Monday, February 2, 2009

Church Experiment #5: Church of Scientology

If God is everywhere, then he is also in non-Christian churches, right?

That is part of the reason I attended non-Christian churches during my 52-week experiment. I didn’t plan on converting to Scientology, but I did want to learn to respect all religions. Not because they are right or wrong, but because other faiths are made up of people, and all people deserve respect.

But man, the Church of Scientology (www.scientology-cincinnati.org) made it really difficult. Instead of blasting them, I have decided to just tell the story of my experience and let you draw your own conclusions.

To finish reading about this experience or any of the reflections from my 52 visits, please purchase the full book here.

25 comments:

Don said...

I appreciate your observations. Without your challenge, I don’t believe I would have made the connection that the Christian church could appear similarly strange. Maybe we shouldn’t assume everyone who visits us understands where our stuff comes from…we may be causing some heads to spin in our seats.

\o/ Don

DanThoms said...

Scientology isn't a religion. Just ask them. Oh, and you better hope that wasn't a direct quote from L. Ron Hubbard in your blog. Everything that he has ever said has been copyrighted by the Church of Scientology (yea, they are a church but somehow not a religion). Yea, anyhow, that's quite strange.

Lori said...

Wow that is the strangest thing I have ever heard, I would have probably left long before you did. St. Peter in Chains is beautiful,one of the most moving times I have ever been to church was midnight mass on Christmas Eve there.
Oh by the way can I send you a paper to review for me this week?

Liz said...

Well it's debatable whether it's a religion. I'd argue it is since it centers around a belief system and doesn't pay taxes. According to the IRS, they are a church and are tax exempt. This is something the Church of Scientology would've had to apply for with that "church" distinction. However, it's an issue that has been raised several times by politicians and IRS-ians who believe Scientology is an entirely commercial enterprise set up to profit Mr. Hubbard.

Steve Fuller said...

Dan,

Not sure if you were joking or not, but most literature/music is copy-written. You are typically allowed to directly quote up to 250 words without needing to ask permission.

But yes, the whole experience seemed to be a way to make money (without directly asking for your money).

Christopher Day said...

First, LOVE the alias you presented them when asked your name.

Second, wow. I truly believe this is one of those things you must experience yourself to truly appreciate it. The business approach to "religion" is usually much more understated by churches. But this place, with the reception desk, videos, maze of hallways, and meeting room. They aren't subtle at all. It's a business meeting. A feel-good, business meeting with a worship slant. Seriously, I went to this "meeting" one time where these guys were trying to get us all to start our own gumball machine business. Same exact feel. "Look at your neighbor. Tell him he can do this. Tell him he is successful. Etc, etc." But what are they selling? Books, DVD's, tickets to heaven/nirvana/Planet Happy Place?

I guess I'm still confused as to what they believe.

bshawise said...

i'm kind of shocked you didn't go to lunch and probe deeper. nicholas sparks would have. perhaps you should chant:

Where are your balls?

Ohhhhhhhh snap. (all kidding aside, this was a grand tale)

Anonymous said...

one of my favorite posts in a long time - and I also happen to be looking for a partner in my jeans without shirts sand volleyball tournament. You in?
- Dan Joseph Arns

Cindy said...

I happened upon your blog at another website from a comment you made. I followed it this way because your advice about "marketing yourself" and creating a following with a blog was interesting.
I can see how you draw people in with your posts. That's quite interesting about the "religion" of scientology. I led a Bible study once where we discussed other religions and I had to do some research on Scientology. Boy was it bizarre but I cannot imagine having enough guts to actually attend a meeting or service or whatever they're called.
You made a very good point about how non-Christians could see Christianity in the same way. I appreciate you pointing that out--recognition of this could do us all good in relating to those who are searching for something and may possible find Christianity.
Have a great week!
Cindy
www.cindyrwilson.blogspot.com

Dan Kalbach said...

Very interesting. I visited the Church of Scientology in NYC a couple years ago. I didn't attend a service, though I did watch the video and took a "personality test."

I walked out of there with three things:

1. A distaste for Scientology
2. Really sweaty palms
3. A copy of "Dianetics" printed in Russian that my little brother swiped from the shelf.

Steve Fuller said...

Jeans without shirts?

Deal.

dave workman said...

Steve,

This is the funniest thing I’ve read in a while…except I felt totally guilty laughing. I would have given you twenty bucks if you had dropped my name at the welcome time. Ffifty bucks if you’d said “Xenu”.

But it’s really heartbreaking to imagine the people there searching for the God who is looking for them.

Scientology is a fascinatingly weird belief system, a religio-sociologist’s dream job. One of the best books about Hubbard is out-of-print, written by a British journalist named Russell Miller back in the late 80’s. Completely mesmerizing and addicting. It’s available online at http://www.spaink.net/cos/rmiller/outline.htm.

I was once thrown out of a Unification Church information meeting for asking a few questions. They were rounding up people downtown and inviting them to a hotel suite. I had recently become a believer and had what I thought were a few legit questions about their Jesus-perspective. Apparently that wasn’t kosher.

Likewise, it’s sad when Christian apologetics turn into defensive anti-dialogue rants. The story of Jesus is strangely beautiful and is best told by servants who have nothing to lose or personally protect.

DanThoms said...

