During this most recent podcast, Mike Rinder, Leah Remini and Chris Shelton sat down and discussed one of the most frustrating topics affecting the fight to expose cults like Scientology.
Self proclaimed “experts” who dismiss the experiences of former members as less credible due to negative bias.
Chris Shelton has written an excellent article on this subject for Tony Ortega’s blog which can be found here.
In his article Shelton references a 2018 podcast for the British Association for the Study of Religions conference.
Opening the discussion David Robertson’s first statement shows the panel’s bias towards Scientology.
“Where I think we should maybe start is, I know that you two have both been working on apostasy and Free Zone and things like that. Let’s start there. Because that seems to be an area where the normal . . . the clichéd ideas of Scientology as a sort of cult maybe start to break down. And we can start to measure out some of these fault lines in the idea.”
Soon after this Dr. Stephen Gregg, Senior Lecturer in Religious Studies at the University of Wolverhampton continues the appearance of partiality by saying; “I think part of the perpetuation of that problem is that we have a dominant narrative from ex-members. I’ve used the term ‘apostate’ in a chapter recently and I know that’s a contested term. But if we use the more general ‘ex-members’ then, of course, their relational identity is often against the established Church. So it perpetuates this domination of the Church as this cult-like figure or organisation, because of the noisy apostates…”
As Shelton points out, these academics, which also includes Dr. Carole Cusack, professor of Religious Studies at the University of Sydney, are firmly of the belief that Scientology is a religion.
The idea that “career apostates” are biased, disgruntled former members whose stories must be taken with a grain of salt is one that MUST be changed.
Not only does it provide support and leverage for Scientology’s campaign against their former members, a legitimizing go-to source for them to quote, but it dismisses and disrespects the abuse and trauma these survivors have lived.
Reaching out to Dr. Cusack concerning this issue, we pointed out that without the testimony by former members (apostates) horrific abuse and crime would never come to light.
Dismissing the multiple victims of religious sexual misconduct, brushing it off as simply the malcontent of a disgruntled member the abuse would continue rampant and unchecked.
Laicized Thomas McCarrick would still be wearing his Cardinal robes whilst preying upon his seminarians.
Likewise, were it not for the voices of former members, Warren Jeffs would most likely still be raping little girls.
Were it not for the information provided by a member of the Kingston Group, virulent financial crime would still be ongoing.
Abundantly clear in reading the transcript is that these “experts” who discuss Scientology so smugly really have no idea as to the inner workings of the cult at all.
At one point one of the commentators says; “Well I was certainly challenged on my first publication on Scientology by a chap who was fairly high up, or had been high up in Sec Check? Is that the right name?”
No, it isn’t.
Dr. Cusack again sounds dismissive of the realities of Scientology abuse; “There has also been forced abortions argument from women from the Sea Org. There are situations with the Rehabilitation Project Force . . . .”
“Forced abortions argument”? What argument?
Women were forced to have abortions.
The RPF “situations”?
Scientology’s prison camp is much more than a “situation”.
It is exactly this type of attitude that allows those not familiar with Scientology to doubt the experiences of former members. These so-called “experts” are in fact enablers for the abuse.
Interestingly while promoting the idea of biased apostates, it would seem that they take these survivors’ experiences more to heart than they would like to admit.
Scientology’s propensity for revenge against their detractors and most especially their “apostates” appears to be quite an effective deterrent. So much so that according to Dr. Cusack, in spite of appearing to be a proponent of Scientology as part of the New Religious Movement as mentioned by Shelton, she says the opposite is true.
“…almost all I’ve written about Scientology reveals clearly that I don’t endorse the CoS (in fact, I often have to fend off criticisms and attacks from CoS staffers in Sydney).
David Robertson, Aled Thomas, Stephen Gregg and I are not supporters of the Church.”
Yet in the comment following Robertson’s “Sec Check” faux pas, he says; “Because I’d used the word ‘conspiracy’ and Scientology in the same article – although the article itself was actually, you know, it was fairly . . . I wasn’t making any outrageous claims. I was actually saying, ‘We need to take these people seriously, and scholarship isn’t doing that.’ But because I used the word conspiracy, they were quite unhappy about it. And I actually, ironically, I had to adopt a Scientology ‘steely gaze’ as he repeatedly attacked me.”
