It was a Saturday, sometime in 1994. Back in those days I spent many Saturdays out in Hollywood, walking around, sight-seeing, and shopping. There was a Church of Scientology building on Hollywood Blvd. that I would usually just walk past, without even thinking about it. A man in suit and tie would sometimes be standing outside the building, asking passers by if they wanted to come in and learn about Scientology. Back then I had no idea what Scientology was. I’d heard about it, used to see commercials for Dianetics on TV a lot, but just thought it was some kind of “New Age” thing. I remember this was around the time that Michael Jackson had married Lisa Marie Presley, and when they were interviewed by Diane Sawyer I remember Sawyer asking Lisa Marie about the rumor that their marriage was part of some plot by the Church of Scientology to get Michael’s money (which Lisa Marie denied, of course). But that’s all the thought I’d given the organization at that point.
Well, this particular day, when the man standing outside asked me if I wanted to come in and learn about Scientology as I walked past, I said yes and went in. I have no idea what made me decide to do that. I guess I just had nothing better to do at the moment. So I went in, there was another man in a suit, and a woman inside. They asked me to take some test. It was a bunch of questions, with multiple choice answers. The only question I recall, that stood out in my mind all these years, was “Do you smile often?” (answer: no) After I finished, the woman gave my test to the man, and said he would go over it, meanwhile she led me to another room to watch some short film about Dianetics. I don’t remember how long it was, or much about what was in it, but I know I was getting bored by then.
Let me say, up to this point, the man outside and the man and woman inside, were all extremely nice and friendly.
After the film, I go back to see the man to go over my test. He tells me that I am all messed up emotionally (I already know that, I thought to myself), but that Scientology has some special courses that I could take, that would help me out. He started mentioning how much they’d cost, from $225 to $600, and I was like uh, no thanks. But now his demeanor had changed. He was suddenly real aggressive, insisting that I needed these services to get better. This test showed that I was emotionally damaged (again, I’m like tell me something I don’t know), but Scientology could help me, and I would probably regret it later if I didn’t take their help now.
I don’t know why I was trying to be nice about it, when I should have just left, but after maybe 10 minutes I somehow let him talk me into buying a paperback copy of Dianetics by L Ron Hubbard, which I never read, and then I just got the heck out of there. But I had filled out my address on some receipt, and now for the past 17 years, I get some letter or pamphlet from the Church of Scientology every few months, inviting me to some Scientology event, or offering me a discount on some courses or subscription to one of their magazines or for books, whatever. Talk about persistence. And some of these letter aren’t random, they’ll actually reference the time I came in, and ask if I have any questions about the copy of Dianetics that I bought (I threw it away years ago). And I just got another little pamphlet last Saturday.
Over the past few years Scientology has become rather big news. Starting with this infamous Tom Cruise video:
And there this was the South Park episode Trapped In The Closet, which was the first episode of that series that I ever saw, and I thought it was hilarious, especially since “Stan’s” first encounter with Scientology was remarkably similar to mine. And then features the alleged secret creation theory of Scientology, involving the Galactic Warlord Xenu.
Now there have been multiple accusations of various forms of misconduct, corruption, and abuse by The Church of Scientology. I try to give everyone the benefit of the doubt, especially when it comes to religion. I used to be a Muslim, so I know first hand what it’s like to be a member of a religion that is demonized by those who those who don’t really know much about it. Unfortunately, it’s hard to find any real unbiased info about Scientology, so I’m really not sure what to think. I do generally believe that where there is smoke, there is fire. And I find it odd that I’ve never heard of an ex-Scientologist who has nothing bad to say about that religion. It seems as if everyone who leaves the Church of Scientology, from actor Jason Beghe to director Paul Haggis, to former high-level Scientology members like Marty Rathburn, leaves because they claim it is is a fraud and a cult. That definitely raises a red flag in my mind.
But, on the other hand, they generally seems like bees. They won’t bug you if you don’t bug them. So I’ll just keep ignoring the stuff they send me in the mail, and leave them alone.
PS If any Scientologists are reading this. Please don’t sue me.