The First Rule Of Scientology Club Is…

Unlike many, I have no particular quibbles with Scientology. In terms of belief their particular brand of lunacy is no more abhorrent than omnipotent bearded men, elephant-headed deities, or reincarnation. There is something intrinsically modern about Scientology’s aliens and space-faring DC-3s. It is a a belief system with a mythology that could only have been invented by an author of science fiction. No other person would have that complete a vision or be willing to go so far beyond the pale. In that regard it is no surprise that the likes of Anonymous have pursued the organization as it has. They are, after all, infringing on prime geek territory.

In keeping with that same tone, Scientology has started a new advertising campaign comprised of a trio of commercials aimed at enticing the public. The one above is most interesting. If one didn’t know better one might speculate that it was aimed squarely at the aforementioned 4chaners, as it appears to be a none to subtle nod at a similar speech from Fight Club which, among other things, inspired the boards’s rules. Perhaps it is merely a byproduct of the organization’s many ties with elite Hollywood actors. Either way, the ads are undeniably slick and handily fit in with Scientology’s sci-fi roots. These are ads you would expect to find on the television in a Philip K. Dick novel; plastered on the billboards of some dystopian, near-future Los Angeles.

Mostly, though, they bring me back to my childhood, staying home sick from school and watching daytime television. Family Feud cuts to commercial break and a series of insightful questions flash on screen, appended by page numbers. How can a person suddenly lose confidence? Can your mind limit your success? Paper or plastic? Then, CRASH, a volcano explodes on the screen, churning up a hellish cauldron of white-hot magma, an ominous voice intoning the words “Read Dianetics, by L. Ron Hubbard. It’s the owner’s manual, for the human mind.” It had a profound effect on me as a child. At least, until The Feud came back on.

27 Responses to “The First Rule Of Scientology Club Is…”

  1. Will Says:

    That is genuinely scary.

  2. Tequila Says:

    I dunno how “elite” some of their Hollywood actors are these days. Outside of the main ones we all know the rest are a sea of mediocre TV hacks or C & D listers looking to make contacts. If anything we should be grateful Scientology keeps them out of the general population. I still remember that creepy celebrity center vid that kicked around a while back, couldn’t watch That 70’s Show without wondering if secret messages beamed out from it.

    They really should just market Scientology as an MMO and be done with it. I’d pay $15 a month to mess around in it’s odd little world. The quests would be hilarious.

    I’m with you on the old skool Dianetics commercials. They would both scare & excite me about just WTF it was…until re-runs of Gilligan’s Island came back on. Was never too much into The Feud. I was so disappointed when I found out it was a self help book.

    4Chan and Anonymous vs. Scientology. Well at least if they wipe each other out we all win. Now if only someone would arm them…where is ACME when you need em?

  3. waa Says:

    The problem with Scientology is not what they believe in. Rather, it’s the aggressive way they confront anybody who is critical of them. They litigate, threaten and do more things which are at the edge of legality. Or over it.

    The fact that geeks have tackled Scientology doesn’t have much to do with the scifi background – although it is rather fitting indeed :-) It has more to do with the fact that the internet has been a favourite hunting ground for the organisation for years. At the time when usenet was still widely used they tried to bring down newsgroups, and over where I live, in the Netherlands, Scientology has (unsuccessfully) attempted to sue providers and individuals for alleged copyright infringements, which were basically just an excuse to tie down their critics and let them bleed money on lawyers. It’s a tactic they use a lot. And sadly, it works a lot of the time.

  4. Infamous Amos Says:

    Maybe everyone will all start getting along if the government steps in and tells the Trekkies and Star Wars nerds that they don’t have to pay taxes either.

  5. Qais Fulton Says:

    I can’t help but wonder how this commercial would’ve gone over if instead of “hope, blah blah blah” the general “You are” was followed by “the offspring of an immortal, ethereal slave race transported to Earth by aliens in airplanes.”

    My guess? “Dude, we totally have to see that when it comes out.”

