There are so many cults in America that there is no room to mention all of them. It is just enough to mention that America has more cults than genuine churches that preach the truth. The country has actually been inundated with so many false religions that majorly concentrated on domestic church planting. According to Zuckerman (2003), the countries population has increased by a third within a short period of time and the greatest number of the increased population comes from immigrants if not their decedents. These people have come along with so many religions such of which cannot be really described on what they are really after. One such religion is scientologist religion. This paper gives a discussion on the scientologist religion as a cult in America.
Scientologist religion was founded in 1953 by an author by the name L.Ron Hubbard who claimed to have the power to clear people of unhappiness, trauma, and ethical transgression and make them reach a state of complete control or ‘Operating Thetan’. Hibbard, was born in 1911 in Nebraska and took part in the World War II as a member of the US Navy. He however later made complaints of the administration of the Veterans about what he claimed to be a seriously affected mind and some suicidal inclinations (Zuckerman, 2003). Nevertheless he was also a moderately successful writer, part filmmaker, and part story teller. After some time outside the Navy, some of the church brochures falsely described him to be an extensively decorated hero of World War II who was unfortunately blinded and crippled while at work just to make people attracted to the cult. Hubbard was in fact pronounced dead on two different occasions after which he was said to have been miraculously resurrected by the power of Scientologist religion. The doctorate that he claimed to have received from Sequoia University was only but some fake male order degree. In one case where the cult sued one researcher looking into the Hubbard’s biography, the judge made a ruling that Hubbard was only but a pathological liar.
In reality this religion is actually a huge global racket which survives by tearing its followers in a Mafia-like behavior. In the past decade, there was a time when its prosecution seemed to be cutting down on its menace. Zuckerman (2003) argues that there were eleven top leaders of the religion including even the founder’s wife who were actually sent to prison some times back in the early 1980s. They were charged for burglarizing, infiltrating and wiretapping several government and private agencies to tray and prevent their investigations from going on.
In the recent past, hundreds of long term followers of Scientology religion, most of who claimed to have been physically or mentally abused made up their minds and decided to quit the church and even went ahead and criticized the kind of work the church was involved in. Some even sued the church on several occasions and won: the church has compensated some of them to a value of $500,000. In a number of times, judges have labeled the religion as paranoid individual and dangerous because you could never tell what he might be thinking of. West & Maclean (1999) state that despite all these outrage and litigation, Scientology has not been stopped. It boasts of about 700 centers in a total of 65 countries and even threatens to become pervasive and insidious than ever.
Scientologist religion has been said to be working on going mainstream but this strategy has drawn so much criticism and even drawn a renewed law that enforces campaign against it. Most of its followers have been accused of committing a number of financial crimes as the church is busy on the other side trying to attract the unwary using a number of front groups in ways like publishing, healthcare, remedial education and even consultation. One of the group sacred texts was written by this same founder in 1950. In the first part of the book, he uses a crude psychotherapeutic skill which he refers to as auditing (West & Maclean, 1999). He also made up a simplified lie detector which he referred to as an E meter. This technique was apparently supposed to measure electronic changes within the skin of a human being while subjects made discussions about intimate details about their past. It is the same E-meter technique that he used to hold counseling sessions where he claimed to be in apposition to cure blindness, and wash away their sorrows in addition to improving their appearance and intelligence.
As West & Maclean (1999) put it, n Hollywood, the religion has attracted so many stars as their followers by recruiting most of them aggressively and regally pumping most of them at its Celebrity centers. This is actually a collection of clubhouses which offer very expensive counseling together with career guidance. Some of the celebrity followers include people like John Travolta, Tom Cruise, actresses like Mimi Rogers, Kirstie Alley and Anne Archer. Others include Palm Spring mayor Sonny Bono, Nancy Cartwright, Bat Simpson among many more.
According to Dawson (2006) the Cult Awareness Network revels that there is no other group that prompts a great number of telephone pleas like Scientology. Cynthia Kisser, the network’s executive director, Chicago branch even describes Scientology to be the most ruthless and terroristic cult in America. She adds that there is no cult that extracts more money the same way Scientology does. A former six key leader of the church, Vicki Aznaran also agrees with this fact and claims that its one of the reason he left it. He even goes ahead to call it a criminal group in all its spheres.
There was a time when TIME conducted a research to find out the reach of Scientology by interviewing over 150 people and reviewing several court records related to it. It was very evident that the church officials did not want to be interviewed and they completely stood their ground. This investigation gives an impression that the religion is a depraved but still thriving enterprise making so much money than most of the most profitable business organizations. While most cults do not succeed to outlast their founder, Scientology has prospered by a great margin since the death of Hubbard’s that occurred in 1986 (West & Maclean, 1999).
One of the court filings describes the church as being a church of spiritual technology. Record has it that it made an income of $503 million within the first year of his death. Most of the defectors explain that the original organization has stashed millions of dollars amounting to $400 in foreign accounts in places such as Cyprus, Switzerland, and Liechtenstein (Dawson, 2006). The religion is estimated to have about 50,000 active members which is less that the 8 million that it claims to have. However, this figure might ring true because so many people have been affected by the group either directly or directly.
At present, the group’s leader is David Miscavige, who is only about 31 years of age. To make matters worse, he is even said to be a high school drop out. Some of the defectors describe him as a ruthless cunning and paranoid individual that he even covered his glass of water with a plastic wrap because he is scared of his enemies. His main obsession is to obtain credibility for the group within the 21 century. Dawson (2006) also adds that the group also has other tactics that helps it in its operations with examples being the public relation powerhouse Hill that is aimed at helping the church to get rid of the negativity that it has been associated with. It also joined the group of household names like Pepsi and Sony in sponsoring Ted Turner’s Goodwill Games also in an attempt to shade the negative image that it has been associated with.
