Category Archives: religion

Leaving Scientology…

Every once in a while I go into Wikipedia and start to read about Scientology.  It reads to me like a religion that The Onion made up (maybe all religion seems like that to a non-believer) but still I find it so bizarre and so celebrity driven (okay, if you are going to comment that there are churches in Dallas, Atlanta and other places that have VIP seating for the rich and professional athletes, I just beat you to it).  So with that out of the way, here is a tale of actress Carmen Llywelyn leaving Scientology.

I got a horrible feeling in my stomach that first day at the Celebrity Centre. Jason and I had spoken about Scientology many times. Our relationship was serious; we had just moved in together. Eventually, I started to feel like he was forcing Scientology on me, past the point where I didn’t want to go any further. He would never stop talking about it. It became a source of contention and I realized that unless I accepted Scientology the way he did and the way he wanted me to, we would most likely cease to know each another.

I didn’t want to go inside the Centre, but Jason was so excited for me. He had set up a tour of everything. A very nice Sea Org staff member showed us around, taking us to the different levels and departments and explaining how Scientology worked. Of course, Jason had been there before and it wasn’t lost on me that the tour was all for my benefit. It was unnerving to know that my reaction to what was happening could be a dealbreaker in our relationship. I think I was too young to even understand the impact this had on my decision making.

We walked over to a room where a couple of people were reading and waiting to be taken into “session,” as it was described to me. As we kept going, it occurred to me how unreal and expensive Scientology was to going to be. (I’m not exactly sure, but I know with all the auditing, books and courses I took, the cost of Scientology added up to more than $50,000. This includes the cost of my lifetime membership to the International Association Of Scientologists, which is thousands of dollars and a requirement that must be paid before any services can be started. This amount does not include the donations the church asked us for over the years.)

To me, Scientology seemed more of a surreal lifestyle for the privileged than a kind of belief system. Our tour guide showed us the auditing part of the grade chart, then the training part. She asked us, wouldn’t we like to become clear one day and was that something we could imagine ourselves doing? I remember saying I did, but that I would most likely only do the auditing side since it seemed impossible for me to finish both sides. I joked that I had no idea how I’d ever have time to do anything else.

She surprised me when she abruptly cut me off me mid-sentence in order to say that I would finish both sides, like every other Scientologist is required do. Her quick personality shift from accommodating to controlling shocked me. I didn’t expect to be belittled by our tour guide, given that it was my choice to do anything concerning Scientology—if I was going to do it at all. I wondered how she could see it any other way. But she didn’t back down from what she said. It made me feel stupid. And then she just moved on with the tour as if nothing had happened. I didn’t like it and I didn’t understand it. Worse, Jason seemed to not notice.

After I left Scientology I came to know this type of communication very well, if you can call it that—it’s too one-sided for it to be called an actual communication cycle because it’s more like being talked at. Hubbard created a complicated emotional tone scale and used it to teach Scientologists how to “deal with people.” This specific way of talking was called “speaking with tone 40 intent.” This was all learned in a very low-level course, all under the guise of having better communication skills. We practiced speaking this way with each other. Two of the training routines taught us how to deal with a person who was doing something wrong by basically ordering them around. In this routine you spoke to the person in a commanding way and you didn’t offer them a chance to reply. This was how people in the church talked to me after I left. I regrettably admit to speaking to people that way myself when I believed it was called for. It was also how Jenna Elfman and Gay Ribisi treated me when I became known as a “Suppressive Person.” More on that later.

Jenna Elfman being mean is not how I want to remember Dharma and Greg.

A Suppressive Person is the worst thing you can be in Scientology. This label is reserved for anyone who is opposed to, speaks out about, or leaves the religion. Scientologists believe that such a person, like an ex-Scientologist who speaks out about their former beliefs and/or who doesn’t disconnect from one who has, will make everyone around them sick. They’ll ruin everyone’s lives with whom they come into contact and must never be socialized with again. According to the written doctrine of Scientology, Suppressive Persons must be destroyed if the religion is to continue saving the world. This is why it’s difficult to look at these nice and sweet celebrities and ever imagine they could be full of such rage and hate. But they’ve actually been hardwired, slowly and over a long period of time, to fanatically believe in this.

