Saturday, January 19, 2013

NBC Rock Center looks at Scientology's "exiles", at a girls's school in Kenya, and at Lance Armstrong's "coming clean"

On “Rock Center with Brian Williams” on Thursday, Jan. 17, 2011, there were two episode about whaht happens when you “Quit  Scientology”.

Harry Smith interviewed Paul Haggis (director of the 2006 film “Crash”), about his decision to leave. Haggis talked early in the episode about his opposition to Proposition 8 in California, and being told incorrectly that his behavior contradicted the teaching of the church.

Haggis explained that Scientology is based on the idea that one can be free of unwanted emotions.
There was more detail about how the Church works in the interview with Lawrence Wright, author of “Going Clear: Scientology, Hollywood and the Prison of Belief” (Knopf, 2012).   Wright explained the subset of the church called “Sea Org”, and a couple apparently cannot become part of that subset if it wants to have children.  (This sounds like something that might be questioned.)  Wright told the story of a family that decided it wanted to leave the church, and was forced to separate from his daughter. The family also was apparently pursued financially, and the parents stayed in a windowless apartment for ten weeks while they contemplated leaving.

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The interview takes the position that the Church of Scientology has taken advantage of its legal status as a religion, to exert apparent enormous control over its members and behave litigiously against its enemies.
Wright describes some of the internals of the Scientology faith, including the progression into levels of esoteric initiation, called “Operating Thetan”.  There are seven or more levels of OT. At one of the levels, initiates are told that their bodies have been used by aliens. 

I personally believe that it is very likely that there are many civilizations comparable to ours in the Milky Way.  Inhabitants might indeed be more like us than we think, and perhaps even souls can move from one world to another in incarnations.  That sounds reasonable me.  Maybe Clive Barker got it right with his “five dominions” in his novel “Imajica”.  So some of the ideas of L Ron Hubbard could make sense (as far as physics is concerned), even if some of the practices of a group that follow his ideas don’t sound ethically right.

Wright also described Scientology’s reported litigiousness. Wikiepdia has a lot of discussion of this (as well as of the Church as a whole), look here. Wikipedia describes the litigation against the Cult Awareness Network in the 1990s, which I recall being covered in the Washington Post.  Wikipedia mentions an attempt by Scientology to claim, in the Netherlands, that someone who links to copyrighted material is guilty of copyright infringement, and also of an attempt to hold a service provider in the US for “downstream  liability” for copyright infringement in “Religious Technologyc Center v. Netcom”, a case that might have precipitated the safe harbor provisions of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) and which could provide psychological incentives for Congress to pass downstream tort immunity (Section 230) in the Telecommunications Act of 1996.

Later in the broadcast, Chelsea Clinton, “on assignment”, presented “Shining Hope”, a school for girls in Kibera, Kenya, a city in which poor residents live without utilities and without law and order.  One young woman, who had wanted to go to college and medical school, had been forced into arrange marriage at 14.  She now said that she had hopes that her own daughter to be educated.  People in this culture have to live through the hope of their children, not just themselves.   It would be interesting to see Chelsea Clinton examine the background for the vehemently antigay bills proposed in nearby Uganda, in a culture where people believe procreation is a moral responsibility to parents.

Bob Costas also discussed Lance Armstrong’s “confession” on Oprah’s OWN network (previous post).  The idea of putting your body through blood transfusions just to be more competitive sounds shocking.  In theory, a sport could set up the rules any way it wants.  But the sport wants to be limited by the natural human body.  Theoretically, shaving down could be improper (although it hardly could make any difference  -- does wind resistance really matter?)  Why is winning at any cost so important?   I say, never trust a smooth man (if artificially so).  Remember Jacob and Esau.  

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