studies European history,
and he says that before you read a book on the Protestant Reformation,
you should find out whether the author is Protestant or Catholic.
Neither is bad, but it helps you evaluate what he says if you
know where he is coming from. Scientology is a controversial
topic. So here is where I am coming from: I am the mother of
a seriously depressed daughter, who has benefited greatly from
psychiatric care, including medications and electroconvulsive
therapy. I believe in science, in medicine, and in psychiatry.
Depending on whom you ask, Scientology
is a religion or a profit making business or a very dangerous
cult. Time Magazine called it "The Thriving Cult
of Greed and Power." It claims 7 million members but the
true figure is probably about 100,000 world-wide. It's very hard
to be sure--Scientologists are extremely secretive about their
organization. There are active groups in the US, Britain, Australia,
New Zealand, South Africa, and Canada. There is a church near
Scientology was created in the 1950's
by science fiction writer L. Ron Hubbard. Hubbard claimed to
have visited Heaven and the planet Venus. By the way, in reality
Venus is so hot that lead runs liquid there, but Hubbard didn't
comment on the heat. He wrote dozens of science fiction books,
probably the most famous of which is Battlefield: Earth,
a good space opera which was made into a truly awful movie in
There are several celebrity Scientologists:
Tom Cruise. John Travolta. Kirstie Alley. Isaac Hayes.
Hubbard's view of the mind is that
it is divided into the rational mind (similar to the conscious
mind of Freud) and the reactive mind (similar to Freud's unconscious.)
The rational mind figures things out and acts logically, until
the reactive mind, in response to some stimulus, takes over and acts
irrationally. The goal is to get control of the reactive mind.
Scientologists believe that mental illness is caused by trauma
in one's past life or past lives, many of which were lived on
other planets over the last few quadrillion years. Scientists
who study how the universe began tell us that our universe is
13 to 20 billion years old. To speak of something happening a
trillion or quadrillion years ago is nonsense. No evidence for
Hubbard's teachings is offered. They are simply taken on faith,
and in that sense at least, it is appropriate to call Scientology
a religion. Hubbard never employed the scientific method in developing
any of his ideas. Scientologists believe the cure for mental
illness is "auditing" -- talking to a Scientologist
counselor while holding an E-meter, a machine that looks like
two tin cans connected to a dial by wires. An E-meter is actually
a device called a Wheatstone bridge, which measures tiny changes
in the electrical conductivity of the skin. It is similar to
a galvanometer, one of the parts of a lie detector. In the 1950's
Hubbard used to claim that E-meters could not only diagnose but
also treat everything from colds to cancer, but the Church is
more careful about its claims now, at least in print.
Using the E-meter the counselor makes
the subject talk about a painful experience over and over until
he doesn't seem upset by it any more. This is called "clearing."
It is expensive. Many people have spent tens of thousands of
dollars on Scientology counseling. In these sessions the person
is encouraged to talk about everything bad that has happened
to him -- especially his most shameful and secret moments. The
Church claims that this information is kept confidential, but
scores of ex-Scientologists have discovered that their most sensitive
information was made public to embarrass and discredit them when
they left the Church and criticized Scientology.
used to claim that a "clear," a person whose traumas
were all neutralized, would have all sorts of amazing abilities,
including a perfect memory. Ever since some public embarrassments
when people he said were "clears" could not demonstrate
any such abilities, that claim has been downplayed.
deny what thousands of scientific research studies in reputable,
peer-reviewed journals have shown: that most if not all brain
disorders are caused by chemical imbalances in the brain.
are amused at the idea that it takes long and careful preparation
to deal with brain disorders. "A psychiatrist spends 16
years in school but we train an auditor in 30 days." They
also laugh at the idea that different diagnoses need different
treatments. All people seeking auditing get treated the same.
They believe that the mind and the
brain are completely separate. Quote, "The brain does not
make decisions." This is called a Descartesian view of human
nature, and it's hard to defend. We all know that what we think,
feel, and decide can be affected by physical things like hormones,
drugs, alcohol, or head injuries.
believe that all anti-depressants and other psychiatric medications
are dangerous and addictive. Some psychotropic medications have
unpleasant side effects and a few are indeed addictive, but all
over the world tens of millions of people benefit from anti-depressants
and other psychiatric
medications every day. Scientologists say people wouldn't need
those medications if they would eat better and exercise. Scientologists
offer no evidence for their claims -- again, they must be taken
One of Scientology's beliefs is that
Electro-Convulsive Therapy is brutally cruel and should be outlawed.