Using the platform of an educated expert to urge the public to take Scientology seriously as a religion is support.
The fact is that yes, we do need to take Scientology seriously. As the abusive, manipulative and dangerous cult that it is.
Following is Dr. Cusack’s response to my initial contact along with our follow up email reply.
Thus these experts are not actually supporters, it is the fear of fair game that keeps them from truly speaking out.
What is the purpose or point of writing/discussing/studying Scientology if you are not going to address it fully for what it is rather than heavily edit and carefully dance around their reality?
As for your insistence that the cult is a religion we will have to disagree.
They are not a religion.
A religion is understood to have a spirituality that acknowledges something other than oneself. Cutting through Hubbard’s wording, ultimately the final belief is that Man saves himself. There is no room for any Other in Scientology. It was never intended to be a religion, after all Hubbard wrote that religion, God and the rest were just implants designed to mislead. It clearly states in Dianetics that the subject was not a religion and Dianetics is the foundation, Book One, for Scientology. And again, Hubbard’s letter is clear that he used the “religion angle” for financial reasons. Yes there are good and bad people in all walks of life, however there is no religion on the planet other than Scientology with written policies on how to lie, revenge, fair game and the utter destruction of the family. Within Scientology there is no cohesive, embraced belief system. I have spoken to Scientologists who neither understand their own “spirituality” nor believe in God. Ask one Scientologist what their spiritual beliefs are and it will differ from the next member. One hard core Scientologist told me that she did not believe in God, she could not explain any of Scientology’s spiritual beliefs and by the end of our conversation she told me COS was an atheist religion. An oxymoron if ever there was one. This is why one sees, in so many Stand League articles, various Scientologists claiming affiliation with other religions. An issue that creates a dichotomy for Scientology. Many member claim to be Scientologist and Christian. Given Hubbard’s heretical teachings on Jesus, their claim that only Scientology can save the planet thus denying Christ’s death and resurrection and the claim that religion is an implant the idea that one can embrace two such opposite belief systems is ludicrous.
One of the biggest problems is that the line between the spiritual and the secular has been lost. There are many groups and organizations whose members hold common beliefs: the anti-vax community for example. Sharing the same beliefs in something does not qualify one as a religion simply because the group may insist it’s so.
No religion engages in such public campaigns of psychological abuse of former members the way Scientology does. Mike Rinder once said “you can tell the difference between a religion and a cult in what happens when you try to leave”.
You claim to be a non practicing Catholic. That is a choice you’ve made for yourself and you’ve not been called to account for it by The Church. Mike, Leah, Amy, Aaron, the Headleys and so many others have been subjected to the most egregious and dehumanizing revenge policies.
Until Scientology is taken seriously and exposed for what it is rather than proffered for what it is not, the abuses and indeed the behaviors that cause you and your colleagues to tread so warily will continue.
I do not hold that there are “good religions and bad religions”. There is no such thing as a “bad religion”. There is religion and there is secular. Both segments of society contain good people and bad people. The difference is that in a true religion the bad that is done by a member is outside of the ideological belief system that defines the group. It is an aberration that harms the whole. In a cult like Scientology the bad is written policy and is accepted as part of the doctrine. There cannot be spiritually or religion where bad is the dogma.
Added to this is the fact that Scientology operates as a conglomerate. They sell their beliefs for money. A quid pro quo exchange of money for goods and services.
Scientology is a secular business disguised as a religion. -Stefani Hutchison
Between the self proclaimed experts’ insistence that Scientology is a religion and the offhand dismissal of the experiences of former members, Scientology is in the catbird seat.
Chris Shelton said it best; “So while their conversation is littered with complaints about the lack of candid information from the Church, they ignore every single former member who can give them in-depth, highly ‘confidential’ and very informed raw facts about how the Church conducts itself.
One can only stand in awe at the gaping stupidity of this situation.”