The reason that people fall for Scientology or cults like it is not because they are stupid. In fact, it’s been said that the smarter someone is, the easier they are to get involved in something like Scientology and the easier it is for them to create the cognitive dissonance (self-justification) necessary to stay involved despite seeing numerous signs and reasons to get out.
What is lacking are critical thinking skills. I’ve said this in other articles and I thought it was time to give a clear-cut example of what I’m talking about.
Some Scientologists actually think that they are accomplished critical thinkers and that they fully understand logic and reason. They think this because they’ve looked over or even studied a series of policies which L. Ron Hubbard called the “Data Series”. In fact, the Data Series is a very incomplete form of data analysis which gives one just enough know-how to be dangerous but not enough to be effective.
I found out in leaving Scientology how incomplete and inadequate the Data Series was when I came across the actual educational materials of logic and reason and critical thinking. Hubbard is somewhat contemptuous of this material, similar to how he talks about psychology or other competitors to his ideas. Hubbard gives Scientologists the idea that no one past or present has any idea how to analyze information or how to think, and Hubbard had to figure it all out for us. This is just not true.
Yes, the world is a crazy place sometimes and yes, there are definitely people who don’t know how to think. That doesn’t mean no one understands anything about logic or can’t teach effective critical thinking skills. There is a wealth of information about this subject, both on and off the internet.
Scientologists often talk about “outpoints,” which are Hubbard’s versions of logical fallacies. To any Scientologists reading this, here are some “outpoints” for you. I’m going to take one claim made by Scientology and then provide a critical breakdown of that claim using factual information and statistics, most of these from within the church itself.
Scientology Claim: There are tens of millions of Scientologists all over the world. This claim has been made for decades by Church PR spokesmen, such as Tommy Davis, on news and media shows, and came up again within the past year by Kirstie Alley on Howard Stern’s radio show.
To begin to analyze this claim, on any given day of the week, walk into any Scientology church anywhere in the world. A reporter did just that at the latest Ideal Org in Sydney, Australia. He did not just walk in, he was toured by the org’s PR personnel at 5pm , meaning they had ample opportunity to “pack the place” with public when he was coming. Yet in the entire tour of the four-story Ideal Org premises, only one person was in any of the course rooms and that student was falling asleep! The report on that is here.
From Pasadena’s Ideal Org on May 2, 2014, the Executive Director sent out word that they had highest-ever numbers of people on the Purification Rundown (a whopping total of 17 people) and the Survival Rundown course room was packed with 24 OT VIIIs doing this bottom-of-the-Bridge service. These figures were the best news the ED had to report, omitting any information about other Academy or Public Division services. A recent tour done of that org by someone I know in the middle of the evening on a weeknight revealed only a couple of people on course, no one scheduled for or going in session and the rest of the org literally bereft of anyone but a few staff.
Take a look at the new Ideal PAC Base which includes both the Advanced Organization of Los Angeles and the American Saint Hill Organization as well as the Los Angeles Church of Scientology, all on one street. Drive-bys done in the past couple of months have shown the base to be all but deserted. They finished renovations on all of these buildings and did a “Grand Opening” event on March 8, 2014. Eyewitness accounts indicated not more than 1,000 people there, despite the Church’s claim on its website of 6,000 attendees. The photos shown of the Grand Opening are distorted out of proportion and make an accurate assessment of the scene very difficult.
Since then, the PAC Base OT Committee minutes of May 26, 2014 show only 250 active committee members for the past week. Valley org had a mere 54. Pasadena and Santa Barbara did not report their active members. Yet two of the PAC Base orgs were in the number one position in the Birthday Game, indicating that these orgs are expanding. So apparently these miniscule numbers indicate a vastly expanding scene better than any other in Scientology.
According to Scientology’s own records, Los Angeles has the highest concentration of Scientologists anywhere in the world. So if Scientology had millions of active members, wouldn’t it stand to reason that there would be more than a few hundred people on service at any one time in all of the Scientology centers in that city?
Let’s take a different approach to this, a sample of an internationally attended Scientology event. On the front page of the Church’s official website, it states that on November 30, 2013, “more than 6,500 Scientologists, representing some 50 nations, advancing into the Great Hall for a celebration.” What this means is their annual IAS event in Clearwater, Florida had about 6,500 people at it.
Compare this international representative attendance at one of Scientology’s biggest events with another group that really does have over 10 million members planet-wide: the Mormons. They have what is believed to be the largest theater-style auditorium ever built – the LDS Conference Center in Salt Lake City – which seats 21,000 people at one time. This auditorium was built specifically for attendees of the LDS General Conference, which is held twice a year to a packed house. In addition to those 21,000 live attendees, the Conference is broadcast via Mormon-owned TV and radio stations to all 50 US states and internationally and are also webcast and later available on the Mormon’s official website.
No one would dispute that there are tens of millions of Catholics all over the world. So how many come out to see the Pope when he makes an appearance? Pope Francis hasn’t shown up yet in the United States, but he regularly does services at Saint Peter’s Square in the Vatican to audiences of 150,000+ believers. Those are not even special events – they are just the Pope going out on a balcony and addressing some of his followers or giving a Sunday Service. The Scientologists could only dream of having so many attend one of their Sunday Services.
The point of these comparisons is obvious. If Scientology was anywhere near the size it claims to be, its most important international events would be attended by tens or even hundreds of thousands of people and broadcast all over the world for all to see. The exact opposite is the case. In fact, for years I was personally responsible for seating all the attendees at Scientology’s international events in Los Angeles which were usually held at the Shrine Auditorium (seating capacity 6,300). Only once in the 8 years that I did that job was the Shrine ever filled close to capacity and there was hardly ever need for any “overflow” seating. The “big target” we were always trying to achieve (and never even came close to) was to get 10,000 attendees to an event.
None of this is conclusive evidence that Scientology does not have millions of members worldwide, nor am I trying to actually prove any such thing with this article. I’m just showing how by looking at actual facts and evidence rather than PR hype, a critical thinker can easily blow holes in these claims.
This raises some important questions which should be asked within the church itself and which its members should demand answers to. Questions like “If we are the fastest growing religion on the planet, why are there so few people attending our services?” or “If we have so many members, why do so few come to the most important yearly events we put on?” or “If we are growing so fast that we have to have Ideal Orgs in every location, costing literally millions of dollars to purchase and renovate, then shouldn’t we invest some of the billions of dollars in the Church’s financial reserves towards getting these orgs open immediately?”
I invite any Scientologists reading this to please look at the false representations being made to you by Church officials for what they are: so much hot air. Being a critical thinker does not mean you have overts and are dramatizing missed withholds. It means you care about what is going on and you have the intelligence to see for yourself the actual state of things. It is within your rights to demand answers to these questions. I think if you persist in asking, you will find the answers quite eye-opening.