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Atack: The forgotten history of disproving Scientology’s status as a “religion”

Jon_Atack3Jon Atack is the author of A Piece of Blue Sky, one of the very best books on L. Ron Hubbard and Scientology. He has a new edition of the book for sale, and for more than three years he’s been helping us sift through the legends, myths, and contested facts about Scientology that tend to get hashed and rehashed in books, articles, and especially on the Internet.

I never really considered Scientology a religion. I accept that if others want to, they can, but I agree with Professor Hugh Urban: “If anything, Scientology is a self-conscious attempt to make a religion, that is, a concerted effort to use explicitly religious sorts of discourse to describe, defend, define and redefine itself.” (The Church of Scientology: A History of a New Religion, p.211).

Initially, religious status was a way of avoiding any further lawsuits from the American Medical Association for practicing medicine without a license: In the US you can claim to cure cancer (as Hubbard did), as long as it is a religious claim.

Helen O’Brien furnished me with the letter Hubbard wrote to her on April 10, 1953, when she headed his organization, where he talks about the financial profits available from the “religion angle.”

A follower from the US told me in about 1976 that he and other staff were all ushered onto the week-long Minister’s Course, to avoid being sent to Vietnam. A similar pretense of religion had happened in the early 1960s, when the Australian state of Victoria introduced its draconian ban of Scientology (for more information, see Steve Cannane’s excellent new book, Fair Game).

I didn’t see Scientology as religion, but as a set of techniques for self-improvement and the healthy administration of groups (I’ve changed my mind on both of those scores – it is a set of techniques to create subservience and a way of trapping people in a totalist cult).

In the late 1980s, I constructed an argument that was used several times in court to show that Scientology is a “monolithic corporation” hiding behind a “corporate veil.” The hundreds of listed Scientology corporations are, in fact, all under the control of David Miscavige, who keeps signed but undated resignations from the supposed officials of those corporations.

Lawrence Wollersheim came near to the end of his heroic 20-year battle, only to find that the Church of Scientology of California (the “mother church”) had only thousands left in its bank accounts, so my argument was vital to his judgment. This argument was also used successfully by Bent Corydon.

Along the way, I had to read a slew of corporate filings (later well documented by Denise Brennan, who was instrumental in creating this particular shell game). One filing in particular caught my attention: The Church of Spiritual Technology, which acquired $500 million of the $648 million left in Hubbard’s will (‘The work was free; keep it so’ as he said).

My first foray into Scientology’s corporate structure was during the original David Mayo case. His lawyers had racked up a bill of almost $3 million, and they wanted to persuade the court to award them costs.

I obtained documents filed by the Church of Spiritual Technology (CST) in its attempt to obtain tax exemption. I told the lawyers to ask for these documents from whichever of the corporations were suing David. It worked like a dream. I even received a thousand dollar fee.

I continued to monitor CST, and in 1992 obtained a judgment in Church of Spiritual Technology v. United States of 29 June that includes the following statement: “LRH died in 1986, but his writings and other recorded words are still considered to be scripture by adherents of Scientology.”

The court denied the application – it would wait for David Miscavige and Marty Rathbun to work their evil magic the following year in order to make the IRS roll over and play dead – but the statement struck me, because of that word “scripture.”

Hubbard had already hijacked the word “church” – formerly a Christian organization – and now his followers were after another Christian term. “Scripture” means “Holy Writ; the Bible” in its original meaning (courtesy of the Oxford Dictionary).

In common parlance, however, scripture means “truth,” which is why I have so often caviled at the term when used by Scientologists. In Scientology, we have the notion that everything Hubbard said is true: It is scripture. So his writings about vases, the Saint Hill car park, and the tooth-destroying “barley formula” for babies are all irrevocable truth.

This raises many conflicts, including Hubbard’s contradictory statements about his own life. Listen to the 23 September 1950 lecture “Introduction to Dianetics” and compare it to the version in Mission Into Time, for instance – but no two autobiographies are the same. More importantly, this destroys any notion that Scientology is scientific – because science cannot rely upon the fiat of one autocratic individual. It must be open to revision as new investigations are made.

Hubbard wanted to have his cake and eat it, too: Scientology is a religion and a science, according to his “scripture.” Instead what we are presented with is what Robert Jay Lifton called sacred science: “The totalist milieu maintains an aura of sacredness around its basic dogma, holding it out as an ultimate moral vision for the ordering of human existence. This sacredness is evident in the prohibition…against the questioning of basic assumptions, and in the reverence which is demanded for the originators of the Word, the present bearers of the Word, and the Word itself. While thus transcending ordinary concerns of logic, however, the milieu at the same time makes an exaggerated claim of airtight logic, of absolute ‘scientific’ precision. Thus the ultimate moral vision becomes an ultimate science; and the man who dares to criticize it, or to harbour even unspoken alternative ideas, becomes not only immoral and irreverent, but also ‘unscientific.’ In this way, the philosopher kings of modern ideological totalism reinforce their authority by claiming to share in the rich and respected heritage of natural science.”

