Hey everyone, we are continuing in my ongoing series deconstructing this book, Scientology, edited by James R. Lewis and featuring essays and writings by religious scholars, psychologists, sociologists and other academics about (surprise!) Scientology.
This week we get into Part IV of this book, called “Sources and Comparative Approaches” which begins with Chapter 10, titled “Scientology as Technological Buddhism” by Frank K. Flinn. Flinn was an adjunct professor of religious studies at Washington University in St Louis from 1990 until he died in July 2015.
According to his obituary, Flinn was a religious freedom advocate and a scholar of religious movements. While I’m sure he taught some great material about religious history to his classes, he was also a tireless cult apologist. He gave expert testimony in court and even in front of Congress to support destructive cults such as Scientology and the Branch Davidians in Waco. There are many very nice things said about him in his obituary, of course, and I have nothing against him personally because I’m sure he was a very nice person. However, I don’t support what he dedicated a great deal of his life doing: offering support and defense for destructive cults, the kinds of groups which have ruined people’s lives in the course of their routine, day-to-day activities.
Say what you will about mainstream religions and their beliefs, and I could say a lot, I don’t believe that such groups are purposefully put together in order to satisfy the carnal desires and greed of a few people, nor do I believe that their very existence is a plague that should be wiped out. I know not everyone is going to agree with me about this and that’s fine. There’s plenty of bad things to say about mainstream religious groups, and I’m personally not a big supporter of organized religions but I am a big supporter of free will and the freedom to believe whatever you want when it comes to our ultimate existence, where we come from and where we’ll end up.
I think anyone can see that mainstream religious groups over the centuries have not been only destructive and have not only been about hurting people or unduly influencing their lives for the worse. When it comes to destructive cults, that’s another matter. In our desire to defend religious freedoms, we should not confuse these two different kinds of groups. There are clear indications and characteristics of destructive cults, as I’ve covered at length in other videos on this channel. I am not of the belief that destructive cults are simply smaller or newer versions of mainstream religions. They are their own kind of group and many exist without religious ideas of any kind. Unfortunately, academics like Flinn do not make such distinctions and that is how they end up defending the indefensible.
In reading his work, Flinn was obviously very well educated and the main thrust of his apologetics is to compare Scientology to other mainstream religions in terms of beliefs and practices, demonstrating that he fell 100% into the exact trap that Scientology specifically lays for such academics. Let’s take a look at how he went about doing this. His essay begins:
“In several ways Scientology is the most interesting of the new religious movements. It describes itself as ‘an applied religious philosophy,’ but it does not fall easily under any exclusive label such as religion, science, philosophy, or technique. In a situation like this the chances are many for misclassification and misinterpretation. For the time being, some designation like ‘new religious movement’ or ‘alternative religious movement’ seems the most appropriate for describing these recently recognized religious phenomena.” (p. 209)
You notice that he’s setting up his apologetics arguments right out of the gate. He says that Scientology is difficult to classify but we’ll just go ahead and call it a “new religious movement” because, why not?
The next pillar in his apologetics argument is to attack the very definitions of classification for religious groups. You have to pay close attention to Flinn because he’s extremely crafty and well-versed in the materials he himself takes apart to make his arguments. If you don’t watch closely, you won’t notice the misdirection he uses as cleverly as an illusionist to fool you.
The sociological classifications of different religious groups has been a hotly contested and debated topic for a number of years. We use words like church, sect and cult but because language is fluid and can often act like a living thing all on its own, the meanings of these terms and their connotations can change drastically.
