Scientology has been featured in the news and entertainment media more than ever before in the last few years and many people have questions about it. This video is going to answer some of the most common questions I’ve seen people asking in a simple and straightforward way using as little Scientology language as possible. If you want answers, stay tuned.
Hi, my name is Chris Shelton and I was an active Scientologist for 27 years. For the past three years I’ve been making YouTube videos about Scientology, critical thinking and other destructive cults as well. I also host a weekly Q&A show where I have answered hundreds of different Scientology-related questions. Over the past few years, Scientology has been a point of intense interest for a growing number of people who have come to learn about it from the HBO documentary Going Clear: Scientology and the Prison of Belief and more recently from Leah Remini’s A&E series Scientology and the Aftermath. In social media forums, on Twitter, Reddit and on Facebook, I continually see people asking fairly simple questions about Scientology and I understand why they don’t find the answers using Google. If you aren’t already familiar with the various blogs, websites and chat forums where this sort of thing is talked about, it can look very confusing to someone who is newly dipping their toe in the Scientology pool. So the purpose of this video is to give you straightforward answers to some of the most commonly asked questions. Of course, these answers are from my onw knowledge and experience with Scientology and I admit that I am not unbiased. I experienced a great deal of mental and physical abuse in Scientology and it’s not something that I advocate for or endorse. There are others who may have other information and experience. I’m not trying to put myself out there as the be-all-end-all on this subject but I did get a chance in my life to study and experience a great deal of Scientology behind the scenes and I try to bring all of that into my answers.
In the description section below on my YouTube channel, I’ve listed out each question I’m answering in this video along with the time code link for where that answer starts. If you want to just see the answer to a specific question, just use the link to jump to that point in the video. Alright, let’s get started.
What is Scientology?
Scientology is a money-making scam consisting of a long series of classes and counselling services which people are required to pay for under the guise of religious donations and which are supposed to raise a person’s spiritual awareness and well being. Initially, Scientology presents itself as a kind of self-help group which offers tools and techniques that will help a person live a better, easier and more stable life. Almost uniformly, people join Scientology because they have a problem or personal issue they want help dealing with and which they are told Scientology can make go away.
Once a person starts doing Scientology services, staff members work very hard to keep the person continuously involved by attending its classes or counselling services as well as its events. While it usually starts out with short, easy services that are based mostly on common sense principles, soon the prices and the push to have Scientology ever present in your life escalates. Many people vacate at this point but for those who have been convinced that Scientology really is everything it claims to be, they stick with it despite the intrusions into their life. They come to think that its worth going through the hassle and abuse to achieve Scientology’s ultimate goals.
Once you move past the introductory services and get into mainline Scientology, you are promised to be taken to new states of being never before attainable in all of Mankind’s history, supposedly because of the discoveries of writer and philosopher L. Ron Hubbard. Hubbard was a master manipulator and charlatan who may or may not have actually believed in what he was selling, but who eventually died in hiding and alone, senile and paranoid and literally afraid of imaginary spirits who he thought were trying to control him.
People who get involved in Scientology can end up paying out hundreds of thousands or even millions of dollars over years of involvement, slowly but inevitably convinced that Scientology is the only group in the world, indeed in the whole universe, which is capable of bringing spiritual salvation and personal immortality to each and every person. Scientologists do want to take over the world using Hubbard’s methodologies, which they call “clearing the planet” and create a new civilization very different from the one we have now. When asked what such a world would look like, former members have routinely pointed to North Korea.
Scientology states that its goals are to create a world without insanity, war or criminality, where honest beings have rights and where Man is free to rise to greater heights. Ironically, everything that the Church of Scientology does to its members ensures that this will never happen because it is a documented fact that Scientology creates insanity and criminality and is constantly involved in legal and social battles with anyone who has anything negative to say about it.
What is Dianetics?
In May of 1950, L. Ron Hubbarrd wrote Dianetics: The Modern Science of Mental Health, ostensibly as a new form of do-it-yourself psychotherapy which he intended to have replace psychiatry and psychology. Hubbard was a hypnotist and initially used hypnotism in developing what became the Dianetics procedure, a kind of regression therapy which has people re-experience past incidents of pain and unconsciousness in order to recount what happened over and over again. In Dianetics, these incidents are called engrams. The Dianetics procedure is supposed to unburden the person by relieving any of the mental and physical stress and trauma connected with these engrams. Based mainly on the works of Freud and Breuer from the late 1800s, psychologists and psychiatrists have shown since 1950 that this kind of regression therapy is very hit-and-miss and hardly ever use it. To this day, the Church of Scientology stands behind Hubbard’s claims that Dianetics can cure any number of mental and physical problems, including colds, bronchitis, leukemia, cancer, poor or no eyesight, goiter, radiation poisoning and arthritis as well as speed up the healing of broken bones and other ailments. Yet there is not one peer-reviewed case study of this ever having been done. Hubbard’s claims are wholly without any scientific merit and Dianetics has properly been labelled a pseudoscience by every reputable doctor, psychologist and psychiatrist who were not themselves already Scientologists.
