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Tom Cruise, the new Jerry Falwell

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With Tom Cruise drawing so much media attention to Scientology in recent weeks, it would be easy to jump on the Tom-bashing bandwagon and dismiss Scientology as a fringe, extremist cult. Like a friend’s coworker who recently referred to Cruise as an “atheist with no balls,” while watching him tear in to Matt Lower on the break-room television.

But, honestly, I don’t know the first thing about Scientology. Yes, the general consensus among the American public is that Scientologists are about as sane as Wacko Jacko. But this is the same American public that acquitted Michael Jackson, elected someone named George Bush three times, and bought millions of Britany Spears/Jessica Simpson albums.

So, I did what I always do when I want to learn something new, I went to Wikipedia. I wikilearned that Scientology’s central beliefs are that:

1. A person is an immortal spiritual being (termed a thetan) who possesses a mind and a body, accompanied by a lesser “genetic entity”;
2. The thetan has lived through many past lives, stored memories of which can cause problems in the present day;
3. And that a person is basically good, but is “aberrated” by the memories of past traumas.

That doesn’t sound too odd. It has combined bits and pieces from some of the major religions. Basically, like all religions, it’s a system of beliefs and ritual that help us deal with life, the universe, and everything. I could have learned a little more about the specifics of the religion, but I grew tired of reading the long Wikipedia entry, skimmed through the headings, and left in search of a shorter, more entertaining answer.

So, I went to the Scientology website, hoping to find a few answers there. After clicking the “What is Scientology?” link, I came to a page divided into 13 ways Scientology can improve your life. But when I clicked on these categories, instead of an explanation of what Scientology offered, I was asked to purchase a book or pamphlet by L. Ron Hubbard, the religion’s founder. Now, I’m not expert on the whole evangelizing thing, but it seems that charging people for information is a hard way to spread the word.

Not willing to shell out money to satisfy my curiosity, I Googled the subject and stumbled upon an anti-Scientology site, where I found this quote reportedly made by L. Ron Hubbard in the 1940’s:

“Writing for a penny a word is ridiculous. If a man really wants to make a million dollars, the best way would be to start his own religion”

Apparently, one of the biggest criticisms of Scientology is that it exploits its members in order to make money. The (very biased) site claims:

It practices a variety of mind-control techniques on people lured into its midst to gain control over their money and their lives…The results of applying their crackpot psychotherapy (called “auditing”) is to weaken the mind. The mind goes from a rational state to an irrational one as the delusional contents of the subconscious mind are brought to the surface and are assumed to be valid.

But isn’t this what all religions can be said to do, if you like at them cynically, from an outside perspective? Do churches not ask their members to empty their pockets every Sunday? And as far as “weakening the mind” and going from a “rational state to an irrational one”… this is the very nature of faith. Most religions, by their very nature, are irrational (strictly speaking). Even devout religious scholars will tell you that faith is inherently at odds with logic and reason. That’s why it’s called a “leap of faith.”

I’m currently reading Under the Banner of Heaven, by Jon Krakauer, a fascinating examination of the nature of religion and its control over its members. Krakauer explores how polygamy has survived in some fundamentalist sects of the Mormonism, and how deeply held religious beliefs have driven people to molest their own children and even murder in the name of God. His message seems to be that, while most of us view these fundamentalists as crazy nut-jobs, these people are simply taking to the extreme the same principles of faith, moralism, and obedience that are such an important part of most people’s religious experiences.

After all my web-surfing, my perception of Scientology hasn’t changed much. I think most people who view it as a crack-pot cult are simply reacting in defense of their own religious beliefs. Scientology is just another religion. Another founding individual, another hierarchical organization, that claims to have THE answer to the meaning of life, the univerise, and everything. Personally, I think this is a question without an answer, but there will always be people trying to answer it. And those who aren’t satisfied with the answers given by Christianity or one of the other major religions, will turn to Scientology, and years down the road, other religions will spring up claiming to posess the ultimate answer.