I use the term destructive cult because it’s something I learned about after coming out of Scientology when I read the works of Janja Lalich and Michael Langone. I could just as easily call a group with such characteristics a yellow duck, it would still be the same thing. But when you get into broader classifications of legitimate mainstream and not-so-mainstream religous groups, you enter a very nebulous zone because of the wide spectrum of beliefs and organizations that are formed around those beliefs. Buddhism and Taoism are just as much religions as Christianity or Islam yet in trying to find common ground to define them that way, you are wading into a bit of a shark tank. Taking into account the thousands of different religious groups on Earth, your head can get pretty spinny pretty fast trying to figure it all out. Believe me, I’ve tried and it really does take serious academic study to sort it all out. People like Flinn use that confusion to their advantage to further their own agenda of trying to justify the existence of destructive cults, which can use religious cloaking to hide their true purposes. Whether Flinn is doing that maliciously or not is not my point because I doubt that is the case but here is what he says:
“The traditional sociological classification derived from Ernst Troeltsch’s <i>The Social Teaching of the Christian Churches<i> (church, denomination, sect, and cult) has encountered difficulties. This is particularly true for the terms sect and cult, which have been most often applied to the newer religious groups. It is important to note that these are relational terms. Thus, the concept of sect takes on sharper definitional focus when related to organized churches that have become diffuse in doctrine and practice. Rodney Stark has captured this relational aspect well when he wrote that sects ‘reflect the efforts of the churched to remain churched.’ The condition, then, for sect formation seems to be the presence of strongly organized churches. Conversely, the concept of cult takes on sharper definitional focus when related not to church, denomination, or sect, but to a prior condition of secularity. In Stark’s words, the cult represents ‘efforts by the unchurched to become churched.'” (p. 209)
So now a cult is defined as a group of people who were not part of an organized religion before but now are. That’s a new one. Have you ever heard of a cult described that way, because I haven’t. And what’s more, it over-simplifies the term ‘cult’ to describe it this way. My point isn’t really whether Flinn is getting it right or not, though, it’s that he is crafty about introducing doubt and ambiguity into the use of these terms at all. It’s a logial fallacy of ambiguity which is more understandable if I say that Flinn is “muddying the waters.”
Now that he has introduced confusion into these terms, he doubles down on why you can’t use the term sect or cult with Scientology:
“This definitional clarification, however, does not allow an unambiguous application of either cult or sect to Scientology. Sectarian movements are characterized by their ‘over-againstness’ to organized religion, that is, they are separated from and contrasted to other religions. Yet, one characteristic peculiar to many of the new religions – including Scientology, Unificationists, and Charismatics – is the fact that they are pluri-denominational, or trans-denominational in the religious affiliation of their adherents. Scientologists can remain in good standing as Scientologists even if they continue to participate in their natal or previously acquired religion. This is a widespread phenomenon among many new religions and even among some traditional ones.” (p. 210)
It is only superficially true that Scientologists are allowed to carry on with religious practices of a different faith. Believe me, if you want to go all the way to the top in Scientology, you are only going to make it by shedding any other religious belief system. This is especially true of the confidential upper OT levels of Scientology. Hubbard badmouths Christianity in plenty of places throughout Scientology lectures, but he makes no effort to conceal his utter disdain of any belief in Christ in the OT materials and he expects the same of his followers.
Flinn then goes on talk about a Pentecostal meeting he went to where there were people of other faiths in attendance, so therefore Scientology is just like Charismatic Catholics because they do the same thing too. I mean, Flinn is kind of all over the place on this point but then concludes the thought by saying, truthfully:
“Over time, the expectation is that Scientologists will center more and more on their own religious practices. And this seems, indeed, to be taking place.” (p. 210)
Well if that’s the case, then why go around the woods and over the bend to show that Scientology is not a cult because it accepts people of other denominations? I thought Flinn was engaging in a lot of ambiguity here. But then he stops muddling around and gets to a point. Sort of.
“Much of this depends upon where we are going to slice the pie. Although I do not want to say that the pie cannot or ought not to be sliced, the arbitrariness of the initial cut leaves me uneasy. I am uneasy, too, about what has happened to the word cult in the popular media. The popular image of a cult – a deranged, tyrannical leader; ‘brainwashing’; and bizarre beliefs and practices – may have rendered the word permanently damaged for analytic purposes.” (p. 210)
No, those are all real things that actual groups do on a daily basis. What Flinn finds so unpalatable, for some reason, is that the word ‘cult’ is used to describe these groups. For some twisted reasons, he thinks it’s academically unacceptable to acknowledge that deranged people do deranged things to other people in the name of religious belief. Flinn would rather close his eyes to this reality and not only that, but actually go so far as to justify their deranged behavior by calling it another form of religious expression. I think this poisons the well for real religions and I think it’s outrageous.
