Keep on running, Katie
Does the pending divorce of Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes spell an end of days of sorts for the Church of Scientology?
There is much excitement over the pending divorce of Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes. Indeed it is possible we may be seeing an end of days of sorts for the Church of Scientology.
The MailOnline's 'Run-Katie-Run' theme in its coverage pits the Church of Scientology against arguably the world's most powerful online news site in a story that, for the Mail Online at least, is a ten-bagger. Sinister religion at the heart of an A-list divorce with a backstory that could only come out of the very postal district that hosts Scientology's bizarre 'celebrity centre', namely, Hollywood.
For Scientology is very much an organisation defined by the symbols of our age: freedom of the individual, the worship of celebrity and acquisition of property. (The Church's portfolio is said to be worth close to a billion dollars.)
A religion invented by sci-fi author L. Ron Hubbard in 1952, the history of Scientology is being re-hashed on a daily basis, and the point has been well made that Scientology is no more idiosyncratic than any other established religion.
Indeed as David Aaronovich of The Times observes, Republican nominee Mitt Romney, as a Mormon devotee, enjoys a belief system every bit as fantastic as that of L. Ron Hubbard's mob.
As recently as 1979, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints - the Mormon church - was an openly racist organisation in that it did not welcome worshippers of colour. The founder of Mormonism, Joseph Smith was a convicted fraudster, as, indeed was Hubbard. Of course, the difference with new religions is history has a far superior recollection of their founders.
The feted magician, writer and sceptic, James Randi, was a member of a circle of sci-fi writers called the Trap-Door Spiders in the 1950s, of which L. Ron Hubbard was a fellow member. Randi recalls Hubbard as readily boasting that Scientology was a money-making scam, but also observed Hubbard to be a 'wilfully evil man.' It is eerie recalling this description of the man when the likes of Tom Cruise boldly salute his image.
But to excuse the Church of Scientology as no different to other established religions in the here and now is a particularly lazy conceit. The difference with this Church is surely in the fact that it merges cult and religion in its requirement for its members to work towards a form of enlightenment that is based around required financial 'donation' and secrecy.
It is the use of that secret revelation and the progressive steps - each at a financial cost - to achieve that goal that pushes Scientology into an area that can look and smell a little like extortion.
More so, because 'audited' members having confessed their inner most secrets to the sinister e-meter, can be, at least in their own minds, vulnerable to blackmail. And this has made Scientology fair game over the years for investigators - and indeed legislators.
While L.Ron Hubbard and his acolyte, present 'Chairman Of the Board' David Miscavige, could simply be the Joseph Smiths de nos jours, surely no other religion/cult has managed to combine the worst aspects of Catholicism (guilt-confession-simony) with Islam (treatment of apostates) and package it up with the behavioural traits of a sinister omertà.
Of course, as with any paranoid, secretive organisation the arrival of the internet was a disaster, and according to defectors, members are warned off internet usage to this day. Couple that with a high-profile conviction for fraud in France, defection of celebrity and senior members over the Church's opposition to gay marriage, allegations of violence on behalf of Miscavige, and, worst of all, the revelation to much hilarity of 'the secret' - the preposterous Xenu/Thetans narrative - and you have a drip-feed of damaging disclosures eating away at the essential growth rate the Church needs to sustain itself. With the decoupling of TomKat, a perfect storm of 'negativity' could be brewing.
As Scientology sceptics have observed over recent years, defectors have not only grown in number, but in status. Names like Mike Rinder, Marty Rathbun and lately even Miscavige's own father, who brought his son into the cult as a 12 year old, have become well-known as senior Church enforcers who have left, and in so doing appear to have confirmed the blackest of rumours surrounding the Church of Scientology under Miscavige.
But what is interesting is that while these senior individuals have left the Church, they haven't renounced Scientology itself. In so doing they have provided a way out for members devoted to Scientology but fed up with the Church and its behaviour.
Indeed Rathbun claims there are now more defectors on the outside who still follow Scientology than on the inside in the grip of the Church - a Church he now maintains does indeed have the aura of a cult.
Of course as these numbers increase, the insidious way in which the Church itself 'disconnects' families and friends on the inside from defectors is weakened as those on the outside are less isolated and find common cause with defectors who still practice elements of L.Ron Hubbard's original thesis.
So what next? Marty Rathbun provides a focal point for defectors through his blog Moving On Up a Little Higher. Under the somewhat misleading heading Stop trying to Freak Out Katie Holmes, he provides a revealing insight as to what he believes Miscavige and Cruise will be plotting to deal with the 'Katie problem'.
Whilst sinister 'investigators' maybe wide of the mark, Ms Holmes might well indeed have good reason to freak out, with the Mail Online team at the ready.
Keep on running.
Jonathan Bracey-Gibbon is a freelance journalist who over the past 15 years has written for The Times, the Financial Times, The Sunday Times and Sunday Express
Read more on: Jonathan Bracey-Gibbon, Church of Scientology, Scientology, Tom Cruise, Katie Holmes, TomKat, Is the Church of Scientology a cult?, Mail Online, Daily Mail Online, David Aaronovitch, mitt romney, Mormonism, Mitt Romney Mormon, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, James Randi, L. Ron Hubbard, David Miscavige, Xenu, Thetans, Mike Rinder, and Marty Rathburn
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