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Religion professor complains that no one wants to hear the good news about Scientology

Chris Shelton continues his look at the state of ‘religious studies’ attitudes about Scientology by working through a new issue of the journal Implicit Religion. Go here for his first and second installments.

This week we are examining “Researching and Teaching Scientology: Perception and Performance of a New Religion” by Stephen E. Gregg of the University of Wolverhampton in the UK. Gregg is a Senior Lecturer in Religious Studies and the Hon. Secretary of the British Association for the Study of Religions and as I’ve mentioned in other articles, he has no credentials or apparent understanding of psychology, sociology, or the subject of coercive control, so his views are informed strictly through a lens of religious studies.

His conclusions about studying groups like Scientology suffer from his ignorance. Gregg was one of the four participants of the podcast I commented on in our first article and this article is his follow-up to that. I will focus on only one point he makes. The rest of his article is the usual, almost boiler-plate nonsense about how rough religious scholars have it studying groups like Scientology.

“New Religious Movement” is the euphemism that academics like Gregg have adopted so they can stay away from the more “problematic” words and concepts surrounding destructive cults, and they can then ignore the more flagrant human and civil rights abuses these groups engage in. I wish this were not actually the case, but I’ve read their papers (and critiqued them publicly) and they really do have their heads buried in the sand that deeply. They continually lament that the media and “apostate” stories dominate the conversation when it comes to groups like the Church of Scientology or the Moonies.


What is fascinating is the lack of self-awareness by NRM scholars toward their own field. Each article in Implicit Religion which I have examined so far (and this is the third) all share a theme that if only the media and former members hadn’t polluted the subject, they could do real academic work and not be impeded by all these nonsensical horror stories from the “cult narrative.”

One wonders what they could possibly mean by “real” academic work, since there is a great deal of valid research that could be done on this subject; it just seems to me that these academics refuse to do it.

In writing about the history of NRM apologetics Gregg writes, “The rise of Anti-cultic approaches to NRMs created a two-fold problem; firstly, that NRMs were often misrepresented and demonized, and secondly, that NRMs were treated as somehow different to other (often ‘mainstream’) religions. This propensity has continued throughout the decades since, despite the best efforts of NRM scholars who, although oft labelled ‘cult-apologists’ by their detractors, have simply sought to understand NRM communities as-lived and on their own terms, rather than through the reductive theological lens of anti-cultic commentators.”

I’m one of those detractors and I have labelled Gregg and others as cult apologists because that is, in effect, what their work is utilized for, even if that is not what they intended. I think in my earlier articles and videos pertaining to religious scholars, I’ve made the counterargument enough times to this NRM approach that I don’t have to repeat it here. Instead, Gregg brings up another point in his article which I wanted to highlight because it indicates there may be a sea change in academia on this subject.

In a rare bit of self-assessment about his career, Gregg writes: “It is apparent in my experience, however, that an undervaluing of the study of New Religions is still prevalent in the wider Study of Religions. Anecdotal evidence borne out of experiences at academic conferences, where ‘NRM panels’ often struggle for attendees, despite high profile speakers, may be little more than a reflection of the stretched obligations of attendees at large parallel-panel events, but Ben Zeller tellingly noted at the INFORM 25TH Anniversary Conference of 2013 that, in a trawl of the previous decades’ North American job listings in Religious Studies, not one position sought a specialist in NRMs. He concluded that colleagues were only keeping the area of study going by having other specialisms that allowed us to be employable, after which we may undertake research into NRMs when in post. This is certainly true of my own academic career to date.”

All of that to simply say that no one is particularly interested in the bullshit that NRM scholars are shoveling these days and it appears this ‘area of research’ is finally dying the death it deserves. Don’t get me wrong because I feel very strongly that there is a valid subject of study in new religious movements but notice the lack of capitalized letters there. ‘New Religious Movement’ amongst this lot is simply code for a destructive cult which the academics don’t want to admit is such. There are many reasons for this, but the bottom line is that by bringing such a strong and blatant bias to their research, these academics have discredited themselves and, to a degree, their field.

