Attending the Reason Rally this past weekend was an amazing experience and educational in ways that went far beyond what I think the organizers intended. I’ve been quite angered over the past couple of weeks as some things have started coming to light for me which I would like to start to share with you. None of what I’m about to say is meant to tarnish or paint any broad group of people or activists with the hate brush or say that I’m in any way against equal rights for everyone. I think I’ve made it pretty clear on my channel so far that I am an ardent supporter of anyone being who and what they want to be so long as that doesn’t harm anyone else or infringe on basic human rights for everyone.
Being a critical thinker and doing my best to apply those principles to my life, I’ve tried to keep an open mind about things, especially those that I am not an expert in. I am someone who admittedly led a cloistered life until just a few years ago since I lived in the bubble world of Scientology’s Sea Organization. I spent quite a bit of time off the beaten path of the world’s news and social internet world.
One of the many unexpected and unpredictable consequences of coming out of that world was a kind of culture shock and reality adjustment that comes with immersing oneself in social media. In a way, this has its advantages because I have had the viewpoint of a “stranger in a strange land” – someone who gets to see a lot of this for the first time and wonder just what the hell it’s all about.
Critical thinking is a wonderful subject. Learning about it quickly connected me with the world of skepticism, which is intimately tied in with humanism and from there, it’s a short hop into atheism. I’ve talked about how I really needed help and peole to talk to when I was still fresh out of Scientology and mentally spinning trying to figure out what had happened to me. Skeptics and atheists understood what it means to come out of an intensely deep form of religious thought control. Many of them had been deep into their own religious beliefs for years and had their own awakening and separation from the beliefs they were raised with and they knew how difficult it could be. I’ll always be so thankful for their help.
I want to promote critical thinking and how much it has helped, so much so that I decided to position myself as a critical thinker to the world at large, not just an ex-Scientologist or cult survivor. It was also very important to me to maintain a viewpoint of tolerance for belief and ideas. I truly believe that the only thing we should be intolerant of is intolerance. When we as a species close off other people’s ideas or try to control what other people can or cannot think or say or do just because we think differently from them, we cut off the freedom of individual expression and belief and that could destroy our future.
Critical thinking means lots of things to lots of people. People who I think are about as far away from critical thinking as a Twinkie is to healthy eating call themselves critical thinkers and are 100% sure they justified in doing so. One of the ways you can detect such people is by how close-minded they are and how unwilling they are to critically examine their own information. This is a trap we all fall into and it’s the hallmark of a true critical thinker that he or she can keep an open mind at all times. It’s actually kind of scary how divorced people can get from facts or evidence or reality and use terms like critical thinking to describe what they are doing. Yep, I’m looking at you 9/11 Truthers and you wacky Flat Earth Creationists.
But those guys are just the low hanging fruit, the easy to spot irrational thinkers who obviously cannot deal with real world evidence over their delusions. Scientologists are amongst these kinds of thinkers and I used to be one of them, so I know how this kind of irrationality can take hold and what a dominating force it can be in someone’s life. Even though some out there like to laugh at Scientology and some of the other irrational garbage out there, none of us are above falling for it.
I’ve managed to overcome the Scientology nonsense through a lot of education and applying what I’ve learned about skepticism and reason and also through my writing and videos. I think it takes this kind of dedicated work to recover and I’ve encouraged people who have been in the same place I was to do the same.
All of this has put me in a position of seeing what I call extremism, or destructive cult thinking, in subjects that have nothing to do with religious dogma. I started talking about this months ago on this channel, talking about how black-and-white thinking and us-vs-them mentalities are fostered and encouraged in politics, sports and in social issues such as third wave feminism or race relations.
It’s not news to find out that there are people out there who twist facts and use misinformation to indoctrinate their followers into misguided thinking. Some of them take humanist ideas such as human rights, free speech and equality under the law and use these ideas to make monsters out of ordinary people. These are extremists in the same way that the Westboro Baptists and Islamic terrorists are extremists.
Westboro Baptists don’t represent the views of the majority of peaceful and honestly caring believers. I don’t think for a second that all Christians hate gays or soldiers. In the end, what the Westboro Baptists really end up doing is giving Christians a bad name, which is why Christians should speak out and do something about these extremists instead of simply saying “well, that’s not me, so don’t lump me in with them.” It takes more than that to fight extremism.
The same for Islamic terrorists who surely don’t represent the majority view of followers of Muhammed, but who do represent an open threat to people everywhere. We don’t have to hate on all Islamists to call out terrorism but we also can’t ignore the fact that a small minority of Islamic fundamentalists are violent, dangerous people who need to be stopped. It’s not religious bigotry or hate speech to say that murderers murder people, no matter what reasons they use to justify it.
These are just two very easy-to-see examples of what I’m talking about to illustrate a point. There are all kinds of extremism out there and what has been coming uncomfortably close to home to me lately is how closely aligned some of these extremists are with skepticism, rationality and critical thinking. Or rather, how closely they pretend to align with humanist principles but are actually pushing an entirely different agenda.
Fighting this kind of extremism is one of the main reasons I started my Sensibly Speaking Podcast with Ruth McLeod and is one of the things I’ll be talking about a lot more in future vidoes on this channel. It’s really just a continuation of all the things I’ve already been talking about with Scientology. If you are fascinated by Scientology and all the goofy nonsense that goes on with it, then the things I’m talking about here are right up your alley. I’m not leaving off on talking about Scientology, I’m broadening the scope of the discussion to areas that concern a lot more people than the few thousand remaining members of that dying destructive cult. And for all the same reasons that you, my viewers, have been fascinated by and interested in Scientology, you should also check out my critical thinking content and see what I’ve been talking about. Believe me, it’s all very closely related and everything I do in the future will continue to be tied in with this.
This doesn’t mean I’m not going to continue pumping out information about Scientology specifically. There are some commenters who have said that’s all you want to see from me and think I’m not qualified to talk about anything else. I disagree but I understand why you might think that. I’ve taken a lot of time to expand my expertise and I think my background qualifies me to talk quite a bit about the dangers of extremist beliefs. My education and experience come from the real world, not book learning, and I believe that qualifies me in ways no academic could ever achieve.
I also feel that there comes a point where the exclusive focusing on Scientology alone can become regressive and self-defeating in the same way that you can put out a fire in a closet but ignore the fact that the house is burning down. There are bigger forces at play here and bigger issues to talk about that concern all of us. Scientology has a direct effect on about .00000625 percent of the population of Earth. However, the methods that L. Ron Hubbard and David Miscavige use to indoctrinate and control their followers are used by thousands of people around the world right now to control the thoughts and actions of tens of millions of people. The methods are the same and I actually think this is one of the reasons people are so fascianted by Scientology in the first place. They may tell themselves they are above being fooled the same way Scientologists were, but I think secretly we all know or suspect that we are all susceptible to being fooled the same way and we don’t want that.
I’d love to hear any feedback or comments you have on what I’ve said here. Just leanring about this and how it affects our lives and those we love makes a big difference because then we aren’t so easily fooled and aren’t part of the problem. So let’s work together – you and me – to talk about and fight extremism in politics, religion and society, and maybe, just maybe, we can do some good in the process.
Thank you for watching.