How is it that this abusive group has tax exemption?
The first thing to make clear is that when the IRS grants tax exemption to a religious organization, they do not first do a thorough and searching investigation of that group, nor is the IRS ever deciding on the validity of the religion in question. Based on a very loose set of guidelines listed in the IRS tax code section 501(c)(3), if any group applies for non-profit religious status and meets those criteria, the IRS grants them tax exemption.
The Church of Scientology was first incorporated in 1954 and gained 501(c)(3) tax exemption by the IRS soon after. Through the rest of the 1950s and 60s, Hubbard built up numerous Churches of Scientology around the world and acted as the central headquarters manager and senior executive officer of the entire structure. Hubbard was personally profiting to the tune of hundreds of thousands of dollars a year – in today’s terms that would be millions. The Church was paying Hubbard a salary and all his family’s living expenses on top of that, plus Hubbard would regularly just take money from individual church bank accounts and call them “loans.” By 1967, the IRS had caught on and done a full investigation, resulting in the Church’s tax exemption being revoked and Scientology labelled a commercial activity.
For 26 years, the Church of Scientology fought in the court system, never paying a dime in taxes. By filing thousands of individual lawsuits against the IRS by individual Scientology parishioners as well as waging an effective counter-PR campaign against the IRS in the late 1980s, the Church of Scientology managed to do what very few others have ever done in history: they wore down the IRS’s administrators and legal budget. In 1991, David Miscavige met with the IRS Commissioner and got him to agree to review the church’s tax exempt status in exchange for the Church dropping all its lawsuits and not smearing the IRS in the media anymore. Two years later, they had hammered out a confidential agreement and the Church regained its tax exemption. The agreement saved the Church tens of millions of dollars in backtaxes.
As shown by John Oliver in late 2015 when he gained tax exemption for a church he started on his HBO television show, it was named Our Lady of Perpetual Exemption, it is ridiculously easy to gain tax exemption. The IRS is a vast bureaucracy that was restructured in 1998 and due to a Congressional oversight, they eliminated four regional directors whose job was to oversee and investigate tax exempt organizations for fraud or tax abuse, so this function has not been filled for years. This has worked in favor of all churches out there, so there has not been any real pressure brought to bear on the IRS or Congress to fix this issue. This leaves only two people who actually have the power to investigate and revoke tax exemption for religious groups: the Secretary of the Treasury and the IRS Commissioner. It’s not impossible to get these people to act, but it takes a great deal of pressure on them and evidence of overt criminal activity for a religious group to come to their attention and for them to invest the time and resources to investigate and deal with that group.
This is why the IRS is slow to act and why it’s so hard to get Scientology’s tax exemption revoked.
Why are people so stupid as to get involved with a destructive cult?
Honestly, too many people make comments or ask questions like this which only serve to degrade and demean Scientologists and former Scientologists. One thing that I’d like anyone watching this to know is that people who join the Church of Scientology, or any destructive cult for that matter, are not sub-human morons who have no common sense or education. Sure, there are assholes in Scientology, but there are assholes in every group. What people who ask this question don’t realize is that there are thousands of destructive cults out there and the ones that survive for longer than a few years become very good at presenting a good public face while getting away with some really nasty stuff behind closed doors.
No one knowingly joins a cult. They join a group that they think is going to help them or be of some benefit to themselves, their family and to everyone in general. It takes years, literally years, of involvement before any of the really weird Scientology stuff like Xenu shows up. Only about 5% of Scientologists ever learn about Xenu and it takes not just years of counselling work but hundreds of thousands of dollars to get there, so when you judge Scientologists by the stuff you learn on the internet, what you need to know is that you are learning things about Scientology that most Scientologists don’t even know. It’s probably best to not be so judgy and show a little more compassion.
Why do Scientologists sign a billion year contract?
There are three levels of involvement in Scientology: the lowest level of committment is regular people who lead regular lives but pay for classes and counselling. These are called Scientology public. The next level are people who decide to work for city level churches, like the ones here in Denver or in New York or London or Perth. Staff at these organizations sign short-term contracts lasting 2.5 or 5 years. The Church isn’t obligated to pay them anything; they are strictly religious volunteers who get free services in exchange for their work. Then there is the Sea Organization, the hardcore, full-time group of Scientologists who do nothing but live, eat and breath Scientology all day every day. When a Scientologist is recruited to join the Sea Org, they sign a piece of paper that is not a legally binding contract but is more of a symbolic committment to work for the Church of Scientology for the next billion years. No one has ever been sued or taken to task legally for “breaking” the Sea Org contract because obviously no one could oversee or enforce such a thing.