I’ve been thinking about how to talk about how ridiculous this whole NRM thing is and here’s the best analogy I could make: imagine if you had a faction of economists who argued vigorously that the Mafia should be studied from the perspective that they are a legitimate business enterprise. They assert that this entire idea of “the Mafia” is just a fantasy dreamed up by an insatiable, controversy-hungry media and sour, disinherited family members who are just out to tarnish the good name of the Corleone or Randazzo families. According to these economists, these families aren’t engaged in a massive criminal conspiracy but are just good, hard-working immigrants who are trying to make their way in the world by utilizing traditional family values and methods from the Old Country.

It wouldn’t be hard in this age of conflicting social and ethnic values to even make this argument stick and gain some degree of agreement and before you know it, papers are being written and presented at economic conferences singing the praises of this “New Business Model.” The NBM economists, as they become known, meet and form groups and write more papers and try very hard for decades to pass themselves off as a legitimate form of study, research and discussion.

Meanwhile, law enforcement and the actual victims of the Mafia as well as the media look at what the NBM economists are saying and think to themselves that they’re just a bunch of nutters. And that, of course, is how I have thought of NRM scholars from the first paper I read by them. So, it put a bit of a smile on my face that Gregg is openly wondering about the future of his apologist profession. I hope that does the same for you. That was the most positive and comment-worthy aspect of Gregg’s paper and so that’s all I’m going to write about this week on it.

— Chris Shelton


Bonus items from our tipsters

Austin still needs help staffing up for its grand opening. Houston to the rescue!



James is on his way to gain the knowledge of life!


Emma parts with more body thetans on OT 5 and is in tears!


Patty re-signed her staff contract!




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Did you know you can get an email every morning when we post our daily Scientology story? We know some of the folks who come to the Underground Bunker aren’t here to talk about the politics of the day, and that’s why we created a daily politics feature over at our other blog, The Lowdown, and we ask readers to take their political discussions over there. And if you drop us a line at tonyo94 AT gmail, we’ll put you on the list so you get a morning reminder that a new Scientology story has been posted — and only for our Scientology stories.


Source Code

“You know, a fellow’s walking down the street and a thought flashes through his mind that maybe some of his behavior is not entirely masculine, maybe it is slightly effeminate. In other words, the datum is there ‘Maybe I’m a girl.’ Well, it’s, you see, it’s very nebulous. You know, maybe he’s just playing a game with himself of worry, something. We come along, we pat him on the shoulder, he tells us what he’s worried about. We don’t even have to tell him ‘You’re not a girl,’ see? I mean, he just tells us what he was worried about, he — boom! See, it’s gone that quick.” — L. Ron Hubbard, October 25, 1956


Avast, Ye Mateys

“In the exact place Christopher Columbus, returning from his first voyage, got blown off that bay just like we did. He had anchored and half the crew went ashore to give thanks in a church-hermitage at that place and were seized by the islanders. Columbus, still aboard the Nina, his smallest ship, lost both his anchors and with only 3 sailors and some ships boys had to get out of there as a gale struck. He came up to where we are now, rode out the gale, went back, PRed his crew out of the goal, recovered an anchor and sailed on to Lisbon and into history.” — The Commodore, October 25, 1970



Overheard in the FreeZone

“You know, with more and more of us dying and coming back (Revenimus?), I wonder if you could actually get away with a business catering to this need? Somebody’d have to store your crap for a couple of decades, and then you’d have to give your passphrase to get it back. ‘Theta-Store Inc.’ Motto: ‘We got your crap. Come get it back.’ Yeah, I’m definitely on to something here!”


Past is Prologue

2001: Bob Minton was awarded the Leo J. Ryan award at the Leo J. Ryan Education Foundation conference. Some excerpts from the address by Bob Minton and introduction by Priscilla Coates: “The first Leo J. Ryan award was given in 1981. Leo J. Ryan was a congressman from the Bay area of California, who became concerned about Jim Jones and the Peoples Temple. He investigated. He became more concerned. He became so concerned about his constituents and their families that he went to Jonestown, Guyana. He thought, I believe, that he was protected by the press. The press, I believe, thought they were protected by a U.S. congressman. Instead, both press and Congressman Leo J. Ryan were assassinated in Jonestown, Guyana, November 18, 1978. The individual who receives the Leo J. Ryan award is one who has demonstrated the courage and commitment that Congressman Ryan showed in the extreme; that individual who feels a duty as a human being to preserve and protect our most basic human rights. This year we are proud, and Congressman Ryan would be proud to present the award to Mr. Robert Minton.”


