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!
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]