“Going Clear”.  Why you can’t buy this book about Scientology in the UK

January 23, 2013

Ron HubbardGoing Clear is the title of a recently published book on Scientology, written by the distinguished journalist Lawrence Wright.  You can buy it in bookshops around the world, except in the UK

Why isn’t the book on sale in the UK? The publishers appear to have decided against facing an anticipated lengthy legal battle with the forces of Scientology. 

I tried unsuccessfully to obtain a copy in the days after its publication date during a visit to the US. I was unsuccessful, but did find a brilliant review by Michael Kinsley of The New Republic, which appeared in this Sunday’s New York Times [Jan 20 2013]

The book, according to Kinsley, attempts to be a balanced account of Scientology and yet which succeeds in making a powerful indictment of the movement’s methods of control which are considered by Kinsley similar to those found in totalitarian regimes. He describes Wright as accumulating convincing evidence of

“something close to prison camps where dissenters, would-be defectors and power-struggle rivals were incarcerated in deplorable conditions for years…a shadow totalitarian empire …financed by huge contributions from …[celebrity backers].”

Conspiracy theories

This is the stuff of conspiracy theory. Granted I am working at second remove from Wright’s book, but it is not difficult to see how a publisher might get worried that skilled lawyers on behalf of scientology could make a lot of trouble in the courts.

Beyond rationality

The conceptions of Scientology founder L Ron Hubbard [image above] have been widely considered as beyond rational belief. That is the argument levelled at all religions by rationalists. I leave it others to examine the theology that between life on earth, death and an afterlife, is a period during which our spirits are transported to Venus to have their memories erased. This follows from Hubbard’s notion that life on earth originated with visits from Thetans from the planet Venus.

The charismatic leader

Accounts of charismatic leaders such as Ron Hubbard often describe how their unshakeable beliefs are instilled in their followers.   Mr Hubbard’s influence has extended long after his death [in 1986]. Current believers such as Tom Cruise contribute considerable sums of money to financing the scientology movement.

The dark side of leadership

Increasingly, the dark side of charismatic leadership is being recognised by researchers. L Ron Hubbard may be added to the group of charismatics deserving further attention in this respect.

Beyond Wikipedia

The book may add more authenticated research to the account on the life of Hubbard to be found in Wikipedia, which is particularly critical and lengthy. However, a feature of a belief system is its capacity to deny the validity of attempts which threaten its core.  It will take more than another book to budge the thinking of those committed to the beliefs of Scientology.


Reverend Sun Myung Moon dies aged 92

September 4, 2012

Founders of religious movements epitomise the notions of charismatic leadership. We compare the overview from his official website with other views of Sun Myung Moon’s life and works.

Web Site

The life work of the Reverend Sun Myung Moon, spans a time of dramatic global transformation but there are other significant developments that are not given serious consideration by contemporaries. This is especially true of visionaries and founders of religious movements. The life and work of Rev. Sun Myung Moon is one such development that is not widely known. In the pages of this website, you will see evidence of the life of a true visionary, learn about his work to create a world of peace and learn about the profound appreciation for his work and vision by a global network of friends, allies and supporters of every religion, race, culture and profession.

Other views

He preached new interpretations of lessons from the Bible and gained fame – and notoriety – in the 1970s and 1980s for holding mass weddings of thousands of followers. [The Daily Mail]

It’s all a bit odd to me but I have to say….. In the few documentaries I’ve seen, the ‘moonies’ seemed like nice enough folk who really weren’t hurting anyone. Unlike many other fringe religions Blog comment in The Daily Mail

Web Site

According to Reverend Moon, this present materialistic age will soon yield to a new age of spirituality, one based on the universal principle of unselfish service to others and a culture of God-centered families where people of all nations, cultures, races and religions will rejoice together.

Other views

Moon founded his Bible-based religion in Seoul in 1954, a year after the Korean War ended, saying Jesus Christ personally called on him to complete his work. Huffington Post

Web Site

Read testimonies about Reverend Moon and his works from distinguished religious leaders, heads of state and scholars.

Other views

Rev Moon also developed good relationships with conservative American leaders, including former Presidents Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush. Still, he served 13 months at a US federal prison in 1984-1985 for tax evasion. Daily Telegraph

Web Site

Reverend Moon is joined in his work for world peace by three generations of his exceptional family Mrs. Hak Jan Han, Reverend Moon’s extraordinary wife of 47 years, and the accomplishments and dedication of his children and grandchildren to the cause of world peace.

