Scientology on Campus: Stress Test a Lie

As I walked into the Student Union this morning I noticed that Scientologists were administering “free stress tests” to gullible students passing by. I was shocked. NKU has played host to plenty of crackpots in the past, but Christian fundamentalism is, at least, a silly idea with roots here in Kentucky. For the uninitiated, Scientology is a pernicious cult created by a science fiction writer named L. Ron Hubbard. Legend goes that, in the 1950’s, Hubbard entered into a bet with another writer to see which of them could codify their fictions into a living, breathing religion. This alone should be enough to give one pause when dealing with these people.

While it may seem unfair to label Scientology a cult considering the fact that virtually every major religion began in much the same way, I simply don’t care. The last thing this campus, let alone the world, needs is another body of un-falsifiable gibberish to be revered. The Church of Scientology is infamous for using litigation to silence and terrify its critics while cloaking itself in the language of tolerance. The freedom of groups like this to operate is the price of a free society, but the marketplace of ideas demands that nonsense be checked by the products of clear thinking.
As for the actual tenets of Scientology, the core is bad science fiction (as you might expect) wrapped in the kind of self-help rhetoric you can get cheaper at a Tony Robbins seminar. In essence, Scientology proposes that humans are amnesiac alien souls, possessed by a nebulous body of bad memories called engrams – which, conveniently, can only be purged by buying increasingly expensive “auditing” sessions from the Church. These sessions, a bizarre twist on religious confession, typically involve readings with the “E-meter,” a machine that projects an inconsequential amount of electric current through the subject, and a kind of faux-psychotherapy. Stupid, right? But as history shows, no idea is too stupid to be believed if sanctified by tradition. After decades of dispute with the IRS, the Church of Scientology managed to get tax-exempt status in 1993, paving the way for popular recognition of Scientology/Dianetics as a religion. The stage is now set for the group to extend its hold on the feebleminded, replacing belief in Bronze Age myths with a dangerous pseudo-scientific rhetoric designed to confound the most credulous sector of society.

Unlike some other cults which sought a high degree of control over their members, most notably Jim Jones and the Peoples Temple, Scientology/Dianetics functions more like a financial scam or pyramid scheme with religious overtones; although, the Church has been implicated in numerous attacks on what they term “suppressive persons,” a definition encompassing basically anyone critical of the Church. Operation “Snow White,” perpetrated by the Church, is held to be the second-largest infiltration of the federal government to date apart from that of the KGB – the purpose of which was to destroy federal records of the Church and its founder. The act most revealing of the insidious and corrupt nature of this “religion,” however, was the attempt to frame journalist Paulette Cooper, author of a book critical of Scientology, by implicating her in a concocted plan to bomb the Church.

So what is the proper response to this odious organization? Ridicule. Intelligent ridicule punctures the pretensions of know-nothings who make it their mission in life to lead others astray. While sober debate has its time and place, charlatans like these disciples of Hubbard are undeserving of serious consideration and will simply convert any real argument into a perception of legitimacy for their cause. This can’t be allowed, and debate isn’t necessary. Proponents of un-falsifiable dogmas exist by definition outside the bounds of scientific debate, and can be safely ignored without consequence. The proper response to ideas espoused by a dangerous cult is not jousting at windmills, but exclusion and scorn.