Flinn then exposes a very gaping wound in our current constituional law that allows this sort of thing to go on, yet because he’s an apologist he uses this gaping wound to justify why he backs up these destructive cults instead of calling them out for what they are. Check this out.
“Furthermore, the word cult now impinges upon the legal interpretation and definition of what constitutes a religion. The U.S. Constitution uses only one word – religion – to designate the phenomenon we are talking about. Many anticultists believe that they have ipso facto established a religious group as a ‘pseudo-religion’ if they have managed to get the group labeled as a ‘cult’ in court proceedings. Elsewhere I have argued that, from a constitutional viewpoint, judiciary can determine only that a group is, or is not, a religion; it cannot describe how a group is a religion. In other words, whether a group is a church, denomination, sect, or cult is constitutionally irrelevant. To make distinctions like these in court proceedings would be to establish certain religions (the traditional ones) over others (the innovative ones). If making such distinctions is not an actual establishment, it certainly is respecting an establishment.” (p. 211)
Now here’s the thing. Flinn is absolutely right that constitutionally, there is only the one word “religion” to describe these groups and that is how they get away with claiming First Amendment protections and escape the judgement of law against their abuses and all the rest. People have asked me many times how Scientology gets away with what they do and why the law doesn’t seem to apply to them. Well, Flinn has just answered your question and told you the reasoning behind it. Yet because of this black-and-white thinking, destructive cults who hide behind religious cloaking escape any form of justice and can proudly walk around in courtrooms proclaiming their First Amendment protections.
In the days when our Founding Fathers wrote our Constitution, they wanted to guarantee freedom of religion and ensure that the government would not allow a state-run religion to trample the rights of its citizens. This was smart thinking on their part. They could not predict how these freedoms would be twisted and corrupted by deranged, sick individuals for their personal and financial gain. It would have taken a super-genius to predict the likes of L. Ron Hubbard back in 1776. So we are stuck with this one term – “religion” – to describe all of these groups and we get the likes of Frank Flinn to support destructive cults because he thinks it’s better to have that than to have religious tyrrany.
Well, how about an alternative solution? How about we actually take a modern look at this constitutional law and more clearly define what is a religious activity, not to discourage real belief or sincere efforts at faith, but to stop these charlatans, quacks and fanatics who laugh at the Constitution all the way to the bank? Or do we choose to take the bad with the good and put up with the televangelists who blatantly rip off the retirement savings of our senior citizens so they can buy one or two G6s? I mean, are we ever going to draw the line on this? Until we do, we can expect more and more of these religious con men and there are enough ignorant and trusting people out there who will fall under their spell. It’s in our nature to do so.
Flinn further clouds the issues with his next statement, trying to come across as wise or open-minded but really this sounds like gibberish:
“The above reasons convince me that we need to temper sociological analyses with a more phenomenological and hermeneutical approach to the new religions. I take it as a primary hermeneutical principle that the interpreter must first interpret a text or tradition as it interprets itself. That is to say, I cannot presume that I understand the interpretant better than it understands itself. For example, this principle states that I cannot read a religious text unless I let it in some way read me. For authentic interpretation to take place, there needs to be what Hans-Georg Gadamer calls a ‘merging of horizons,’ my own and the text’s. But this cannot take place unless I enter into the horizon of what the text intends and let its world of representation, categories, and figures of speech appear and speak to my own world of representation. This reciprocal principle of interpretation does not require that I believe what the believer believes but asks that I take a step in the direction of believing as the believer believes. In the attempt to understand Islam, for example, I do not become a Muslim. But I can approximate that which is ‘alien’ to me in the Muslim’s world of representation. W. Brede Kristensen writes, ‘By means of empathy (the historian or interpreter) tries to relive in his own experience that which is ‘alien,’ and that, too, he can only approximate.” (p. 211)
This might be a way of saying that Flinn is going to try to put himself into the shoes of the religious believer and when he reads their religous texts, to try to compare it to his own experiences. If so, he could have just said so without all the verbiage. This kind of dense nonsense is not a reason in and of itself that I don’t like academics, but it certainly doesn’t help their cause when they use a lot of words to basically say nothing. There’s another class of people who specialize in such behavior and they are called politicans. They aren’t very popular either.