Random Howdy

“I’ll have you know I read each and every comment very carefully and that there are a myriad of reasons for why I may upvote them…or not.”


Full Court Press: What we’re watching at the Underground Bunker

Criminal prosecutions:

Danny Masterson charged for raping three women: Next hearing set for November 10. Trial tentatively scheduled for February.
Jay and Jeff Spina, Medicare fraud: Jay sentenced to 9 years in prison. Jeff’s sentencing to be scheduled.
Hanan and Rizza Islam and other family members, Medi-Cal fraud: Pretrial conference December 17 in Los Angeles
David Gentile, GPB Capital, fraud: Next pretrial conference set for November 19.
Joseph ‘Ben’ Barton, Medicare fraud: Pleaded guilty, awaiting sentencing.

Civil litigation:
Luis and Rocio Garcia v. Scientology: Oral arguments were heard on July 30, 2020 at the Eleventh Circuit
Valerie Haney v. Scientology: Forced to ‘religious arbitration.’ US Supreme Court denied Valerie’s petition Oct 4.
Chrissie Bixler et al. v. Scientology and Danny Masterson: California Supreme Court granted review on May 26 and asked the Second Appellate Division to direct Judge Steven Kleifield to show cause why he granted Scientology’s motion for arbitration. Oral arguments scheduled for November 2.
Matt and Kathy Feschbach tax debt: Eleventh Circuit ruled on Sept 9, 2020 that Feshbachs can’t discharge IRS debt in bankruptcy. Dec 17: Feshbachs sign court judgment obliging them to pay entire $3.674 million tax debt, plus interest from Nov 19.
Brian Statler Sr v. City of Inglewood: Third amended complaint filed, trial set for June 28, 2022.
Author Steve Cannane defamation trial: Trial concluded, Cannane victorious, awarded court costs. Case appealed on Dec 23. Appeal hearing held Aug 23-27. Awaiting a ruling.



We first broke the news of the LAPD’s investigation of Scientology celebrity Danny Masterson on rape allegations in 2017, and we’ve been covering the story every step of the way since then. At this page we’ve collected our most important links, including our four days in Los Angeles covering the preliminary hearing and its ruling, which has Danny facing trial and the potential sentence of 45 years to life in prison.


After the success of their double-Emmy-winning, three-season A&E series ‘Scientology and the Aftermath,’ Leah Remini and Mike Rinder continue the conversation on their podcast, ‘Scientology: Fair Game.’ We’ve created a landing page where you can hear all of the episodes so far.


An episode-by-episode guide to Leah Remini’s three-season, double-Emmy winning series that changed everything for Scientology watching. Originally aired from 2016 to 2019 on the A&E network, and now on Netflix.


Find your favorite Hubbardite celeb at this index page — or suggest someone to add to the list!

Other links: SCIENTOLOGY BLACK OPS: Tom Cruise and dirty tricks. Scientology’s Ideal Orgs, from one end of the planet to the other. Scientology’s sneaky front groups, spreading the good news about L. Ron Hubbard while pretending to benefit society. Scientology Lit: Books reviewed or excerpted in a weekly series. How many have you read?


[ONE year ago] Leaked from Scientology social media: Incredible beings joining the winning team!
[TWO years ago] We have a Scientology document (we think) Priscilla Presley doesn’t want us to show you
[THREE years ago] A Scientology ‘Fair Game’ tactic from way back: Sexually degrading harassment
[FOUR years ago] Chris Owen: How one country, at least, is savaging Scientology’s privacy nightmare
[FIVE years ago] Until the spaceships arrive, Scientologists measure cosmic success in framed glory
[SIX years ago] Jon Atack: Scientology’s ‘past lives’ don’t pass the giggle test
[SEVEN years ago] Jon Atack: Scientology and hypnotism — even some ex-members can’t admit its central role
[EIGHT years ago] Scientology Moves to Dismiss Garcia Fraud Lawsuit On a Question of Jurisdiction
[NINE years ago] Tom Cruise Sues, UK Scientologists Sue, Narconon Is Sued: It’s a Legal Free-For-All!!
[TEN years ago] Scientology Responds in Typical Fashion to South Park Investigation Documents
[TWELVE years ago] ‘Crash’ Director Paul Haggis Ditches Scientology


