//WORDSMITH WEDNESDAY…//where I excerpt from the book I’m reading/showcasing this week
Excerpts from “Troublemaker” by Leah Remini, Ballantine books, © 2015
Since I left the Church of Scientology in 2013, I am often asked the question “How does someone like you get involved with an organization like Scientology?” Or some people may phrase it more like “How the fuck did you get into some crazy shit like this?”
Describing Scientology is no easy undertaking for anyone. There are plenty of people (many of whom are smarter than I am and have more formal education) who have worked to define and examine the church and the sway it holds over its members. This book, written from my heart and based on personal knowledge, is my attempt to portray my experience within Scientology and the repercussions I endured as a result.
I, like many current Scientologists, was a second-generation practitioner (meaning you were either born into Scientology or brought in by your parents as a child). When you are raised in the church, your whole life–each and every day–becomes all about the church. Unlike members of other churches or synagogues, who attend Sunday Mass or Shabbat dinner once a week, as a Scientologist you are expected to spend a minimum of two and a half hours a day, every day, seven days a week, at church, studying and/or in counseling. The same goes for your family, friends, and business associates. It’s no wonder the indoctrination quickly sets up an “us against them” mentality. To leave, to question it, would mean leaving anything and everything you have ever known.
For those who are not born into the church or brought in as children, the attraction to join is most definitely there. Imagine you are struggling in your life, in your career, or you are maybe an actor with little or no fame. You walk into a Scientology church or a Celebrity Centre (a Scientology church that caters specifically to artists), having been enticed by an ad you read in a magazine about improving your life or career. You are impressed with the beautiful building, and the welcoming people there. They offer you food, listen to what you have to say. Maybe you talk about how your parents are not supportive of your endeavors, and they respond, “Wow, that is not cool. You CAN achieve your goals in life. Maybe you need to step away from your parents’ negativity for a bit and do a course here that will help you to reach your goals.” You feel vindicated. This person understands me. He or she is my ally. This group believes in me. In the real world you may feel like you are nothing, but here you are treated with respect.
The other aspect of Scientology that draws people in is the recognition the church bestows on its members for their donations. Let’s say you are a successful businessperson. Where else would you be pulled up onstage with crowds cheering in admiration for the million(s) you have donated? You are doted on by the church at this level, recognized, and made to feel special. Very enticing. Or what if you are someone who earns $45,000 a year? You’re now going to be celebrated and acknowledged for your $2,000 contribution (even if you have no money the church will find a way for you to borrow it) with a framed certificate in calligraphy certifying your donation. This in turn, again, makes you feel special. You believe you are doing great things for not only yourself, but for all of mankind. This type of celebration and recognition works on members of all levels.
During my thirty-plus years in Scientology I spent close to $2 million for services and training, and donated roughly $3 million to church causes. Most members, regardless of their income, over a lifetime in the church spend upwards of $500,000 to get to the highest levels, which often takes more than twenty years. During this time, they are required to purchase roughly 300 books, 3000 lectures, and 100 courses.
Scientologists funnel their hard work, money, and emotional capital right back into the church, often to the detriment of their own lives. They may sacrifice relationships with family members, contact with friends, and their life savings to move up through the assigned spiritual levels that are dictated by the church’s principles. They do this because they’re indoctrinated with the belief that Scientology has the answers not only to their own ills but to the ills of all humankind.