So, to repeat the assertion made by Alan Upward, who created the word “Scientology” in 1907, “Is it science or is it scientology?”

— Jon Atack


Bonus items from our tipsters

Some images from last night’s big IAS annual gala in East Grinstead, England have started coming in.



Paulette_Cooper‘The Unbreakable Miss Lovely’ audiobook now on sale has released the audiobook version of The Unbreakable Miss Lovely: How the Church of Scientology tried to destroy Paulette Cooper and you can get the book for free if you’re signing up at Audible for the first time!

Read by the author (that’s us), the book tells the incredible tale of a journalist who was among the first to expose Scientology’s controversies, and nearly paid for it with her life. Go to Audible’s website for more details — [US version] [UK version]

To support the Audible launch, Paulette Cooper joined us for an “Ask Me Anything” session at Reddit on September 29, which covered a lot of topics about the book and about this website.


3D-UnbreakablePosted by Tony Ortega on October 8, 2016 at 07:00

E-mail tips and story ideas to tonyo94 AT gmail DOT com or follow us on Twitter. We post behind-the-scenes updates at our Facebook author page. After every new story we send out an alert to our e-mail list and our FB page.

Our book, The Unbreakable Miss Lovely: How the Church of Scientology tried to destroy Paulette Cooper, is on sale at Amazon in paperback, Kindle, and audiobook versions. We’ve posted photographs of Paulette and scenes from her life at a separate location. Reader Sookie put together a complete index. More information about the book, and our 2015 book tour, can also be found at the book’s dedicated page.

Learn about Scientology with our numerous series with experts…

BLOGGING DIANETICS: We read Scientology’s founding text cover to cover with the help of L.A. attorney and former church member Vance Woodward
UP THE BRIDGE: Claire Headley and Bruce Hines train us as Scientologists
GETTING OUR ETHICS IN: Jefferson Hawkins explains Scientology’s system of justice
SCIENTOLOGY MYTHBUSTING: Historian Jon Atack discusses key Scientology concepts

Other links: Shelly Miscavige, ten years gone | The Lisa McPherson story told in real time | The Cathriona White stories | The Leah Remini ‘Knowledge Reports’ | Hear audio of a Scientology excommunication | Scientology’s little day care of horrors | Whatever happened to Steve Fishman? | Felony charges for Scientology’s drug rehab scam | Why Scientology digs bomb-proof vaults in the desert | PZ Myers reads L. Ron Hubbard’s “A History of Man” | Scientology’s Master Spies | Scientology’s Private Dancer | The mystery of the richest Scientologist and his wayward sons | Scientology’s shocking mistreatment of the mentally ill | Scientology boasts about assistance from Google | The Underground Bunker’s Official Theme Song | The Underground Bunker FAQ

Our Guide to Alex Gibney’s film ‘Going Clear,’ and our pages about its principal figures…
Jason Beghe | Tom DeVocht | Sara Goldberg | Paul Haggis | Mark “Marty” Rathbun | Mike Rinder | Spanky Taylor | Hana Whitfield


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  • Intergalactic Walrus

    But my Reg promised that Tom Cruise would be sitting at our table…

    • Frodis73

      Perfect caption.

    • anyone wanna play a quick round of …

      Duckface Or Who Farted?

  • Frodis73
  • Intergalactic Walrus

    Fashion Police report… Thorsten Overgaard & Joy Villa have got some competition for “Worst Dressed Clam” at this years Patrons Ball! Yikes!

    Note to self: Hotel curtains do not make a great dinner jacket and don’t recycle old birthday present ribbon to use as a tie…

    Stephen King could build a really scary horror story around this cape!

    • Why has that man got a grey arm growing out of his head?

      • you know how when you leave a potato in the dark for too long
        and it starts to sprout those weird tentacles?
        this is pretty much the same thing.

    • JaxNGold

      Hotel curtains…LOL!

    • Liberated

      Those are some tacky clothes.

    • Frodis73

      That guy looks like he’d be real touchy feely…whether you wanted him to be or not. Ugh.

  • Intergalactic Walrus

    Incredible person? Honored?
    He’s a child molester!

