

It is neither “persecution” nor a “hate crime” to examine Scientology’s teachings and scrutinize its behavior. No religious body in America is immune from such examination and accountability, certainly not within a free democratic society.

True believers are typically subject to the same laws as everyone else.

Scientologists may believe whatever they wish, but this doesn’t somehow give them the right to do whatever they want in the name of those beliefs.

The Roman Catholic Church has been held accountable through a series of often contentious and expensive lawsuits regarding the bad behavior of some of its priests. And the church hierarchy has also endured public recrimination for some of its decisions concerning clergy abuse.

Jehovah’s Witnesses and Christian Scientists have increasingly found that the courts will not protect a parent’s religious choices, if it includes the medical neglect of minor children.

Scientology sits in the same position, neither immune nor somehow exempted from the same scrutiny through public discourse and examination.

And virtually every time Scientology or Scientologists attempt to bully people and/or make the false argument that they should somehow receive special treatment, it has only served to draw more negative attention to the controversial church and its adherents.

Witness Anonymous as yet another example of such a continuing backlash.

So congratulations Anonymous, keep up the good work, but be consistent with the values you have said Scientology has violated.

It seems some groups called “cults” may not be so mutually exclusive. And at times their members just might help each other out a little bit, at least at fund-raising events.

Apparently this was the case at a Gucci New York charity dinner hosted by Madonna, which benefited a Kabbalah Centre linked charity called “Raising Malawi.

The controversial charity was founded by Michael Berg, co-director of the Kabblah Centre.

Not only did celebrity supporters of the fringe Kabbalah group show up for the event such as Demi Moore, Ashton Kutcher and potential new recruit Gwyneth Paltrow, but so did some famous Scientologists.

Scientology’s number one persona Tom Cruise showed up with wife Katie Holmes, as did Scientology friend Jennifer Lopez.

s-gucci-gala-large.jpgHave the two purported “cults” made a pact?

Madonna has gone on the record defending Tom Cruise and his Scientology antics. She once said, “If it makes Tom Cruise happy, I don’t care if he prays to turtles. And I don’t think anybody else should.”

Was this Gucci event payback for the former “Material Girl”?

While it seems that these two “new religions” have little in common doctrinally, one supposedly believes in Jewish mysticism while the other has made intergalactic space travel an article of faith, they do seem to share at least two things in common.

Recruiting celebrities and what appears to be an insatiable desire for cash.

Is Scientology getting into the Christmas spirit?

Scientology Christmas parade

Scientologists Kirstie Alley, Giovanni Ribbisi, Kelly Preston and Ericka Christensen went to the church’s Hollywood Celebrity Center to “act out” “Christmas stories” and tell “festive tales” according to a press release posted on the Internet.

Scientology’s “Drug Free Marshals” also marched in Colorado’s “Boulder Lights of December Parade,” complete with Santa hats reported Your Hub.

But what does the controversial religion really have to do with Christmas?

After all, Scientology’s founder L. Ron Hubbard didn’t teach his devoted followers to believe in Christianity. And the church that Hubbard built has its own unique set of beliefs, such as doctrines about space aliens, reincarnation and an evil outer space villain named Xenu.

In fact, Hubbard reportedly taught that Jesus and God were false beliefs and the result of a scheme hatched by Xenu to distort minds through “implanting.”

This was certainly not one of the “Christmas stories” chosen by Kirstie Alley to “act out” at the Hollywood Celebrity Center.

L. Ron HubbardAnd such “festive tales” are only told to Scientologists after they have paid for enough “religious services” to be properly prepared to hear them.

So what does Christmas mean to Scientology?

Well, it appears to be a season that is cynically manipulated by Scientology for promotional purposes.

December has become a month for Hubbard’s little elves to get dressed up in Yule time costumes, even if they don’t believe in the reason for the season.

Rather than accepting a messiah that was born in a manger 2,000 years ago, Scientologists actually revere Hubbard, who popped into the world on March 13, 1911 in Tilden, Nebraska.

According to the book “Barefaced Messiah” when Hubbard died in 1986 the new supreme leader of Scientology David Miscavige said, “L. Ron Hubbard discarded the body he had used…to facilitate his existence in this universe…The being we knew as L. Ron Hubbard still exists…He has simply moved on to his next step. LRH in fact used this lifetime and body we knew to accomplish what no man has ever accomplished — he unlocked the mysteries of life and gave us the tools so we could free ourselves and our fellow men…”


Scientology pageantPerhaps the most appropriate “Christmas show” linked to Scientology is “A Very Merry Unauthorized Children’s Scientology Pageant” by Les Freres Corbusier, which according to Curt Holman of Creative Loafing “uses the universal form of a young people’s holiday pageant — right down to an all-kid cast — to lampoon the cult of Scientology.”

