Because of various problems with Blogger, I've copied everything as of November 26, 2012 over to WordPress. The new location is Ask the Scientologist. I am not deleting this blog and will still accept comments and answer questions here too, but any new articles will appear at the WordPress location. I apologize if this causes any problems.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Scientology: It's All About Threats and Fear

As the implosion of the Church of Scientology continues, I have had more contact with newly-out Scientologists than ever before.  And I have noticed that one of the common characteristics of newly-out Scientologists is fear.

This isn't just fear of what the church will do to them because they just left, it is the reaction to living for years under the constant threats, explicit and implicit, from the Church of Scientology. After a while, it just becomes normal to live in fear.

Once Scientology has convinced a person that "Scientology has all the answers" and that "Scientology is the only road to 'Total Freedom'", the church spends the rest of the time threatening to deny the Scientologist that "only road out".  This threat hangs over the head of every Scientologist.  This is the basis of the church's power and control.

(It really is ironic that the Church of Scientology's power comes from the threat to take away that which it never had the power to give in the first place.)

As a Scientologist, you must follow all of the church's rules, requirements, demands and dictates or you will be denied Scientology services.  In the "Introduction to Scientology Ethics" book there is a list of "High Crimes" for which a Scientologist will be declared a  "Suppressive Person", and kicked out.  If you carefully review that list of High Crimes, you will quickly realize that many of these "crimes" are so very, very vague, that anyone could be found guilty of violating them.

And, indeed, many Scientologists are accused and found guilty under these High Crimes when they have done nothing that normal society would consider wrong.

Usually, a Scientologist is "declared suppressive" as a result of something Hubbard made up called a "Committee of Evidence" (or "CommEv").  A CommEv is an amazing bit of Hubbard-created injustice:
  • The "Convening Authority" who calls for the CommEv is the same person who wants you found guilty.
  • The Convening Authority gets to choose whoever he or she wants for the "members" of the CommEv who will sit in judgement of you.  Anyone.
  • The Convening Authority writes the charges and the Scientologist is, pretty much, presumed guilty unless he or she can produce convincing evidence of innocence on every point.
  • There are no rules of evidence -- anything can be used as "evidence" against the accused and it is up to the committee members to accept or reject evidence on whatever basis they choose.  No one is required to verify that the "evidence" is actually valid.
  • The accused may not have a lawyer or any other assistance in defending him or herself.
  • There is no stipulation that the accused can see the evidence or the accusers and challenge them.
  • The accused is not required to be present during testimony against him or her and, in fact, is often deliberately excluded.  These days, the entire CommEv is often held without the accused even being present.
As you can tell from all this, if the Convening Authority wants you declared suppressive, that's pretty much exactly what's going to happen.

And the punishments for being found guilty can be severe.  If one is "declared suppressive" and kicked out, all other Scientologists are required to disconnect from the "suppressive".  This can result in divorce, total separation from family and friends, loss of one's job and more.  As Scientologists usually associate with, work with and work for other Scientologists, such disconnection can be devastating.

But there is more.  According to Hubbard, someone "declared suppressive" 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".  The laws, morals and ethics of normal society no longer protect the declared person from all manner of attacks from other Scientologists.

If one desires to "work oneself back into good standing", the road is long and degrading and the chances of being declared again are pretty high. 

Under Scientology "Ethics", all Scientologists are required to spy on all other Scientologists and report any "incorrect" behavior.  If another Scientologist they know is found to be "suppressive", it is likely that they, too, will be punished for "not reporting the crimes".  Therefore, many Scientologists do spy and do report on other Scientologists.

Even in the supposedly "confidential" auditing sessions, Scientologists are not safe from the spying eyes of the church.  Everything they say is written down and often recorded, to be reviewed by others.  At any time, the Scientologist could be ordered to a "Security Check" or "SecCheck" where everything they say will be reported to the "Ethics Officer" for evaluation and, perhaps, punishment.  There are few Scientologists who have not felt the dread upon hearing the phrase "Report to Ethics".

As you can see, if a Scientologist lives in almost constant fear, they have every reason to feel that way.

And don't doubt for an instant that the church fully understands the power that it holds over all Scientologists.  Scientologists believe that Scientology is the only way to rise to the higher levels of existence and if they are kicked out of the church, they will be doomed to horrible suffering and degradation forever.  With this threat of expulsion and disconnection, the Church of Scientology can and does demand more and more.  More money, more time, more participation, more obedience.  For those who believe the church controls their future salvation forever, there is no choice but to comply.

Luckily, the news that the Church of Scientology's power has been broken is filtering in to the believers.  The fear is easing and, with it, the church's power to force obedience is fading.  The church doesn't know what to do about it.  Without this constant fear, they no longer have the same absolute control over their Scientologists.  Oh, dear!


