The dark world of Scientology

In the week that the world’s most famous scientologist Tom Cruise is dropped by Paramount Pictures because of the actor’s strange behaviour, I attended my first meeting of an informal gathering known as Skeptics In The Pub when the subject for debate was cults with particular reference to scientology.
Scientology – the term means “the study of truth,” in the words of its founder and spiritual messiah, the late science-fiction writer L. Ron Hubbard – calls itself “the world’s fastest-growing religion”, although the evidence to back this – like many other claims from the ‘church’ – is lacking. Started in 1952, the group now claims 10 million members in 159 countries and more than 6,000 scientology churches, missions and outreach groups across the globe.
Its holdings, which include real estate on several continents, are widely assumed to value in the billions of dollars. Its missionaries — known as “volunteer ministers” — take part in “cavalcades” throughout the developing world and have been found, en masse, at the site of disasters ranging from 9/11 to the Asian tsunami to Hurricane Katrina.
The speaker at Skeptics In The Pub was Dr Martin Poulter. He exlained that Scientology covers a lot of topics that skeptics are concerned about – pseudoscience, psychic powers, pseudohistory, bogus medical practice, mega-doses of vitamins, truth-relativism, therapeutic touch – and he showed how Scientology practices and institutionalises each of these. In a rather rambling discourse, one of his more interesting points was that the law should treat Scientology as a business rather than as a religion and enforce normal consumer protection legislation.
More information on the strange beliefs and practices of scientologists here.