Given the media attention surrounding Scientology, one of the most prominent features that many attribute to the religion is the plethora of celebrities that have joined and stand as representatives for the belief system. Some of the famous names that come to mind from the entertainment industry include Tom Cruise, John Trevolta and Kirstie Alley. Lawrence Wright, the author of “The Apostate”
(http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2011/02/14/the-apostate-3) in The New Yorker, interviews Paul Harris, a former member of the Church of Scientology. Harris, who has directed movies such as “Crash”, “Million Dollar Baby” and “the Next Three Days”, was a member of the Church of Scientology for 34 years before he left in 2009. In this lengthy and detailed article from the New Yorker, Harris discusses his childhood and upbringing which eventually led to the point at age 22, where he was handed a book on Dianetics- published by L. Ron Hubbard in 1950. Haggis describes how after joining the church, he married his first wife and left to Los Angeles where he made connections in the Church. This is what began his sought after writing career.
Harris ‘problems with the Church arose when a member of the San Diego Church signed an online petition on behalf of the Church of Scientology supporting Proposition 8, a document sanctioning marriage only between heterosexual couples in the state of California. Two of Harris ‘daughters are gay; hence the stance led to his inevitable questioning and research on the Church. Harris found allegations of abuse, physical violence and unethical child labour. Harris eventually sent a letter of resignation to one of the Church leaders, Tommy Davis. At the end of the New Yorker article; he claims that he was in a cult.
The article contains several undertones of resentment and hostility based on the opinions and experiences of Paul Harris. It provides for a certain emic perspective, but as well, limits the facts to one individual’s experiences. Personal accounts from others who left the Church can be found through a simple Google search, including a website http://www.exscn.net, which contains a forum for Ex-Scientologists to give their personal stories.
James R. Lewis in his article on “Scientology: up stat, down stat” discusses the extensive training within the Church that consists of many levels which members work towards achieving. The system of hierarchy requires members to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on courses which may allow for them to reach higher OT positions. The author of the New Yorker article, Lawrence Wright, highlights many of the negative attributes and stories that have come to media attention. One thing that Harris admits to is that he still uses the ARC system, a system created for effective communication. David G.Bromley defines Scientology as a “world-affirming adaptive movement” that empowers members to connect with themselves. Although there has been exploitive and perceived nefarious situations that have been reported from different individuals, the Church has offered some positive life changing philosophies. In Elliot Aronson’s “The Social Animal”, he discusses the tendency for the media to offer overly extensive negativity that can have a massive influence on the way the general public perceives the world. Ultimately, especially in the area of religious studies, it is important to gain knowledge from several sources so one may attain a more in depth understanding and fuller picture.