Other views

The Reverend Sun Myung Moon, founder of the Unification Church – whose followers became known as “Moonies” – managed to shed the mantle of suspicion and ridicule to become a friend of political and religious leaders before his death in South Korea on Sunday [September 2nd 2012], aged 92. The Guardian

Web Site

Reverend Moon is a great and prolific teacher. His sermons and spiritual guidance are published in 400 volumes.

Other views

He was born in 1920 in Pyongan province, in what is now North Korea. He claimed that, while he was praying at the age of 15, Jesus appeared to him and asked him to set up God’s kingdom on Earth. Moon said he refused twice, but accepted on the third request. He was later thrown out of the Presbyterian Church and also jailed by the Communists before he fled to the South. BBC News

Web Site

No other religious leader has founded as many organizations, institutions and projects for world peace and the betterment of society. Both idealistic and practical, Reverend Moon’s works encompass all fields of human endeavor including the religious, cultural, educational, scientific and economic.

Other views

In the 1970s, the church faced numerous accusations of using devious recruitment tactics and duping followers out of money. Parents of followers in the United States and elsewhere expressed worries that their children were brainwashed into joining. Business Insider

The Messenger and the Message

The official website [English language version] presents a positive moral philosophy which has universalistic appeal. The most vehement objections to the message [rather than to the messenger]seem to come from websites from those claiming to be the possessors of the ‘true’ Christian faith.

By coincidence, on the day of the Reverend Moon’s passing, I was reading a novel by Patricia Dunker about a cultish Faith and an intrepid hunter of evil.


Steve Jobs. Creative genius and cult leader

October 6, 2011

Obituary notes on Steve Jobs by Tudor Rickards

Steve Jobs (February 24, 1955 – October 5, 2011) was a modern phenomenon for his creative achievements which did so much to create a global corporation, and maybe a cult of devoted followers

It is hard to find anything new to say about Steve Jobs [Image right with one of his most celebrated innovations, the i-Phone].

His life has become a story so widely shared that it has become part of a common platform of understanding.

His genius will be rightly lauded and his fame deserved. His greatest creation was the Apple corporation. I had been working on a post about Steve Jobs at the time of his death, and the following draws on my unpublished notes.

Apple as a cult

A BBC documentary [May 2011] suggested that Apple produces brain reactions in followers akin to those experienced in religious believers. It started from the interesting premise that Apple goes in for a lot of religious imagery. It was fairly easy to see the point that was being made. It also accorded with part of the Jobs story that Apple devotees can become evangelical.

Bad science

Web-comment was largely dismissive. The BBC programme had focussed on one addicted Apple user whose brain scan seems to show stimulation akin to those identified with a state of religious ecstasy. But the point being made is not entirely without merit. Much has been discovered by an imaginative leap based on observation of an exceptional medical case, or even a scientific observation.

A Jobsian cult?

One article went to town on the metaphor

A team of British neuroscientists has confirmed what IT atheists have known for years – that the brains of Jobsian cult members respond to the sight of Apple products in much the same way that religious believers respond to religious imagery. In a recent BBC documentary, Secrets of the Superbrands the neuroscientists ran an MRI scan on the brain of Alex Brooks, the editor of World of Apple, who claims that the Jobsian cult is “definitely” on his mind 24 hours a day. They discovered that photos of things like the iPhone and the iPad make certain parts of his brain all tingly.
“We see quite an amount of changes in the brain when he’s actually looking at Apple products, ” explained professor Gemma Calvert, a neuroscientist at the University of Warwick. “There’s much more activity in the visual cortex, an enhanced visual attention, if you like, to Apple products.” Much the same thing occurs, she explained, when holy imagery is shown to religious zealots.

Cultish leadership

Professor Dennis Tourish of the University of Kent has been exploring what he calls cultish leadership which appears to be an extreme manifestation of charismatic leadership . He has documented the Enron case and Scientology as manifesting cult-like properties.

Followership

Another emerging trend in leadership studies is that of followership. Here there has been renewal of an idea promoted by Ghandi who urged people to the perspective of self-development as ‘followers of self’. Ghandi remarked in this context that he was pretty bad at following his own goals and ideals. Maybe we have to look more closely at the conditions of extreme followership, be it of Steve Jobs or of the latest celebrity phenomenon.

To go more deeply

The BBC later [Oct 10th 2011] wrote more on the personality cult surrounding Steve Jobs