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‘Going Clear’: Marty Rathbun on what he was thinking during his key moment in Gibney’s film


Just four days to go now before the airing of Alex Gibney’s documentary about Scientology, Going Clear, on HBO Sunday night at 8 pm. We have another screenshot from the movie for you, featuring former top Scientology executive Mark “Marty” Rathbun.

We noticed that some press stories about Going Clear criticized Gibney for not explaining that Rathbun was still a Scientologist and audited other people who had left the church. Manohla Dargis of the New York Times was one notable example.

But there’s a good reason why Gibney didn’t refer to that in the film, and that’s because it’s simply not true.

Rathbun was the second-highest ranking official in Scientology, the right hand man to leader David Miscavige. But he defected in 2004, went underground, and then resurfaced with a blog in 2009 that was highly critical of Miscavige. At that time, he wrote at length about “saving” Scientology from its “corporate” version, and he offered to audit people who had left the church without leaving their affinity for L. Ron Hubbard and his ideas.

But if you’ve paid attention to Rathbun’s blog in more recent years, you know that something really interesting happened there. Over time, as Rathbun tried to separate out what was “good” in Scientology from what was “bad” (and associated with David Miscavige), he found it more and more difficult to do.


Increasingly, he criticized L. Ron Hubbard for putting into place the toxic policies that make Scientology problematic today — and he got an earful from commenters who didn’t want to see Hubbard criticized. Some of them became so incensed at the direction Rathbun was going in, they formed their own organization for those who still think Hubbard was essentially infallible.

Rathbun, meanwhile, continued to explore other philosophical traditions and recommended non-Scientology reading for the community at his blog. You could see him becoming open to the idea that Hubbard may not have been the greatest thinker who ever lived, and that the science fiction writer actually paled alongside other intellectual traditions.

Then came a couple of big moments at the Rathbun blog. In December 2013 he announced that he was still offering courses, but they were instruction in how to leave Scientology entirely behind. We were pretty stunned when we saw that, and we figured it marked a milestone. Rathbun was far, far away from where he had been in 2009 when he started his blog. And then, more recently, another stunning post: Rathbun laid out the beliefs of Scientology, and it was brutal. Rathbun didn’t appear to see any real value in Scientology at all, at least not that hadn’t been imported from somewhere else.

Still, we were fairly stunned at what we think is one of the two or three most remarkable moments in Going Clear, when Rathbun is asked to sum up the entire experience — was he regretful? If you haven’t seen the movie, we won’t spoil his answer for you, we’ll just say it was preceded by a loooong pause, indicating, we felt, how significant it meant to Rathbun.

This week, as we were preparing for this countdown, we thought we’d ask Rathbun about that moment. We told him we thought it was one of the most emotional moments in the movie, and we had to ask — what was he thinking?

Rathbun said he wanted to put his utterance in a larger context.

“Tony, I have to explain something. I never was practicing Scientology outside of the church. I used to do ‘repairs’ on people, but in retrospect, I came to realize that what I was doing outside the church was never really Scientology,” he told us.

“In the movie, Jason Beghe calls me the ‘Michael Jordan and Wayne Gretzky’ of auditing. But what I was doing in Ingleside wasn’t Scientology. It was just the ability to instill confidence in somebody, and when you come down to something that generic, that’s not Scientology, that’s just something Hubbard ripped off from someone else.”

Whoa. We wanted to make sure we were getting this right.

“What I was actually doing was asking people to tell me how Scientology had harmed them, and then they had the freedom to talk about things they had always been afraid to say while they were in the church. I’d ask that question and just listen to them for hours and acknowledge what Scientology had done to mess them up,” he added. “And the funny thing is, Scientology has been in court saying that they surveilled me because I was using their technology. Actually, I was helping people get away from it.”

Rathbun confirmed that over time, at his blog, he’d taken apart Scientology until there was nothing left. “When I deconstructed and stripped it down, I realized that it wasn’t Scientology that ever made anyone feel that I was doing them any good,” he said. “When Alex asked me that question in the movie, I thought, it’s the whole thing, I had come full circle to say that anything of use during my Scientology experience wasn’t original, and I probably would have found it elsewhere.”

We asked him what he thought of the movie. “I did a two- or three-hour interview, which was no big deal. But the way Alex put it all together, he did a great job, and he made it with emotional impact. It does a great public service, because it will put people on notice about the end product. It will make it hard for Scientology to recruit new people.”


Mike Rinder on the hypocrisy of disconnection and celebrities

Over at his blog this morning, Mike Rinder has a great post about how celebrities get treated differently when it comes to Scientology’s strict rules about “disconnection” which rip families apart. He has an interesting photograph showing Jennifer Lopez and Leah Remini, and in the background J-Lo’s father, a longtime Scientologist.

What is he doing around an SP like Leah? And if Jennifer can keep her friends and family intact while hanging out with an outspoken former member, why can’t Sara Goldberg, for example, see both her son and her daughter?

It’s a great example of how Scientology’s toxic policies get applied differently for the rich and famous.


Your proprietor on WFMU

We jumped at the chance to be on WFMU out of Jersey City, which has had us on in the past for good shows. In this case, we were on the Aerial View show with Chris T last night, and he was well prepared. Here are a couple of links to the show. (Fun music takes up the first five minutes.)


Bonus photos from our tipsters

Caption for this image at Scientology Argentina: “Monday at midnight , we have a date … Tuesday starts with great Theta!” Scientology TV? Hey, Buenos Aires folks, let us know what’s going on…


Scientologists are using social media more than ever. Drop us a line if you spot them posting images to Instagram or Facebook!


Posted by Tony Ortega on March 25, 2015 at 07:00

E-mail your tips and story ideas to or follow us on Twitter. We post behind-the-scenes updates at our Facebook author page. Here at the Bunker we try to have a post up every morning at 7 AM Eastern (Noon GMT), and on some days we post an afternoon story at around 2 PM. After every new story we send out an alert to our e-mail list and our FB page.

Learn about Scientology with our numerous series with experts…

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GETTING OUR ETHICS IN: Jefferson Hawkins explains Scientology’s system of justice

SCIENTOLOGY MYTHBUSTING: Historian Jon Atack discusses key Scientology concepts

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The mystery of the richest Scientologist and his wayward sons | Scientology’s shocking mistreatment of the mentally ill
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