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Even apologist professors can’t ignore the recent tidal wave of ex-Scientologist memoirs

[Just some of the many memoirs published in recent years]

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, second, third, and fourth installments.

Today we continue our look at the academic articles posted in Implicit Religion, the Journal for the Critical Study of Religion, published in 2020 and covering Scientology exclusively.

Most of the articles are from self-described New Religious Movement scholars: Sociologists and religious studies scholars who have been vocally supportive of groups such as Scientology, the Unification Church (the “Moonies”) and Aum Shinrikyo, and have even given expert testimony in courts on the side of these and many other cults. This, even though Aum Shinrikyo is a proven terrorist organization which attempted to mass murder hundreds of thousands of Japanese citizens, a fact that was denied in press conferences by James R. Lewis and Gordon Melton, two of the most vocal of the NRM group, just hours before the police raided the group’s labs and arrested its leader.

This was one of the most spectacular of their mistakes (and it was publicly humiliating) but the so-called Cult Wars have been fueled by mistakes of this kind, even if not this volume, with so many other groups, including the Church of Scientology. So it is with a little bit of happiness that in today’s article we see a glimmer of hope in the otherwise bleak picture I have painted. Today we hear from Carole Cusack, an Australian professor of religious studies at the University of Sydney in a paper titled “Apostate Memoirs and the Study of Scientology in the Twenty-First Century.”


Cusack is someone I have taken to task in the past for a paper she had written about Scientology celebrities, but this time I am going to give credit where it is due. While I’ve been very critical of NRM scholarship, I think we have to look for and find common ground if we are ever going to resolve or hope to get beyond the Cult Wars. I don’t know that is possible with the more entrenched of these scholars, but I think a newer wave is coming up in academia who may be more receptive to a truly objective approach to destructive cults in a religious context, so scholars don’t feel they have to be apologists for the subjects they are studying.

In earlier posts, I’ve called out the NRM attitude towards us “bitter defrocked apostates on the fringes of the Internet” – in other words, ex-members of destructive cults. The dogma as instituted in the 1970s by sectarian sociologists Bryan R. Wilson was that former members were wholly unreliable as a group because they only wanted revenge on their former groups and made up “atrocity tales” to attract attention and even money. This all-or-nothing approach has dominated the fields of sociology and religious studies ever since. That is a real shame, because this very unscientific prejudice is what has turned the NRM academics into mouthpieces for the cults.

If the only information they are receiving are glowing testimonials and public-relations-like photos and records from the cult leadership, then of course they are only going to get a positive picture of the group. For any group with an agenda, of course that’s going to be true because they are always going to want the best possible picture of their group presented to the world at large, whether it’s in public media or academic publications. And let’s not forget, the cults are extremely motivated to get these academics on their side, because it is these same academics who will then provide expert testimony for the cults in court cases. There is nothing more valuable to destructive cults than the allies they create outside their groups, in normal society, who can be their unwitting mouthpieces. Some NRM scholars acknowledge this is a reality, yet fail to see how they have actually created that problem in the first place through their self-created bias against all former members of any group these academics deem “blessed.”

Cusack, though, breaks with tradition in her very short paper and makes a case that with the explosion of “apostate memoirs” from 2008 forward (following the Anonymous campaign), it is high time that these resources be utilized to gain a more balanced perspective of these groups. While I noted that not once did Cusack ever let herself go so far as to say these groups can be abusive or violent, she made the case that critical testimonials from former members, properly fact checked and taken in context with the rest of the available information, could help inform scholars as to the full picture of what they are dealing with and what some, if not all, of the members may experience. In fact, she stands out as someone in the NRM world who has actually tried to engage with the material us ex-members have produced, as she writes here:

The net impact of 2008 on CoS, which began in January with a video of Tom Cruise accepting the Freedom Medal of Valor and progressed in February via hacktivist group Anonymous launching Project Chanology, which threatened to expel Scientology from the Internet, was entirely negative….In 2009 apostate Scientologists were interviewed in various media, and more memoirs appeared. In the next decade: a range of tell-all reminiscences of varying levels of sophistication were issued; two quality journalistic treatments, Janet Reitman’s Inside Scientology: The Story of America’s Most Secretive Religion (2011) and Lawrence Wright’s Going Clear: Scientology and the Prison of Belief (2013) were published; two documentary films, Going Clear (2015) directed by Alex Gibney and Louis Theroux’s My Scientology Movie (2015)…were released; a feature film, The Master (2012) directed by Paul Thomas Anderson and starring Phillip Seymour Hoffman as Lancaster Dodd of the Cause, an L. Ron Hubbard-type figure was made….