Now after Flinn has muddied the waters regarding the word “cult”, he now moves on to the real point of his essay which is that Scientology is just like Buddhism, only it’s more modern and uses technology. Except, it’s not and Flinn as a religious scholar should definitely know better. His arguments are superficial and unsound but let’s take a look at them so I can show you how:
“Scientology bears many close resemblances to Buddhism. This affinity is part of Scientology’s own self-understanding: ‘A Scientologist is a first cousin to the Buddhist.’ The central Scientological term ‘Clear’ is roughly equivalent to the Buddhist concept of bodhi, which describes ‘the one awake’ or ‘enlightened one’ who has gained releasement (<i>moksa<i>) from the entangling threads of existence and illusion. By undergoing the auditing techniques, Scientologists hope to rid themselves of ‘engrams’ – mental images or ‘facsimiles’ of past pain, injury or harm that prevent the believer from being ‘at cause’ over matter, energy, space, and time (MEST). In interviews, Scientologists describe the state of being ‘Clear’ as being active rather than passive over one’s life situation. They also identify it with ‘freedom’ and ‘awareness.’ Although Scientologists ascribe the discovery of the ‘auditing technology’ to L. Ron Hubbard’s independent ‘research,’ they nonetheless recognize the Buddhist tradition as part of the church’s ‘antecedents and background.’ Indeed, the many levels and grades of the auditing process can be seen as a refinement and resignification of the Buddhist Eightfold Path in a space-age context. In this respect, Scientology is Buddhism made applicable.” (p. 212)
Flinn is a very confused individual because he is conflating Dianetics and Scientology, when Hubbard himself said that they are two wholly different subjects. In his effort to desperately validate Hubbard, Flinn conveniently writes off a very important point about the state of Clear: it’s a mental state and not a spiritual one.
Dianetics was first conceived in the last 1940s and there are three books which have been published from that time: Dianetics: The Original Thesis, Dianetics: Evolution of a Science and Dianetics: The Modern Science of Mental Health. The words Buddha and bodhi do not appear in any of these books. Why? Because Dianetics did not have anything to do with spirituality or religious thought. It was termed the “modern science of mental health” and was described by Hubbard as a form of psychotherapy. Is there anything in psychotherapy, now or ever, that is trying to bring about spiritual enlightenment or release from the physical world and its endless cycle of life and death? No, they are two wholly different subjects.
Comparing the bodhi of Buddhism and the Dianetic Clear is a false equivalency of the worst kind and indicates that Flinn doesn’t understand the first thing about Dianetics and Scientology. Were I cross-examining him when he was testifying in court, I’m sure that this point alone would have utterly destroyed his credibility as a religious expert on Dianetics and Scientology.
Let me share a little bit more about this, because at one point Hubbard did compare Scientology processing to Buddhism and talked about making bodhi’s in Scientology. In the book The Creation of Human Ability published in 1954, Hubbard said “A bodhi is one who has attained intellectual and ethical perfection by human means, comparable to our Theta Clear in Scientology.” Now it might sound like I’m mincing words, but I’m not when I tell you that a Theta Clear and a Dianetic Clear are two wholly different things. In fact, one is very hard pressed these days to figure out what exactly a Theta Clear was supposed to be or how Hubbard said to go about making one. Between 1952 and 1954, Hubbard spent a bit of time talking in lectures about creating Theta Clears and Cleared Theta Clears and there’s certainly interesting descriptions of how amazing and wonderful these spiritual states of existence were supposed to be, but awful little about how to go about making them. This is why these terms are not even used anymore in Scientology and are really just noted as background material from the early 1950s. Hubbard said later on that the term Operating Thetan, which is what are now the upper levels of Scientology, encompassed the earlier work concerning Theta Clears and Cleared Theta Clears but none of this is related at all to Dianetics. Flinn doesn’t even know that much about it and so is making these stupid comparisons between a Dianetic Clear and Buddhism. His entire argument is flawed from the very outset.
