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The New Yorker vs. Scientology

Paul Haggis takes on the Church of Scientology in the New Yorker.  Not only is it a fascinating read, it has generated a story from NPR on how it was written.

In September 2010, Wright, his editor, the New Yorker fact-checking team and the magazine’s editor-in-chief, David Remnick, met for eight hours with the spokesman for the Church of Scientology, Tommy Davis, along with Davis’ wife and four lawyers representing the church, to discuss the facts in the piece.

Wright says that one of the most interesting parts of the meeting came when he asked Davis about L. Ron Hubbard’s medical records. Hubbard, the founder of Scientology, had maintained that he was blind and a ‘hopeless cripple’ at the end of World War II — and that he had healed himself through measures that later became the basis of Dianetics, the 1950 book that became the basis for Scientology.

"I had found evidence that Hubbard was never actually injured during the war. … And so we pressed [Tommy Davis] for evidence that there had been such injuries and [Hubbard] had been the war hero that he described," says Wright. "Eventually, Davis sent us what is called a notice of separation — essentially discharge papers from World War II — along with some photographs of all of these medals that [Hubbard] had won. … At the same time, we finally gained access to Hubbard’s entire World War II records [through a request to the military archives] and there was no evidence that he had ever been wounded in battle or distinguished himself in any way during the war. We also found another notice of separation which was strikingly different than the one that the church had provided."

Furthermore, says Wright, the notice of separation that the church provided was signed by a man who never existed. And two of the medals that Hubbard supposedly had won weren’t commissioned until after Hubbard left active service.

One Comment

  1. Lawrence Wright highlights a type of social pathology that, far from being confined to Scientologists, is a ubiquitous feature of many contemporary so-called “religious” or “spiritual” organizations. Yet public discourse about the relative merits of any particular such group usually seems oblivious to this pathology. Why?

    Though this is a phenomenon endemic to groups that use mystical traditions and founding myths to justify their authority over individual members, each time they produce results consistent with their authoritarian blueprints there is public outrage—AFTER a lot of people have gotten hurt and their bizarre ordeals have become the object of gawking and controversy.

    American Guru, my book about the organization EnlightenNext and its founder Andrew Cohen, tracks the history and development of this phenomenon in yet another such “idealistic” group. To demonstrate how much EnlightenNext has in common with the Church of Scientology, I’ve written an article showing parallels which these two groups have in common, and which in fact a great number of authoritarian spiritual groups share.

    You will find the article here: http://americanguru.net/news-and-reviews/cut-from-the-same-cloth/

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