Hello everyone. In this video we are continuing in my ongoing series of deconstructing chapter-by-chapter the book Scientology, an academic compendium of essays edited by James R. Lewis, all focusing on different aspects of Scientology.
This week we are back to James R. Lewis as author. You may recall the first video in this series where I basically took apart his introduction to this book. Lewis has a Ph.D. in Religious Studies from the University of Wales in the UK and leans heavily in the direction of apologetics for destructive cults, meaning he publishes papers sympathetic to their cause and giving them justification for their activities by validating their religious status.
As you can imagine, as a former Scientologist turned critic, I have a biased but very intellectually justified view that Lewis has no idea what he is talking about, but I want to give his work a fair shake and so I am going over these academic papers with a fine-tooth comb and seeing what rational and/or logical arguments they have to make.
The chapter we are looking at this week is called “The Growth of Scientology and the Stark Model of Religious ‘Success'”. I have to say that I was surprised by Lewis in a couple of ways. I expected that this chapter was going to be full of Lewis forwarding the Church of Scientology’s exaggerated claims about its membership numbers and rate of expansion. He does better than that, but not by much. There are fundamental flaws in this essay which put it far below the bar of what I would consider sensible academic work, similar to the quality of what we went over in our last video with Dorthe Christensen. However, even with his errors, there are some interesting observations to be made about Scientology using some of the references that Lewis cites, so let’s break it down and see what we can learn.
Lewis starts this chapter with a quote from William Sims Bainbridge, an academic who wrote an earlier chapter in this book which I also covered in an earlier video.
“While it is impossible to predict the fate of Scientology as a particular religious organization, we must suspect that some religion very much like Scientology will be a major force in the future of our civilization.” (p. 117)
I’m not much for predictions and I’ve already taken these guys apart for their lack of academic prowess about Scientology and destructive cults in general, but this is just plain scary.
Looking at it from Lewis and Bainbridge’s perspective, I think they feel that the legitimacy of Scientology lies in its focus on the spiritual nature of human beings and how many new religious movements in the 20th century have centered on empowering individuals to transcend their physical existence and achieve higher spiritual awareness and moral certainty, rather than the more popular model of bowing down or groveling before an all-powerful diety who will grant salvation through his mercy and good will. As cult specialist Joe Szimhart put it:
“Religion is not being marginalized as much as reinvented in New Ageism and the democratization of spirituality. Individuals continue to create designer spiritualties that meet personal tastes and tastes change. New cults and spiritual teachers continue to emerge because cult formation as devotional behavior has always attended culture and challenges to the status quo in society.” (Gnosis, Faith and Reason: Using Epistemology to Analyze Any Cult Experience, 2016)
I agree with Joe and it’s clear that religion is going to be with us for a very long time because it fulfills many human needs on many levels, regardless of the specifics of any one belief system or how ridiculous or unprovable those beliefs may be. Not all new religious movements are destructive cults, but Lewis and his kind don’t differentiate between them and so lump in the harmful with the unharmful and this is really a major error on their part.
My objection with Scientology is not so much its belief system, which in and of itself is harmless enough. No, the reason Scientology is properly labelled a destructive cult has nothing to do with its beliefs. It is that the standard practice of Scientology results in much more individual harm than good, and not just financially thorugh their scams,but psychologically and emotionally. Lewis doesn’t see Scientology that way so refuses to critically examine what the actual practice of Scientology does to its members or what former members have to say about it.
Moving on, Lewis begins:
“As a specialist in the field of new religious movements, I regularly encounter claims that such-and-such a religion is the world’s fastest growing. Paganism (in the sense of contemporary Neo-Paganism) is a case in point: a number of different Pagan spokespeople have asserted that Paganism is the fastest growing religion in the world. Upon examination of the data, it turns out that Paganism actually did enjoy spectacular growth in the late 1990s and in the first few years of the twenty-first century….
