i’m with stupid

1/16/08

There’s something fascinating floating around the internet right now, so if you haven’t seen it, you might want to check out the leaked Tom Cruise Scientology video. Nobody knows exactly where it came from, but it’s a pristine copy (i.e, not filmed from a cell phone) of the introductory video for his Best Scientologist Ever award in 2006. Incredibly magnetic. Creepy, sure, but once he gets going, you’ll either be mesmerized or be reminded of a family member who used to beat the shit out of you.

I’ve been something of a Scientology apologist, because I don’t think it gets a fair shake from intellectuals or theologians. As I’ve oft said, if you’re calling thetan auditing in Scientology “crazy”, then you’ve also got to explain transubstantiation in Catholicism, reformed Egyptian tablets in Mormonism, 83% of the Old Testament, and your lucky Atlanta Braves towel. Scientology’s real transgressions occur on the administrative level (the blackmailing, etc.) but as a belief system, I find it as believable as most others.

scross.jpg

the Scientology cross(?)

But that’s for other entries to tackle. What fascinates me is Tom Cruise’s refrain of “you’re either in or you’re out!” and the perfervid look he gets in his eyes when he talks about being a part of the action, forcing himself to change, offering details about being unable to pass an accident because he – and you, fellow Thetans – are the only ones who can be responsible.

What is it about the Burning Intensity of the Personally Responsible that people find so easy to adore when searching for a spiritual belief system? Two things strike me about this video: the binary, nuance-free essence of being ALL IN – and the clarity offered by accepting TOTAL RESPONSIBILITY.

I guess it shouldn’t come as a surprise, as most people looking for a way out of their addiction, depression or meaninglessness find a lot of help in letting go of the ego and taking responsibility for their actions. Hell, it’s almost the prime directive of AA, an organization for which I have incredible respect. But AA always seems to remain human, and they generally reject orthodoxy with a good dose of humor. Their phrase “one day at a time” has been lost to coffee kitty-cat cliché, but it’s subtly brilliant: they’re not saying you can NEVER DRINK AGAIN, they’re saying “just don’t drink today.”

Conversely, the Scientologists offer their way or the highway, which has got to be attractive to someone who has been strung out on the highway too long. But the constant emphasis on personal responsibility starts to sound a lot less like compunction and more like another drug. Scientology’s distant cousin, the Landmark Forum, dabbles in the same pool: I’ve seen friends emerge from Forum meetings awash in the revolutionary spirit of Taking Back Their Lives From Themselves, and for about three weeks, it’s a crazy ride.

To me, taking ferocious personal responsibility is just the flip side of shame, and not too far from the untreated addict behavior of someone like Mel Gibson or George Bush. Gibson flagellates (or, more accurately, gets off on) his demons by making grisly Bible porn like “Passion of the Christ”, while Bush (by my best guess) sublimates his alcoholism with bizarre bursts of evangelism and thousands of milligrams of antidepressants (which, in turn, makes him behave with wanton cruelty and robs him of the ability to admit – or care – about fault).

Even the most proletariat dime-store psychologist we’ve got going, Dr. Phil, has made millions telling people it’s all their fault. Audiences lap up his admonitions, and infantalize in the presence of his glowing pate. The problem is, self-recrimination may feel good, but like masturbation, its effects are temporary.

I think AA has it right. I sometimes wish there was an AA for non-alcoholics like me, but I swipe the stuff I like: the relief of the happy medium. Understand your faults, but also, make sure to tell yourself it’s okay to fail over and over. There’s nothing more invigorating than an epiphany that you adopt with fiery fervor, but what good is a revolution that doesn’t last the afternoon?

0 thoughts on “i’m with stupid

  1. Steph Mineart

    “As I’ve oft said, if you’re calling thetan auditing in Scientology “crazy”, then you’ve also got to explain transubstantiation in Catholicism, reformed Egyptian tablets in Mormonism, 83% of the Old Testament, and your lucky Atlanta Braves towel.”
    I have no problem calling all of that crazy, too. I am consistent. Believing in magic may be fun, but it’s really only pretending. I do like, pretending, but I recognize it as such. I don’t call it reality.

