The beginning of the end for Scientology?

Posted: October 27, 2009 in General, World News
Tags: , ,

In a French court today, the Church of Scientology was found guilty of organised fraud and fined a total of 600,000 Euros with their French head given a suspended sentence of two years and a fine of 30,000 Euros. The crime this relates to was forcibly persuading members to pay large sums of money to receive teachings and wisdom from its leaders, indeed one of the women confirmed she had paid around 20,000 Euros to the church in the mid-90’s.

Scientology was founded as a “religion” by science-fiction writer L Ron Hubbard in the 1950s, as a successor to his Dianetics program of counselling, known as auditing. Many respected psychologists and doctors of the time were quick in denouncing Dianetics as useless and a sham, with no medical evidence that it was a workable psychoanalytical treatment. Hubbard stated at the time that Scientology was created as an extension to this program, and not intended to become a full religion. In its early years Scientology faced many challenges, including from the US Food and Drug Administration over its electropsychometers or E-meters. It wasn’t until 1993 that it was legally recognised as a religion, with the IRS granting it tax-exempt status, but despite this recognition, many countries refused to follow suit and recognise it as a religion, including France where it is designated as a sect, designed to make money for its owners.

The beliefs of Scientology are what you’d expect from a science-fiction writer, in that we were seeded on Earth in primordial times by an alien race, purely for their own pleasure. Scientologists believe that we are all actually aliens trapped in human form and waiting for the days of enlightenment where we will be set free to live as wholly spiritual beings, but in the meantime we will continue to pass from one body to the next at death, in their own version of reincarnation. A lot of the beliefs of Scientology go against widely-accepted and trusted scientific data, and play on the flaws of the weak and mentally vulnerable. This is not helped by the fact that Hubbard actively and specifically targeted celebrities to convert to Scientology, and use their powers of influence to convert more people.

Controversy has often followed the religion, with accusations that it uses heavy pressure to coerce people into paying large sums of money for its courses, vitamins and treatments…apparently one hour of auditing can cost $1000 at a time, with books and other materials similarly overpriced. Also, in 1995, a major case against Scientology was brought by the State of Florida’s Attorney General on charges of abuse or neglect, and practising medicine without a license when a young lady, Lisa McPherson, died under the care of the Flag Service Organisation (one of Scientology’s branches). However, due to errors in the preparing of the post-mortem reports after autopsy, the case was dropped although Ms McPherson’s family brought a civil case against Scientology. The court acknowleged there were highly irregular practices within the religion, but due to the errors of the autopsy were unable to proceed with prosecution and the case was dropped.

To me, Scientology has always been a flim-flam “religion”, designed as nothing more than a lucrative money-spinner for its creator, and also as a way of legitimizing his beliefs with regards to the practices of psychotherapy and psychoanalysis at a time when he was denounced by almost all medical experts. The only reason it’s as popular as it is now is because of that celebrity endorsement factor, because as I’ve said before, we live in a world that is influenced by the actions of celebrities, and many people will do anything to be like their heroes including follow their endorsements. It’s worked for advertising since television and radio became popular mediums, and it will continue to work in whatever way it’s put to use. I’m proud of the judgment made in the case in France today, and I am hoping that it will make the world take a close look at Scientology, and see it as more than just a harmless fad that celebrities like to follow. It’s time that its practices were put under tough scrutiny and its methods of gaining finances are laid bare for all to see. Maybe it’s time for the US to review the tax-exempt status seeing as that status is intended for genuine non-profit organisations like charities and proper religions. It’s time this fad died.

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