“A front page story about the Mormons in Time magazine in 1997 highlighted the claim that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day-Saints (LDS) was the world’s fastest growing religion (Van Biema 1997). This claim was based on the work of Rodney Stark, an influential sociologist of religion who predicted the LDS would become a ‘major world faith’ by the year 2080 (1987:11). It is difficult not to be impressed by the statistics marshaled in support of this analysis. However, Stark depends heavily on the Church’s own statistics, and LDS statistics appear to have been misleading, as we shall see.” (p. 117)
I’m only slightly smirking right now because I find it funny that Lewis criticizes Stark for relying on LDS statistics to make his point about LDS expansion. Lewis is absolutely right, but he too relies on and cites Scientology’s materials and data almost exclusively to discuss Scientology, so there’s a bit of the pot calling the kettle black here. It would be nice to see Lewis be more academically critical when he starts discussing his specialty of new religious movements.
Lewis goes on to describe the status and growth rates of the major world religions and makes the point that measuring the growth of a religion can be done a number of ways when comparing one to the next, so any group describing themselves as the “fastest growing religion” can be deceptive. There’s the percentage of growth as one method and using the actual number of adherents as another. Depending on which method you use will determine which religion is growing more.
By the percentage method, a group that starts out one year with 10 members and attracts 40 new ones the following year has experienced a growth rate of 400% which looks staggeringly successful. Even if this group kept up this rate of expansion, in five years there would be only 125,000 members, which could hardly be described as taking over the world. And no religious group, by the way, experiences that kind of growth rate year after year.
Lewis describes the second method:
“An alternative way of measuring growth is in terms of actual numbers of new adherents. In practice, the brute numbers approach is usually discussed in terms of net growth – meaning new members by birth and by conversion minus older members lost from death and apostasy. In order even to be admitted to this kind of numbers contest, a tradition must already be a major world religion with hundreds of millions of members. This means the only serious contenders for the distinction of being the world’s fastest growing religion in these terms are Christianity, Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism, and maybe one or two others. However, the only two major religious traditions that seem seriously interested in claiming this title are Christianity and Islam.” (p. 119)
By the numbers, there really is no question that no religious movement is even close to the size of Christianity or Islam, although I did find it interesting that on the table of world religious growth provided by Lewis, the combined total of nonreligious and atheists, which are basically the same thing, totalled out to be #3 right below Christianity and Islam. So there is something to be said for those who have no religious affiliation being a growing group as well.
There are a couple of insights into Scientology in this essay which I don’t think Lewis really intends to make, but which I am going to use his writing to point out, starting with this:
“At this juncture in the discussion, we can change tack and ask, why have people concerned themselves with this question? Or, to restate this more bluntly, so what? Islam might be catching up with Christianity or Christinaity might be maintaining its lead. But, in real world terms, neither scenario will ultimately make much of a difference. Having a slight numbers edge certainly does not mean that one religion has vanquished or will vanquish the other. However – and this is the real heart of the issue – people debate the point as if being the fastest growing really did mean that one religion was winning out over all the others.
“This attitude is partially captured in LDS sociologist Rick Phillips remarks about Mormonism, as cited by Reid L. Neilson in his introduction to The Rise of Mormonism:
“Phillips argues that the church ‘uses membership growth as a principal benchmark of its success. Church publications and speeches of LDS leaders often cite the expansion of Mormonism as evidence of the validity and legitimacy of church doctrines and programs.’ Noting that nearly every LDS periodical chronicles growth, he also argues that ‘Mormon apologists…use the work of sociologists [especially Rodney Stark] to substantiate Mormonism’s bandwagon appeal’ and claims that the LDS Church has ‘seized on Stark’s predictions, and has disseminated them widely.'” (p. 120)
Something Scientology has in common with the LDS Church is the persistent drumming of the message that it is the world’s fastest growing religion to its followers. They are convinced through exaggerated statistics and hyped up narratives that Scientology is taking over whole sectors of society, from drug rehabilitation to criminal reform to human rights advocacy.