    Reply
  2. chad

    Transubstantiation actually doesn’t sound quite so crazy to hear Aquinas tell it. But even admitting it’s a little crazy shouldn’t bring you to the point of thinking all religions and superstitions are equally implausible. Being a Christian, properly understood, definitely requires you to suspend rationality at times–that’s what faith is. But nothing I know of in the Old or New Testaments requires believers to deny what is known about history in the way that Mormonism does. There was a Roman empire and Judea was a province in it, etc. I think that that’s an important distinction.

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  3. kent

    Any Cult survives long enough, it gains a sense of equivalence with older religions. What about Mormonism, started by a flim flam man who spent his whole life one step ahead of the law? What about Christian Science, built on the hypergraphia of Mary Baker Eddy, who was probably suffering from temporal lobe epilepsy?
    Scientology, though, is a special case, and the more you learn about it, and the scoundrel who founded it, the more you hate it. L. Ron Hubbard was a man apparently of some charisma and talent, but he was also a pathological liar, a heartless manipulator, a shameless opportunist, and a complete fraud. Anyone who takes their bullshit seriously needs to have their head examined. Seriously.
    Anyone who reads the Bible, even if they don’t believe in God or Christ, should recognize the humanity and moral coherence of it. Compare that with Dianetics! Ditto for the Bhagavad Gita and the Koran; even if you’re being asked to believe something you can’t test scientifically, there is some moral consistency and compassion in it.
    Scientology is just an ugly, crude scam.

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  4. Anne

    Adherents with wild gleams in their eyes is one sign, to me, of a “faith” or belief system to steer clear of. (And those particular eyes seem so often to see only black and white!)
    IME an honest faith journey involves lots of doubt and questioning (bring on those dark nights of the soul!), healthy skepticism…. and an intuitive sense of when to make the leap. Yes, THAT leap… of faith. Not into thin air, but onto some semblance of solid ground.
    Also, I love the expression a “practicing _______” (fill in religion of choice). I know I will always have to practice, and my faith will never be perfect.
    OK, I’m up in the middle of the night with a stomach ache, so you can go ahead and snicker at whatever I just wrote. ;-)

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  5. xuxE

    yet another piece of hard evidence that i am truly a californian now – i found it really no more than average craziness.
    i do kind of like the blend of spirituality and self-help techniques, it would just be a lot better without the self-absorbed ayn rand-esque egomania.

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  6. LFMD

    Say what you will. . . . I love Tom Cruise. Always have, always will.
    Whenever I think about Scientology, I think about the commercial that was ALWAYS on the TV when I was a kid. . . . the commercial about DIANETICS by L. RON HUBBARD! The commercial did not show much, or give much of an indication of what Dianetics was about — but the cover of the book had a volcano on it. Does anyone else remember this commercial, or was LRH focusin his sales pitch on the tri-state area during the 1970’s?
    I think that in our litigious/it is always someone else’s fault/who can we blame? society, Personal Responsibility is a good thing.

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  7. jason savage

    To me, taking ferocious personal responsibility is just the flip side of shame, and not too far from the untreated addict behavior of someone like Mel Gibson or George Bush.
    beautifully put. i have always thought that Bush’s born-again stuff is the coping mechanism of a man close to the brink of falling prey to his demons. but rather than really think things through and work hard to put distance betweeen you and your demons, all this fervent, gleam-in-the-eye religious hooha just puts a bandage on a much larger wound. just keep pledging devotion outloud, and all will be well!
    Agreed about AA as well. We’re all a work in progress, and there is no easy fix, despite what Cruise and the rest of the snake oil salesmen of the soul would have you believe.

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  8. CM

    “and your lucky Atlanta Braves towel”
    nice line. ;)
    Isn’t “you’re either in or you’re out” something Tony Soprano and his pals used to say as well?

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  9. Sean M

    “You’re either in…or you’re out” is also something Heidi Klum says on Project Runway every week. Though that show has a cult following too, especially amongst my people.
    Auf Wiedersehen!

