Of course, this couldn't be done by the Church of Scientology. David Miscavige has pushed the church too far into the cult thing to change now, but one would think that the outside Scientologists would want to avoid any and all aspects of cult behavior.
Unless, of course, you think that these cult attributes of Scientology are vital to its basic functionality. Do you?
No? Good. Let's look at how that could be done.
Most cult experts refer to Robert Lifton's eight criteria as basic indicators of cult behavior. (Robert Lifton, Thought Reform and the Psychology of Totalism: A Study of Brainwashing in China).
Lifton details the following eight characteristics that typify a destructive group environment:
- Dictating with whom members can communicate
Scientology says this kind of super-control is "for your own good". Oh, really? In no other endeavor is less information considered good. The bottom line is that the ostensible leaders of Scientology benefit from this kind of control, not the members. They don't trust people to get all the information and make up their own minds. No, they say, you must be "protected" from other viewpoints and other ideas.
No legitimate philosophy, belief or religion requires this kind of super-control.
Get rid of it all: Disconnection, "enemies" lists, suppressive declares, "sources of entheta" and all other methods of restricting and controlling communication. Scientology is supposed to be all about "communication", so remove all the artificial and cult-like barriers to communication.
- Convincing members they are a chosen people with a higher purpose.
While this may make Scientologists feel puffed up with self-importance, the real reason for this message is that it makes it easier for the leaders to keep asking for more commitment, more money and more effort from their followers without having to explain why or account for any funds. Scientology's professed leaders can suppress any questions or dissent because of this "higher purpose".
In the real world such statements of superiority are seen, quite correctly, as vain and self-serving. In the real world, the status of being better can only be bestowed by others in acknowledgement of a person's or group's good work or high quality results or products.
You'd best shut up about how "superior" Scientologists are. That's obvious cult-talk, guys. It would be an excellent improvement to Scientology's dogma if that disappeared.
- Creating an us-versus-them mentality, whereby everything in the group is right and everything outside is wrong.
Already I see "Independent Scientology" moving in the direction of more and more us-versus-them, more and more isolation and more and more fear of contact with difficult questions, disagreements and other ideas.
You will never be accepted by society at large if you keep looking at society and non-Scientologists as either the enemy or as too stupid or evil to "see the 'truth' of Scientology." If you stop fighting your imaginary "enemies", you might just find the world is filled with some very good people doing very good things.
Drop the us-versus-them rhetoric and belief -- it really screams "cult!"
- Encouraging members to share their innermost secrets and then purge whatever hinders their merging with the group.
If the disagreement persists, Scientology's automatic accusation is that it is the Scientologist's "out ethics" (meaning evil acts) that is causing the disagreement. The Scientologist is required to confess all their transgressions to the "Ethics Officer" or auditor until they abandon their doubts and disagreements and fully agree with Hubbard's words.
The purpose of this is to punish disagreement and doubt. According to Scientology, the "source" of the disagreement is never Scientology, it is the person's evil intentions. The purpose of this bit of cult indoctrination is control, not enlightenment.
Why would any legitimate philosophy, belief or religion require such suppression and punishment for disagreement? This has got to go.
- Convincing members that their philosophical belief system is "the absolute truth".
And the many, many times Scientology has failed? Well Scientology has a built-in excuse for that: "It was misapplied!"
This cult attribute allows Scientology to continue to fail, when it does, while continuing to claim "absolute perfection". Followers must continue to believe in Scientology's "perfection" or admit to the crime of "misapplying Scientology". It's a control thing, not an honesty thing.
The Scientology belief system is not perfect. There are significant flaws. All you have to do is take an honest, unbiased look. Honestly review your own experiences and the results of Scientologists in general.
Be honest, admit the failures of Scientology so that any successes might stand a chance of being believed. Any truth in Scientology, any good results from Scientology, will be proven in the real world, not in rhetoric.
- Creating an "in" language of buzzwords and group speak which becomes a substitute for critical thinking.
This is not for the benefit of members of Scientology. In truth, Scientology's terminology does have parallels to concepts from other philosophies and religions. A minor amount of thought and study proves this to be true. The more Scientology allows parallels to be drawn and the less Scientology insists on only using its very unique terminology, the better Scientologists will get along with the rest of the world and the better Scientologists will understand universal spiritual concepts.
Scientology must change to take advantage of all the richness there is in the world. Get rid of this cult isolation technique.
- Reinterpreting human experience and emotion in terms of the group's doctrine.
If a Scientologist feels good or succeeds at something, it is only "because of Scientology". If a Scientologist feels bad or fails, it is only because they "misapplied or failed to apply Scientology".
Nothing in this universe exists in isolation. To believe, as Scientologists now do, that all good things are due exclusively to Scientology, is ludicrous and very, very cult-like. Likewise, to believe that all bad emotions or failures are due only to a "failure to apply Scientology" is preposterous, extremely simplistic and, again, a cult thing.
What must be ignored by all Scientologists is that many in world outside of Scientology are happy and living quite well without Scientology. Quite a few are even doing much better than your average Scientologist.
To take all the complexities of life, all the factors, all the conditions and to reduce it down to just one cause and only one solution is neither logical nor sane. Cults are like that. Get rid of this cult attribute.
- Reinforcing the idea that life within the group is good and worthy, and life outside evil and pointless.
Scientology teaches that life within Scientology is full of happiness and success, but life outside of Scientology is doomed to failure.
As with most of these attributes of a cult, this is designed to isolate members from the rest of the world. If the rest of the world is grey, pointless and doomed, why have anything to do with it?
Since the rest of the world is not grey, pointless or doomed, and is, in fact, filled with many good people doing many good things, the only purpose of this cult attribute is to further isolate the Scientologist to make them easier to control.
Get rid of this bit of indoctrination, it doesn't benefit Scientologists, only their purported leaders.
This subject is very important to any Scientologist who wants Scientology to go forward into society. Cults cannot do that. You may insist that Scientology is not a cult, but unless you remove all the cult attributes from Scientology, it really doesn't matter what you believe. In the real world, if it talks like a cult, acts like a cult and controls its members like a cult -- it is a cult.
Can you remove the "cult" from Scientology? In truth, I'm betting Scientologists won't even try, especially those who aspire to leadership in the "new" Scientology.
The benefits of Scientology retaining all its cult characteristics are to the leaders of the cult, not to its members. When the supposed leaders of "new" Scientology vehemently support the retention of all these cult attributes, be aware of why they do so.