More on that in a bit but first, this also recalls for me something I’ve never talked about before but it is the striking similarities between LDS and Scientology promotional materials. Back in 2010, the LDS Church rolled out a campaign of TV, internet and billboard ads focused around making Mormon’s most acceptable to the public at large. Why? As reported in the New York Times:
“Top Mormon leaders had hired two big-name advertising agencies in 2009, Ogilvy & Mather and Hall & Partners, to find out what Americans think of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Using focus groups and surveys, they found that Americans who had any opinion at all used adjectives that were downright negative: ‘secretive,’ ‘cultish,’ ‘sexist,’ ‘controlling,’ ‘pushy,’ ‘anti-gay.’
On seeing these results, some of those watching the presentation booed while others laughed, according to people at the meetings. But then they were told that the church was ready with a response: a multimillion-dollar television, billboard and Internet advertising campaign that uses the tagline, ‘I’m a Mormon.’ The campaign, which began last year but was recently extended to 21 media markets, features the personal stories of members who defy stereotyping, including a Hawaiian longboard surfing champion, a fashion designer and single father in New York City and a Haitian-American woman who is mayor of a small Utah city.” (NY Times, Nov 17, 2011)
When this campaign started, I was still in the Sea Organization and was shocked by it because the “I’m a Mormon” ads were almost exactly the same as the large-scale Scientology campaign we had already launched back in 2008 centered around videos of regular Joe Scientologists talking about how Scientologists are just regular people like you and me and there’s nothing kooky or weird about Scientology, all ending with the statement “I’m a Scientologist.”
That campaign was obviously created to counter the international bad press that Scientology was receiving due to the Anonymous protests of that same year and the similarities of the Mormon campaign were far too obvious to be missed. I just had to mention this here because it’s funny and interesting to me how these groups watch each other’s moves and try to play on what they think is successful from one to the next.
The “I’m a Scientologist” campaign was not successful and was not carried on for very long, nor did it succeed in changing public perception about Scientology or get a lot of new people in.
I’ve included a link below to an article on Scribd by someone calling themselves TruthIsReason which describes the rollout of the two campaigns and who copied who.
Lewis goes on to point out more about this:
“…the message of calling attention to the growth statistics of one’s religion seem to be,’Everyone is switching to my religion, so shouldn’t you switch too?’ As implied by Phillip’s remarks, such statistics can also be cited to encourage the faithful. Additionally, the mere fact of impressive growth appears to validate the truth of one’s religion. The unstated argument here seems to be: The true (or best) religion will win out over false (or less adequate) religions. The fastest growing religion is the one that will win. Therefore the fastest growing religion is the true religion.” (p. 120)
In Scientology, this is absolutely the case. Scientologists have the goal of “clearing the planet” which sounds vague because it is vague even to Scientologists. However, one common point amongst all Scientologists about this vision is that it involves Scientology taking over all important aspects of society and that the vast majority of the population become Scientologists. As L. Ron Hubbard himself said, “After all, we’ll be running things one of these days.” (HCO Policy Letter of Dec 27, 1963, THE “MAGIC” OF GOOD MANAGEMENT) and Scientologists believe it.
About Scientology’s growth, I was mildly surprised when I read this:
“Scientology’s self-perception of being the ‘fastest growing religion’ is likely based on an uncritical reading of its own statistics. During his tenure as organizational head, L. Ron Hubbard established the tradition of each branch sending in reports on Thursdays. He then spent Fridays reading them. This is the origin of the ‘Thursday Report’ that is the bane of many staff members. The ideal Thursday Report embodies a measurable increase over the preceding week’s report, which is referred to as being ‘Up Stat.’ A decrease is referred to as ‘Down Stat.’ All Scientology staffers are motivated to be Up Stat, resulting (not necessarily consciously) in exaggerated statistics.” (p. 120)
This is a fairly accurate but extremely mild interpretation of how Scientology staff handle their statistics. Being ‘Up Stat’ isn’t just desirable but becomes the be-all-end-all for Scientolgy staff and is the basis of a lot of their extreme behavior including routinely lying to their parishioners and even credit card fraud and theft.