I was interested to see that Flinn in the next part then starts quoting from a book the Church of Scientology put out in 1974 called “Scientology: A World Religion Emerges in the Space Age” which was not written by Hubbard but was a public relations book put out by the Guardian’s Office. This book was literally written by a bunch of Scientologists who were completely ignorant of what Buddhism is really all about but were willing to spout off about it. They only listened to what Hubbard had to say on the subject. In fact, they actually thought that Hubbard was the reincarnation of Buddha and that his very existence fulfilled an ancient Buddhist prophecy about a man with flaming red hair who would come from the West to reunite eastern and western belief systems to form the one true religion. All of that Hubbard nonsense was debunked years ago. There is no such ancient Buddhist prophecy and Hubbard is not Metteya. Here is what Flinn says:
“In Scientology: A World Religion Emerges in the Space Age the Buddhistic elements that coincide with Scientology are enumerated: (1) knowing for oneself, or personal experience, as the test of truth, (2) a scientific understanding of cause and effect in matters of the Spirit (karma), (3) Buddhism’s ‘pragmatic’ concern with human problem solving rather than metaphysics, (4) the Middle Path, which centers on Man and ‘the dynamics of Human development,’ (5) the democratic spirit in Buddhism, and (6) the emphasis on individual action. Any one of these gems could have been taken directly from Bacon’s Novum Organon or William James’ Pragmatism.” (p. 212)
It is almost painful for me to see Scientology being talked about in the same sentence as the work of Francis Bacon or William James. Scientology’s beliefs about a break from the cycle of life and death and attainment of spiritual liberation actually pre-date Buddhism and originate back in old Brahmana teachings.
I’m no expert on the teachings of the Buddha, but from what I did study, the fundamental concepts of cause and effect, for example, are so broad that parallels could be found with almost any belief system. To say that Christ died for our sins and that all we need do to receive grace is to stop sinning is itself a statement of cause and effect, yet I don’t think it would be a wise argument to say that Christianity was ancient Rome’s answer to Buddhism. They are two wholly different subjects. Just because L. Ron Hubbard threw out some gibberish and said it was based on the teachings of Gautama Siddhartha does not mean that Scientology is a modern incarnation of Buddhism. Unfortunately, Flinn goes on to make further comparisons with the Puritans and other religious groups which have about as much validity as what we’ve already covered. I hope that comparative religious studies are more fact-based than what Flinn is demonstrating here.
In the next section, called “From Dianetics to Scientology,” Flinn decides to talk about the transition of Dianetics to Scientology and implies that there were religious elements in Dianetics. This is a very strange line of reasoning, given that the sub-title of Dianetics is “The Modern Science of Mental Health” but Flinn does let little pesky facts like that get in his way. Here’s how he starts:
“Although Dianetics has many transempirical and religious overtones, it falls in the category of a ‘mind-cure’ therapy. Many commentators claim that Scientology is mental therapy masquerading as a religion. The crux of the question, however, is whether one can separate ‘therapy’ from ‘religion’ or even from ‘philosophy’ by a hard-and-fast rule. The word therapeuo (to heal, cure, restore) occurs frequently in the New Testament and refers to both spiritual and physical healings by Jesus of Nazareth. Indeed, there seem to be many kinds of therapy, like the Platonic philosophical sequence: ignorance – conversion to dialectic – illumination, and the Christian religious sequence: sin – repentance through grace -salvation. There are also many kinds of medical and psychoanalytic therapies, like the Freudian sequence: neurosis – analysis – normality; and the radical behaviorist therapy: nervous disorder – modification through psychotropic drugs/psychosurgery – altered behavior.” (p. 214)
Now this is starting to really annoy me, because Flinn could not be showing his apologetics any harder. Where before he blurred the lines between a religion and cult, now he’s trying to do the same for a religion, therapy and philosophy. These are three very distinct things which may integrate in some ways but have clear lines of distinction. Just because the word therapy appears in the Bible does not mean that Christianity is a form of therapy, nor is Platonic philosophy an effort to cure something since ignorance is not a disease in the standard meaning of the word. I told you that this guy was engaging in verbal sleight-of-hand and this is exactly the kind of thing I’m talking about. He then says:
“Although Dianetics had religious and spiritual tendencies, it was not yet a religion in the full sense of the term.” (p. 214)
No, again, Dianetics was not a religion in any sense and displayed absolutely no religious or spiritual tendencies of any kind. It did not acknowledge the presence of a spirit and in fact, stated specifically that no such belief or knowledge was even necessary for Dianetics to work. Flinn is outright misrepresenting the truth now and I can only imagine he is doing that in order to present his faulty case that Dianetics and Scientology are valid religious philosophies. Building an argument on false information is not the way to prove your point.