    • noseinabk

      Better stay in pedo guy. The protection you get from the cult will not survive quiting.

      • noseinabk

        Nothing in scientology bothers me more than people willing to hide the real crimes against children that are in those scumbags files. If you audited a pedo and didn’t report it you were complicet and contributed to the abuse.

  • Mockingbird

    OT, reading about Joy Villa and discussing Hubbard’s treatment of artists with Marc Foster reminded me of what Hubbard said about the aesthetic wavelength and auditing and artists and that he studied rhetoric and elements of that.

    I figured out what he was so interested in about aesthetics. Here’s the rough post. I can punch it up with more quotes later:

    Here’s one Hubbard quote on artists: keep in mind where he placed aesthetics on the emotional tone scale too: He put Aesthetics at 6.0 right above the enthusiasm of clear at 4.0 and just beneath the height of exhilaration at 8.0. It’s noteworthy that it’s above a clear.

    “The artist has an enormous role in the enhancement of today’s and the creation of tomorrow’s reality. He operates in a rank in advance of science as to the necessities and requirements of Man. The elevation of a culture can be measured directly by the numbers of its people working in the field of aesthetics. Because the artist deals in future realities, he always seeks improvements or changes in the existing reality. This makes the artist, inevitably and invariably, a rebel against the status quo. The artist, day by day, by postulating the new realities of the future, accomplishes peaceful revolution.” Ron Hubbard

    Remember he was referring to the aesthetic wavelength. He said a lot about that and I figured out what he was hiding about it.

    Here’s a quote with a relevant idea:

    “There are three aspects of aberration on which we may concentrate in processing: (1) sexual intercourse, because it restimulates blanketing incidents, particularly when the relationship with the sexual partner is low-toned, (2) trying to control people, trying to make them stand still when they want to move or move when they want to stand still or go here when they want to go there, since it restimulates being less and less able to control bodies, (3) the aesthetic content of incidents, since it is the aesthetic wavelength that is alone capable of appending itself to theta and building down into lower levels to form aberration.” Ron Hubbard


    SCIENTOLOGY AND DIANETICS BOOKLET 50 of the PROFESSIONAL COURSE BY L. RON HUBBARD Whole Track Incidents Black-and-White Technique 88 (This Booklet is a Summarization of Tape Lecture 080752 C-D)

    Hubbard claimed thetans were most attracted to the aesthetic wavelength as it most closely matched there own.

    He said the aesthetic wavelength on an incident pinned it to a thetan. It was described as making lower level aberration possible.

    Now I didn’t understand it for a loooong time.

    Hubbard had studied rhetoric. He knew several methods of persuasion made suggestions effective.

    One is called in rhetoric sublime writing. That uses vivid images and causes a person to enter ecstasy which is described as a pleasant trance state, like being caught up in a movie at the theater and losing any sense of being there and just getting deep into the story and images before you. That is potent and considered to heighten suggestibility.

    Hubbard knew effective artists get the audience through sublime writing or music or performance etc.. He knew it was essential to controlling people.

    So he put the aesthetic wavelength above clear on his tone scale and treated artists as special because they could influence people and that was Hubbard’s Excalibur. He wanted to have men as his slaves.

    He acted like the aesthetic wavelength pinned incidents to people even as he tried to master sublime writing himself to control them.

    I had to coordinate bits and pieces from many Scientology references and the materials on rhetoric Hubbard studied to see the same concept repackaged by Hubbard. He took ideas from others on influence, filed off the serial numbers and put them out as his own. He flipped enslavement and freedom of course because as the games maker he was the only one allowed to know everything about the game. The Scientologists got played.

  • Observer

    OT: the original Westworld is just starting on SyFy.

  • Here’s a fun page in the CoS answers to IRS questions back in 1993:

    Child Care & Schooling [for the children of Sea Org members. Wut?]

  • noseinabk

    I know that everything seems like a huge mess in the news and with COS.
    A little escape is good. Gnite bunkerites and ASC members.

  • Andrew Robertson
    • Missionary Kid

      That’s pretty cheesy.

  • Molly Meldrum
    • Missionary Kid

      Someone, please confront her with it. Obviously, her control over MEST didn’t enable her to detect what a douche he is, or did her own douchiness blind her douche detector? She’s an OT what?

      • Molly Meldrum

        For some reason it doesn’t surprise me than an OT fell for Trump.

        • Missionary Kid

          According to some of the other posters here, there’s a lot of clam Trump supporters. I think it may be because they like the certainty with which he makes all his declarations.

          • sashiebgood

            also bc he’s got a lot of the same qualities as LRH. including the orange hair.