  6. Shay Says:

    Back in my university days, I used to pass by a stand of Scientologists near the comic book store I worked at who would occasionally try and get me to buy Dianetics. At the time, I would carry around the 900+ bound pages of Alfred Korzybski’s Science & Sanity for a seminar paper I was writing on the Map/Territory relationship, and would offer it in exchange (it’s a freely downloadable PDF so I didn’t mind). They never agreed to the barter though. I wonder why.

  7. Peter S. Says:

    Interesting how the T and the lens flare put a cross at the center of the word as it first resolves (about at the :45 to :46 mark). Why do I doubt that was happenstance.


    After the Cult Awareness Network targeted Scientology, Scientology used copyright law to shut CAN down, force them into bankruptcy, then bought their name and all the files of anyone who’d reported on Scientology to CAN.

    Deeply, deeply creepy people. All the ugliness of corporate amorality and religious zeal rolled into one happy, celebrity-obsessed package.

  8. Stagger Leah Says:

    I would be okay with Scientology if it didnt, you know, murder people and steal their money. Not that other religions havent done that at one time, but really, in this day and age. It’s just not tolerable.

    And please, for the love of everyone, remember that there is a difference between Anonymous and 4chan. Many of us consider ourselves channers but prefer to stay out of their hijinx.

    On a lighter note, thank you for the wonderful article Ross. This should be an interesting discussion.

  9. Jerem Morrow Says:

    I’m amazed someone hasn’t popped in yet with “There are those of us who are religious who cringe when we see ‘other’ religious people being all crazy like. Please remember some of us are sane. Hee hee ha ha. Praise the cosmic whatever.” That differentiation always amuses me.

  10. Julia Navigatrix Says:

    Jerem Morrow:

    There are plenty of reasonable, sane religious *people*. Whether there are any reasonable, sane *religions* is up for debate.

    Seriously, though, the snootiness of certain atheists makes me cringe nearly as much as the hypocrisy of certain religious people. I think that the majority of us hold some irrational belief or another, and, at least among my own acquaintances, I’ve never noticed a strong positive correlation between atheism and intelligence, or between spirituality and nuttiness (or the other way around).

  11. Nadya Says:

    I’m a complete, die-hard atheist, but I have to agree with Julia on this one.

  12. Peter S. Says:

    Atheism requires faith as well. After all, to be so sure something is NOT, something that one cannot prove one way or the other, is at its heart an act of faith rather than knowledge. (I say this as an agnostic.)

    I think it’s less a matter of distrust of religion than it is distrust of people who are so incredibly certain that they are right as to preclude any possibility of discussion. Admittedly, I’ve seen more folks of that ilk connected with religions than with the absence thereof, but like Julia said, it’s not a strong positive correlation. Anyone can be a presumptuous jackass, myself certainly included.

  13. Shay Says:

    Peter – Atheism does not require faith. That sounds to me like a misuse of language. Let me explain. I don’t believe in god in the same way I don’t believe in transparent jellybean-like intelligent aliens who reside on the dark side of the moon. There’s no proof they exist, just as there is no proof the christian/muslim/jewish/zoroastrian/bahai/etc. deity exists. It takes no conscious effort to disbelieve, no “leap of faith”. There’s an infinity of propositions which I do not hold to be true. Primarily, because there is no compelling evidence that they are true. This is how rational modern people justify their beliefs in practically every subject except religion. People default to a false truth-value for propositions about the world – until proven otherwise.
    The agnostic position that you seem to hold confuses justification with certainty. Up until Einstein, people were certain that Newtonian physics was true. The Scientific revolutions of the 20th century have changed that view and exposed it’s dogmatism. Scientific method is at its heart a critical position. Knowledge (justified true belief) is constantly being re-evaluated and put to the test. This is the opposite of faith / dogma.
    So long as there is no compelling evidence to justify holding a proposition to be true – There is no reason to suppose it is true, unless it provides some explanatory value in another hypothesis. As the existence of a deity is a proposition about the world, and as it does not explain anything (if anything, it is “mystery-replacement” – replacing something you don’t know with another thing you can never know – very bad practice!), one cannot rationally be justified to hold the belief to be true. I don’t have to be ‘certain’ there is no god to be an atheist. Certainty, in the manner you seem to understand it, does not exist in the scientific worldview, only in the religious one. I merely need to be rational to see there’s no point in withholding judgment about a proposition that contributes nothing to my understanding of the world. If tomorrow I read in the papers that they found a floaty godhead in the sky, I’ll re-evaluate my position. Rationality allows that.

