Charles McGrath—A Careful Writer Stalks the Truth About Scientology

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Mr. Wright insists that he did not set out to write an exposé. “Why would I bother to do that?” he said. “Scientology is probably the most stigmatized religion in America already. But I’m fascinated by it and by what drives people to Scientology, especially given its image.”

He added: “There are many countries where you can only believe more or you can believe less. But in the United States we have this incredible smorgasbord, and it really interests me why people are drawn to one faith rather than another, especially to a system of belief that to an outsider seems absurd or dangerous.”

Mr. Wright, whose previous book, “The Looming Tower:” Al-Qaeda and the Road to 9/11,” won the Pulitzer Prize in 2007, is no stranger to writing about secretive organizations. In the case of Scientology, he said, he had been looking for what he calls a “donkey” — a character strong and sympathetic enough to carry a complicated story. “I don’t mean it in a disparaging way,” he explained. “A donkey is a very useful beast of burden.” In 2010 he finally found one in Paul Haggis, the winner of back-to-back Oscars for “Million Dollar Baby,” which he wrote, and “Crash,” which he wrote and directed, who defected from Scientology in 2009, after 34 years in the church, during which he rose to one of its highest ranks.

Read it all.

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2 Comments
Posted January 3, 2013 at 8:00 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]



1. Archer_of_the_Forest wrote:

One of the interesting things I learned in my year in law school was how Scientology got started: it was a bar bet. L. Ron Hubbard had written a bunch of science fiction novels that are really bizarre. He was at a bar one day with his friends, and they were telling him how his novels had created a fictional religion. He said he thought he could go out and actually create a real religion based on his science fiction, and they didn’t believe him. He actually went out and created the Church of Scientology to prove them wrong. We studied it in civil procedure in law school because Hubbard was a master at playing the legal system.

The federal government for years did not want to recognize the Church of Scientology as a real religion (for non profit and tax purposes and all that, the feds thought it was a giant Ponzi scheme, which it sort of is, but that’s a separate issue.) Hubbard was great at avoiding subpoenas served on him to testify in court (he’d be out of the country or whatever) and moving money around so it wouldn’t be audited, and all. Finally after about 15 years, they finally got him to testify about how the Church of Scientology got created, and he finally admitted under oath that he had created the Church of Scientology basically on a bar bet, but the court ruled that the state can’t really be in a position to judge the legitimacy of a religion if its followers actually believe it is a religion (which they do, just ask Tom Cruise).

Just remember the words of St. Peter so many centuries ago:

2 Peter 2:1-10a (NRSV)

1But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive opinions. They will even deny the Master who bought them-bringing swift destruction on themselves. 2Even so, many will follow their licentious ways, and because of these teachers the way of truth will be maligned.

3And in their greed they will exploit you with deceptive words. Their condemnation, pronounced against them long ago, has not been idle, and their destruction is not asleep. 4For if God did not spare the angels when they sinned, but cast them into hell and committed them to chains of deepest darkness to be kept until the judgment; 5and if he did not spare the ancient world, even though he saved Noah, a herald of righteousness, with seven others, when he brought a flood on a world of the ungodly; 6and if by turning the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah to ashes he condemned them to extinction and made them an example of what is coming to the ungodly;

7and if he rescued Lot, a righteous man greatly distressed by the licentiousness of the lawles. 8(for that righteous man, living among them day after day, was tormented in his righteous soul by their lawless deeds that he saw and heard). 9then the Lord knows how to rescue the godly from trial, and to keep the unrighteous under punishment until the day of judgment

10-especially those who indulge their flesh in depraved lust, and who despise authority. Bold and willful, they are not afraid to slander the glorious ones.

January 3, 9:43 am | [comment link]
2. Jim the Puritan wrote:

In the Seventies in San Francisco they used to send out attractively dressed women to try to entice men into the religion.  I got approached several times, the first time while accompanying my father on a business trip to the City (I was still in high school—but wearing a suit because I was going to meet him for lunch and you still wore suits in those days, at least in that part of town) and then later when I was a law student at Berkeley.  They were mainly in the Financial District and would try to strike up a conversation with you, especially if you were well dressed.  The first time I was pretty naive and flattered by an attractive stranger hitting on me, but you figure it out when they start talking about coming to see their organization headquarters. Back then they were getting hard competition from the Moonies (who would take you for a weekend to brainwash you at their mythical “ranch in the hills”), and the Krishnas (actually fairly normal compared to the others).

January 3, 2:57 pm | [comment link]
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