I was half way kidding. The Scientologist have taken copyrighting to a new level. Pretty much every recording and written word that L. Ron Hubbard has ever uttered has been copyrighted by the church. This helps them keep the market cornered and prevents anyone from using anything they say against them. That combined with their army of lawyers keeps the public from ever knowing too much. Scientology, Dianetics, and Hubbard are all trademarked words owned by the church.

DanThoms said...

If anyone is really curious here is a link to some of their "secret" unpublished copyrighted works.
http://wikileaks.org/wiki/Church_of_Scientology_collected_Operating_Thetan_documents

Reverb said...

That's probably the longest thing I've ever read aloud to my wife via the interweb.

Thanks for the great insight and challenge at the end. Love this.

J BOOOOOGGGGIE said...

I would like to get in on that Volleyball game. Im always down for "playin' with the Boys."

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G36VaaEJi6I

Joe said...

These guys are everywhere in Hollywood. They own like half the buildings in West Hollywood where a lot of my auditions used to be. I'd ask them if I could go inside and pee because the other places around would charge you fifty cents. They'd have to lead me through the maze and past the statues to get to the bathrooms. Then they would wait (outside) for me to finish and ask me to take the stress test. I'd run away unashamedly having used them again for their free toilets.

That said, it was a little odd how the actors who joined them would get better roles and auditions than the rest of us. They take care of their own that way.

5chw4r7z said...

But once you get to the Catholic Church there will be nothing subtle about it, they'll stick a collection plate under your nose.
LOL
One thing I wondered because I live on 4th is, with all the emphasis on the positive, why are they always outside smoking?

DanHenry said...

Steve, I just got around to reading this. You crack me up. I, too, had a "Look at the wall" dianetics experience many years ago. It never did make sense. In the mid 80s I lived in a small California desert town where the Scientologists had a film-making and record producing studio. Pretty high profile film and music personalities used to come out there to work. Really high security there- Armed guards, uniformed worker drones, the whole works. There was a full size sailing frigate sticking out of the sand too. Hmmm. The FBI used to stake out the compound from the hills across the road (this was kind of out in the stix), hoping to catch L.Ron one one of his secret midnight jaunts to the compound. At the time he was living off U.S. shores in his yacht in order to avoid arrest and prosecution for tax evasion.

Helen Ann said...

Agreed on the point that our churches could look similarly bizarre to an outsider...Some Christian churches look bizarre to me and I'm a crazy charismatic! I like a church that explains stuff and doesn't leave people going "WTF??"

That said, after reading this, I think I know exactly what is at the heart/leadership of Scientology...It's a group of people who want to see how many people they can get to buy into saying and doing non-sensical things and be reverent and serious about doing them. The planning meeting probably looks much like a Saturday Night Live writers meeting:

Writer 1: OK...the creed. Throw some thoughts out...

Writer 2: Hmm...Observation is a scientific, intellectual sounding word. Let's start there.

Writer 1: great Idea! Observing is observing. Let us observe ourselves observing observations.

Writer 2: Brilliant!

The right wall, left wall exercise is simply a variation of a focus/sensory exercise that one might experience in an acting class. It's kind of a twisted version...But it has the same flavor...Its just that in an acting class you understand why the heck you're doing those weird things.

Now that I have more info I am more sad for the people involved in it than I am weirded out.

Thanks for braving this one for us! Glad Jesus was close to you all day.

Anonymous said...

"We worship a dead guy". . .
I'm a Christian and the "guy" I worship is the LORD (Jehovah: the self-Existent or Eternal member of the Godhead - Strong's Concordance, Hebrew #3068) God The Word, Who became a man, was crucified, died, but ROSE again and sits at the right hand of the Father. We worship the Living God. We worship Elohiym - Strong's #430; the triune God. That's what makes Christianity unique. All the other gods are dead.

Steve Fuller said...

Anonymous,

I was trying to communicate what someone might think from an outside perspective. I saw them worshipping L. Ron Hubbard - someone I view as dead and gone. Someone unfamiliar with Christianity might show up to one of our churches and walk away with the same thoughts.

~*~KIMBERLY~*~ said...

Wow Steve!

Anonymous said...

Wow! I was getting creeped out just reading about your experience. I think it's an excellent point, that any church experience can seem strange initially.

Just a random thought, I hope you have people praying for/over you during this experiment.

Blackbeauty said...

It’s interesting reading about your experience. I landed on your blog for reasons God only knows. I know it's not a coincidence. I'm thankful for the opportunity to share in your experiment with the multitudes to be enlightened to the glory of God.

I'm presently a member of - The Redeemed Christian Church of God in New Hampshire. I was raised in the Christian Faith. From my preteen years until now I'm still praying and seeking God's truth for His people. I've had my experiences with these churches: Catholic, Protestant, Mormon, Jehovah's Witness and now with RCCG.

A commentator randomly suggested that you have people praying for you and over you, I happen to agree with him. I'd like everyone who logs on to PLEASE keep you and your family in prayer that the will of God be fulfilled in your lives and that God would oversee all areas of your lives and it all shall be done in Jesus' name to the glory of God. I believe in the POWER of PRAYER. As Christians, Jesus Himself has set that example for us.

Let us seek the face of God as we continue in prayer and God the almighty shall hear our prayers, have mercy on us in Jesus' name. Jeremiah 29:13..."And you will seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me with all your heart."

~~~In spirit we press on~~~