I remember when I tried telling one faux friend how the writings of L. Ron Hubbard felt too convoluted for me to absorb. About a sentence into my opinion, she cut me off. Before I knew it, she had totally whitewashed what I’d said. But it was like she thought she was doing me a favor by not letting me express myself. I found myself agreeing with her in the hope that I wouldn’t cause any more problems. Anything I said or even thought that was considered a deviation from the general Scientological (an actual word we used) teachings was seen by others as an error on my part—something that needed correction. Or it meant something was horribly wrong with me.

Jenna ElfmanShortly after I left Scientology, I ran into one of my former faux-friends, Jenna Elfman, at Fred Segal in L.A. She walked up to me and said “Hi” and stared in my face for a second in a semi-confrontational way. I was shocked for a second but said hello, how are you, thinking it was going to be a normal conversation. But rather than telling me how she was, she went on a rant about all the courses she was working on and finishing in Scientology to let me know that nothing other than religion mattered. She didn’t ask me how I was. She didn’t wish me well or ask me about my life. She wasn’t interested. I was just supposed to listen to her while she lectured me in that tone-40 type of voice and told me I needed to get back on “the bridge.” Then she walked off without saying goodbye. It was a very cold encounter. (Honestly, even when I was a Scientologist, I thought the Elfmans—Jenna and her husband, Bodhi, who married me and Jason—were cheesy people. They sent out a monthly newsletter in the mail to everyone they knew called “The Elfman Empire” listing all their Hollywood projects and Scientology work they were doing. It was funny.) Anyway, Jenna thought she was being a good Scientologist by talking to me that way. Of course, they’re trained to act like that.

I so need to send out a monthly newsletter called The Cooper Empire.  If only I had Hollywood projects to write about….

Okay, this is getting really weird.  This is what happens when you read the wrong book.

Scientology has a sophisticated intelligence agency known as the Office of Special Affairs, which is essentially a complex system dedicated to ruining the lives of those it sees as enemies in any way possible. Those who work for the OSA do not follow the law. I didn’t believe any of this was real until I left and started to research it in the attempt to figure out the strange things that were happening to me and my family—like how and why my former best friend suddenly knew about everything about my personal life, and why she felt compelled to involve herself in it.

There was more. Vicious rumours were being spread about things I had said only while in session, which I was made to believe were private. Some rumors I knew could only come from certain people, like Jason. I got followed all the time. People in public would loudly discuss a conversation I had just had in private, word for word. Similar things occurred on social media.

Scientologists have no boundaries and their cruelties exclude no one. From my experience, Fair Game’s main tool is mind games. They’re very good at it and they play with your emotions. I’ve found they skirt the law and use methods like electronic surveillance and cell phones to monitor a person’s every word and every move.

So yeah, pretty weird.  Even weirder is that it looks like that once her divorce and shunning from Scientology, she hasn’t been able to work in Hollywood.

B.C. Prisoner Group Protesting Non-Christian Chaplain Layoffs

This is a decision by CSC that I just don’t understand

A prisoners’ rights group in B.C. is suing the federal government for allegedly violating the constitutional rights of non-Christian inmates by cancelling the contracts of 18 non-Christian chaplains at federal prisons.

Two Buddhists, two Wiccans, two Muslims, a Sikh and a Jewish believer say Corrections Canada is denying them reasonable access to religion and spirituality.

In October, the agency confirmed its plans to lay off 49 part-time chaplains — 31 of whom are Christians — who provided religious counsel to a variety of faiths. The layoffs, expected to take effect at the end of March, will leave British Columbia without a non-Christian chaplain.

The part-time chaplains are to be replaced with a mix of volunteers and the CSC’s 71 full-time Christian chaplains and two full-time Muslim chaplains.

“It is a pretty clear cut case on the basis of religion,” said D.J. Larkin, a staff lawyer with West Coast Prison Justice Society, which is representing eight current and former inmates in the case.

