Xenu and free speech

I liked Andrew Sullivan’s article today on the current barney between some celebrity scientologists and South Park creators Matt Stone and Trey Parker. As others have commented, there are echoes of the issue of freedom of speech versus respect for the beliefs of others raised by the Danish anti-Muslim cartoon controversy.

I must say, however, that I remain to be convinced that Scientology is actually a religion rather than a gigantic and long-running scam, despite Australia’s High Court’s having found to the contrary some years ago. Perusal of Wikipedia’s excellent article on Scientology (almost certainly better than that of Encyclopedia Britannica) will show you what I mean, especially the material about Xenu that seems to have particularly attracted the satirical attention of Stone and Parker:

In the confidential OT levels, Hubbard describes a variety of traumas commonly experienced in past lives. He also explains how to reverse the effects of such traumas. Among these advanced teachings, one episode revealed to those who reach OT level III has been widely remarked upon in the press: the story of Xenu, the galactic tyrant who first kidnapped certain individuals who were deemed “excess population” and loaded these individuals into space planes for transport to the site of extermination, the planet of Teegeeack (Earth). These space planes were said to have been copies of Douglas DC-8s, except with rocket engines. He then stacked hundreds of billions of these frozen victims around Earth’s volcanoes 75 million years ago before blowing them up with hydrogen bombs and brainwashing them with a “three-D, super colossal motion picture” for 36 days, telling them lies of what they are and what the universe should be like and telling them that they are 3 different things: ‘Jesus, God, and The Devil.’

The traumatized thetans subsequently clustered around human bodies because they watched the motion picture together, making them think they are all the same thing, in effect acting as invisible spiritual parasites known as “body thetans” that can only be removed using advanced Scientology techniques. Xenu is allegedly imprisoned in a mountain by a force field powered by an eternal battery. He is said to be still alive today.

Scientologists argue that published accounts of the Xenu story and other colorful teachings are presented out of context for the purpose of ridiculing their religion. Journalists and critics of Scientology counter that Xenu is part of a much wider Scientology belief in past lives on other planets, some of which has been public knowledge for decades. For instance, Hubbard’s 1958 book Have You Lived Before This Life documents past lives described by individual Scientologists during auditing sessions. These included memories of being “deceived into a love affair with a robot decked out as a beautiful red-haired girl”, being run over by a Martian bishop driving a steamroller, being transformed into an intergalactic walrus that perished after falling out of a flying saucer, and being “a very happy being who strayed to the planet Nostra 23,064,000,000 years ago”.

Of course, some of the foundational myths and legends of Islam, Christianity and Buddhism would undoubtedly seem every bit as bizarre to a detached observer. Take the virgin birth, transubstantiation or the resurrection, for example. But from the historical record at least, it’s difficult to see either Mohammed, Jesus or the Buddha as calculating charlatans or conmen, whereas it’s difficult to see L. Ron Hubbard as anything else.

It all underlines the folly of religious vilification laws of the sort Victoria currently possesses. Incidentally, while Googling for this post I stumbled across the fact that federal Labor had promised to introduce such laws had they been elected in 2004. It’s another reason to thank Xenu that they weren’t (although Howard’s IR laws are a rather more substantial factor pointing in the opposite direction).

About Ken Parish

Ken Parish is a legal academic, with research areas in public law (constitutional and administrative law), civil procedure and teaching & learning theory and practice. He has been a legal academic for almost 20 years. Before that he ran a legal practice in Darwin for 15 years and was a Member of the NT Legislative Assembly for almost 4 years in the early 1990s.
This entry was posted in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.
Subscribe
Notify of
guest
20 Comments
Oldest
Newest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Yobbo
Yobbo
15 years ago

I remain to be convinced that Scientology is actually a religion rather than a gigantic and long-runinng scam

As opposed to other religions which aren’t scams?

meika
15 years ago

local censorship on spoof of “where the bloody hell are you ” ads
“Tourism spoof not bloody funny” at http://smh.com.au/news/national/tourism-spoof-not-bloody-funny/2006/03/27/1143330976912.html

link to site in article
http://downwindmedia.com/

These days tourism is a religion too, and the high priests are hypocritical shites there as well.

Jason Soon
Jason Soon
15 years ago

Ken
Sam’s point remains a good one. Hubbard is long dead. People who claim to be scientologists probably genuinely believe in the scientology to the same extent that professed Christians, Mormons, Buddhists etc genuinely believe in their creeds. It’s irrelevant to whether Scientology is a religion whether the guy who concocted it was a charlatan or not.

liam
15 years ago

Not really Jason.
Almost all other “religions” release their doctrines and dogma to public scrutiny. Only a couple don’t: Mormons, Druze and Scientologists are three.
Without available information the non-believing public have to make the assumptions they can. The bizareness of religious beliefs (such as immaculate conception) aren’t the issue, it’s the accountability.

