Is Scientology just "jealous" of psychiatry? Is Heather Havrilesky a misogynist for calling Paris Hilton a "whoring sea donkey"? Salon readers have their say!

By Salon Staff
Published June 28, 2005 8:00PM (EDT)

[Read "Missionary Man," by James Verini.]

Excellent, balanced article on Scientology. The movement is historically moving through a significant predicament of having the general public now in a position to be more aware of its secret practices (the Xenu/OT levels mythology or real story) than people like me, an ex-lifetime staffer who spent 27 years within the movement, who were never allowed to hear the Xenu story.

Since getting out of Scientology and reading the Xenu story, I have not had any ill effects. Hubbard's opinions-turned-into-church-policy obligate Scientology insiders to conform with Hubbard's over-the-top views. The OT/Xenu sacred spiritual level is a serious carrot. In a widely distributed and well-known taped lecture given in 1967 by L. Ron Hubbard titled "Ron's Journal '67," Hubbard clearly states how important the level OT-III is to all persons in "this sector of the galaxy." Let the dissembling spokesmen Ed Parkin kid you not! Listen to "Ron's Journal '67" and judge for yourself how important Hubbard told Scientologists to consider the OT-III story to earth's future history!

-- Chuck Beatty, ex-lifetime staffer (1975-2003), Sea Organization (Scientology's elite lifetime staff category)

As I investigated the Church of Scientology in the '70s, my mother lamented that my father was no longer alive to tell me what he thought of L. Ron Hubbard. My father was a psychiatrist and avid sci-fi fan in the '40s and '50s. He had read Hubbard's books and was interested in "Dianetics" as Hubbard developed his ideas. Therefore, my parents flew to New York for the first Dianetics Convention -- I think in 1950. My mother's impression was that Hubbard really wanted to attract people of stature to "Dianetics," and requested a personal meeting with my father. They met for a few hours. Sadly, my mom never got the details of this meeting. All she remembered was that my father came home from the meeting, and announced, "You might as well pack your bags, honey, we're going home. This guy is crazy." Knowing my dad, he probably told L. Ron exactly what his diagnosis was (something more descriptive than "crazy"), and saw through any manipulations Hubbard may have been trying to pull off. I have no idea if Hubbard already hated psychiatrists before meeting my dad, or if Dad was a catalyst. Regardless, one has to think that such a vehement rejection of an entire profession represents the defense of some kind of secret or paranoia.

-- Thora Reynolds

Thank you for the article on Tom Cruise and Scientology. I have long been fascinated by Scientology and amazed at its incomprehensible triumphs. While not more bizarre than the Mormon cosmology, or any other fundamentalist religious manifestations, it points directly to the state of sheer confusion so many people are in on this overcrowded little globe that we inhabit.

I've wished again and again that when the Billy Bushes of the world interview Cruise for mainstream pop-media outlets, they would ask about Xenu and the underlying belief structures of this "faith," and not let Cruise bully them into safe questions and let him make the absolutely absurd claims he does, as mouthpiece for the Church of Scientology. I hope in the end that his maniacal behavior will turn more people off than on, but as they say, usually any publicity is good publicity, especially now. Look at Paris Hilton, for Xenu's sake ...

-- Titus O'Brien

It is sad when an otherwise brilliant mind such as Tom Cruise's (and others) never get trained in the art of critical thinking. But then, that is not an essential part of what passes for higher education in America. Anybody with a grasp of basic logic and the history of philosophy and religion just could not buy into this hash of science-fiction, feel-good and "ME-ME-ME" that seems to be the focus of their "religious" experience. So they are "reaching out"? Well, that's swell, but it still derives from a very self-centered idea of one's own importance. There is doing for others out of love and then there is doing for others to show how terrific you and your friends are. I find something kind of scary about the latter.