You can never miss, full page advertisements of the group in some of the common publications like Business Week and Newsweek. Such ads normally refer to the religion as a “philosophy”. It also supplements these ads with a couple of TV adverts which tout various books published by the group. One strategy that has definitely kept the group in the line light is its recruitment of respectable and wealth professionals through a number of consulting groups that normally hind their ties to the group but in real sense they carry the agenda of Scientology. These groups normally come in the name of charitable groups or career advisory groups and attract the respectable professionals as support people. In the long run, these people find themselves advocating for the values and agendas of Scientologist religion (Dawson, 2006).
Currently the religion makes costly investments in new services with the passion of its founder. Its doctrines also warn that even followers who have been cleared of any engrams still face huge spiritual dangers if they are not pushed to a greater and more expensive level. Psychiatrists claims that these sessions have the potential of producing a drugged-like euphoria controlled by the mind that can keep its customers coming back each and every time to get more of the sessions and its teachings (Zuckerman, 2003). New comers can also earn commissions for every new member they recruit so that they could use this commission to pay for their fees. All this is done with the aim of either joining the church staff or becoming auditors themselves. Such promises would therefore keep people coming back as they bring in new members.
According to Becker (2008), one victim of such a business of selling religion was one Harriet Baker. This is an old lady whose husband died of cancer while she was at 73 years old. A member of the Scientologist religion turned up at he home in Lost Angeles with a $1,300 auditing package that he claimed would cure her grief. After $15,000, the Scientologists realized that Baker’s house was debt free. It is after this that they came up with a plan for a $45,000 mortgage. They lured her and gave her so much pressure to tap more of their auditing to a point where she was to be assisted by her children to get out of the shock. When she came to demand for $27,000 refund for the services she did not use, she never received even a single cent of what she wanted. She had no option other than sell her house.
Another victim was Noah Lottick who even decided to take his life because of the influence he got from this group. He had paid over $5000 towards church counseling. Close relatives and friends say that his behavior had also changed to the worse. He even told mentioned to his parents the idea that mentors of Scientologist religion had the powers to read minds. It is because of the kind of brain washing he had received from the group that he did not agree to the fact that his father had been affected by a major heart attack. According to him, this was purely psychosomatic. Some five days before he took his life, he burst into their home as demanded an explanation from the parents on why they were spreading some false rumors concerning him (Becker, 2008). This even made his father to call for a psychiatrist because he was certain that something was wrong with his son. It was however too late because he had committed suicide soon after. One fanny thing is that no member of the cult bothered to show up. They did not even return the money that he had paid for services he did not receive. In fact the story changed and stated that he had given the $3,000 as a donation which is therefore not supposed to be returned. A genuine church cannot do such as thing.
Becker (2008) is also of the view that there are several goods and services that the church has invented in to lure its members to make more donations. For instance, they charge reviewing of cases of members who have failed to move up the ‘the Bridge” for what they term as only $1,250 in form of donation. To lure the richer people and gain more influence, Scientologist religion has also developed a variety of strategies and groups to make money and gain more members. Some of these groups include:
The group’s Sterling Management Systems that was created in 1983 has been said to be one of the fastest growing private companies in America. It regularly mails one free newspaper at a time to over 300,000 professionals in health care, most of them being dentists. These newsletters promise the professionals of the fact that they will be able to make increased incomes in their jobs. There are also a number of seminars offered by the firm which cost about $10,000. The main strategy here is to attract more customers to Scientologist religion (Becker, 2008).
According to Slack (2008) the Way to Public foundation is one front which has distributed over 3.5 million copies of a booklet that was written by Hubbard to children in various national schools. This scheme is a dissemination project that is even attempting to come up with tutorial programs mostly in primary schools that have more children from the minority groups in America. There is also plans to set up 1,000 acres of land on which it will contract a campus to educate the public on various methods approved by Hubbard. One group known as the “Citizens Commission on Human Rights” is an affiliate group to the Scientologist religion and it’s at war with psychiatry which is its major competitor.
HealthMed is a chain of clinics that belongs to Scientology religion and promotes a demanding system of exercise, saunas, and vitamins which were actually designed by the founder of the movement in the name of purifying the human body. Most experts however denounce this regime as potentially harmful and yet HealthMed has gone a head and solicited various agencies for contracts. The group also argues that common foods are dangerous to the body (Slack, 2008).
Narconon is a chain of rehabilitation centers for drug and alcohol addicts. Some of the centers have also been set up in different prisons in different countries. Facilities located in prisons go by the name Criminon. This is a very classical method that is used by Scientologist religion to draw drug and alcohol addicts into joining the group (Slack, 2008). It even has a plan to set up what it refers to as one of the largest treatment centers in the world with a capacity of 1,400 beds. This is only but an avenue to recruit more members.
In a case accusing there Florida Scientologist, of using the famous rare coin dealership against the law as a money laundry, they all pleaded guilty of the offense. As Slack (2008) puts it, there are some other financial scams that the group has been involved include staging plant operatives in world financial bodies such as the IMF and the World Bank including even the Export-Import Bank. These are actually high level deals that are bound to make high returns. What makes it even worse is that they are conducted at the top level or international levels.
From its website, the religion defines Scientology as the study of truth. This idea is even supported by one of their celebrity members, Tom Cruise in his video that claims that being a Scientologist makes one to see things the in the right manner. Scientology also teaches its members that human beings are immortal and they did not originate from the earth as other religions might say. Its through their process of auditing that salvation is achieved. Generally, this is a very expensive religion to take part in considering that offerings and donations are so expensive. New members have to also keep attracting more people for them to earn commissions. No church should force people to make offerings and this is one of the many reasons that Scientologist is a cult. Its main purpose seems to be making profits judging from various financial scams it’s involved in.