“What’s happening right now is there are Christian-based chaplains in B.C. There are no minority-based chaplains in B.C.”

Larkin says she has documented a number of cases where prisoners have requested religious counselling but have been unable to attain it.

Cantor Michael Zoosman was a part-time Jewish prison chaplain in B.C. who now works in Washington D.C.

He says religion can help people stay out of prison — saving money and helping them reintegrate into society.

“There’s a real opportunity for rehabilitation through spiritual connectedness that only chaplains can achieve,” Zoosman said.

“Minorities deserve the same access to that rehabilitation as majorities.”

With their lawsuit, the eight current and former inmates are asking that the Correctional Service of Canada reinstate and continue the contracts of the non-Christian chaplains in British Columbia.

The CSC wouldn’t comment on the lawsuit, but released a statement saying it is committed to respecting religious freedom.

The agency “will also continue to engage the voluntary support of our community partners to deliver chaplaincy services to offenders,” the statement read.

I agree with the prisoners on this.  Laying off chaplains (who do a really important job in Corrections no matter what their faith background is) is a weird move but eliminating all of the part time positions that minister to minorities is even more mind boggling until you step back and realize that Vic Toews is the minister in charge. 

I know a lot of offenders who have turned their lives around in jail and almost all of them have talked of their work with a chaplain.  Cutting chaplaincy is a bizarre decision (they get paid like crap) but doing it this way is even worse.  Perhaps Canada’s Office of Religious Freedom could take a look inside our borders on it’s way to protect religious freedom outside of our borders.

Cornell West vs. The White House

From the New York Times describing an exchange with Valerie Jarret and theologian Cornell West

Ms. Jarrett was similarly “livid,” one former White House official said, with members of the Congressional Black Caucus who accused the president of paying insufficient attention to the particular economic woes of blacks. When the writer and academic Cornel West joined in, calling Mr. Obama the “black mascot of Wall Street,” Ms. Jarrett’s response was “ruthless,” Dr. West said.

He recalled a phone call in which she dismissed his criticism as sour grapes for not receiving a ticket to the inauguration, and said he later heard from friends that she was putting out the word that “one, I was crazy, and two, I was un-American.”

“It was a matter of letting me know that I was, in her view, way out of line and that I needed to get in line,” he said in an interview. “I conveyed to her: ‘I’m not that kind of Negro. I’m a Jesus-loving black man who tells the truth, in the White House, in the crack house or in any other house.’ She got real quiet. It was clear that she was not used to being spoken to that way.”

Actually West said Barack Obama is a, “a black mascot of Wall Street oligarchs and a black puppet of corporate plutocrats. And now he has become head of the American killing machine and is proud of it.”  While I don’t agree with what he said, I do appreciate someone who can tell off someone in power and then stand by it.

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.

Evangelicalism’s odd dance with pop culture

From Slate and their review of Daniel Radosh’s new book, Rapture Ready!

At some point, Radosh asks the obvious question: Didn’t Jesus chase the money changers out of the temple? In other words, isn’t there something wrong with so thoroughly commercializing all aspects of faith? For this, the Christian pop-culture industry has a ready answer. Evangelizing and commercializing have much in common. In the “spiritual marketplace” (as it’s called), Christianity is a brand that seeks to dominate. Like Coke, it wants to hold onto its followers and also win over new converts. As with advertisers, the most important audience is young people and teenagers, who are generally brand loyalists. Hence, Bibleman and Christian rock are the spiritual equivalent of New Coke. Christian trinkets—a WWJD bracelet, a “God is my DJ” T-shirt—function more like Coca-Cola T-shirts or those cute stuffed polar bears. They telegraph to the community that the wearer is a proud Christian and that this is a cool thing to be—which should, in theory, invite eager curiosity.

Straightforward, if somewhat crude, merchandizing so far. But there is also another level of questions, which the creators of Christian culture have a much harder time answering: What does commercializing do to the substance of belief, and what does an infusion of belief do to the product? When you make loving Christ sound just like loving your boyfriend, you can do damage to both your faith and your ballad. That’s true when you create a sanitized version of bands like Nirvana or artists like Jay-Z, too: You shoehorn a message that’s essentially about obeying authority into a genre that’s rebellious and nihilistic, and the result can be ugly, fake, or just limp.