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  10. Bob

    Kent said:
    “Anyone who reads the Bible….should recognize the humanity and moral coherence of it…there is some moral consistency and compassion in it.”
    Really?
    One example: The call by God to Saul and the Israelites to destroy the Amalekites, to kill them all (men, women and children) despite “Thou shalt not kill” seems horribly inconsistent.
    1 Samuel 15:2-3: This is what the LORD Almighty says: ‘I will punish the Amalekites for what they did to Israel when they waylaid them as they came up from Egypt. Now go, attack the Amalekites and totally destroy everything that belongs to them. Do not spare them; put to death men and women, children and infants, cattle and sheep, camels and donkeys.

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  11. chad

    @Bob:
    Congrats on being the 34,4783,035,984th person to see that the God of the Old Testament could be something of a hardass. It’s so totally true. I would reluctantly point out, however, that because of the New Covenant and all that, this fact doesn’t necessarily undermine the moral coherence of the Bible. The humanity perhaps, but not the coherence.
    One could of course find instances that do undermine its coherence, just as one can find counterexamples to confound all worldviews, even scientific ones.

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  12. connor beach

    Secrecy is a big red flag when it comes to religions and movements. Christianity, Judaism, AA—they are all open books. Scientology, the Forum—they don’t tell you what the magic is upfront at all.
    A friend in drug & alcohol recovery for 8 years who recently became a Christian explained that her new faith was the next step in her healing. now instead of meetings reminding herself of the pit of addiction she escaped, she goes to church to focus on the positives in her life, her relationship with God, how to help her fellow men and women, how to live more closely to Christ’s example.
    I believe Bill was a Christian and ALL of the 12 steps are basic Christian principles, whether you accept Christ or not. Admitting one’s own weakness, God’s supremacy, surrendering to God, making amends to others, reaching out to others who need the program, etc. ‘One day at a time’ is also Christian theology—Christ has already paid the penalty for all of our sins, so if you mess up, you aren’t damned. You just get back to work at the relationship you have with God. Take a look. There is an AA for non-addicts, it’s called Christianity.
    The 12 Suggested Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous
    1. We admitted we were powerless over alcohol–that our lives had become unmanageable.
    2. Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.
    3. Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him.
    4. Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.
    5. Admitted to God, to ourselves and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.
    6. Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character.
    7. Humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings.
    8. Made a list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all.
    9. Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.
    10. Continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong promptly admitted it.
    11. Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God, as we understood Him, praying only for knowledge of His will for us and the power to carry that out.
    12. Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to alcoholics, and to practice these principles in all our affairs.

    Reply
  13. scruggs

    LFMD,
    When I saw the video earlier in the week, I thought he was completely loopy. However, he still is HOT after all these years. Maybe if he could have given that speech while reinacting his TG volleyball scene. Then, I’d take him him seriously.

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  14. Piglet

    Well…maybe I don’t have to also explain transubstantiation, mormonism, and all that after all, because I don’t defend those things either. The only reason those things aren’t considered laughably kooky too is that those religions have more followers and so polite, pragmatic people usually don’t want to offend them.
    The real reason Scientology has the contempt of theologians is that it’s “new” compared to the established religions, and because so many of its visible proponents are “kooky Hollywood people” who appeal to theologians’ sense of culture shock. Which might not be fair, but who ever said theologians were fair?
    And the intellectual problem with Scientology is that it is the only self-described “religion” in which they HIDE the supposedly revealed divine secrets of God that are the one true path to salvation, and expect people to pay money to learn those secrets. Most other religions, you’re lucky if they don’t send missionaries to your door trying to explain their version of God to you whether you want to hear it or not. And if they don’t do that, they’ve certainly got open places of worship, widely available sacred texts to study, and sermons you can pay attention to for free if you want to. The True Believers WANT people to know “the truth” as they understand it. And while they probably invite donations, I know of no house of worship where it’s any more mandatory than, say, the expectation that you tip waitstaff. Only the Scientologists want your money as a precondition of reading The Word. Seems fair to me to call that a “scam”.

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  15. Piglet

    “Does anyone else remember this commercial, or was LRH focusin his sales pitch on the tri-state area during the 1970’s? ”
    “Will the circle be unbroken? (P. 28)”
    “Why do fools fall in love? (P. 457)”
    “Who put the BOP in the Bop-shebop-shebop? (P. 420)”
    “Is this my beautiful wife? (P. 136)”
    If that’s the ad you mean, then yeah, it was everywhere.