  1. I've also come across this fear in former members -- or at least their recollection of it: as you point out, it is a sense of being cast off their only road to salvation. This way of controlling people is a key feature of Robert Jay Lifton's theory of thought reform -- or mind control, if you prefer. It is perhaps most clearly expressed in the element he calls "the dispensing of existence".
    For a summary of his model, see here:
    As you'll see, the other features are also a good fit with Scientology's control mechanisms.

    1. Thanks Jonny, excellent comment as always. I highly recommend any Scientologist read Dr. Lifton's articles and books as well as those by Steven Hassan.

      It is mind-blowing to see how much of Scientology, specifically as created by Hubbard, adheres to the characteristics of cults.

    2. Here is a link to those same eight criteria from Dr. Lifton with a bit more information about each one.

  2. Maybe in a future piece you could look in detail at how each elements connects to Scientology's ideology? I have toyed with the idea of such a post at Infinite Complacency, but it might be better coming from an insider.

    1. Actually, I did this back in 2008. I asked Is Scientology a Cult? and then used Lifton's eight criteria to answer it.

      (You can see why I have a problem with finding something new to write about -- I've written a lot.)


  3. Hi Just Bill
    Two things:1) for a few months I have been unable to read Questions, a message appeared “java script is running something" get out website. After you made the 5th Questions, it still is doing the same. I wonder if other people have the same thing.
    2) I have been reading ESMB - amazing. But I still don’t get how people believed that Hubbard knew what happened trillions years ago. I can understand that they believed that he knew how the mind works or how to raise children etc. I also can understand how they believed it is possible to achieve superhuman abilities (many martial arts or yoga cults promise the same). But the origin of universe? If people really believed, it is a real religion then. Did they really believe Hubbard knew 750...00 old history of universe?

    1. Hi Alle,

      About the "java script is running something" problem -- I'm kinda sorry we're on Blogger but we are. I'll look into it but I don't think I can resolve that issue. However, if you just tell your browser to wait, you should see everything come up just fine.

      Yeah, ESMB is an excellent site - and pretty lively at times. As far as that "trillions of years" thing, part of the basic beliefs of Scientology is that one has lived before. All Scientologists believe that. Well, if you have accepted that you've lived before, how far back does that stretch? You see? You really can't put a limit to how far back that goes without running into another rather knotty question: If there was a beginning, then what happened before that? It was easier for Hubbard to have no specific limit, so "trillions" or even "quadrillions" of years ago makes sense.

      As far as believing Hubbard, he was quite charismatic and spoke with tremendous certainty. It was easy to believe.


    2. Alle - ESMB is a great site, second to this site and Just Bill.

      Re "Did they really believe Hubbard knew 750...00 old history of universe?"
      Although I was "in" for many years, I did not believe this, at all, even though I believed in past lives. I thought this was made-up Hubbard BS. Don't ask me why I stayed in, if I thought part of his lectures were BS. I'm still trying to figure that out .....

      Bill - I am SO happy when I see a new article of yours. You reach a large audience, while you help those in need via private emails. I still remember and appreciate how helpful you were to me when I was in the grips and height of post-cult member stress syndrome, that was very rough. Life is infinitely better now, not perfect, but it just keeps getting better all the time. Still feel gratitude for you :)


  4. Excellent piece and as an anecdote, matches my own experience of several decades of participation in the church.

    I might add that the FEAR aspect of Scientology permeates the inner workings of the group also. It is FEAR that prevents correction of the most egregious internal abuses, no matter how many field or staff members report identical and obvious outnesses, using the supposedly sacred internal communication lines. It is that very culture of FEAR that keeps people still inside (especially Sea Org members) operating the mechanisms of domination and control, even when they can see the corruption all around them. How one can watch dozens and dozens of former high profile executives and public be cast out and attacked by ones own group and not wonder what's going on is mind bending. It is FEAR that ironically causes loyal members to keep the culture of FEAR rolling along - even though history has shown that it is only a matter of time until those very same loyal members become victims of the very culture of FEAR that will consume and then spit them out too!

    The primary product of Scientology as practiced today is EX-Scientologists! And rightly so.

    1. And think of all the "publics" who are still "in" the church but inactive at one level or the other; it has to be a large chunk of the membership. I once ran across a person at the Ex-Scientology Kids board; she was a Scientologist for 20 years and had all but given up on the church, but could not leave due to family. If it weren't for relations stuck in the Sea Org and other entanglements I would say that the organization would vanish quickly.

  5. So glad to see a new post!

    Someone from AO called the other day and asked when I was coming back on course. She needed a target date. I was polite. But I thought, "Ya know what. I just don't have to pretend any more."

    "I probably won't be," I said. "I'm just not interested."

    There was an awkward pause. Silence. And then an awkward, "Okay, Good bye."

    It was that easy. The trick is really waking up and realizing that they don't have all the answers and that they lie. What does that tell you?


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