This show, which won an Obie, currently can be seen in Atlanta, New York and Boston.

This “story of stories,” is not about Jesus, but about the sci-fi writer turned-Scientology-savior Hubbard.

And isn’t that the “Christmas story” that Scientologists should really be celebrating?

“TomKat” finally made it down the aisle with a 7-month-old baby in tow.

Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes Scientology vows were sealed with a reported 3-minute-kiss, until someone yelled, “stop,” though perhaps they might have just said, “cut.”

TomKat weddingAn Italian castle near Rome was rented out for the marital production that reportedly was budgeted at about $10 million, which is easily the going price for an independent film.

The supporting cast included David and Victoria Beckham, Jennifer Lopez and husband Marc Anthony, Jim Carey and girlfriend Jenny McCarthy, Will Smith and Jada Pinkett Smith, Richard Gere and a “cameo” appearance by Brooke Shields.

Shields has apparently forgiven Cruise for bashing her on national television. Scientology’s “Top Gun” used the actress as an example of what’s wrong with taking medication for depression, apparently an “unpardonable sin” for the star and his church.

Speaking of Scientologists, quite a few of Cruise’s religious brethren attended the nuptials, such as John Travolta

The head of Scientology’s New York City branch made the invitation list, but not Oprah Winfrey, even though she practically launched the couple on her show.

Maybe Cruise’s handlers didn’t want to remind anyone about his past performance as a “couch jumper.”

Oprah still sent a gift.

Tom Cruise chose as his “best man” Scientology’s “top dog” David Miscavige, the man who appears to be leader for life of the controversial church, which many have called a “cult.”

Reportedly some Hollywood notables were “no shows.”

Needless to say Cruise’s former employer Sumner Redstone, the man who dumped the actor from Paramount largely for talking too much about Scientology, wasn’t there.

The wedding vows, like all things Scientology, were hatched from the head of its creator L. Ron Hubbard and seemed more like stilted dialog lifted from a corny 1950s movie than a typical marriage ceremony.

During the service the Scientology minister asked the bride: “Do you take his fortune at its prime and ebb and seek with him best fortune for us all? Do you?” The bride responded: “I do.” Then the minister said: “Good then, I am sure you will and surer yet that you’ll fare well and staunchly as a wife.” To Cruise, he said: “And when she’s older do you keep her still? Do you?” He replied: “I do.” 

What’s interesting to observe in Hubbard’s version of wedding vows is the complete absence of any reference to God. And to the bride’s parents who are staunchly conservative Roman Catholics, any mention of Jesus.

Scientologists don’t believe in the bible, God or Jesus and are taught if they reach “Operating Thetan Level Three” (OT III), about “implanting,” which is done through space alien technology. Later, reportedly at OT VIII, they learn not so flattering details about how Christianity fits within that framework. 

However, Katie Holmes parents both attended the wedding and told People Magazine that they were “very happy” to be there.

And why not?

The pre-nuptial agreement reportedly negotiated in part by the father of the 27-year-old actress provides that she will receive $3 million dollars for each year that she remains “Mrs. Cruise,” plus a California mansion. And if Katie Holmes can somehow manage to make it to her 11th anniversary, she could hit the jackpot and get half of the 44-year-old actor’s entire fortune.

The bride’s parents may also be smiling because the Scientology ceremony their daughter participated in is not recognized by their church. So some day, just like Nicole Kidman the last Mrs. Tom Cruise, Katie Holmes can get an annulment and still walk down the aisle the second time in a Roman Catholic Church.

It was reported that Andrea Bocelli sang Ave Maria at the reception. However, Bocelli later told the press that he did not attend the Scientology event, because of his Catholic faith.

Was the Italian tenor’s reported rendition of Ave Maria at the reception meant to be a peace offering to placate the bride’s family? 

Kidman and Cruise’s ex-girlfriend Penelope Cruz sent gifts.

No word from Mimi Rogers, the first Mrs. Cruise, who once complained that about their sex life.

What advice would these exes give the new Mrs. Cruise?

MSNBC says that the Katie Holmes should “forget about marriage counseling” if there are problems, because as Tom Cruise told Matt Lauer, psychology is a “Nazi science.”