  14. syd Says:

    At least Armond White’s with me on 500 Days. But I can’t agree with his Juno bashing. If 500 Days of Summ. is the new Juno, I should like it

  15. Red Scharlach Says:

    I think that the majority of us hold some irrational belief

    Well, you should probably work on that.

    Peter, you obviously don’t understand atheism if you say it requires faith; The scientific method doesn’t require faith.

    Would you say of a person who doesn’t believe in superheroes or dragons that they’re only doing so on faith?

  16. Jerem Morrow Says:

    Peter: Perhaps I wasn’t clear enough, but Shay seems to’ve been so for me.

    Julia: I’m really not arguing. But, it *has* been my experience that there’s a correlation between religion/religioso and fuck-nuttery. I’ve been on both sides of the fence. We’re all approaching this from the realm of our own experiences, so I’m not saying my opinion is any more valid. Just stating it.

    But mine differing from yours makes me snooty. And you’re not, in standing as my opposite on the matter? C’mon. Tell you what, let’s have a game of freeze tag, and whoever wins, is right.

    Red: Indeed.

  17. Julia Navigatrix Says:

    Jerem: I’m not “standing as your opposite”. I’m an atheist (or at least an agnostic) also; I just don’t like it when people take (what appear to me to be) gratuitous potshots that unfairly characterize quite large and diverse groups of people as stupid, crazy, or ignorant. I have definitely known stupid, crazy and ignorant religious people and I have also known people who consider their faith a personal matter, aren’t flashy or scarily dogmatic about it, and can give thoughtful, intelligent explanations as to why they believe if asked.

    I know it makes me terribly old-fashioned and a bit out of place on the internet, but I prefer to try and keep things relatively polite.

    Red: No, seriously! I’ll stand by that statement: if you are a human being, there is probably at least one strong belief that you hold based primarily on instinct, or intuition, or wishful thinking as opposed to logic and overwhelming real-world evidence. It might not be “oh, I believe in god!” or “I believe in unicorns!” or what-have-you. It might be a belief about, say, human nature, or the ideal human political system. It might be something really subtle. Trust me, though, it’s there. Of course, you could be the person who disproves this idea of mine. Maybe you genuinely hold no irrational beliefs whatsoever. Maybe you’re entirely objective in all things. From my perspective, you’re a block of text on my computer screen, so it would be grossly unfair of me to make that particular judgment call just now.

  18. Jerem Morrow Says:

    Julia: “Opposite” was a poor choice of wording, I admit. But, y’know, regarding the particular matter, we disagreed, so…opposite.

    The rest, yeah, I agree with you. I know there are religious folk out there “who consider their faith a personal matter, aren’t flashy or scarily dogmatic about it, and can give thoughtful, intelligent explanations as to why they believe”, I’ve just very rarely encountered them. The world we live in is inundated by things religious, to the point that those of us who don’t prescribe, are still forced to deal with it every day, on some level. I find this terribly offensive. Hence my pot shots don’t seem so to me. My intent isn’t to offend simply for the sake of offense. Well, not 90% or so, of the time.

  19. Tequila Says:

    @ Julia…I gotta agree with “I think that the majority of us hold some irrational belief or another” simply due to human emotions. As you expanded on there is always something we blindly hold faith in…I don’t think it’s possible to be 100% rational about everything. At least not without driving one utterly mad. The Scientific Method as others have stated has its part in life, though I dunno if it can really be applied to religion. Religion is governed so much by emotions, personal interpretations, dogma, and at times utter fucking lunacy that pure rational approaches seem not only impossible but probably the worst way to dive into it. You know, kinda like love.

    @ Jerem…it goes the other way too. Some of the religious persuasion feel not enough of their faith is in the world and feel swallowed up by the secular world. Pot shots, insults, and outright disgust is all fair though…on both sides. It’s one of the few healthy ways to let off steam about it. One can take offense all they want but no faith, ideology, or philosophy should be held so scared it can’t be questioned. Scientology clearly doesn’t understand that…they’d be much more accepted if they knew how to take a punch.