As a Sea Org manager over these org staff for years, it was a routine occurence to bust them for falsifying their statistics because of the insane degree of pressure we as managers put on them to have their stats up.
It was a vicious circle, of course, because we were being berated and yelled at just as hard as we were pushing it down the line on them and when the lower organization staff false reported, that often ended up with us in hot water too because our stats depended on theirs. Yet no one ever learned and the pressure would just continue to come down harder and harder as the years went on.
Of course, Lewis and every other religious scholar and academic who have come anywhere near the world of Scientology are never exposed to any of this so I don’t expect that he would have anything but a surface-level understanding of the pressures brought to bear on Scientology staff.
He goes on to cite some very realistic numbers about Scientologists which again surprised me. They were realistic because they were based on non-Scientology sources:
“The governments of Canada, New Zealand and Australia all included a religion affiliation item in their more recent national censuses. The Canadian census reported that in the ten-year period between 1991 and 2001, self-identified Scientologists grew by 26.5 percent from 1,215 to 1,525 adherents. In New Zealand during the same period, Church membership expanded from 207 to 282 – an almost 37 percent increase. And in Australia, the number of self-identified members rose almost 37 percent from 1,488 to 2,032 in the five-year period between 1996 and 2001.” (p. 121)
Lewis called these a “healthy – but not spectacular – rate of growth” and from his view that may be true but I can tell you that by any metric in the Scientology world, these numbers are pathetic and would shock any Scientologist in those areas. None of them are allowed to see such numbers, of course, as they are never published or produced by Scientology itself. Instead, it tells its members that its growing at an expasion rate of 20X meaning that things this year are 20X better than they were last year. These outright lies are believed mainly due to cognitive dissonance and an intense confirmation bias on the part of Scientologists, who have to tell themselves that this is true even though they don’t see any indication of growth in their own backyards. They assume that things are always better with Scientology in other geographical regions and eventually, they think it will catch on in their church too.
Lewis then goes into the next part of his essay, talking about the Stark Model.
“Rodney Stark (the same Stark mentioned above in connection with the LDS) has invested significant energy into developing and elaborating a model of how emergent religions ‘succeed.’ He further claims that based on the proper application of his model, we can assess a religious movement’s prospects for expansion. Given the ambitious scope of this claim, the task of determining how Scientology ‘measures up’ could be illuminating. In the present chapter, I will discuss the Church’s future prospects in terms of Stark’s model. First, however, a fairly lengthy discussion needs to take place about problems with Stark’s specific formulation.” (p. 121)
Now, I’m going to summarize most of that discussion for reasons that will become clear as we carry forward. Lewis first discusses the problems with the words “success” and “failure” when it comes to religious movements, because these are difficult to define broadly when each group has very different goals and purposes for its existence. Some envision growing to take over the world or want to have vast influence over cultural and public affairs, but many don’t have goals anywhere near that lofty.
There is a fascinating observation made here by Stark which is telling in terms of Scientology’s current state. In reference to a group having modest goals in terms of size or influence, Lewis writes:
“Stark’s response to this kind of reasoning is, ‘I suspect that few movements ever begin with such modest aims; they adopt them only after they have lost hope of doing any better’ in terms of growth (1987:12). In support of this provacative assertion, he cites his and Roberts’ article in which they note that after a decade or two of growth, many groups “turned inward and ceased to seek converts.’ (Stark and Roberts 1985:351 ). They explain this inward turn as a response to ‘the small absolute numbers of recruits gained during the first generation’ (1985:346) – in other words, movements turn inward in response to the perception that they have failed as mass movements.” (p. 122)
Lewis published this book in 2009 and I’ll admit that it was harder to see Scientology’s implosion then as easily as it is now. Any neutral academic who was looking at Scientology with a critical eye would have certainly seen it, but given Lewis’ proclivity to believe almost anything Scientology told him, there is no question why he couldn’t connect the idea about groups turning inward with Scientology. However, I certainly will.