Jason Soon
Jason Soon
15 years ago

‘Almost all other “religions”

liam
15 years ago

Damn those Aboriginal women making millions of tax-free dollars with their secret women’s business, expanding their indigenous franchise worldwide.

Kim
Kim
15 years ago

The “secret women’s business” is better thought of as cultural belief protected by taboo than “public religion” in the Western sense.

What are the doctrines of Hinduism by the way?

We’re operating with a very narrow and ethnocentric concept of religion here.

Kim
Kim
15 years ago

I think there’s a bit of confusion in this post, Ken, so I’m assuming that you’re wearing your RWDB hat (in part) for this one. Argument spelled out here.

Yobbo
Yobbo
15 years ago

Ken: Whether or not Jesus, Mohammed or Buddha set out to scam is not the point. The point is that religion is still a scam nevertheless.

A lot of people who are involved in pyramid selling schemes are convinced that they are a good idea too.

Whether or not L. Ron Hubbard was a deliberate scam artist or not, the one thing that all 4 have in common is that they were all likely:

A:) Batshit insane – as you’d have to be to start a religion to begin with – and B:) Extremely charismatic, which is necessary to gain a critical mass of followers.

Nabakov
Nabakov
15 years ago

Even though I think Yobbo is a bit of a pissant bully in many ways, I’m right with him on this point.

Can you see any real difference between L. Ron Hubbard, the Pope, the Rev Moon and Osama Bin Laden? Beyond the different degrees of time and money they always seem to be demanding from their herd?

Basically all them, and everyone else who tries to pull such scams, are claiming an invisable superhero from outer space gave them the right to dispose of your cash, mind, body and soul as they see fit.

Fuck that!

Econoclast
Econoclast
15 years ago

There’s a fair degree of simplification in the argument that they’re all similar, you must admit. And I’d suggest in making that degree of simplification, you’ve lost some of the finer points. True, the very nature of religion permits it’s misuse by those seeking to control others. But that really is a minor point about religion. Perhaps the fact that so much of the world uses religion added together with this sort of simplification, fits in with a pessimistic views about humans and society (so for some of us its an easy conclusion to make). But to me, the fact that religion is so wide spread suggests lumping all religions together on the basis that they are a way to control people, is likely to be a simplification that would probably cause you to lose sight of a few things.

I don’t think Scientology is like the other religions. I think Scientology is an inevitable progression – more or less the fast food restaurant of religion – ‘new and improved.’ One aspect seperating it from most other religions is that it keeps it’s secrets rather closely, not for reasons of taboo or any other factors that seem to fit with the overall philosophy. The other religions are more open to scrutiny – people thinking about going into them generally have nothing kept from them until after they commit to join. As I understand it, this is very different in the case of Scientology. Now maybe that is part of their philosophy and fits within a timetable for gaining alot of self improvement. But it does look like a bit of argy bargy that other religions don’t tend to get involved with as much.

Craig Malam
Craig Malam
15 years ago

There’s a fair degree of simplification in the argument that they’re all similar, you must admit. And I’d suggest in making that degree of simplification, you’ve lost some of the finer points. True, the very nature of religion permits it’s misuse by those seeking to control others. But that really is a minor point about religion. Perhaps the fact that so much of the world uses religion added together with this sort of simplification, fits in with a pessimistic views about humans and society (so for some of us its an easy conclusion to make). But to me, the fact that religion is so wide spread suggests lumping all religions together on the basis that they are a way to control people, is likely to be a simplification that would probably cause you to lose sight of a few things.

I don’t think Scientology is like the other religions. I susepct Scientology is in some ways an inevitable progression – more or less the fast food restaurant of religion – that is, ‘new and improved.’ And one particular aspect that appears to seperate it from most other religions is that it keeps alot of secrets, not for reasons of taboo or any other factors that seem to fit within the overall philosophy. The other religions are indeed open to more scrutiny, at least in the following way. People thinking about getting involved generally have nothing kept from them until after they commit to join. As I understand it, this is a very distinguishing feature of Scientology. Now maybe that is part of the philosophy, and fits within some sort of timetable. But it does look to the outsider like a bit of argy bargy that other religions don’t tend to get involved with as much.