Today ECT is done under general anesthesia, and the amount of
electricity used is much reduced from what was used 50 years
ago. The patient's toes may curl up a little but she does not
go into convulsions like in the movies. There is no pain. There
may be some temporary memory loss, but to severely depressed
patients this is a small price to pay for relief from their symptoms.
The permanent brain damage claimed by Scientologists has not
been documented. Scientologists claim a death in every 198 ECT
patients: the real figure is one in every 10,000. And remember:
ECT is given only to severely ill patients, many of them elderly.
Scientologists like to go on and
on about Psychosurgery. They talk as though this were commonplace
today. The truth is that in the the last century, quite a few
prefrontal lobotomies were done., to make violent patients calm.
All physicians now see that was wrong, and regret it. Today a
much refined version of this surgery is extremely rare, used
as a last resort to do something, like stop a terminal cancer
patient from feeling pain. Scientologist websites and leaflets
will have you believe that psychosurgery is now a common way
to control patients, especially minorities. This is simply not
true. And by the way, L. Ron Hubbard was a racist, and offered
advice to the apartheid government of Rhodesia on techniques
for questioning black prisoners. He wanted to move to Rhodesia
and live under apartheid but they wouldn't have him.
Church teaches that mental illnesses such as depression and schizophrenia
do not exist and therefore insurance companies should not have
to pay for their treatment, nor should they be grounds for any
disability claim. Picture the impact on our families if these
ideas gain credence.
They believe there are no such things
as Attention Deficit Disorder, Hyperactivity Disorder or learning
disabilities. Children with these diagnoses simply need a sugar
free diet, more exercise, and more consistent discipline. Most
mainstream authorities agree that these conditions are over-diagnosed,
but denying that they exist at all flies in the face of mountains
of clinical data and the lived experience of millions of parents.
And sugar consumption has nothing to do with hyperactivity --
that has been conclusively demonstrated.
Church literature keeps repeating
the claim that all psychiatrists are evil. Hubbard wrote, "Pain
and sex are the invented tools of degradation," having been
invented by psychiatrists aeons ago. He said psychiatrists are,
"the sole cause of decline in this universe," and accused
them of helping commit genocide against some alien species 75
million years ago. For all that to make any sense at all you
have to remember that Scientologists believe in reincarnation.
Every psychiatrist has been evil beings in previous lives. The
Church currently teaches that psychiatrists conspire to dominate
the world, and to that end work to undermine religions and patriotism.
Scientologist literature blames psychiatrists for racism, World
War I, the Holocaust, the rise of Stalin, illiteracy, drug abuse
and violent crime. One pamphlet says, "Remember, when you
battle psychiatry you are fighting against the ultimate evil."
Scientologists would like to ban the study of psychiatry from
all medical schools, and the study of psychology from all high
schools, colleges, and universities.
We all believe in freedom of religion. So Scientologists have
the right to believe anything they want. In fact I would give
my life to defend their right to believe this foolishness. So
why should we care what they believe? Here are some reasons:
offers itself as an alternative to scientifically proven, effective
treatment for brain disorders. Vulnerable people are recruited
and spend thousands of dollars on useless counseling. Many give
years of their lives working at slave wages for the Church. The
Church has been known to establish and advertise hot lines offering
help to people with problems related to mental health. Callers
are given recruiting pitches for Scientology and discouraged
from seeking medical care. In 2001 a message giving one of these
numbers crawled across the screen on Fox News, until callers
Citizens' Commission on Human Rights, a Scientologist front organization,
regularly testifies before Congress and state legislatures against
laws to provide better mental health services. They claim to
have 130 chapters in 30 countries. They also promote legislation
that makes it harder for people, especially for children, to
get access to mental health care. For instance, on Sept. 29,
2000, members of the Citizens Commission on Human Rights testified
before a U. S. House of Representatives committee that both AD/HD
and mental illness are "neuro-biological lies," and
that psychiatry as a profession is a fraud. All kids need is
discipline and better instruction. They said the drugs used to
treat AD/HD are "the most addictive drugs in medicine today."