            • Missionary Kid

              I consider his hair more or less blond, but his complexion orange. 😛

      • Frodis73

        I think her douchiness blinded her to his douchiness a bit. If somebody were dumb enough to give him his old tv show back and he invited her on, she would show up in a hot minute.

        • Molly Meldrum

          Probs gob the tic tacs too
          Oh wait, she’s over 35

        • Missionary Kid

          She’ll do anything to get on TV. Her last TV show is an example.

    • Frodis73

      She has me blocked, I am curious, what did she actually say in the tweet?

      • Molly Meldrum

        Blocked lol.

        Kirstie Alley ‏@kirstiealley 2h hours ago
        Kirstie Alley Retweeted paul fletcher
        I love this..but I hate this election and I’m officially no longer endorsing either candidate..I’m voting for the woman with the ladder
        (she links to a cute animal gif)

        Not long after she’s tweeted this:

        Kirstie Alley ‏@kirstiealley 2h hours ago
        ” Moral indignation is jealousy with a halo.” H.G. Wells

        • Frodis73

          Thx Molly. This whole thing actually cracks me up that yesterdays news was the straw that broke the camel’s back…it’s not like there were a million other clues that this is exactly who the guy is. There is that quote from Maya Angelou that is something like people always tell you exactly who they are…I am tired, but you all know the one I mean! G;nite Bunkeroos and ASC members. I will join you in the am to get instructions on how to proceed with our agenda.

          • Molly Meldrum

            Like MK reminded us – she is an OT, so.. not the most critical of thinkers….

            Night Frodis 🙂

  • PickAnotherID

    Finally got my power back! What a mess. From the sound, too dark to see, I’ve either got a tree, or very large branch down. Everyone has been telling people all day to stay off the roads, but the FD & PD are going crazy pulling idiots who wouldn’t listen out of flooded roads. Which makes it harder for them to respond to real emergencies, like heart attacks and downed power poles. I’m thinking if they want to try for a Darwin Award, let ’em go for it. Especially the bozo’s who think an SUV is some kind of boat.

    • Juicer77

      You keep staying safe and smart. Glad your power is back on!

    • MarcabExpat

      Woo hoo! If you can’t tell from the sound whether it’s a tree or a very large branch, I assume it hit the ground and not the building? Fingers crossed for ya!

      I know you’re too smart to go out by half. Is there no curfew at the moment? I remember storm I was in were the National Guard were loaded for bear, collaring curfew-breakers and throwing them in the back of a scary-looking military vehicle. Those guys did not mess around and so neither did we.

      • PickAnotherID

        Yeah, most of the top half of an oak hit the ground about 10 feet from the end of the house. I’m glad the break wasn’t any lower. Now I need to see about getting someone to cut it up.

        • MarcabExpat

          Man you got lucky! Safe to drive around now?

          • PickAnotherID

            Some places. The Town’s got a list of roads that are still flooded posted so, hopefully, people will stay away from them.

  • John Prince

    Is it just my Super-DOOPER Wog vision or. .why do the smiling folks at the “big” event in East Grinstead all look like morons? one possible reason for stupidology’s ascending age-average among it’s members COULD be that “South Park” is way more popular these days as the coolest religion in the world (which keeps
    scraping the bottom of the Barrel in Eastern Europe & Asia for fresh meat!)

    p.s. three cheers and a hearty slap-on-the-back to Billy the Pirate. .I drink to Yee’

    • Juicer77

      It’s the super-ecclesiastical facial “happy” palsy. Honed through hours of sec checking and must be firmly in place whenever the camera points in their direction!

      • John Prince

        ..I wonder if these supposed young, attractive “happy” asswipes know that they’re being laughed at by MANY TIMES more people,across the Globe ,than the few fools in attendance at their “big” event?

        • Juicer77

          It’s possible that many of them do have an idea they look ridiculous, which gets quickly suppressed by the thought-stopping Co$ techniques, fear of sec checking or fear of disconnection from loved ones. There are a precious few who think they are the most fabulous bunch on the planet and think being ridiculed is proof they are “winning.” And there may be even a smaller few whose cult world is so small they have no idea how crazy they look to outsiders – these are the ones really, really deep in Hubbardthink.

          • John Prince

            I must admit I got a good chuckle from the Star of “table 82”,who made sure everyone saw him pawing miss happy’s thigh..yes,the same one who seemed to think he was starring in a Broadway Musical!
            These idiots really bust me up! !!!