I think this is exactly what has happened to Scientology under David Miscavige’s leadership and that this turning inward began in earnest in the late 1990s. That is when David Miscavige basically decimated any internal efforts to get new converts, sending the people who were doing this work into The Hole at the Int Base or off to the RPF in Los Angeles. I actually met some of those people myself when I was on the RPF in 2005. It’s been noted many times since then that every effort to popularize or disseminate Scientology’s message to the big broad world was just window dressing to appease Scientology’s followers and convince them to give more money to the church. No serious effort has been made by Scientology to get new members really since the 1980s.
So let’s look at Stark’s model of religious growth factors:
“Other things being equal, religious movements will succeed to the degree that:
“1. They retain cultural continuity with the conventional faiths of the societies within which they seek converts.
“2. Their doctrines are non-empirical.
“3. They maintain a medium level of tension with their surrounding environment – are strict but not too strict.
“4. They have legitimate leaders with adequate authority to be effective.
“a. Adequate authority requires clear doctrinal justifications for an effective and legitimate leadership.
“b. Authority is regarded as being more legitimate and gains in effectiveness to the degree that members perceive themselves as participants in the system of authority.
“5. They can generate a highly motivated, volunteer, religious labor force, including many willing to proslytize.
“6. They maintain a level of fertility sufficient to at least offset member mortality.
“7. They compete against weak, local conventional religious organizations within a relatively unregulated religious economy.
“8. They sustain strong internal attachments, able to maintain and form ties to outsiders.
“9. They continue to maintain sufficient tension with their environment – remain sufficiently strict.
“10. They socialize the young sufficiently well as to minimize both defection and the appeal of reduced strictness. (Stark 2003)” (p. 123)
Alright, now on first glance those all sound sensible enough and as we are wont to do, we can readily find examples of how these could apply to one religion or another. But before we get into any specifics, there is a more general point that needs to be made about this model.
Lewis says that Stark and other academics have applied this model to a series of case studies such as the Jehovah’s Witnesses, the early Christian Church, Christian Science and American religious history more generally. However, the studies were done before 2001 when big surveys were done of religious groups in the US and other countries. The survey results showed that these case studies were dead wrong in their growth analyses. Oops.
What’s more, Lewis details how Stark was almost overtly biased in his favoritism towars his own religion and was dismissive towards other religous groups. Lewis writes:
“For example, in his article on Christian Science, he characterizes Spiritualism as a ‘dead end’ (1998:213). Additionally, the last paragraph of Stark and Innaccone’s study of the Jehovah’s Witnesses disparages (at least implicitly) contemporary neo-paganism as unworthy of study where the authors assert that they hope they have convinced scholars that their time would be far better spent studying a sizable group like the Witnesses instead of ‘documenting the rites of a coven of 13 Dutch Witches’ (1997:155).” (p. 126)
Stark stated that “failure minimally to fulfill any single condition [referring to the model’s various propositions] will doom a movement” yet Lewis then details at some length how the Unitarian Universalist Church defies most of the points of Stark’s model and yet is growing quite well.
He also shows how Stark used this model to predict that the LDS Church will become a “major world faith” by the year 2080 yet the growth rate of the LDS Church is not even keeping up with the population growth rate of the US so is, in effect, shrinking. The same applies for Stark’s predictions about the Jehovah’s Witnesses.
Meanwhile, Stark used this model to predict Spiritualism and Neo-Paganism were dead ends while hard statistics show that they are actually growing in most places in the world where religious survey data is available.