Why doesn’t the government/FBI/police do something?
They have. The police, the FBI and other government agencies have extensively investigated Dianetics and Scientology, going all the way back to the 1950s. For example, this was how the IRS took away their tax exemption in 1967. The FBI also raided the Church of Scientology in 1977 after evidence came to light that the Church had engaged in the most invasive infiltration of the US government to have ever been carried out in our country’s history. Eleven people went to jail as a result of that investigation, including Hubbard’s wife.
More recently, ex-Scientologists have come forward and reported what they know to government and police agencies. Prosecution of many of the crimes carried out by individual Scientologists has been hampered by statutes of limitations that have run out, Scientology’s purchased influence of police and government officials and a nearly infinite legal budget which allows the Church to drag out or delay legal proceedings for years, wearing down the resources and budgets of anyone who goes after them. This isn’t right or good or just, but that’s not really what our legal system is all about. It’s about rules and laws and procedure. The Church hires the very best lawyers and investigators who can game the system for as long as necessary to keep them out of trouble.
This is not to say that Scientology is unbeatable, doesn’t make mistakes or is somehow impervious to justice. It means that clear-cut evidence of criminal activity that will stand up in court is necessary to take Scientology to task and so far, no one has really been up to making that happen.
Where is Shelly?
Shelly Miscavige is the wife of David Miscavige, the leader of the Church of Scientology since the 1980s and Captain of the Sea Organization. When someone in the Sea Org pisses Miscavige off, which is incredibly easy to do because he’s got a mean streak that Stalin would envy, they are often exiled literally to some other country or area where Miscavige will never have to see or hear from them again. When I was in the Sea Org, I met plenty such people.
In 2005, Shelly was working on a series of orders while Miscavige was away. When he returned, for some inexplicable reason he was furious with the fact that she had actually organized things at Scientology’s international headquarters in Riverside County, California according to his instructions and he had her exiled to a senior church organization hidden in the mountains near Lake Tahoe. This place is called the Church of Spiritual Technology and Shelly is up there working on whatever secret projects they do, mostly involved with preserving L. Ron Hubbard’s written and spoken words on indestructible media for storage in mountain vaults that will survive a nuclear holocaust. Yes, that really is a thing Scientology is doing.
Why are Scientologists so anti-psychiatry?
There are a couple of reasons for this, all going back to L. Ron Hubbard’s personal animosity towards psychology and especially psychiatry. In 1948 or ’49, Hubbard sent his Dianetics manuscript and research notes to the American Psychiatric Association and American Medical Association with the intent that his ideas about the mind and mental therapy would gain acceptance and the weight of their authority, thereby making him famous. Instead, they laughed at his ridiculous pseudoscientific claims which did not have any evidence or case studies worth mentioning, nor any peer review to back them up. As was Hubbard’s way when faced with criticism of any kind, he decided that if they weren’t with him, they were against him and that they were evil and had to be destroyed.
After Dianetics was released and became a bestseller, Hubbard worked tirelessly to denigrate and destroy psychiatry, claiming it was fraudulent, destructive and eventually worked it in to a vast, ages-old conspiracy where he claimed that psychiatrists were and always had been the root of all evil in this and all past lives going back millions of years. In 1969, Hubbard started a Church-funded organization called the Citizens Commission for Human Rights or CCHR which has the sole purpose of exterminating psychiatry.
Because Hubbard took every opportunity in his lectures and written works to criticize psychology and psychiatry, this attitude has infected every Scientologist. They truly believe that every psychiatrist works with criminal intent to harm their patients and inflict the most damage possible on society at large. They also think they are in a kind of war against psychiatry specifically and think that psychiatrists actively work against Scientology. It’s a kind of delusional paranoia, though, because when you talk to psychiatrists or psychologists about Scientology, they either don’t know what you’re talking about or shrug because they don’t care about Scientology at all, except for cases where they have had to treat former members of Scientology or other destructive cults and are aware of the damage these cults do.
As I mentioned at the beginning, I’ve been writing and creating Scientology-related videos for the past couple of years and there is a wealth of content on my YouTube channel about this topic. I’ve also written a critical analysis of Scientology called Scientology: A to Xenu – An Insider’s Guide to What Scientology is Really All About which you can get on Amazon.
More content will be rolling out for at least the next year as I interview more former members, therapists and cult experts, expose more of Scientology’s abusive practices and take apart Scientology basics to explain the pros and cons of Scientology’s beliefs and methods. If you are interested in this, subcribe to my channel and check out what I’ve already posted. I think between my Critical Q&A series and the many other videos I’ve made, you’ll not only find answers to almost any question you have, but you’ll learn a lot more about destructive cult influences in our society, which go far beyond just the Church of Scientology.
Thank you for watching.