Yes, it’s none of Tom Cruise’s business what medicine Brooke Shields takes. But his outburst on national television doesn’t make him any crazier than a Jerry Falwell who tells a homosexual that his or her lifestyle is wrong. Both are acting on deeply held beliefs and sticking their noses in other people’s lives.

But, Tom is a celebrity, and this is a “Christian nation,” not a Scientologist one. So, I’ll leave you with our friend Bachem Macuno, who had a nice little satirical, fictional interview with Mr. Cruise about his views on modern medicine. Click here to read it.

Read more from Elyas Bakhtiari at Ablogistan.

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  • http://indemnification.blogspot.com -E

    It is because there is the evil alien Xenu that has imparted several different evil spirits into us. Hubbard figured out that he knows the secret to thwart these evil spirits to allow up to fulfill our own demigod potential. And for 350k, you too can learn the secrets….

    It is a for profit religion. And it is set up in a way that there can’t be any IRS investigations and such.

  • Eric Olsen

    were they involved with the WTC?

  • KC

    In To Kill a Mockingbird Lee Harper wrote something along the lines of: “A bible in the hands of one man can be more dangerous than a gun in the hands of another.” (I know I don’t have the exact quote)

    Maybe there’s nothing wrong with any idea of religion (including TomKat’s) but the problem might be how we’re movitated to behave by our own take on those beliefs.

    Hadn’t heard of Under the Banner, have to look into that one. Sounds good.

  • http://www.justscattered.com Just Scattered

    I think they should both be committed. If Jerry Falwell was as nice looking as Tom Cruise we would all be in serious trouble…

  • http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Xenu Wikipedian

    The Wikipedia general article didn’t cut to the chase.

    You should start from here

  • http://theugliestamerican.blogspot.com/ andy marsh

    And we care what Tom says…why?

  • KC

    From Wikipedia: ” The kidnapped populace was loaded into space planes for transport to the site of extermination, the planet of Teegeeack (Earth). The space planes were exact copies of Douglas DC-8s, “except the DC-8 had fans, propellers on it and the space plane didn’t.” DC-8s have jet engines, not propellers, although Hubbard may have meant the turbine fans.”

    You know when ever I read what Hubbard is supposed to have written I keep thinking: “No…really, that can’t be it.” Yet, there are those who swear up and down this has helped them. The whole think looks like a combo of Charles Berlitz’s books and EST with a little Eastern philosophy thrown in, and yet…

    I don’t get it, but it’s their faith and I don’t think anyone should knock it. Now when an individual seems determined to deter anyone needing medical help from getting it–then I’m all ears.

  • Joan Webster

    Tom Cruse is a nut case. Just a spoiled little man going through mid-life crisis. Who cares what he thinks or says. He’s a idiot, just like a lot of the other actors. Their so impressed with themselves only the weak minded believe what comes out of their mouths.

  • Laurel

    Tom Cruise doesn’t have medical training and I doubt he’s ever suffered from postpartum depression. Maybe he should keep his mouth shut.

    If anyone is researching Scientology, look up the name Lisa Mcpherson.

  • Tracy

    I find it curious that with a religion so controversial as scientology, the fact that none of it’s famous disciples seem willing or able to explain their beliefs. Tom Cruise gets almost livid if even the slightest derogatory remark is made about this mysterious faith. Jerry Falwell on the other hand patiently explains the Christian beliefs and answers it’s critics accusations time and time again. Still, Falwell is the one they criticize for having different beliefs from the culture we live in today.

  • KYS

    I have no problem with Mr. Cruise’s beliefs (though I don’t share them in the least). Nor do I have a problem with Scientology (though I think it’s laughable). I think this is a phase. Didn’t we all go through something like this when we were newly post-adolescent? You know, the righteous rage, the angst of youth without the benefit of critical thought, experimentation with different spiritual beliefs? Tommy is hitting this phase rather late in life I suppose, but doesn’t that make him a perfect emotional match for Katie? I don’t know what he’s read about the ‘history of psychiatry’, but I think it takes more than a high school education to tackle this topic. I hope he never has to deal with a severely mentally ill friend or family member. He is clearly not educated on this issue. I suspect the ‘papers’ he reports to have studied are by Hubbard, et al, – not any credible peer-reviewed journal submissions (those would be beyond him). My hope for him is that one day he will grow up, and learn that passion for a belief does not necessarily lend it any credibility. Oh, and by the way…Brooke Shields is a brave and honest woman who deserves the utmost respect and support for sharing her story in the hopes of helping the many women suffering from this very real and life-threatening disorder. Tom…get a clue.