So Lewis does a great job debunking the value of the Stark model but then uses this model to analyze Scientology’s expansion. I’m sorry, but this is just really dumb. Here’s what he says about this:
“It is not my intention here to offer anything approaching a complete explanation of what went wrong with Stark’s predictions, nor am I interested in thoroughly reformulating his theory of religious success. I would, however, still like to apply Stark’s model to the Church of Scientology, so at least some sort of explanation is in order here.” (p. 127)
Yes, I agree that some explanation is due because why would he possibly debunk this model and then use it? In the next four long paragarphs, Lewis offers a few ideas about why Stark’s model doesn’t work out so well in a modern, changing world, but he doesn’t talk specifically about Scientology or even the kind of religion he thinks Scientology is or why this model would be useful in analyzing it. He literally just rambles about these other religions and why the model is not fully useful for them and then says this:
“Despite these reservations, I nevertheless feel that applying Stark’s model to the Church of Scientology could be an interesting and useful exercise.” (p. 128)
Alright, now this seems to me to be the exact opposite of how serious academics are supposed to use facts and reason to establish useful data and conclusions about things like religious movements. I think a comparative in a hard science to what Lewis is doing here would be showing how phlogiston is not what causes things to combust when it’s exposed to the air, and then analyzing how much phlogiston is needed to heat up your oven.
Becuase Lewis took the time to do this, we are going to flog on with him but I’m only going to do a cursory look at what he has to say about it because the whole premise of examining Scientology against this model is inherently flawed. However, I do have a couple of interesting observations of my own along the way.
In the first two sections where Lewis compares Stark’s model to Scientology, he has to bend the model or negate it in order to make it fit. There’s not much analysis going on, just commentary that uselessly takes up space so we’re skipping those enitrely. The third section is called “Medium Tension” and he says this:
“Stark asserts that strictness is an attractive trait that brings converts into a religion. At first glance, this proposition seems counterintuitive. Stark’s argument here is – to oversimplify a bit – that the more participation in a religion ‘costs’ members, the more they value their membership. Additionally, strictness tends to screen out ‘free riders’ – individuals who want to enjoy the benefits of a collective enterprise without contributing to the group in any way.
“…it should be noted that strictness can be carried too far. It is not difficult to find churches that are too strict to grow in any significant way, which is why the ideal formula for growth is medium tension. The ninth proposition in the religious success model is that to maintain growth, a religion must maintain its strictness…” (p. 132)
Now I read this with interest because, of course, anyone who even casually reads the stories of ex-Scientologists and especially ex-Sea Org members are going to know that Scientology’s ethics and justice system are harsh in a way that few modern religions could compare with outside of monastaries or convents. So I had to laugh at Lewis’s next statement.
“Unlike other groups in the New Age milieu, the Church of Scientology puts forward strong, explicit ethical guidelines for its members (though this would be disputed by critics), as reflected in, for example, Hubbard’s Introduction to Scientology Ethics (1968) and, more recently, the ‘Integrity and Honesty’ chapter of the Scientology Handbook (Hubbard and the Church of Scientology, 1994).” (p. 132)
I don’t know any critics who would dispute that the Church of Scientology is unduly strict with its members. If you were looking for any proof that Lewis has no idea what critics and apostates of Scientology actually have to say, this is it. He is clueless about the very valid issues that us critics have with Scientology and is apparently so tone deaf that he thinks we would refute that Scientology is a bit rough on its members.
He follows this up by saying:
“Every Scientology organization of any size has an ‘ethics officer’ who is the first point of contact in a complex, internal justice system that takes actions against individuals whose actions are viewed as destructive. (Critics of the Church often portray this internal bureaucratic justice system as a form of social control.)” (p. 132)
I said at the outset of this video series that I wasn’t going to make this series personal or about the individual authors of these essays. I don’t want to read too much into Lewis’s statements either, but I am going to say that if he doesn’t see how Scientology’s justice system is used quite effectively for social control of its members, he has gone beyond being tone deaf and way beyond plain apologetics, especially when he ends this section by forwarding the Church’s own bullshit with this:
“With respect to social conflict, one might think that the Church of Scientology has provoked too much hostility to attract new members. However, as evidenced by the growth statistics cited earlier, this has not been the case. In fact, Scientologists I have spoken with tell me that more, rather than fewer, people have contacted and expressed interest in the Church of Scientology as a consequence of the free publicity generated by the relevant South Park episodes and by the high-profile remarks of Scientology celebrities like Tom Cruise.” (p. 132)
I’ll leave it to your judgement as to whether you think Scientologists would lie to Lewis about this. I’ll simply say that I spent years going from one Scientology church to another from 2008 through 2012 all over the western United States and every one of them suffered from one common denominator: they were empty of any new public and could barely get anyone to even walk through their front doors, much less become card-carrying members. For anyone to think that Scientology is attracting new members because of its controversy or hostility is simply moronic.