Scientology disconnection, a reminder

Bernie Headley (1952-2019) did not see his daughter Stephanie in his final 5,667 days.
Valerie Haney has not seen her mother Lynne in 2,464 days.
Katrina Reyes has not seen her mother Yelena in 2,969 days
Sylvia Wagner DeWall has not seen her brother Randy in 2,489 days.
Brian Sheen has not seen his grandson Leo in 1,509 days.
Geoff Levin has not seen his son Collin and daughter Savannah in 1,400 days.
Christie Collbran has not seen her mother Liz King in 4,707 days.
Clarissa Adams has not seen her parents Walter and Irmin Huber in 2,575 days.
Carol Nyburg has not seen her daughter Nancy in 3,349 days.
Doug Kramer has not seen his parents Linda and Norm in 1,679 days.
Jamie Sorrentini Lugli has not seen her father Irving in 4,153 days.
Quailynn McDaniel has not seen her brother Sean in 3,469 days.
Dylan Gill has not seen his father Russell in 12,035 days.
Melissa Paris has not seen her father Jean-Francois in 7,954 days.
Valeska Paris has not seen her brother Raphael in 4,122 days.
Mirriam Francis has not seen her brother Ben in 3,703 days.
Claudio and Renata Lugli have not seen their son Flavio in 3,964 days.
Sara Goldberg has not seen her daughter Ashley in 3,000 days.
Lori Hodgson has not seen her son Jeremy and daughter Jessica in 2,715 days.
Marie Bilheimer has not seen her mother June in 2,240 days.
Julian Wain has not seen his brother Joseph or mother Susan in 595 days.
Charley Updegrove has not seen his son Toby in 1,770 days.
Joe Reaiche has not seen his daughter Alanna Masterson in 6,321 days
Derek Bloch has not seen his father Darren in 3,470 days.
Cindy Plahuta has not seen her daughter Kara in 3,790 days.
Roger Weller has not seen his daughter Alyssa in 8,645 days.
Claire Headley has not seen her mother Gen in 3,764 days.
Ramana Dienes-Browning has not seen her mother Jancis in 2,120 days.
Mike Rinder has not seen his son Benjamin and daughter Taryn in 6,423 days.
Brian Sheen has not seen his daughter Spring in 2,529 days.
Skip Young has not seen his daughters Megan and Alexis in 2,927 days.
Mary Kahn has not seen her son Sammy in 2,803 days.
Lois Reisdorf has not seen her son Craig in 2,386 days.
Phil and Willie Jones have not seen their son Mike and daughter Emily in 2,881 days.
Mary Jane Barry has not seen her daughter Samantha in 3,135 days.
Kate Bornstein has not seen her daughter Jessica in 14,244 days.


Posted by Tony Ortega on October 25, 2021 at 07:00

E-mail tips to tonyo94 AT gmail DOT com or follow us on Twitter. We also post 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 new book with Paulette Cooper, Battlefield Scientology: Exposing L. Ron Hubbard’s dangerous ‘religion’ is now on sale at Amazon in paperback and Kindle formats. Our book about Paulette, 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 can also be found at the book’s dedicated page.

The Best of the Underground Bunker, 1995-2020 Just starting out here? We’ve picked out the most important stories we’ve covered here at the Underground Bunker (2012-2020), The Village Voice (2008-2012), New Times Los Angeles (1999-2002) and the Phoenix New Times (1995-1999)

Other links: BLOGGING DIANETICS: Reading Scientology’s founding text cover to cover | 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 | Shelly Miscavige, 15 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 | The mystery of the richest Scientologist and his wayward sons | Scientology’s shocking mistreatment of the mentally ill | The Underground Bunker’s Official Theme Song | The Underground Bunker FAQ

Watch our short videos that explain Scientology’s controversies in three minutes or less…

Check your whale level at our dedicated page for status updates, or join us at the Underground Bunker’s Facebook discussion group for more frivolity.

Our non-Scientology stories: Robert Burnham Jr., the man who inscribed the universe | Notorious alt-right inspiration Kevin MacDonald and his theories about Jewish DNA | The selling of the “Phoenix Lights” | Astronomer Harlow Shapley‘s FBI file | Sex, spies, and local TV news | Battling Babe-Hounds: Ross Jeffries v. R. Don Steele


Tony Ortega at The Daily Beast


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