  • Juicer77

    O/T – Some hedgehog photos 🙂 “I’ll just check out this hibernation spot… Oh, no, I’ve been spotted!!” I believe this is Hogzilla, the lovingly named heftiest of the hedgies. He’s a regular at the Royal Hedgeworth Arms feeding station.

    • Baby

      chills.. i like the babies..hahahhahahahahha

  • ReallyMGM

    Been away from commenting due to life (sigh), but reading daily blog and as many comments as possible. As always Jo Atack always is a great read.

    Still playing BunkerBall FF even though I am failing terrifically at it! Having a blast regardless.

    OT: Concert update: recently saw The Avett Brothers. Incredible and now on my list to see again (and again). Got a few more for the the end of the year then a break.

    • Baby

      Hi honey bunny.. good to see you.. I have been in and out.. always good to see you Kitteh..

      Oh I really like the Avett Brothers.. Yay You.. xoxo love baby

      • ReallyMGM

        They were great. Next up sweet, sweet soul music!

    • Juicer77

      As long as you are having fun 🙂

  • Intergalactic Walrus
    • Graham

      Message to the people at table 82. What’s wrong with you bums? If you turn round and look the other way you can see the REAL movers & shakers up there beyond the barrier. You KNOW that’s where you want to be. Get your arses in gear, make those donations. Next year you could be up there with the really beautiful people. You know you want to. You know the IAS motto: “Status is All”.

    • John Prince

      Thanks for more photos of more morons! Desperatly trying to evoke enthusiasm for “the coolest religion in the world” ..kinda’ like kicking a dead Horse ..

    • Fake celebrities… Imagine what goes through the mind of those sea orgers that are forced to kiss their butt all night and next day. *GET OUT OFF THERE* slave workers!

    • Baby

      I have no words..

    • sashiebgood

      it’s that guy with the too small suit again! or maybe it’s a different guy with another too small suit… either way, white pants=bad idea, particularly when a vest and an ascot are mixed in.

      • Intergalactic Walrus

        Clam just love tiny suits…

        • PJK

          That woman doesn’t look at all happy to be there. Same thing goes for the woman in the yellow dress in the first picture. Her smile seems terribly fake and her eyes seem to say “Please get me out of here!”.

  • TheMirrorThetan

    Chris has a new Q and A up. Number 78.
    The sad bit was as a never in, I understood nearly every single word at 11 mins in. Maybe I need a break.
    Xenu damn It- I can’t even spell break right, I definitely need one. 🙂

    • Draco

      Too late! What has been learned cannot be unlearned.

    • Baby

      I feel the same way Pookey when I see videos/movies of Exes/ or Scn. and I can identify every one of them. sigh

    • Think of it as, now you can smell BS from a long distance and crie out when you observe this BS out in the general society. We need to keep this BS inside the Cult.

  • Narconon (Life solution) is aiming high this time… Keep an eye on this job offer -Tweeters.
    If we spot a full time social writer on forums, let’s J&D the living daylight out of this one!

  • LindaFromNewYork

    I am not a scientologist. Nor have I ever been. I have been reading here (there, and everywhere) for years. Scientology fascinates me. But not in a good way. Keep showing the world what a scam this “religion” is.

  • BuberZionist

    The draft ended in the US in the early 1970s. What you described must have happened earlier.

  • RK

    The push to have everyone take the Ministers Course in 1976 was part of the strategy to make Scientology Orgs and Missions appear more like Churches in response to whatever lawsuit or legal battle that was happening at the time. People were selected and pushed through the course to be given a Ministers certificate, but then they had to purchase religious garb (a shirt and a white collar like Catholic priests) with their own money. Someone on staff had to be wearing this outfit every day. A rotation schedule was posted so people would know which day. It was absurd. There would be the 18 year old female receptionist in a black shirt and religious collar answering phones and making coffee. Sunday services were mandated to be held, even if the person was talking to an empty room.

  • Lighthouse

    Thanks, Jon, for another great article.

  • Peter Meier

    Really cool guy!

    What is the East Grinstead press saying?

    Definition: SCN is a multi-billion-dollar-business where only one mafia-gang on the top wins. You can say it is a dark satanic circle opened up by a flyfisher and now headed by a psycho, with the art of saying good and “wise” things to the lower fans and public, which do not know the sad scene behind.

  • Gus_Cox

    That second to last pic is interesting – on the right is Thorsten “von” Overgaard, “Leica Photographer,” who sells 3-day photography workshops with his very self for $3,000.00. Plus, extension courses! Apparently, he’s following the scientology money-making formula. This has not gone unnoticed by photography people:

    In the center of the photo is presumably his girlfriend, “Princess” Joy Villa. I think she sings at clam events or something.