Flinn goes on in this manner throughout the rest of this section and it’s all just as annoying to someone like me, who actually knows this subject inside and out. The thing is that I think Flinn knows it inside and out too, based on the information he provides, and I suspect he is purposefully misrepresenting it because he’s a cult apologist. There’s no way to verify that as he is dead now, but based solely on this work, I can honestly say that I have no respect for this man as an academic.
Just as another example from this section, Flinn misrepresents the E-meter, Scientology’s tool for locating spiritual trauma and used by auditors to indicate when they are finished in dealing with that trauma in a counselling session. He says this:
“…there was the introduction of the ‘E-Meter’ into the auditing session. Due to a court case, the church places a qualification on the use of the E-Meter: ‘The E-Meter is not intended or effective for diagnosis, treatment or prevention of disease.’ From the perspective I am suggesting, however, the use of the E-Meter is better seen as a ‘technological sacrament.’ Just as Christians define a sacrament (e.g., baptism) as an ‘outward or visible sign of inward or invisible grace,’ so Scientologists see the E-Meter as an external or visible indicator of an internal or invisible state.” (p. 215)
The E-meter is a sacrament? What is he talking about? A sacrament by definition is a religious ceremony such as baptism or confirmation. The E-meter has nothing ceremonial connected with it in any way. It is an electronic device that auditors are trained very exactly to use, in the same way that a scientist is trained to use a microscope or an astronomer is trained to use a telescope. It is a device to find and eradicate emotional or spiritual trauma, not a religious sacrament. What Flinn is suggesting is simply delusional.
With this kind of nonsense, there is little sense in continuing to pursue Flinn’s argument to its conclusion, because I think I’ve shown it’s already built on such flawed foundations that this essay isn’t worth the paper it’s printed on. However, there are a couple of other points he makes which I thought might be of mild interest in his next section. It’s called “Scientology’s Self-Understanding: Seven Characteristics” wherein he lays out seven comparatives of Scientology to other religious practices, almost all of them totally wrong. Here’s the first one:
“1. RESEARCH VERSUS REVELATION. Religions like Judaism and Christianity approach the dimension of the sacred ‘from the top down.’ The sacred is believed to come to humans in an external revelation (e.g., Moses and the burning bush), which is delivered from ‘above’ and which is then codified into a sacred scripture. Other religious traditions, however, approach the dimension of the sacred ‘from the bottom up’ or ‘from the inward to the outward.’ Instead of looking upward for a revelatory experience that is deemed beyond human capacity, this latter type of religion looks inward for the illumination of the sacred. Both Buddhism and Scientology fall into this second category. There have been examples of the second type within Christianity. Certain Christian groups like the Quakers, which have stressed the doctrine of Glorification/Sanctification (Holy Spirit) over the doctrines of Creation (Father) and Redemption (Son) have had a tendency to be illuminationist rather than revelationist. Scientology adds a ‘scientific’ framework to its Buddhistic base. Scientologists universally express the belief that Hubbard’s discoveries are founded on ‘research’ even when this means examining religious teachings from other traditions. The research model has allowed the movement to be rather open-ended: This explains, for example, much about the transition from Dianetics to Scientology as well as the seemingly endless subdivision and expansion of the levels of auditing. The research model also reinforces experimental and experiential knowing for oneself. The common expression is ‘If it is not true for you, it is not true.’ There are qualifications to this dictum.” (p. 217)
Flinn has to almost completely ignore the entire content of the confidential upper OT levels to assert that Scientology is not revelationist, since on these levels Hubbard specifically tells his adherents exactly what they are going to encounter and how they are to handle it. This is especially true on OT III, which covers the whole Xemu episode. If that whole Xemu story is not the very definition of a revelation for Scientologists, I don’t know what is.