I guess I am blessed to have grown up within an institutional church (Christian) that stresses rational thinking, learning andloving, and is enormously tolerant and appreciative of the beliefs and practices of others. But if you have to berate someone with the "rightness" of your viewpoint and the "wrongheadedness" of theirs, as Cruise has been doing, then I think the time has come to examine your beliefs a little more critically.

-- NCKenfield

Tom Cruise's beliefs in Scientology is not the only thing weird about him.

His recent interview with Matt Lauer demonstrated that he is very autocratic and if he believes in something, then it must be accurate and other people's opinion and factual evidence is not worthy of discussing in a respectful way.

I wonder if Tom's lack of respect for other people's opinions also extends to a lack of respect for other people ... unless they are useful to him.

Ultimately, he is a control freak and if Katie Holmes is smart, she will run as fast as she can in the opposite direction.

-- Linda Hewitt

Bravo for your article on the nefarious Scientology -- I was a regional leader in France for years.

Just a word about one detail: People like Tom Cruise are generally not asked to sign a billion-years contract. Such engagements are mostly reserved to the self-called elite of the cult (Sea Organization).

Another detail: The Xenu belief comes at OT-III level and is called "The Firewall" by Scientologists. It costs a great deal of money to get there and even more to move up to OT-VIII. Scientologists are also constantly under pressure to buy more books, more lie-detectors ("Hubbard E-meters"), more other "services."

And to add a final crown, in 1979, L. Ron Hubbard was sentenced to four years in jail in France for fraud and extortion related to Scientology.

-- Roger Gonnet

So organized Scientology opposes psychiatry? Think of all the money spent on psychiatry. How much money would Scientology make if all that money got spent on Scientology? Could it be that Scientology is jealous? All that beautiful money ...

-- Joshua Banner

[Read "I Like to Watch," by Heather Havrilesky.]

Heather Havrilesky's dismissive take on HBO's "Six Feet Under," which characterizes its fans as sadists and its characters as pathetic whiny losers, isn't a particularly different slant from that of most of the TV critics who've been writing about this show the last couple of years. They all seem annoyed that the show just isn't as gosh-darnit entertaining as they believe TV should be, not as kooky, not as concerned with day-glo celebs making out with each other. After all, Good TV isn't about tragedy, loss and grieving. It's about stuff like hot swizzle-stick of the year Kyra Sedgwick in "The Closer," and Keifer Sutherland, that paragon of thespian talent, in "24," right?

Good TV doesn't take itself so seriously. Rather a clever little spin on an old genre idea than a show that is such a downer, in which deaths are treated not with the casual amoral glee of shows like "Sopranos," but as traumatic events with human suffering and pain inevitably resulting.

"Six Feet Under" is one of the most profound and thoughtful shows that has ever somehow found itself on television. Alan Ball and many of the writers that he's gathered about him (Nancy Oliver, Craig Wright, Rick Cleveland, Jill Soloway) are also playwrights. This is significant because people schooled in writing for the stage have an experience of drama that encompasses Shakespeare, Beckett, Pinter and other heavy hitters, writers who take on the absolutely toughest questions of existence, like the problem of pain, the quest for faith in a chaotic and seemingly random world, and how best to prepare oneself for death and whatever might come after.

Against these sort of themes, Havrilesky's petulant complaints about characters suffering and writers going too far sound like a wiseass college freshman writing her first critique of "King Lear." I wonder if like that hypothetical freshman she'll stumble across her own opinion in 10 years and wonder what the hell she was thinking, particularly when she considers how shows like "The Closer" and "24," along with the rest of their superficial and trivial ilk, will have aged.

-- John Longenbaugh

Frankly, Paris Hilton is the least of my concerns, and I'm not going to bat for her.

However, in Heather Havrilesky's latest column, she refers to Ms. Hilton as a "slut, a "whoring sea donkey" and "skanky slut monkey," which are all amusing word pairings, but A) lazy writing and B) frankly, offensive.

I find it interesting that women are the ones who often articulate our society's misogynistic slant.

I also wish it would stop.

-- J. Waronker

Salon Staff

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