The Common Route
Darrin Klimek/Digital Vision/Getty Images
Now suppose you're not famous: How exactly do you get away from the Church of Scientology? Logic states that you just say "Thanks for all the crazy" and wave goodbye, but logic has no place in the world of Travolta and Hubbard.
Jefferson Hawkins, a journalist who left the church and wrote about it, has an entire website dedicated to helping others leave Scientology behind. If you read it from the viewpoint that Scientology is a valid, normal religion like any other, it's absolutely batshit crazy and will blow your mind, because if Scientology is a valid, normal religion, then why would anyone go to these insane lengths to stop being a member?
Hawkins recommends that you first distance yourself -- say you're taking a break, or maybe you have to go to Thailand as part of this sex tourism group you've recently founded -- but in no way speak out against Scientology. You don't want people thinking you're up to something, like maybe leaving the church. That's how you get cut off or have alien ghosts jammed in your bum while you're sleeping. Right in there!
Aleksander Kaczmarek/iStock/Getty Images
Commence ghost insertion.
Hawkins' next recommendation is that you read things written by people who have never put their tongue inside Tom Cruise's lower extremities, either metaphorically or literally. Basically read news and information by people who are non-Scientologists. He even recommends practicing Scientology, if you so choose, apart from the church. Live the life of a normal person so you can judge for yourself whether or not Scientology is a total sack of sloppy shit.
Basically you kind of have to ooze away like a slug in the night. No sudden movements, no violent outburst, not a peep or a fart out of place, and then when you're nestled in a warm, damp location away from the influence of Battlefield Earth, you just stay there. Stay calm and quiet as long as you can. The best way to escape Scientology is to put your tail between your legs and roll over in the hopes that it won't even bother to hump your placid little carcass and will instead keep on moving, forgetting that you were ever there.
Michael Blann/Digital Vision/Getty Images
Here's the tricky part: Say you're just like me. You write funny articles for Scientology's version of Cracked. They probably call it "Psychiatry" or something like that so they can all have a good chuckle over it. And you're writing your article, "The 7 Most Unexpected Ways to Steal the Life Savings from Some Schmuck," and it's pretty great, and then you realize at the end, oh shit, this is depressing. What if I'm not haunted by the ghost of an alien that was strapped to a volcano by galactic overlord Xenu a bajillion metric years ago? What if most of John Travolta's films are actually poor quality? I think I need some time away. And then you walk out the door.
According to numerous ex-staff members of Scientology organizations, shit just isn't that easy. Don Jason used to work at Scientology's Clearwater facility and was the #2 man there. After he left, he says the church literally tracked him down and took him back, putting him on one of their bizarre cruise ships and locking him in his room. Gary Morehead, former chief of security, says he was the one who developed the procedure for hunting down and spying on ex-members of the church and had lost track of how many people he brought back after 75 or so.
"Back! Back to ironing Travolta's thongs! Back!"
So while it's all well and good to say you want to leave the church, you need to remember that the church may not want to leave you, especially if you had any value to them. As someone paying them an exorbitant fee to have a box hooked up to your head that helps read how many Thetans and tube steaks are in your brain, they probably won't care if you vanish in the night. But if you had any responsibilities whatsoever, if you were ever entrusted with any information or secrets or carrying around David Miscavige's solid gold scrotum oscillators (just assume they exist), you may be in for an uphill battle.
Since the church will open all your mail if you live in one of their compounds and keep records of things like bank accounts and credit card numbers, your ability to leave is not nearly so great as their ability to hunt you down once you go. Then they have access to all the "counseling" sessions you were a part of, including all the transgressions and confessions you've admitted to, so there's some good blackmail fodder in case you want to struggle once they do find you again. Plus you'll lose contact with family and friends, and, of course, you're going to be damned for eternity. Shit.
"I can't be an immortal, superpowered alien now? Dang it!"
Alternately, you can leave through "official" channels called "routing out," which basically means you get tortured in the most mild of ways, possibly for months, while you are forced to explain over and over again why you want to leave, what transgressions you have committed, and how you are a bad seed and the church is great and totally not at fault for you sucking so much. You do some excessive manual labor at an isolated location for several months, then you sign some papers agreeing to never say anything and you're good to go, you suppressive person, you.
I'm not a theologian, so who am I to say that a subpar sci-fi author from the 1950s who had an extensive and well-documented history of shady dealings didn't really think up a legitimate religion despite its also extensive and well-documented history of shady dealings? All I will say is that, like any religion, it's certainly easy enough to walk away from, assuming you can walk very fast and cover your trail like a Native American hunter during frontier times. If you're a Scientologist thinking about leaving, go ahead and try it today! If you make it, comment on my article before they come for you so we all can see how well you're doing, and if I may be so bold, maybe you'd like to look into Raelianism.