Mork
Mork
15 years ago

Jason – speaking entirely hypothetically of course, if a bunch of people consciously and deliberately cobbled together a set of “beliefs” that they then tried to convince people were religious truth, for the sole purpose of making money out of the believers, does the sincerity of the gullible beleivers make the organisation a “religion” or does the fraud of those running the organisation negate the claim?

Jason Soon
Jason Soon
15 years ago

Mork
It’s almost certain that Hubbard was a fraud. But unless you’ve got some evidence that whomever is currently managing his religion now are also fraudsters, the reasonable presumption should be that however absurd the belief seems to the outsider (and Christianity and Islam and Mormonism all seem bloody absurd to me), if there are professed believers, it’s a religion.

I’m sorry but the passage of time and the number of believers should count for naught re giving Christianity anymore legitimacy as a genuinely professed belief system than Scientology. all this stuff about the ‘real doctrines’ being kept top secret is a red herring – as Liam has pointed out, some religions are secretive and it’s their perogative to be so. Perhaps only long-time initiates get the whole thing at once and it’s uncovered bit by bit like a striptease act. so what? there’s every possible combination and variation of ceremony n religion.

Yobbo
Yobbo
15 years ago

“but it still seems to me that the modern mainstream christian churches are qualitatively very different from and considerably more benign than the Scientologists.”

When was the last time Scientologists blew up an abortion clinic?

Let’s be real here: Scientology is, in comparison to the 2 major expansionist religions (Islam and Christianity), incredibly benign, its primary crime seemingly being to bilk a few overpaid and unintelligent actors out of a small percentage of their extremely large paychecks.

In comparison to the hundreds of thousands that died in the crusades, the inquisition, and the current Islamic war on everything, Scientology has nothing to answer for.

You may believe that current “mainstream christian churches” being relatively harmless means that Christianity itself is harmless. I disagree. It’s more of a case of people choosing to only follow their religion in a casual fashion. Christianity is no less oppressive than it ever was, it’s just that most modern Christians don’t take it so seriously any more.

I have nominally Muslim friends who drink, shave, smoke, engage in premarital sex, don’t pray and generally ignore everything in the Koran, but still call themselves Muslims and give their kids Muslim names. This doesn’t mean that Islam has reformed, it just means that not everyone takes it so seriously.

I suspect the same thing is true of Scientology. On the one hand you have Tom Cruise going mental on morning talk shows, while other famous Scientologists like John Travolta don’t seem to be exhibiting any crazy behaviour at all (or no more than they ever did anyway).

Buddhism is different in my opinion because it actually *IS* a relatively benign belief system, and that Buddhists have never made any attempt to forcibly convert others to their beliefs. Same goes for Judaism.

Mork
Mork
15 years ago

But unless you’ve got some evidence that whomever is currently managing his religion now are also fraudsters, the reasonable presumption should be that however absurd the belief seems to the outsider (and Christianity and Islam and Mormonism all seem bloody absurd to me), if there are professed believers, it’s a religion.

Jason – if you have a spare hour or two someday, spend it poking around xenu.net. I think there’s plenty of direct and circumstantial evidence there that the senior echelons of Scientology are the inheritors of Hubbard’s scam, rather than his dupes.

In terms of the broad-brush circumstantial evidence, what else to make of Scientology’s method of recruiting adherents via tactics that any psychologist will instantly recognise as a process of disorienting and confusing the brain’s normal patterns and sense of self in order to create a dependency on the implanted doctrine (the techniques that the term “brainwashing” was coined to describe), and then charging the “believer” increasingly substantial sums of money to access the successive levels of “technology” that are necessary validate their new sense of self?

I just don’t see another explanation for a “religion” that behaves that way other than the obvious.

Francis Xavier Holden
15 years ago

jason – afaik $cientology is the only “religion” that charges a hefty fee for greater knowledge of the religion, Mormons don’t offer secrets based on $ contributions.

As I recall (Parish probably can clarify) the high court decision on religious status is about the eligibility to tax concessions etc rather than a theological approval.

Scientologists care about money first, last and in between. You just cannot advance “spiritually” without paying huge sums to them. No other religion does this. (well since Luther stopped those bloody catholics).

Scientology’s criminal activities are well documented, just google “scientology criminal cult”

And if anyone wanst to test out the benign nature of scientologists try putting a critical article on a blog every week and write a few letters to the editor and see your privacy invaded and lies spread to all and sundry about you. Look up “fair game” and scientology.

I believe Victoria’s own Henry Bolte was the first leader anywhere to initiate an inquiry (enquiry?) into Scientology. It was eventually banned in Victoria. The ban was one of the main incentives for Scientology to seek to be registered as a religion. Melbourne, Victoria and Henry retain a special and high place in the (long) list of hated enemies of scientology.