Friday, June 16, 2006

VERDICT: Scientology is dumb.

Some may have heard recently that a South Park episode was pulled from Comedy Central and the dude who does Chef's voice quit because the creators of the show, Trey Parker and Matt Stone, parodied Scientology in a recent episode.

The Chef's voice actor (Isaac Hayes) quit because he's a Scientologist and refused
to be a part of something that poked fun at his own religion, despite a show with 150-odd episodes that has harshly lampooned every conceivable subset of global culture. This is a guy who's first album was entitled "Black Moses" and who was featured on at least one Wu-Tang CD.

Comedy Central pulled the episode from rotation because Tom Cruise, a "renowned" Scientologist and royal fuckass, threatened to not publicize his upcoming third take on Mission Impossible. Maybe this time they'll get it right. Funny that Comedy Central is owned by Viacom, which also owns Paramount, who is producing Mission Impossible 3. It's also ironic that Hollywood demonizes the cronyism in politics that it inexorably emulates. How hollow the ivory pillars of Hollywood are...

All of this might be understandable if Scientology were itself reputable as a religion or belief. In fact, were it just a belief it would be pathetic enough, but that it's considered a "religion" is simply incomprehensible.

But who am I to derogate another's beliefs without at least understanding them? So let's take a look.

As I am consulting Wikipedia, I have to mention that this is the third time now that I've needed to remind myself of the basic tenants of this religion; the reason for which you may understand by the end of this post.

Scientology was founded about 50 years ago, i.e. after World War II, by science fiction writer L. Ron Hubbard. Hubbard liked to write about spaceships, aliens, and the spirits of living things. Throughout his life, Hubbard stood in the shadows of good science-fiction writers like Isaac Asimov, Arthur C. Clarke, and H. G. Wells (who conceived modern space rocketry). Unlike Wells, he thought he knew what was best for everyone, so he decided to gather all the weak-minded people he could find to believe in his creation story.

[Everything in quotations below refers to Hubbard's own words]

75 million years ago, the Galactic Emperor Xenu (though Hubbard also referred to him as "Xemu" and as "Zenu," perhaps it was a typo), feeling that his Galactic Empire was vastly overpopulated (~76 planets with 178 billion people each) shuttled billions of humans to Earth on intergalactic spacecraft that were exact copies of the modern day Douglas DC-8 aircraft, "except the DC-8 had fans, propellers on it and the space plane didn't." Note that DC-8's have turbine engines, not propellers.

The pretense under which the billions of people were brought to Earth by Xen(m)u was that all of these billions were called for "income tax inspections." Upon arrival for these inspections at their local city hall, Xen(m)u had psychiatrists paralyze every single person with a combination of alcohol and glycol (antifreeze). The populace was then loaded onto the somehow-retrofitted DC-8's and transported to Earth to be stacked around volcanoes and ultimately destroyed by detonating hydrogen bombs within the volcanoes - they were all detonated simultaneously, for dramatic effect, I suppose.

I'm not sure why Xen(m)u chose a plan with such logistical headaches when he could have just send everyone into a black hole, or a star, or space itself, but I guess Hubbard was just a fucking moron.

Xenu or Xemu

Upon the calamitous explosions on Earth, the souls of the people (now called thetans) were collected by Xen(m)u using a cosmic vacuum cleaner and then place into a movie theater to watch, for 36 days, a "three-D, super colossal motion picture." Huh. Apparently this movie was pretty bad, because it implanted "various misleading data" into the memories of the thetans, "which has to do with God, the Devil, space opera, etcetera." Hubbard also states that the interior design of all movie theaters to be due to this brain-washing (though souls don't have brains). This is particularly interesting, since movie theaters have changed drastically in the 90 years popular cinema has been around. In fact, movies didn't have sound until 1927. Sigh.

Xen(m)u's cosmic vacuum was clearly stolen by Mel Brooks in Spaceballs

What happened between this pointless holocaust 75 million years ago and today is flat-out uninterpretable, due in large part to ridiculous and inconsistent naming, anachronisms, and the total lack of an understanding of how to structure and convey a story in the English language.

I should add that all of this was preceded by the creation of the Universe 4 quadrillion years ago, or 300,000 times older than the current scientific consensus. In this creation myth Hubbard describes what essentially is a generic Dark Ages painting; lots of light, a chariot, and a cherub with a trumpet.

Fuck, this is wearing me out, it's just so godamn stupid.

Strangely, the Church of Scientology denies knowing about the whole Xen(m)u thing, and refrains from speaking about it at all costs. It's either because only the top level acolytes of Scientology (called "OTVII") are ready to learn about Xen(m)u, or that this inane, nonsensical, unorganized science fiction story would embarass the Church and undermine the efforts of recruiting more idiots.