Cusack goes on to list many of the individual titles we are familiar with which were published after 2008 such as Marc Headley’s Blown for Good, Nancy Many’s My Billion Year Contract, Luke Catton’s Have You Told All? and others. She then confirms what I have been saying when she writes “To date, the apostate memoirs have attracted little scholarly attention: Don Jolly’s study of how Miscavige-Hill, Bornstein and Lawrence Wright – who is not a memoirist but foregrounds the experiences of screenwriter Paul Haggis, who left CoS ‘due to its treatment of gays and lesbians’ – explore issues of sexuality in Scientology is directly focused on them; my own article on L. Ron Hubbard and sex and chapter on ‘Leaving New Religious Movements’ discuss them in passing.”

At least one thing Cusack proves, though, is that NRM academics have access and awareness of anti-Scientology material and thus far, they’ve really only ignored it. Given that fact, it was nice to see someone in the NRM camp is getting the message, but it appears she really did. She notes “Whistle-Blowers and Apostates, who are critical and perhaps hostile, may be pursued by religious organizations and experience difficulties. Does this invalidate their memories? Benjamin Zablocki argued that ‘there is very little difference between the reliability (that is, stability over time) of accounts from believers and ex-believers (or apostates).’ The validity of such memoirs is harder to determine, as members give positive accounts while apostates typically provide negative accounts (not only of NRMs but of all religions). To build new knowledge scholars use member and ex-member sources, testing them against each other, adding fieldwork, observations, previous academic research, and accounts by outsiders, including journalists, to round out the picture.”

Cusack is right, in that scholars do use member and ex-member accounts, whereas shills are the ones who only listen to one side of the story and then write their articles and monographs, as we’ve seen time and again with the likes of Melton, etc. We still have a long way to go, as the influence peddling these groups have engaged in since the 1960s all the way to now is significant and it matters. It matters in the court cases that are happening right now and which we have been recently gnashing our teeth over because Scientology seems to be handed victory after victory when the truth of the situation is so obvious to us. We lose sight of the fact that the truth is not so obvious to everyone else, and the truth is even being clouded and confused by these NRM scholars and their propaganda disguised as scholarship. So, I applaud Cusack for her paper and I hope that other NRM scholars can see sense in what she is saying. Perhaps we’ll see more scholarship and less shilling as a result.

— Chris Shelton


Bonus items from our tipsters

Austin is on fire!



Come on, you know you want to help mankind!



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Source Code

“I couldn’t tell you where I lived in 1102 A.D. My memory on the earlier track wasn’t so bad, but they — in spots — but I realized there was practically nothing on the early, early track at all. Nothing! What was this? There were great big chunks like twenty years missing out of the track, see….During the war I remember vividly thinking about the Phoenician navy and how different our administrative system was than the Phoenician navy’s administrative system and so on. And of course I’d been in my same rank for so long, that I was getting moldy. That was true of anybody who went out to the combat areas. And I mentioned this to somebody. I didn’t tell them, I didn’t tell them I was remembering and so forth. I got dreamily reminiscent about the Phoenician navy and the good old days, you know. They printed me up a certificate on the ship and they printed me up a commission, feeling sorry for me for being in grade for so long, you see. And gave me my original commission back as a lieutenant in the Phoenician navy with the date of rank, 1003 B.C. printed on it. Only it didn’t seem very funny to me. Only they didn’t have lieutenants. Well, we won’t go off into that. There was another way of designating rank and grade. What all this comes down to was how willing I was to create the early track or to create the memory of an early track, which is all memory is. Now you have a reality on it because you know it is-was.” — L. Ron Hubbard, November 17, 1959



Avast, Ye Mateys

“WEBSPREAD: Today Colonel Webspread begins an amazing fantastic and horrifying new adventure. All those who are not Grade – 47 are cautioned not to follow his auditing experiences as they will be found far too restimulative. The management takes no responsibility for heart failures or lost chewing gum while following the Colonel’s Adventures.” — The Commodore, November 17, 1970


Overheard in the FreeZone

“Thetans until recently have kept only getting worse, losing their far superior innate abilities and instead buying into MEST livelihoods, MEST ‘solutions,’ bigger computers, AI and now 5G. It’s IT vs PSI. Which will win, and what direction are we Independent Scientologists pursuing, I wonder.”