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Soularize + 1 :: Father Richard Rohr

I am spending the day at a private home in the Bahamas with the lads from the Soularize HQ, Father Richard Rohr, and other invited friends and guests for a workshop and day of learning. (Todd has some photos)

Before that Todd, Jim, and I managed to escape to downtown Nassau for some touristy sightseeing and buy Nassau branded things made in China.  While I was downtown, I saw the ugliest shirt while in a market.  The storekeeper saw me and grabbed my arm and she told me I needed it.  After saying it was something that a crazy member of royalty would wear, she named me Earl of Nassau III.  We weren’t sure that she was able to bestow me that honor but I did get a good deal on the ugliest shirt on the planet.  How ugly was it?  When I put it on, a couple of guys had seizures, three whales beached themselves, and one container transport ship set itself on fire.  It isn’t so much a shirt but a weapon of violence.

After wolfing down some food, we ended up on the other side of the island in the same gated community as Sean Connery (he lives across the street) and am listening to Father Richard Rohr who is talking about…

  • You can be an extrovert and be a contemplative.  It is about controlling your chatter.  The mind is only capable about reprocessing the past and worrying about the future.  The mind can not be present and this is a substitute for life.

Father Richard talked a little longer and then we were set out to find a quiet spot for a while to listen to God and quiet the chatter.  More about that later.  More Father Richard

  • When you don’t have an experiential faith, you rely on dogma.
  • 83% of human thought is repetitive and useless.  We have compulsive addictive ways of capturing reality (the Enneagram helps one realize this – I am a Type 5)
  • Romans 8:16
  • We have to detach and go to a new place to abide to observe ourselves and discern our patterns.  This is deeply humiliating and most people stop.
  • Small minds can’t see anything because they are too self absorbed.
  • Liberal politicians is not that much different that conservative politicians – it is still all about winning and still about their ego.
  • Contemplation should not be taught to monks if they are still slamming doors – Thomas Merton
  • The ego is the unobserved self
  • Any addiction (good or bad) is horrible for you.
  • Contemplation teaches you to be a holding cylinder and not an exhaust valve.  Hold on and learn from it.
  • Judgmental mind is not seeking truth but rather seeking control.
  • Most Christians are split people.  Torn internally.
  • Father Rohr gave me a handout that I need to post later – Jordon
  • Merton told his own community because he said, “You aren’t contemplatives, just introverts”

Pocket Edition of the Divine Hours

I don’t how many of you use Phyllis Tickle’s The Divine Hours but I carry one around with me to work and home every day which is no small task (it’s a large book).  This bit of good news arrived in my inbox today and while I don’t generally post press releases, this one made me happy.

This past month, Oxford University Press has published The Divine Hoursâ„¢ Pocket Edition by Phyllis Tickle.

From the Introduction:

“It is important to remember, as pastors frequently remind us, that it is not the prayers we do not say, but rather those we do say, that matter to God.”

When Phyllis Tickle’s marvelous devotional trilogy The Divine Hours™ appeared, readers responded with gratitude, praise, and a great many requests for an edition of hourly prayers that they could easily carry with them—an edition that would make this ancient form of Christian worship compatible with the pace and mobility of modern life. Now, in The Divine Hours Pocket Edition,™ Tickle has gathered one full week of fixed-hour prayers, providing an ideal companion for travelers, office-workers, people on retreat or pilgrimage, as well as newcomers to this age-old spiritual practice. As Tickle writes in her introduction, “prayer is always a place as well as an action, and the daily offices are like small chapels or wayside stations within the day’s courses.” For all those who want to carry a “small chapel” of prayers with them, The Divine Hours Pocket Edition™ offers a convenient, easy-to-use, and deeply spiritual guide to a devotional practice that extends all the way back to Christ and the twelve Apostles.

Here is it is on