So what do Scientologists actually believe? They believe:

  • Mind-altering substances of any kind are prohibited, this includes alcohol and cigarettes. Note that Hubbard assisted his research (I can't imagine what he was actually doing that he called "research") by gorging on rum, uppers, and downers. Hubbard's assistant at the time wrote that he "was existing almost totally on a diet of drugs."
  • Psychiatric and psychological treament is forbidden, and psychiatrists and psychologists are evil. I guess this is because Xen(m)u used psychiatrists to paralyze all the humans. What the fuck...
  • The souls of humans are immortal. This is brilliant, I wonder if Hubbard had heard of other organized religions?
  • People have lived many past lives and will live many future lives. Same point as above.
  • A newcomer's mental readiness must be evaluated by a trained Scientologist and an E-Meter, which is the same device as I used in Intro to Electromagnetism in Sophomore year to measure the resistance across two battery nodes. This actually begins the brain-washing of the newcomers.
  • Birth must be silent! That's right, no one can speak, because any words spoken at birth may be retained by the newborn baby (who by the way doesn't know any languages yet) and associated to his/her detriment later in life. Hmm....sounds like psychology to me Hubbard. Or maybe he just meant that trained psychologists are evil.
  • Newborn babies must not be washed, but rather wrapped up tightly and left alone for an entire day. Read that again.
  • Breastfeeding is prohibited! In supplement, Hubbard recommends a mixture of barley water, homogenized milk, and corn syrup or honey. Honey can cause infant botulism - nerve-blocking and respiratory and musculoskeletal paralysis. Of the mixture, Hubbard said he "picked it up in Roman days." Corn syrup, made from maize, was not present outside of the Americas until after colonization by Europeans began.
  • Scientology is fully compatible with all religions. This is despite what we learned from the Xen(m)u incident I guess.
  • "Fair Game." This idea was introduced by Hubbard, and incites Scientologists to use criminal behavior, deception and exploitation of the legal system to resist "Suppresive Persons", i.e. people or groups that "actively seeks to suppress or damage Scientology or a Scientologist by Suppressive Acts". He defined "Fair Game" as:
    "ENEMY — SP Order. Fair game. May be deprived of property or injured by any means by any Scientologist without any discipline of the Scientologist. May be tricked, sued or lied to or destroyed."

Sadly, the last bullet is consistent with the Church's practice, being characterized by fighting numerous extremely long and costly legal battles, and even being implicated in the death of at least one Church member.

An evil psychiatrist and her helpless, misguided patient

I'm not even halfway through the material, but I think I've made my point:

If, by now, you are not convinced that Scientology's underlying principles may qualify not as a legitimate belief structure, but only as an honorable mention 5th grade science fiction contest entry, then I suggest you contact the Church and schedule an E-meter reading.

The Walkmen Perform at 9:30 Club

I could have sworn I stood in the middle of a circle of people having a screaming contest with megaphones last night, but apparently I went to The Walkmen show at 9:30 Club in D.C.

There are two things that are initially striking about seeing this band live:
1. The lead singer is not the dark-haired moody that you picture from the albums but is a tall, blonde, Lacoste-wearing frat boy. He may as well be an SAE at Florida State.
2. They are LOUD.

The first item isn't too hard to get over, especially in comparison to discovering that the Caesars' bassist is about 60 years old. But the problem with The Walkmen live (and I've seen them twice) is that their sound is very disorganized. I like my music loud, but it seems like they fired their sound tech and turned every knob to 11.

What's great about their album tracks is that each song is carefully crafted, often very slowly building up emotional steam and growing louder and becoming unraveled as the song reaches climax. And the instruments are very well laid down, one doesn't drown out another, and it adds to the potential energy.

But this is entirely lost in the live show. There is no control of volume, nor control of vocals, and it really confuses the ear terribly. I don't think a live song should mimic the album, but this band's greatest strength is drowned in a poorly conceived stage show.

They must have played about 6 new songs, and since the album came out only 2 days earlier, few people would have a chance to hear it. We all heard them at the show, but I couldn't tell you which ones are winners because the sound was so cacaphonous.

To their credit, they delivered "The Rat," "Bows & Arrows," "Wake Up," and "Thinking of a Dream I Had" excellently, and it really got the crowd moving, including the requisite inhibitionless fist-pumping white guy with the crazy afro.

All in all, I give this show 3.0 stars out of 5.0, with Andrew W.K. being 5.0 and The Cardigans being 1.0.