  • KYS

    “Tom Cruise gets almost livid if even the slightest derogatory remark is made about this mysterious faith”

    Great point, Tracy.

  • http://www.liveandgrow.org Greg

    Tracy, KYS, I don’t agree.

    I’ve been a Scientologist for over two decades. I am perfectly willing to answer any questions you might have on Scientology. Just use the feedback form on my http://www.liveandgrow.org site.

    Tom Cruise and others have been extremely forthright in talking about Scientology. But they are constantly reduced to sound-bites and bizarre out-of-context quotes (and misquotes.)

    There is one specific area of Scientology that Scientologists are unwilling to talk about – and that is their own individual experiences in session. Which is just as true for Catholics and their experiences in the Confessional booth, or shrink-goers and their experiences on the couch. An individual journey is personal and private.

    Outside of this, Scientologists are willing to talk about anything. Or at least I am.

    Please do keep in mind the following facts though:

    1) There is a selective bigotry alive and well in our culture, where it seems perfectly alright to mock and ridicule one religious belief and not another. This is not ethical. Questions should be respectful and courteous. You’d never says “those wacky Jews!” or “and she’s marrying a Methodist!!” – but apparently some people think it’s totally ok to speak like this of us Scientologists, call us a wacky cult, etc. Selective bigotry is still bigotry.

    2) Big Pharma spends oodles of money to make us look like “just a nutty cult” – why? Because our activism has cost companies like Eli Lilly (makers of Prozac) billions of dollars in revenue. We believe SSRIs are dangerous, addictive and overprescribed. You know who else agrees? The FDA. And many doctors (www.blockcenter.com), neurologists (www.adhdfraud.com), even psychiatrists (www.breggin.com) agree with our views on this.

  • KYS

    Greg-

    Your points are well taken. And, as I’ve said, I have no problem with anybody’s belief Scientology (or Christianity or Judaism or Buddhism). I respect your right to believe what you want. What I have a problem with is Tom Cruise calling Matt Lauer glib or ignorant, because he doesn’t share the same beliefs. It is an irresponsible (and ill-informed) statement to say that there is no biological cause for depression. It is arrogant for him to claim he understands the chemical make-up of the human brain. I agree that medications can be over-prescribed. I agree that medications can be abused. But they can also help people. Tom Cruise has no right to condemn a person for choosing medicinal support for a documented illness. I also wonder if his refusal to allow medical intervention includes dental cleanings, mole removals or laser eye surgery…..

    I also agree with you that bigotry is a general problem in this country, (which is why I raised an eyebrow at your “shrink-goers” comment…;)). Is it possible that the Scientology community in general has a prejudice against any and all medications, regardless of their potential to help people?

    Finally, I would take you up on your willingness to clear up some circulating facts about Scientology, and invite you to explain Thetans and the whole deal with humans being exiled from an alien race. Is this a belief of Scientology? I don’t see them on the Scientology website, but I’ve read that they are central to its core.

    Thanks for your thought provoking response.

    K

  • KYS

    PS, Greg. I looked up “Auditing” on your site, and here’s what I got:
    auditing: Scientology counseling, taken from the Latin word audire which means “to hear or listen.” Auditing is a very unique form of personal counseling which helps an individual look at his own existence and improves his ability to confront what he is and where he is. See Chapter 5.

    Auditing by List: a technique used in certain auditing procedures.

    auditor: a minister or minister-in-training of the Church of Scientology. Auditor means one who listens, from the Latin audire meaning “to hear or listen.” An auditor is a person trained and qualified in applying auditing to individuals for their betterment. An auditor does not do anything to a preclear, he works together with the preclear to help the preclear defeat his reactive mind. See Chapter 5.

    Can you tell me more?

