Monday, July 26, 2010

The Road to Freedom, or My Last Scientology Blog

In five years of blogging, I've referenced Scientology by name once or twice.  You'd think that if it was so great and was totally making my life unbelievable I'd talk about it more.  So I'm opening up about everything now, and giving the Little Golden Book version of why I quit Scientology and sold thousands of dollars worth of Scientology materials for a whopping $250.  This may seem a little scattered, but I have twelve years to pack into one blog entry so bear with me.

When I graduated college, Andrew and I had a rough run at life.  Things weren't shaping up as we expected and we weren't sure what to do to someday have fame and fortune.  Bright, curious and logical, we found out about Scientology.  The workability (as marketed with slick ads and catchy slogans) appealed to us; it was cool that there was a scientific approach to the problems of the human spirit.  We bought books, devoured them, made improvements in our own lives after self reflection, then moved to a place where we worked in hopes to go "Clear" in exchange for that work.

The people we worked with were kind, overworked and underpaid.  We spent roughly 60 hours a week with these people and brought home up to $150 a week each.  (Most weeks were closer to $35 paychecks, and there were several weeks where we didn't get paid at all because the church's rent had to be paid.)  Andrew and I worked for a Scientology business owner who was incredibly sweet and made sure we were able to afford our own rent and groceries.  In the church, we saw a lot of yelling (largely from upper management, the people who were supposed to guide this religion that allegedly made people very chill in life and able to handle anything that came up).  If that was the case, why all the yelling when someone hired one less person this week than last?  There were too many mouths to feed anyway.  Why did we work there?  We expected to go "Clear" during our 2.5 year contract (didn't happen) and we figured Los Angeles would be easier to tackle if we did this first.  If we could live through this, we could do anything.  That part was true.

We left our friends from the church to move to Los Angeles where we knew no one.  We immediately trotted to Celebrity Centre, expecting them to help advise us on how to get acting work.  Andrew and I also started working for Scientology business owners, a decision that kept us tied to the church for many years for job security.  To get free courses, we worked with a woman who liked to yell at and invalidate people to get them to take courses and buy auditing.  That experience was dreadful.  Throughout our years connected to Scientology, neither of us understood how people who had completed so many levels of Scientology training and auditing could be such assholes.  Not everyone was an asshole, but you couldn't spit without hitting at least three assholes in the church.  We saw a lot more yelling, and we were yelled at on several occasions by those people who were supposed to help us on our spiritual journey.  We started making our own connections in the industry, people who weren't part of the church, and very few of them were assholes.

Working for Scientologists had its pros and cons.  I worked with some very nice people at my job and made some nice bonuses.  Andrew's boss gave him bonuses to spend on Scientology so the boss would be in good standing with the church by keeping his employee on the righteous path.  (I think we bought DVDs or paid bills with the bonuses.)  Scientology business owners have to join the Scientology business owner league, WISE.  As WISE members, their employees had to prove each year that they were studying the materials of their jobs; when they were done with those, they had to prove that they were completing Scientology courses.  That was the pressure that kept me doing something half-ass with the church for four years.  I didn't want to get my employers in trouble and I wanted to still have a job.  I thought it was bullshit but I played along.  I left that job last year.

In the past year, I've explored the websites and watched the videos that the church deemed "off limits."  You see, Scientologists are supposed to be able to face anything without flinching, so the legal branch of the church labeled certain things "entheta," which actually means presenting an unflattering or contrary opinion of Scientology.  I'm hoping to be labeled entheta. :)  I found out about human rights violations, physical abuse, coercion and lies galore.  Not what one would expect from a logic-based religion.  I initially thought the problem was with the current leadership and considered keeping my Hubbard attributed books, CD lectures and DVDs to study when management inevitably changes.  After more poking around, I figured out that Hubbard wasn't the church-touted "mankind's greatest friend."  I'll hold my swears here to maintain some shred of credibility for those friends I still have inside who are maybe considering life outside the church. But I had so many swears, so much disappointment, that I pulled all of my Hubbard attributed materials out, thousands of dollars worth, and sold a huge chunk for a whopping $250.  It's hard to sell something for more money when you feel it's worthless.

Fortunately, we didn't have a lot of money to spend on church "donations," meaning set fees to accomplish certain benchmarks of spiritual freedom.  I paid my annual "membership" fees for a few years, even though I had huge disagreements.  Most of our investment was in books and time.  I learned a lot about myself when I was involved in Scientology, but that's because I'm very self-reflective.  I spend a lot of time thinking and researching and reading and thinking and thinking.

Now my bookshelves are clear (zing!) and my life is better without that burden.  I'm doing what I love, and I'm far happier now than when I was involved with the church.

"That's the way this wheel keeps working out." -- John Mayer


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