Thursday, September 30, 2010

Scientology on the BBC's Panorama

A couple of nights ago, I watched Panorama on BBC1 with my husband, Michael. The subject? Secrets of Scientology.

I'd heard a lot about Scientology through the media in recent years: Tom Cruise jumping on Oprah's couch and going ballistic against mood-altering drugs prescribed by the psychiatric community; Isaac Hays leaving the cast of South Park after an episode criticizing Scientology was produced; and the frightening tale of Lisa McPherson.

The Panorama program focused mainly on the negative effects of how the church was operated, and not so much on its teachings. Personally, I think people have a right to believe what works for them. If Scientology is the way for you and makes you happy, that's fantastic! However, I do think that the way the Church of Scientology is run and many of its social practices aren't doing it any favors.

When asked what they think of the fact that many people believe Scientology is a cult, the reaction of church leaders and high level practitioners is one of deep offense. The person asking the question is not calling it a cult themselves and simply wants to know how these Scientologists feel about these statements. I've never seen or heard an honest answer to this question. Granted, I haven't been actively looking for one yet.

As a part of my great personal education caper, I'm going to be learning a bit more about Scientology. Dianetics is on my To Read list of religious texts. I want to understand why so many people flock to this church, while so many others condemn it. I want to find out if beyond the controversy there is some positivity. And I want to know if the rumor that L. Ron Hubbard started Scientology to win a bet with Robert A. Heinlein has any shred of truth behind it.It probably doesn't, but wouldn't that be both impressive and horrifying at the same time?

For now, check out the links to various Panorama reports about Scientilogy (including the one from 1987 with some dreadful animation depicting the Xenu space opera, supposedly shared at Operating Thetan level III). I've also included a clip produced by the Church of Scientology as a rebuttal to Panorama's 2007 program. Enjoy!

YouTube links:
Panorama: Scientology the Road to Freedom? (1987) 
Panorama: Scientology and Me (2007)
A section of Scientology's Response to the above [there are many more clips from this rebuttal that can be found in the list of related videos for this clip]
Panorama: Scientology & Me - What Happened Next [a further update from Panorama]
Panorama: The Secrets of Scientology (2010) [currently still available on BBC iPlayer, for those in the UK]

Monday, September 27, 2010

QuickLunch Break Update

Just a quick update for now; planning on a full post later tonight.

I'm about halfway through the book of Genesis now, and already I've decided there is no way I can take the Bible literally. The first two chapters (the story of Creation and the story of Adam and Eve) directly contradict each other in their timelines. So, not unexpectedly, I'm taking it as a collection of stories, some of which have many variations and interpretations. I've found I actually know many of the stories in Genesis already.

I've got to say, though, I'm more looking forward to the New Testament. I'm not really digging the vengeful God of the Old Testament at all. Granted, at this point, the world is new and he might not have been a dab hand at it, but he seems to play favorites and generally acts like a bit of a jerk. It's okay though; I know he mellows out a bit after he has his son.

I'm going to be making a post for each book I get through, to share what I gleaned from it. It is interestring though, if still difficult to get through.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Revisiting the Good Book

As I've said before, I would consider myself a reluctant athiest. Why reluctant? Because being an agnostic and at least believing that there was some sort of purpose to our little lives causes much less existential angst. However, the way my brain works logically has resulted in my atheistic thinking. I do consider myself an athiest with a lowercase "A" though, as I'm open to the possibility of there being something more than this, but would need some sort of evidence in order to justify a shift in my beliefs.

I am one of the Faithless.

A lot of factors contributed to this, and I ended up moving away from Christianity in much the same way I figured out there was no Santa Claus.* The more I learned about the world around me, and the more questions I asked that seemingly could not be answered by the Bible or my fellow Christians young and old, the less I felt connected to God and Jesus and the Holy Spirit.

The doubt definitely began when I was around 10. My family had never been really religious to begin with, but we considered ourselves Christian even though we didn't attend church often, if at all. A friend of my mom had a daughter in a Missionettes group at a local church, so I ended up joining too. Missionettes are a Christian variation of girl scouts. You earn badges and take part in activities, but obviously it involves more praying and Bible reading. In fact, to move through the different levels of Missionettes (whcih were all named after women in the Bible; I can only remember that one level was called "Ruth"), you were required to read certain sections of the Bible, and tick them of your list as you went. By the time you made it to the top level, you most likely had completed reading the whole thing.