Lewis has a couple more sections of pure nonsense where he demonstrates quite clearly that he does not have more than a surface level understanding of Scientolgy and has bought into what he was told by Scientology PRs instead of doing anything like real research. By this point, I’m honestly pretty disgusted with his intellectual dishonesty and the next two sections are not worth even repeating or commenting on.
However, there is one final point he makes that I think is worth discussing because you might find it interesting. Under the section “Personal Networks” Lewis discusses the social networks and communities that religous groups form. He says:
“…having a tight community can work against a movement’s growth if it becomes so all-consuming that forming relationships with people outside the group becomes difficult. The first point of contact for many people who join a religion is a friend, coworker, or family member who is already a participant. A corollary of this observation is that a group that restricts its social relationships to other members – a situation sometimes referred to as ‘social implosion’ – is unable to attract new members.
“Andersen and Wellendorf observe that Scientology has stopped growing in Denmark. Though they do not use the term, their data would support the hypothesis that the Danish Church has ‘imploded.’ This does not, however, seem to be the case in other parts of the world, where Scientology is experiencing a healthy rate of growth. For example, in contrast to Anderson and Wellendorf, I have never sensed the kind of ‘garrison mentality’ in the American Church they found among members of the Danish Church.” (p. 137)
Well I’m glad that I can rely on Lewis’ sense to tell me that there is no such thing as a garrison mentality in Scientology, even though I know for a fact that is exactly what is going on there. ‘Social implosion’ is actually exactly the phenomenon to describe what is happening to Scientology right now and despite the fact that Lewis doesn’t agree, I’m happy that he pointed out that this is actually a thing.
It’s pretty obvious that Sea Org members have no social life and that Scientology staff often work such long hours between their church service and regular, paying jobs that they have little time for extensive social networks. But even regular public Scientologists are heavily encouraged to not have many non-Scientology friends. If they do, believe me when I tell you that few if any of them are close friends.
It’s not even that the church enforces this so much as the Scientologists themselves don’t get close to non-Scientologists because they don’t feel they can really talk honestly and openly to non-Scientologists. Look at it this way: If your world view was that everyone is being subjugated by the reactive mind and cannot be free without getting rid of it, or worse, you thought that body thetans are crawling all over people’s bodies, influencing their every decision and keeping crime, war and insanity from ever being resolved, could you be really close with people who were clueless about these things? Would you feel that you were really intimate with someone who had no idea that their eternal life was going to be an endless cycle of painful life and death over and over again?
Well, I can tell you that when I was a Scientologist, I sure couldn’t. I wanted them to be Scientologists and if I couldn’t get them there, I couldn’t feel that I was really being myself around them. I used to have talks with lots of Scientologists about this and they would agree or say the same things.
No, there’s no doubt in my mind that ‘social implosion’ is a definite factor in Scientology’s contraction over the past decade, in addition to all the other things we critics talk about such as the insane push for money, unduly harsh ethics penalties on members and radical us vs them mentality which Hubbard’s writings push on its members.
And with that last point we have come to the end of Chapter 6. While I found last week’s essay to be pedantic and pedestrian, I have to say that this week’s essay by Lewis was the most logically flawed and hair-brained essay we’ve gone over yet. I expected this essay would suck because Lewis’ standards of academia are so low as to be almost non-existent, but he surprised me by how bad this one was.
Next week, we move into part three called Community and Practices. The first chapter in that section is chapter 7, “Community in Scientology and among Scientologists.” I am really hoping it is more academically challenging and that the authors, Peter Anderson and Rie Wellendorf, have bothered to do some real research. Join me next week and let’s find out.
Thank you for watching.
Link to scribd article is here.