#2. You Stay, or You Say Goodbye to Your Family
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The first question you probably have for somebody like me is "Why would any intelligent person stick with Scientology once they hear that crazy Xenu story about space aliens and volcanoes that South Park did a whole episode about?" Well, I never heard that story. Not while I was in the church, anyway. You don't learn about all that craziness until you've been with the church for years and reached OT3 ... which costs well over $100,000 in auditing and courses.
Secret holy space navies don't fund themselves.
But even if you do hear the story, or think the whole Scientology thing is a bit weird in general, you have another reason to stay: knowing what happens to your family if you go.
For me, it wasn't long before my dad left the church, at which point my family was told we could no longer have any communication with him whatsoever. When I asked why I couldn't talk to my dad, they said it was because he was a "squirrel" ... someone who took tech without paying for it. Then they told me my dad didn't love me. I was 6 at the time.
See, the Church of Scientology has its members pay for regular auditing sessions. These are a little like Catholic confession, only without all that confidentiality nonsense. This means the church has a big fat blackmail file on every one of its members. If you leave, you're declared a suppressive person. They'll take the worst bits from your file -- that time you got caught shoplifting, or that dark sexual fetish you admitted to having -- and serve that to your family along with a side of straight-up lies.
That flying space plane story sure is wacky, but it covers up something more terrible than Hubbard's writing.
And Hubbard help you if you happen to be a child with a parent who just left the faith. The Church of Scientology has a policy of interrogating children. The day after Daddy or Mommy leaves, they'll start prodding you for information. "Do you know where she's gone? Did you realize he had a criminal record? Did he ever hurt you?"
So leaving doesn't just mean saying goodbye to your family and friends forever. It also means subjecting them to hours of auditing and interrogation and years of being watched. It's like the diet version of fleeing from North Korea. So no, every member of the Church of Scientology isn't a brainwashed robot who thinks L. Ron Hubbard was sci-fi Jesus. Some of us either don't know the full story or just don't want to lose our family. But that brings me to the big point ...
#1. Leaving Is Extremely Hazardous for Anyone
My mother was very smart about how she left. My little sister's dad was still in Scientology, so dropping out obviously would have cut us off from her ... and most of my mother's family. So we just moved and stopped going to services. They kept calling, trying to sell us new editions of the Holy Books (which they do every year) and asking when we planned to make another meeting. For a long time my mom just made excuses, but eventually she straight up told them, "STOP CALLING."
This worked about as well as the Do Not Call Registry.
They didn't listen. So we stopped picking up and kept a low profile. We were very careful, and thus managed to avoid being attacked by the church. Well, so far at least. People who leave too loudly fall afoul of "fair game," a policy that authorizes Scientologists to break your stuff and hurt you "by any means" and "without any discipline." It basically authorizes all Scientologists to go full loose-cannon cop on any heretics.*
*The church claims that fair game was rescinded in 1968 by a memo written by L. Ron Hubbard. But all he really said was that the phrase "fair game" shouldn't appear on any more memos because it was bad PR.
Pierre-Phillipe Marcou / AFP / Getty
Good PR is hiding David Miscavige's shortness by only showing him behind podiums and Tom Cruise.
Even now, writing this article, I'm horrified that my identity might come out and get me declared a suppressive person. I still have people I love in the church. Unless they all decide to quit tomorrow, I can't be completely free. There are details I've censored and stories I've left out of this article because they'd clearly identify me. And if the Church of Scientology found out who I was, half the people I love might as well be dead to me.
Rank-and-file Scientologists aren't the enemy, not even Tom Cruise. We're little bitty fish, and the church is a giant sea anemone, immobilizing us with its tendrils and shitting L. Ron Hubbard books through its ever-gaping anus/mouth.
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