  • http://www.liveandgrow.org Greg

    To K:

    First of all, I appreciate your courtesy.

    I want to clarify a few points, taking point-by-point your posts:

    1) TC did not call Matt Lauer ignorant at any point. He used the word “glib” – which is Scientology parlance connotes a person that skims study without doing proper research, who bases his opinions and views on unevaluated information. And Lauer most definitely fits that bill, by parroting the Big Pharma party line without himself knowing the first thing about the subject. I agree with Cruise in that Lauer has a responsibility, in such a position of leadership as he hold as host of the Today Show, to not make vain pronouncements without first educating himself thoroughly. Katie Couric speaks about colon cancer from deep and thorugh study and personal experience. That is not glib. Matt Lauer speaks about Ritalin from what he’s seen in the News. That’s glib.

    And it is not about “sharing or not sharing beliefs” – it’s about documented fact. Ritalin IS a street drug. 1 out of every 10 kids in the US are being doped. Ritalin IS addictive, and it IS an amphetamine-like substance (more addictive than cocaine.)

    You say “It is an irresponsible (and ill-informed) statement to say that there is no biological cause for depression.” And yet Dr. Joseph Glenmullen, professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical, told Katie Couric in a followup interview that he concurs with Cruise, that there’s been no medical evidence of the “chemical imbalance in the brain” theory.

    Notice, by the way, that ALL commercials for Paxil, Prozac and the like are careful to say “you *may* have a chemical imbalance” and “it *may* be due to…” they use the word “may” because they’re forbidden by the FDA to claim that there IS a chemical imbalance, because there is no proof.

    You say that drugs can help people. What is “help”? Because a person could take X and feel “better”, and a person could smoke pot and feel “happy”, or take cocaine and feel “powerful” – but is this really helping them? Keep in mind that LSD was a psychiatric drug, invented by psychiatrists.

    In a study as thorough as the ones used to approve drugs, it was proven that diet and exercise were AS EFFECTIVE as Zoloft to improve mild to medium depression. Why take the drug then? Why risk the addiction, the side-effects, the suicidal ideation?

    TC did not “condemn” anyone. But he did not agree with a celebrity endorsing a drug which he knows to be harmful. Brooke Shields promoted Paxil in her book. Paxil is related to many, many deaths and violent acts. It is banned for minor in the UK. There are “paxil survivors” groups on the Net.

    You wonder iif TC’s refusal to allow medical intervention includes dental cleanings, mole removals or laser eye surgery – I have your answer: No Scientologist opposes medical treatment. We do oppose, vehemeently, the cult of psychiatry cloaking itself in medical terms to promote methods which have no medical basis.

    Scientologists do get teeth cleanings, mole removals, surgery, etc. In fact, when I lived in Hollywood I used to go to the same clinic where TC got his medical checkups (never met him though.)

    There are many Scientologists who are themselves medical doctors, dentists and nurses.

  • http://www.liveandgrow.org Greg

    To K:

    On: Thetans, etc.

    theta: energy peculiar to life or a thetan which acts upon material in the physical universe and animates it, mobilizes it and changes it; natural creative energy of a thetan which he has free to direct toward survival goals, especially when it manifests itself as high tone, constructive communications. See also thetan.

    thetan: the person himself – not his body or his name, the physical universe, his mind, or anything else; that which is aware of being aware; the identity which is the individual. The term was coined to eliminate any possible confusion with older, invalid concepts. It comes from the Greek letter Theta, which the Greeks used to represent thought or perhaps spirit, to which an n is added to make a noun in the modern style used to create words in engineering. It is also n, or “theta to the nth degree,” meaning unlimited or vast.

    (From the Scientology glossary)

  • http://www.liveandgrow.org Greg

    To K:

    more on Thetans:

    A thetan is YOU. You are a thetan. You do not “have a soul”, you ARE a soul, an eternal spiritual being.

    In the early 50s, when thousands of people were using Mr. Hubbard’s methods of counseling, more and more data was emerging about past lives. It cause quite a debate. Some said to leave it alone, that it would cause controversy and discredit the practice. Mr. Hubbard conducted side-by-side studies of groups that got counseling that allowed for past lives, and groups that didn’t. The ones that were allowed to delve in past lives improved considerably faster than the ones who didn’t.