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  16. Ramone

    Islam believes that if your good deed outweigh your bad deeds, then you make it to heaven. If not, hell forever. So where’s the cut-off? Can you round up @ 69.5% or do you have to drop off all fractions?
    Likewise, Buddhism believes that if you wipe your mind of all worldly conscientiousness then you reach total Enlightenment. Problem is once you reach Enlightenment you become one with the being. In other words, you, as a soul, become obliterated. Oh yea, reincarnation – you keep trying it over and over until you get it. So, if you never get it then you actually have enternal life. I’ve entered Buddhist temples and they all have this big gong that you can hit with a stick. It’s for long life. But why? Long life is irrelevant when you get as many attempts at it as you like.
    Hindiusm is mythical story after mythical story – no cause or purpose. just lots of stories.
    Judiasm is obviously a prelude to Christianity. It points to our sin nature. What is sin? – anything contrary to the character of God. Christians believe God will have nothing to do with sin. _ that God is a God of justice. Sin must be dealt with. God instructed Jews to sacrifice animals so that could realize the severity of their sins. Penalty for sin is death. These animals took upon them the sin of the Jews. Today – God, sin and eternal life are ambigious to the Jews.
    Christianity is the only religion that offers grace. Grace is getting better than you deserve. All these other religions – all of them – have a works based system. Works – the idea that one must earn his or her way to God. Look at them all described above. If man had to invent a religion, he would invent such a system. Christianity is all about God chasing after man and offering him salvation. Not something man would have invented.
    Ian – read the entire Bible – cover to cover – and read it skeptically like i did. Then, make your comments about Christianity.

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  17. eric g.

    Sorry to be off-topic but I just landed in Salt Lake City on my way to Sundance ’08, and, in addition to John Malkovich and Kyle McLachlan, the guy who played Mike Damone in “Fast Times at Ridgemont High” was on my flight. I’m gonna go put on side one of Led Zeppelin IV. And remember: always order for the lady.

    Reply
  18. Bob

    Ramone:
    There is a logical reason than a Buddhist would want a long life. A longer life offers more opportunity to seek the path, to practice the faith and to make advances towards enlightenment thus bettering the next life the soul will endure.
    You said: “Christianity is all about God chasing after man and offering him salvation. Not something man would have invented.” Actually to be fair, Christianity is all about God chasing after man and offering a choice between salvation (attainable through devotion to him and his laws) and eternal damnation, pain and suffering. Sounds pretty human to me.
    Chad: I was trying to say more than the OT God was a “hardass.” The New Covenant only creates moral coherence for the believer. It does not create logical coherence.

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  19. Ian

    Ramone (and connor beach) – I’ve already read the whole bible cover to cover, as well as the Book of Mormon – it comes in a 3-pak leather case with a zipper when you grow up where we did. I confess I nodded off during some of the “begat” chapters of the OT and the battle scenes of the BOM don’t quite cut it in the age of “Saving Private Ryan”, but I definitely took it all in. Does that earn me any argument points?
    “There is an AA for non-addicts, it’s called Christianity.” – connor beach, I gotta say, that’s a good one. I don’t agree with it on about 400 different levels (another blog, maybe?) but it’s a hell of a sales pitch.
    To quote the reverend in “Heathers”:
    “We must pray the other teenagers of Sherwood, Ohio, know the name of that righteous dude who can solve their problems: it’s Jesus Christ, and he’s in the Book!”

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  20. tregen

    I personnaly lo e all of my thetans…I have at least three hundred that make me do all sorts of crazy shit!!! Thank god for thetans…the worls would suck so bad without them. (Ps, they like good scotch)

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  21. Neva

    I found this Tom Cruise video incredibly boring. If someone had the attention span to watch this thing then evidently they’re pretty focused already and probably don’t need a lot of help.
    I think this is complete moneymaking horse shit but is much of religion in general, maybe? Does it make people happier, maybe? So, I refrain from judging unless they are coming after me telling me I’m wrong or I need to switch to their way of thinking, then I feel like I have a right to say something. Luckily, Tom doesn’t show up on my doorstep with this bull and it’s pretty easy to avoid.

    Reply

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