Who would have imagined Scientology pamphlets being passed around as samizdat in 2011 Russia? But that may happen soon as a Moscow court recently ruled that works such as What is Scientology? and other books by hack sci-fi writer L. Ron Hubbard are "extremist," and will be placed on a federal list of extremist materials deemed unfit for Russian consumption.
This latest legal ruling will give Scientologists pause, after celebrating last month's victory in having the Russian Justice Ministry overturn a similar ban by a Siberian court. Russia's dominant Orthodox Church criticized the kooky organization as being a dangerous "totalitarian sect" back in 2001. (For the record, that statement also encompassed Jehovah's Witnesses, Unificationists, and Mormons.)
Today, in the U.S., Scientology is a legally-recognized, tax-exempt religion. Countries such as Canada, France, Germany, and the U.K. do not share that recognition. Scientology is basically an off-shoot of Hubbard's earlier self-help book, Dianetics, cropping up in the early '50s as a way of rehabilitating people spiritually. Ironically, the word "Scientology" was originally coined by author Allen Upward in his 1908 self-published book, The New Word: On the meaning of the word Idealist, to convey the idea of blind, unthinking belief in scientific doctrine. You know, like being brainwashed. Imagine if the whole movement turned out to be one big in-joke by Hubbard? If it is a religion, it seems like a pretty secular one to me, although they do have a concept of God expressed as the "Eighth Dynamic," or the urge toward existence as infinity.
Talk of "E-meters" and "auditing," of "clears" progressing to "Operating Thetans" and such does sound a little mumbo-jumboish to many, and the anti-psychiatric stance and cult-like trappings are obvious. But people shouldn't necessarily have a problem with goofy language or rituals; those charges could be leveled at almost all religions. People should have a problem with uninvited goon squads harassing defectors, as well as troubled and greedy individuals who pervert teachings.
Another problem, obviously, is our widespread tabloid culture that force feeds us sound and image bites that dismiss deeper reflection. If people were to learn more about Scientology, Tom Cruise might not be perceived by many as that cartoon action-movie hero who exuberantly jumped on Oprah's couch, and scolded Brooke Shields for taking pills for post-partum depression or something. Doesn't Brooke know that doing stuff like that will seriously cripple her chances of attaining the "Seventh Dynamic?"