Also, Flinn quotes the Hubbard dictum that “if it is not true for you, it is not true.” But check this out: scientific discoveries are not relative in nature nor are they supposed to depend on the viewpoint of the observer to be true or false. They either are based on evidence or they aren’t. If a scientific discovery is true, it’s always true until it’s proven false. So the idea of relative truths, such as “what is true for you” should be utter nonsense in Scientology if its actually based on evidence-based research. Flinn conveniently ignores this glaring contradiction, showing again that he left his critical thinking at home when he wrote this drivel.
“2. STANDARDNESS VERSUS INFALLIBILITY/INERRANCY. Although Scientology places a high priority on knowing for oneself, there is one aspect of the religious system that functions as an absolute or near absolute. That is the ‘standardness’ of ‘the tech.’ The standardness of the technology in Scientology can be compared to the doctrine of infallibility of the pope and magisterium in Roman Catholicism and the doctrine of the inerrancy in scripture in certain branches of Protestantism. Whereas infallibility and inerrancy guarantee the content of teaching (‘the message’), the doctrine of standardness in technical application guarantees the form of the teaching in Scientology (‘the medium’).” (p. 217)
This is only superficially true in a few ways. First, the infallibility of the pope and bishops in Catholicism would not translate at all in Scientology. Infallibility has to do with how the Pope and his bishops deal with questions of church doctrine on matters of faith and morals. When such instances occur, and they are rare, their pronouncements on the matter are said to be infallible according to the teachings in the Bible. However, in Scientology, no one is empowered to interpret Hubbard’s words or clarify his doctrine in any way. This constitutes what is called “verbal tech” and is a crime with severe penalties. That doesn’t mean that Scientology’s leader, David Miscavige, doesn’t do it all the time. He’s just never been called out on it because no one in Scientology cares what L. Ron Hubbard had to say anymore. They are like sheep following their leader and they’ll accept anything Miscavige has to say no matter how wildly divergent it is with Hubbard’s original texts.
The bigger elephant in the room in regards to Hubbard’s so-called “standard tech” though is what I talk about in my video about the Keeping Scientology Working policy letter. It’s a form of mind control to ensure that Scientologists do not question anything Hubbard or Miscavige tell them to think or do. This too makes it quite different from other mainstream religions, where questioning authority may be frowned upon but it won’t get you immediately excommunicated.
I could go on but I’m kind of done with this guy. There is one final point I’ll make and it is not about what Flinn said, but what he didn’t say. This essay is a whitewash of Scientology’s beliefs, but Flinn fails to comment on anything related to Scientology ethics, disconnection, PTS/SP labelling and the actual activities the Church engages in to suppress free speech and free will. None of these are hard things to miss when examining Scientology’s beliefs or activities so it’s telling that Flinn fails to comment on any of it. But of course, if he did so, he’d open up the floodgates to very uncomfortable questions which would tear his whole comparative arguement to pieces. So much for Frank Flinn’s apologetics.
Well, this week was a massive disappointment but not wholly unexpected given the lack of quality or integrity that most of these academics have shown thus far in Lewis’ book. Next week, we’ll tackle Chapter 11, called Scientology, a “New Age” Religion? by Andreas Grunschlof. Hopefully, that will be a little more interesting.
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