I had a King James version of the Bible, which is written in the same type of language used by Shakespeare. Keep in mind, that while I was a bright kid, I was only about 10. I wasn't aware that there were several versions of the Bible, including version that were written in modern English, which would have been easier to understand.

I sat down to read the chapters I was assigned many times and struggled. When I asked for help from the Missionette leaders and assistant leaders because I was having a hard time comprehending, I wasn't given any. I've only been left with the vague impression that I was supposed to understand it all without any trouble, and that my questions were not welcome. This, and my time at a Missionette camp weekend when I fearfully witnessed a good many people "speaking in tongues," was definitely the beginning of the end for me.

I moved from a Christian, to a sort of agnostic-Christian, to a shameful phase as a wannabe Pagan in high school, to where I am now. I wanted to believe, but found that I couldn't.

As a part of my new educational adventures, I've decided to give the Good Book another go. I'm not setting out to become a born-agan-Christian, but I feel that if I'm going to live in a world where Christianity is ever present (especially in my country of origin) I should really learn more about it than what I picked up as a child and as an adult in art history classes that cover the middle ages.

My friend Rach is being kind enough to lend me a copy of a CEV (Contemporary English Version) Bible. I'll be making future posts as I read my way through it. In the future, I'd also like to read other religious texts, like the Qur'an, the Book of Mormon, Mahayana sutras, and even Dianetics. I'm sure I'll find a lot out there, but if you have any suggestions, let me know!

*Here's the story: I had long since figured out that my parents wrote the gift tags on my presents from Santa, though they had claimed to be helping him out as he was a very busy man. This made sense in my childhood logic, of course. It wasn't until I'd learned that there was no actual land at the North Pole (thanks, Where in the World is Carmen San Diego!) that I realized Santa probably wasn't real. Nevermind the fact that the ice is most likely solid enough up there to support a toy workshop and reindeer stable, I didn't think of that.

And if you're American and grew up about the same time I did, you now have the theme song from Carmen San Diego stuck in your head. Isn't Rockapella awesome?

Thursday, September 23, 2010


Forgive me, bloggers and blog readers, for I have sinned. It has been four months since my last post. During that time I've continued work (which has been a bit stressful at times), gone on holiday back to the States, had my first wedding anniversary, and have started going to Roller Derby practices (though as of late I've had to miss out because I've been under the weather).

It's been a bit hectic, all told. And I've not been the happiest of bunnies, all told. I've been over working myself at work (what can I say, I'm industrius), and have been desiring a project to work on, and have missed blogging. My super secret project is on hold at the mo, but I've done some major rethinking about my time management and what would make me happy, as well as what I'm interested in.

I've come to the conclusion that I want to take a more active role in my life, and I want a bit of adventure. I want to learn new things about topics I'm interested in, and I want to share that with you all. I finally came to the conclusion after reading Spook by Mary Roach and beginning to read Join Me by Danny Wallace. Both of whom decided to go out and DO something; Mary having done a load of really practical research about the idea of ghosts and the afterlife, and Danny bringing together a large collective of people seemingly by accident after he began his project on a whim.

I've come to realize that there are a lot of things that I don't know about and haven't experienced or learned for myself. I'm a skeptic and a reluctant atheist by nature, but haven't properly looked into the science and the religious enough to completely understand them. I don't think ghosts exist or that aliens abduct people, but at the same time, wouldn't it be kind of cool if some of that stuff were true? And how does brain function account for any of the aforementioned? Are some people more predisposed to believe in God, aliens, ghosts, or Bigfoot? The words "quantum physics" are bandied about by many, but how does quantum physics actually work?

I'm naturally inquisitive, and I soak up information like a sponge. What I'd like to do is learn as much as I can about things that I find genuinely interesting and that people seem to be divided on and share my findings on this blog.

I've now got a purpose! Let the adult education of Stephoodle begin...