Past is Prologue

1996: An anonymous web searcher reported that they were sent Scientology material after browsing their web site. Apparently, Scientology is tracking the users of the site and, in some cases, sending targeted email to users. “I was doing some research on the Church of Scientology for an English paper. I visit their web site once from my Unix Box using Netscape. Not less than a week after I did the search, I have started to receive literature from one of their front groups that wishes to ban the practice of Psychiatry (The Citizen’s Coalition for Human Rights.) The only file that I knew of that I read from the official Scientology Website was the one that contained all the trademark information. (The names of all their Gods, Teachings, and Sacraments are all copyright information.) So all I had to is visit one web site and somehow they got enough info on me to start sending me mailings. I am NOT amused as they have been reported in the news as a dangerous cult. I guess they got enough information now to get my phone number too. So, as a reminder, if you are researching something on the net that you don’t want to be involved in, be sure to blank out your name and email address. Those cookie files and Java scripts can give stuff that you don’t want out.”



Random Howdy

“Scientology came into existence in the 50s, which saw the advent of the beatniks and new ageism followed by the hippies and a rampant world wide interest in the supernatural, occult, and paranormal. It’s fitting to me that Scientology peaked in the 80s with the rise of the yuppie.”


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

Criminal prosecutions:
Danny Masterson charged for raping three women: Next hearing set for February 8. Trial scheduled for August 29, 2022.
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: Eleventh Circuit affirmed ruling granting Scientology’s motion for arbitration. Garcias considering next move.
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 held November 2, awaiting a ruling.
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] Valerie Haney to state supremes: Scientology abuses less real than deadlines in a pandemic?
[TWO years ago] Scientology’s sleep cures are enough to keep you up at night
[THREE years ago] Cyril Vosper: The mind-bending illogic of Scientology’s upper levels
[FOUR years ago] Days before jumping to his death, actor Brad Bufanda credited Scientology with saving his life
[FIVE years ago] San Diego’s new Scientology ‘Ideal Org’ looks like it’s ready for its close-up
[SIX years ago] Our Scientology tech experts review Lisa McPherson’s grim cycle of guilt and self-blame
[SEVEN years ago] More L. Ron Hubbard history that Scientology has done its best to disappear
[EIGHT years ago] LIVE OVER CLEARWATER: Watching Scientology from an Eye in the Sky
[NINE years ago] Scientology Accused of Spending Millions to Influence Florida Judges
[TEN years ago] Scientology Chillin’ With Hip Hop! A Video That Cannot Be Unseen


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 2,487 days.
Katrina Reyes has not seen her mother Yelena in 2,992 days
Sylvia Wagner DeWall has not seen her brother Randy in 2,512 days.
Brian Sheen has not seen his grandson Leo in 1,532 days.
Geoff Levin has not seen his son Collin and daughter Savannah in 1,423 days.
Christie Collbran has not seen her mother Liz King in 4,730 days.
Clarissa Adams has not seen her parents Walter and Irmin Huber in 2,598 days.
Carol Nyburg has not seen her daughter Nancy in 3,372 days.
Doug Kramer has not seen his parents Linda and Norm in 1,702 days.
Jamie Sorrentini Lugli has not seen her father Irving in 4,176 days.
Quailynn McDaniel has not seen her brother Sean in 3,492 days.
Dylan Gill has not seen his father Russell in 12,058 days.
Melissa Paris has not seen her father Jean-Francois in 7,977 days.
Valeska Paris has not seen her brother Raphael in 4,145 days.
Mirriam Francis has not seen her brother Ben in 3,726 days.
Claudio and Renata Lugli have not seen their son Flavio in 3,987 days.
Sara Goldberg has not seen her daughter Ashley in 3,023 days.
Lori Hodgson has not seen her son Jeremy and daughter Jessica in 2,738 days.
Marie Bilheimer has not seen her mother June in 2,263 days.
Julian Wain has not seen his brother Joseph or mother Susan in 618 days.
Charley Updegrove has not seen his son Toby in 1,793 days.
Joe Reaiche has not seen his daughter Alanna Masterson in 6,344 days
Derek Bloch has not seen his father Darren in 3,493 days.
Cindy Plahuta has not seen her daughter Kara in 3,813 days.
Roger Weller has not seen his daughter Alyssa in 8,668 days.
Claire Headley has not seen her mother Gen in 3,787 days.
Ramana Dienes-Browning has not seen her mother Jancis in 2,143 days.
Mike Rinder has not seen his son Benjamin and daughter Taryn in 6,446 days.
Brian Sheen has not seen his daughter Spring in 2,552 days.
Skip Young has not seen his daughters Megan and Alexis in 2,950 days.
Mary Kahn has not seen her son Sammy in 2,826 days.
Lois Reisdorf has not seen her son Craig in 2,409 days.
Phil and Willie Jones have not seen their son Mike and daughter Emily in 2,904 days.
Mary Jane Barry has not seen her daughter Samantha in 3,158 days.
Kate Bornstein has not seen her daughter Jessica in 14,267 days.


Posted by Tony Ortega on November 17, 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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