L. Ron Hubbard, Cruise’s hero, wasn’t that successful at marriage either. He was divorced too, but unlike the actor was also accused of bigamy.

Hubbard’s first wife said she had trouble leaving him and claimed the former Sci-fi writer subdued her with a “hammerlock, causing strangulation and thus preventing any outcry” and later ran away with their baby daughter.

Let’s hope that Tom Cruise isn’t planning to follow his hero’s example if things get tough.

Hubbard’s third wife, if one questionable union is counted, Mary Sue Hubbard did time in federal prison over a Scientology-related criminal conspiracy. 

Hopefully Katie Holmes will never experience such harsh housing. 

Things don’t seem to look that promising though. When all the festivities were done in Italy the groom, his bride and “best man” reportedly flew away together.

Cruise looks tallerNot exactly romantic, but maybe it is somehow spiritually fulfilling to bring the head of your church along to begin married life.

And news reports have noted that the height difference between Cruise and Holmes may be an issue for the actor, who is at least two inches shorter than his latest spouse. Apparently he was concerned enough to stage a wedding photo, which makes him look taller.

Tom Cruise is supposedly set to begin shooting a new movie with Robert Redford in January.

Katie Holmes has no reported career plans, other than of course being Mrs. Tom Cruise, which pays rather well.

Many have said that this much publicized romance and marriage is little more than a scheme to help the middle-aged actor’s career and give his public image a boost.

The Italian wedding was “branded” a “Scientology stunt.” And it was revealed that the couple had actually already “officialized” their marriage before departing for Italy while still in Los Angeles.

But can a $10 million dollar wedding somehow make Tom Cruise a hot Hollywood star again?

Despite the price tag for the production it’s unlikely to count at the box office. 

Tom Cruise may actually be morphing into something of a celebrity oddity much like Michael Jackson, another superstar that began his descent into pop culture irrelevance with a reportedly contrived Scientology marriage.

Follow-up: According to repeated media reports Katie Holmes is so unhappy with her honeymoon that she wants another one. Reportedly the bride and groom were accompanied on their honeymoon by Scientology leader and Cruise’s “best man” David Miscavige. But a spokesperson for the chairman of the controversial religion told the press, “This is so stupid. I don’t know how many times I have to say it: It is absolutely, 100 percent not true. Mr. Miscavige was not there.”

Scientology may not fare too well as fodder for the popular cable show “Nip/Tuck.”

'brainwashed' 'Matt'?The successful dramatic series about two plastic surgeons in Florida has included Scientology as a recurring story line lately.

TV squad quipped, “I’m sure Ryan Murphy and Co. have put together a story that will be both shocking and informative.

Murphy the show’s creator rather cryptically once said, “You read so much in the press about certain famous people who are Scientologists, but the media pushes it aside as a joke. And clearly it’s not a joke for millions of people. I’m not for it. I’m not against it. I was just curious as to what it is, what they believe in, and how it changes life and how it destroys life,” reported the Los Angeles Times.

Some pundits speculated that Murphy might mean that the show would go soft or “politically correct” on the so-called “new religious movement (NRM).”

But maybe not.

Most recently “Matt” (played by John Hensley) has been sucked into the seemingly sinister church, often called a “cult,” by a featured player named “Kimber.”

The two were seen literally sweating it out together.

But instead of a hot sex scene, the couple was doing what Scientologists call the “purification rundown,’ a religious ritual that includes stints in a sauna combined with swallowing down large doses of niacin and some cooking oil.

This bizarre treatment supposedly rids the body of “toxins,” which Scientologists believe is stored in body tissue indefinitely without their “cure.”

Matt’s doctor dad Sean (Dylan Walsh) probably wouldn’t prescribe this remedy for his son to purge drugs. Scientology founder and former pulp fiction writer L. Ron Hubbard concocted this remedy.

concerned Dr. dadIn the last episode it seems Sean actually thought so little of Scientology, he hired a “deprogrammer” to save his “brainwashed” boy.

However, Matt managed to escape and later his Scientology friends helped him to pack up and move on.

What’s next?

Will Matt declare his mom and dad “Suppressive Persons” (SPs) and then “disconnect” from his parental units altogether through another Scientology religious ritual?

Meanwhile Brooke Shields, the actress once bashed for using anti-depressants by Scientology hero Tom Cruise, has been cast as a psychiatrist in the show. Psychiatrists seem to be the equivalent of “Satan’s minions” to Scientologists.

Stay tuned.

It seems like Murphy is stirring a mean pot for his plot line.

Tomorrow night is the next installment.