    From this, it became standard practice that what the person brings up in session is not dismissed, censored or evaluated. It is accepted as-is, and the counselor simply steers the person’s attention to that which brings about the most improvement (emotionally, mentally) in the person.

    As Scientology became an organized body of data, the premise that we as spirits live many, many lifetimes was simply accepted as an empirical fact.

  • http://www.liveandgrow.org Greg
  • http://www.liveandgrow.org Greg
  • http://www.liveandgrow.org Greg

    To K:

    More on Thetans:

    (I hope I don’t get yelled at for “proselytizing” – all this is “take it or leave it”, and is written in response to K’s questions.)

    No K, the stuff on aliens is neither “core” nor a “belief.”

    Now, it stands to reason that, if we are eternal beings that have lived since way before Earth, that we have therefore lived elsewhere. (I mean, duh.)

    But that hardly makes you or me an alien! :-)

    I am reminded of a funny line in “Star Trek 5, The Voyage Home” – Kirk is asked “are you from Outer Space?” and he replies “No, I’m from Iowa! I just *work* in Outer Space.”

    Anyway, we are not aliens. Neither you nor me. We are from ’round here. The question is, where did we come from?

    Many, many (most, in fact) religions believe that we did not start right here on Earth, or at least not in the way that we are now.

    The Hindus speak of celestial battles between gods. The Abrahamic religions speak about a fall from grace, about a banishment from paradise.

    Scientology is not a belief system. But it does have at its core a system of counseling which helps you regain a sense of self, and a higher awareness of who you are. Part of this is past-life memories.

    But a very important part of Scientology practice is to not coerce or force ANYONE to “believe” or “accept” or adopt any preconceived notion about where you came from, or how you came to be where you are, etc.
    It is an individual journey.

    Now, Hubbard did write many of his findings from thousands of cases in his research. This was to be taken by auditors as direction for use in counseling, not to be adopted as dogma.
    It is not a question of whether this stuff is real, it is not a question of how much of it is subjective, but simply that, when addressed in session, it yields results and an improved condition in the person.

    There are a few disgruntled angry apostates who for one reason or another hate Scientology. You can find some of them here. A few of these individuals have stolen Church materials and posted them illegally on the Web, out of context, to try and paint a picture that we’re a kooky cult. Anyone who knows a Scientologist personally knows this is not so.

  • http://www.liveandgrow.org Greg

    Hi K,

    On audting:

    Auditing (meaning to listen) is Scientology spiritual counseling.

    An auditor can be someone trained on a few basic techniques for improving a person’s overall wellbeing, as in the case of our volunteer ministers.

    A professional auditor, however, follows a trainig path much more rigorous than the average psychiatrist, and a Class VI Auditor undergoes about 3 times the amount of training in the subject of the human mind and spirit (in hours alone) than any shrink.

    Auditing follows very rigorous procedures, that an auditor does not deviate from. It is not just talking and listening. It is a specific methodology, a directive form of counseling, where the subject is guided, by specific questions, to gain understandings about him/herself.

    Just exactly what these understandings are, is a very personal, very individual journey. It varies considerably from person to person.

    But it follows a specific path, which is described here.

  • http://www.liveandgrow.org Greg

    Here is some great information on Scientology auditing.

    Ok, phew! I gotta take a break now. :-)

  • KYS

    Greg-
    Thank you for all this info. When I tried to learn more through the Scientology website the information was vague and usually pointed me in the direction of a book purchase. Give me a chance to digest what you’ve sent and I will respond (likely off-line through your website, with your permission).

    I still believe TC is out of line.., I work in a research environment (and know how to critically review scientific data) and I have a personal family history of psychiatric illness. I can tell you that diet and exercise do not solve all psychiatric issues- trust me, I know. Psychiatry has helped people. TC was irresponsible to make such a blanket statement, and did a great disservice to Ms. Shields.

    Best,
    K

  • http://www.liveandgrow.org Greg

    Hi K;

    Cool, contact me whenever you want to.