Representatives of the American Psychiatric Association and the
American Association of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry rebutted
the Scientologists, but at the end of the hearing Chairman Peter
Hoekstra concluded that "there is no professional consensus
between professionals as to the origin and nature of AD/HD."
Politicians are sometimes unable to tell the difference between
an expert and a kook, and as in this case, give their statements
Church lobbies state legislatures and Congress to have ECT outlawed.
For some people with treatment-resistant depression, ECT is the
only effective therapy we have.
lobbies to have all involuntary treatment and commitment abolished.
Scientologists say people who are a danger to others belong in
prison, not a hospital. People who hurt themselves have a right
to do so and should be left alone.
push to make it harder for children with attention deficit disorder
or hyperactivity disorder to get diagnosed and treated. For instance,
The Parental Consent Act of 2005 (HR 181) would have prohibited
the use of federal funds for any universal mental health screening.
It failed, but many well-meaning Congressional Representatives
voted for it.
run front organizations like The National Foundation of Women
Legislators, which pushes for their anti-psychiatry agenda.
the World Trade Center disaster mental health care professionals
were interfered with by Scientologists when they tried to aid
victims. Scientologists were there distributing a bizarre pamphlet
on "morals" and getting in the way of professional
offer school boards a free anti-drug course that teaches false
information about recreational drugs. They teach that drugs remain
in the body for months or years and must be "sweated"
out, and drug users must be treated with massive doses of vitamins
and vigorous exercise and long periods in a sauna. While most
of us could use more exercise, there is no scientific backing
for the claims of the Scientology course. But cash-strapped school
boards in many states take advantage of the course because it
is free. I believe that giving kids false information about drugs
is very dangerous. Sooner or later they learn that you were wrong
about some things, and doubt the rest that you told them.
Scientologists would like to forbid
anyone from making an insanity defense in a criminal trial. They
say anyone who breaks a law should be punished, without consideration
of any delusions or hallucinations or impaired thought processes
he or she was experiencing. Having not been able to achieve that
goal, the Church of Scientology has filed amicus curiae
briefs saying psychiatric testimony should not be allowed in
cases where an insanity defense is offered. Their idea is that
a psychiatrist's opinion is no better on this question than a
mechanic's or a hairdresser's. There have been cases where judges
accepted these arguments, notably in Arizona. Only about 2% of
insanity pleas are successful as it is. Juries are very suspicious
of them, with the result that a lot of mentally ill defendants
get prison time instead of the treatment they need. Scientologists
also try to get psychiatric testimony excluded from child custody
disputes and commitment hearings.
Church of Scientology harasses drug companies that make anti-depressants.
Its members have generated hundreds of lawsuits against Eli Lily
Co., the company that makes Prozac. L. Ron Hubbard said that
the purpose of a lawsuit is to harass, not to win. There is a
great need for more research into treatments for depression.
Pharmaceutical companies that tackle this issue should be encouraged,
not forced to spend millions defending themselves from hundreds
of bogus lawsuits.
you may say, but this stuff happens in California and New York.
It has nothing to do with us in Georgia. Not so.
Here is a quote from a speech by
Georgia State Senator Nancy Shaefer on the floor of the Senate
Chamber in Atlanta: "Psychologists and psychiatrists have
always targeted the education of children to destroy liberty,
faith, and free will."
was an exhibit at the Omni Hotel in Atlanta last month called
"Psychiatry: An Industry of Death" on the theme that
psychiatrists want to destroy our freedoms.
2002 the Church tried to set up a Narcanon facility in Bowdon,
Georgia. Narcanon is a substance abuse treatment organization
based on Scientology's beliefs about drugs.
spread misinformation about mental illness, which is already
poorly understood by the public. In Florida they got legislation
to prevent mental health screening in schools. It was proposed
in Georgia (SR128 in the 2005 General Assembly.) It failed, but
it got the support of Republican Casey Cagle, current candidate
for Lieutenant Governor.
you can do about it:
Question candidates for government
office -- like Casey Cagle -- about mental health. Oppose people
like State Senator Nancy Shaefer. She is currently up for re-election
and I have the address of her opponent here for anyone who wants
to send a donation. Dispel misunderstandings about mental health.
Spread the word that science has discovered a lot about brain
disorders. We don't need creatures from outer space to explain
them. We have treatments that work well for most people. Those
whose needs are not being met by the drugs and other therapies
available now need scientific investigation into their problems,
and effective medical treatments developed, not superstition.