I Went to a Beach Party for Former Scientologists, Mormons, and Hasidic Jews - 2018-06-28
When my friend Derek Bloch was five, his parents became Scientologists. Because of this, he grew up in a parallel universe.
The family packed up and left their small-town Texan home, first moving to Dallas, then Los Angeles, to be closer to the church. Throughout his childhood, Derek took Scientology courses, studied the works of Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard, and absorbed Scientology-approved entertainment. He and his parents lost touch with the majority of their extended family as a result of the church's "disconnection" policy of cutting off friends and family who are critical of the religion.
When Derek was 15 he signed a billion-year contract pledging his allegiance to the Sea Org, a super devout group within the Church of Scientology. He left his high school and his parents, and moved into Scientology dorms to devote his every waking hour to the church. He didn't have access to TV, radio, cell phones, the internet, or books relating to anything other than Scientology. The only movie he saw was Battlefield Earth, the 2000 John Travolta movie based on a book by Hubbard and generally considered to be one of the worst movies of all time. "I only went because someone else paid for it and they made us go," he told me. "They made me see it like, three or four times and I slept through it."