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Reza Aslan’s ‘Believer’ episode about indie Scientology lived down to all expectations

Now that we’ve seen Reza Aslan’s Believer episode about “independent Scientology,” we can see that our earlier story, which was based on what he was saying in interviews leading up to the show, was really on the money and we don’t have a lot to add.

This show was simply dishonest. Whatever you think of L. Ron Hubbard and the idea of past-life counseling, there’s just no denying that the Church of Scientology is a shrinking entity that is mired in controversy and accused of shocking abuse. Thousands have left the church in the last decade.

And of those, the vast majority leave it altogether. A very small number, however, continue to practice some version of Scientology. These tend to be older people who miss what Scientology meant to them when they picked it up in the 1960s or 1970s. And not only are their numbers small, but that number is not growing appreciably.

As Jefferson Hawkins pointed out yesterday, independent Scientology tends to be a brief phase that people go through on their way out of Hubbardism altogether. And that is worth covering — it’s something we’ve been covering pretty steadily for at least the last six or seven years.


But Aslan, after admitting in the first part of his show that he has a “soft spot” for Scientology in general, tries to give the impression that independent Scientology is “pure” Scientology, and that it’s the future — a growing, living thing that could, as he said in one promo, become one of the great religions of the world.

And the only way he could give that impression was through sleight of hand. As we said in our piece on Tuesday, he features places like the Dror Center or Rey Robles’s Reno group without giving any hint of just how tiny they are. Not once does he make any attempt to give some sense of the size of Scientology — the church or those outside it.

Sure, it’s cool that Rey Robles thinks he’s OT 9 and has sorcerer powers — yes, he called himself a sorcerer — but should CNN really be using its media power to send Reza Aslan to Reno for that kind of pointless interview when in his own backyard, in Los Angeles, there’s a 7-year court battle being fought over Scientology forced abortion that’s already been to the US Supreme Court, a court fight that CNN has never mentioned at all?

(The Church of Scientology of course, wasn’t happy with Aslan’s show because it didn’t gush about the “fastest growing religion on earth.” At the Freedom magazine website, they pointed out that one thing Aslan left out of his show was that he actually did get to tour one of the Los Angeles facilities and had multiple meetings with a church representative. It is funny that he left that out. Confronted with the reality that Scientology is as insanely insular as its former members claim, Aslan still went ahead with a show claiming that Scientology gets a bad rap. When Louis Theroux was faced with that situation, he came to the conclusion that, well, maybe these former members have a point. Meanwhile, Alex Gibney and Lawrence Wright are still miles ahead with Going Clear, which, full disclosure, we were fortunate to be a part of. Leah Remini, meanwhile, is simply on another plane of existence.)

Well, Aslan got what he wanted. He used some indie Scientologists to forward his agenda that Scientology itself is not so bad, and really just like all other religions. In order to do that, however, he had to take a couple of subtle jabs at Gibney and Wright, and, somehow, almost completely ignored L. Ron Hubbard’s sick history while stroking people who still think he’s a demigod.

But rest assured, Aslan will continue to be the religious studies guy at your dinner party, scoring points on people who have only a modest grasp of Scientology’s controversies. “Yeah, I’m that guy,” he admitted.

Hey, Reza, how about inviting us to one of those dinner parties? Might be a different story.


Jeffrey Augustine interviews Steven Hassan

Jeffrey tells us that besides talking about his approach to Scientology, Hassan describes what it was like to meet Mike Rinder on Leah Remini’s show and why the experience of meeting the former head of OSA so powerfully moved him.



Bonus items from our tipsters

While Reza Aslan searches for his mojo, Scientology continues churching. In Pretoria, another pirate themed fundraiser!


College kids in India!


Someone cut a big check.


At Flag, they’re really getting desperate about handing out certificates, aren’t they?



HowdyCon 2017: Denver, June 23-25. Go here to start making your plans.


Scientology disconnection, a reminder

Bernie Headley has not seen his daughter Stephanie in 4,702 days.
Quailynn McDaniel has not seen her brother Sean in 1,805 days.
Claudio and Renata Lugli have not seen their son Flavio in 2,299 days.
Sara Goldberg has not seen her daughter Ashley in 1,339 days.
Lori Hodgson has not seen her son Jeremy in 1,051 days.
Marie Bilheimer has not seen her mother June in 518 days.
Joe Reaiche has not seen his daughter Alanna Masterson in 4,636 days
Derek Bloch has not seen his father Darren in 1,806 days.
Cindy Plahuta has not seen her daughter Kara in 2,126 days.
Claire Headley has not seen her mother Gen in 2,101 days.
Ramana Dienes-Browning has not seen her mother Jancis in 457 days.
Mike Rinder has not seen his son Benjamin in 4,759 days.
Brian Sheen has not seen his daughter Spring in 866 days.
Skip Young has not seen his daughters Megan and Alexis for 1,268 days.
Mary Kahn has not seen her son Sammy in 1,141 days.
Lois Reisdorf has not seen her son Craig in 722 days.
Phil and Willie Jones have not seen their son Mike in 1,227 days.
Mary Jane Sterne has not seen her daughter Samantha in 1,471 days.
Kate Bornstein has not seen her daughter Jessica in 12,580 days.


3D-UnbreakablePosted by Tony Ortega on March 27, 2017 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.

The Best of the Underground Bunker, 1995-2016 Just starting out here? We’ve picked out the most important stories we’ve covered here at the Undergound Bunker (2012-2016), The Village Voice (2008-2012), New Times Los Angeles (1999-2002) and the Phoenix New Times (1995-1999)

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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