    Then again Scientology feels more like a racket and scam than a faith or philosophy at its core. Can’t afford too much deep investigation without falling apart. Doubt it could handle the way other faiths and philosophies have split into various sects. Though how awesome would it be to see Tom Cruise & John Travolta go to war over what they feel is “True Scientology”? It’d be the most fun Holy War ever!

    @Shay…”I don’t believe in god in the same way I don’t believe in transparent jellybean-like intelligent aliens who reside on the dark side of the moon.”

    You should man. They are DELICIOUS.

  20. Red Scharlach Says:

    Julia: Just because they’re there – and God knows that growing up in a world like ours imparts all kinds of crazy and irrational notions and behaviours – doesn’t mean we shouldn’t strive to stop them from messing us around.

  21. Jerem Morrow Says:

    @Tequila DELICIOUS!

  22. Rossemikka Says:

    I find Scientology deeply uncomfortable. I’m rather uninformed on the subject, but, I have this innate distrust of them, and that’s got to count for something right?! (Like how f%^king crazy they are)

  23. Nadya Says:

    Guys, I was reading/approving Coilhouse comments on my iPhone and I think I accidentally hit the “Delete” button on one of the long comments in this thread. I don’t know whose comment it was or what it said, I just know that I accidentally hit something and it was gone. My sincere apologies to the person whose comment it was. This wasn’t censorship, just my clumsy iPhone fingers hitting the wrong part of the screen! My apologies.

  24. Julia Navigatrix Says:

    Red: I’m really not trying to comment on whether it’s a desirable trait or not. I’m just saying that it’s there, and it’s there in everybody, even if they aren’t parading around at the bus stop banging on a bible and yelling, “John 3:16! Repent! Repent!” or trying to convince people that psychiatry is eeeeeevill or driving evil spirits out of the house with sage sticks. And I think that even the most hardcore atheists and devotees of the scientific method tend to have a blind spot when it comes to the ways that they themselves can be irrational. To me, there’s a difference between being rightfully skeptical and critical of certain things and just pointing and laughing in an “ahahaha, look at how much better *we* are” sort of way, and this is part of why the latter usually annoys me. Which isn’t to say I’ve never, ever done it myself, of course. :P

  25. Daniel Mirante Says:

    -quote-“In terms of belief their particular brand of lunacy is no more abhorrent than omnipotent bearded men, elephant-headed deities, or reincarnation.”-endquote-

    I really go with Julia here. Its far harder to identify our own brainwashing, the axioms that are so in front of us that they are virtually invisible… such as, early 21st century hypercapitalism and all the unspoken and unwordable ways of viewing life and the universe that come with it. Identifying these invisible axioms is where the work is IMO, rather than ‘having at’ easy targets.

  26. Daniel Mirante Says:

    and, wanted to add something that many people miss :
    Cults are Fun !

  27. Jerem Morrow Says:

    Open reply:

    We’re all trying to make our way through life, finding some sense of order that clicks with us, before we die. We all latch onto foolish notions, again and again. The best we can do is to continually move beyond those that impede our evolution. My own, most blaring obstacle, so far as *I* can see, is my tendency to pass judgement when I see people going through the motions of negative paths I’ve walked before. I listen when someone tries to provide the same for me, even if I disagree. I do my best to be respectful. But when you see someone playing in traffic, it’s difficult to not speak up.

    My own bias, at play, of course.

    In the last few years, I’ve found a patience that’s helped me to be more student, than loud-mouthed self-styled teacher. But even at the height of my moments of clarity, I feel the urge to keep people from harm. In this case, it came in the form of derision shown towards religion. And superstitious thinking. I’ve thought about this quite a bit, since this thread began, and I see wisdom coming from many.

    I attempt to not come across after a judgmental fashion. “Live and let live” and all. But where do we draw the line? As a humanist, I see the harm, and good, religious ideals have wrought. But mostly the harm. I’d not be the distasteful mouth piece for Atheism I may’ve presented as. I just can’t be silent.