"Going Clear:" Scientology's coverup efforts against the HBO documentary - 2015-03-16
One of the eeriest parts of Going Clear, the new HBO documentary about the abuses of Scientology, happens when Tom Cruise recounts being asked about whether he's ever met a Suppressive Person. (S.P.s, as they're known in the Scientology community, are people who impede your progress as a Scientologist.) Cruise starts to laugh at the idea that he might never have met an S.P., because to him they're everywhere, and his laugh grows crazier and more maniacal until it becomes super uncomfortable to watch, not unlike his couch-jumping antics. The actor doth protest too much! See for yourself:
Going Clear is full of moments like this; moments culled from past interviews (because no one from within Scientology would agree to sit down with these filmmakers) that make you realize just how insular Scientology is. Several ex-Scientologists were interviewed and they all, without exception, had friends and family members still in the Church who had to "disconnect" from them once they left. One particularly harrowing story followed a mother whose decision to leave Scientology has left her without a relationship with her daughter and grandchild.
One of the defining characteristics of a cult is its inability to ask critical questions of itself. For all its flaws, evangelical Christianity–my tradition–can at least admit to wrongdoings and have honest conversations about where we have failed. That ability does not exist with Scientology, a religion founded in the 1950s by L. Ron Hubbard, a science fiction writer who thought founding a tax-exempt religion would be the best way to make a bunch of money fast. He was right–the Church's assets are now approaching $3 billion, even at a time when its number of adherents is at an all-time low. The Church of Scientology claims to have about 10 million members, but according to Mike Rinder–a former Church senior executive featured in the documentary–the figure is around 30,000. They're investing their money in real estate around the world and hedging their poorly-spun defenses with walls of secrecy built by unlimited financial resources. All of this is reinforced by their strategy of appealing through "self-help" to celebrities and wealthy folks who will keep the Church's doors open with repeated and generous donations.