    I understand what you mean about blanket statements. Personally, I believe we could’ve made his point in a different way. But I’m glad he spoke up, remaining silent is often the choice of cowards.

    I do agree that diet and exercise do not solve every mental issue (I refuse to call it psychiatric issue – Geez! Has psychiatry ever become the State Religion!)

    Looking forward to more dialog.

  • http://pewview.mu.nu Warren

    “Even devout religious scholars will tell you that faith is inherently at odds with logic and reason.”

    Quibble about this. As far back as Augustine, serious theologians and scholars have stated unequivocally that faith and reason are compatible. You may not believe it (shoot, most Christians apparantly don’t believe it), but it’s been the historic position of serious scholars. Thomas Aquinas built his Summa around that very notion, though many people think he went a bit too far in some areas.

  • noname

    Well, I’m a little late in this conversation, but the bottom line is you should take whatever beliefs work best for you, and I must emphasize WORK. If believing in God or a god doesn’t work for you, don’t believe that. If believing in a certain spiritual path to salvation works for you, believe it. But never violate the law. It’s as simple as that. Also, never tell someone what they should believe or make them feel bad for believing it. Wars have been fought over this and so far it has done no one any good. It’s really quite, well, simple.

    I must say, Greg is a BEAST! Look at all that stuff he put up! That’s quite a lot. He seemed to have done it quickly too.

    Just to add to the bit about Scientology vs. psychiatry, Scientology’s goal isn’t to replace psychiatry with Scientology but rather to stop the harmful practices of psychiatry. CCHR’s magazine does not include alternatives to psychiatry that include Scientology procedures. It is quite secular in fact.

    I have also, myself, noticed quite a bit of hypocrisy on the criticism of Scientology. For example, they call it a cult without even knowing the meaning. Every religion is technically a cult. Another thing you’ll notice is they almost never see them say the same things about other religions. They’re so inconsistent sometimes it’s unbelievable.

    Well, faith vs. reason is debatable. Science does not answer the question of what actually motivates life or things of that nature. Yes, some religious beliefs go directly against a scientific fact, but it’s not like religion as a whole is contrary to science. And keep in mind if you’re going to talk about religion as a whole, there are a LOT of religions out there, a lot of which I’m sure you, as well as I, have never heard of. However, I still think the rule should be what I stated in my first paragraph.

    I will say religion or a particular religion/denomination should not be condemned because of the actions of individuals, all of whom went against the actual beliefs of the religion they were supposedly promoting or defending. Just becaue there have been religious wars does not mean we should annihilate all religions. That’s not a solution.

  • Act to what we know.

    personaly i think scientology is a joke. However compaired to the alternatives im immensly accepting of it, due to the fact that, as of now, it has not caused any harm or war. Why must we cling to religion? why must we concern ourselves with something we can not prove? And why must we continue to fight each other, burn each other, oppress each other, and drop bombs on each other over something that is based off faith and not evidence and facts? It was once known the earth was flat and the worlds belief changed with new knowledge and evidence. Why cant our beliefs be the same way? Why cant we adapt our beliefs to what can be tested and true. I am an atheist. Why must i state this and why must i be called this for having no beliefs with mythology? Do we clasify people who dont believe in dragons? no. Let us stop worrying about what we cant possibly know and worry about what we do know. religion is the most prolific source in human history. It seperates our ethics and morals across the entire globe.Until the world can come to an agreement on what is right and what is wrong our fighting will never stop. This agreement will not come unless we communicate as humans on how we feel..not our gods.We will never have unity as long as we continue to practise religion. Can we not just be human beings? We dont know what happens after death, but we do know what happens now so lets make the most of it.

    Unity for all.
    -D

  • correction

    ….That is to say prolific source of violence in human history. whoops.

  • Yo

    DOOD THEY BELIEVE IN FREAKING ALIENS!

    ALIENS!!!

    WHAT COCK SHIT IT THAT?!?

    XENU LIVES AND I AM HIS MESSENGER!

  • james

    I’m sorry but anyone who uses the word glib should not be taken seriously.