Home > Uncategorized > The Road to Atheism XXII: How Tom Cruise Pushed Me Over the Edge (Seriously)

The Road to Atheism XXII: How Tom Cruise Pushed Me Over the Edge (Seriously)

I was living in Toledo OH, on the quasi-fringe area on the bible belt, working at a cable company doing sales and tech support over the phone for the television aspect of the business. At this time the last church service I had attended was a funeral for my friend’s mother. I was about as non-religious as the average Catholic. I believed but I attended mass on a formal basis: that is to say that I went on important holidays, weddings, and funerals. At the cable company, most of the people that I worked with finished their education at the high school level, some had college degrees, but I was alone in that I had finished my Master’s. This led to me being regarded as the smartest person in the phone banks–it was certainly a debatable proposition but it was clearly the case that I was at least the most educated. My reputation existed because Dan Brown’s “The Da Vinci Code” had recently hit and I had spent most of my free time, not on the calls, figuring out exactly what to think of the book. 

Working with a lot of really Christian Christians meant that the book was a popular topic of conversation but, as is frequently the case, most of them had not read it. I sought to remind them that the book was located in the fiction aisle, and despite the disclaimer in the front of the book (that, for instance, the Priory of Scion was real–it isn’t, the document the book claims as proof is real but the person who placed it there created it with no proof, in short it’s about as real as any conspiracy theory) it was nothing more than a novel with some art history thrown in. Truth be told I did think the book was a fun read. The book itself opened my eyes to conspiracism but it, despite the fears of Christian ministers, did nothing to my religious viewpoints. With that in mind, another thing of more importance to the city of Toledo happened shortly thereafter. 

Toledo’s then star daughter Katie Holmes became engaged to Tom Cruise. Tom Cruise is probably the most famous Scientologist in America, if not the world; and the assumption was that Katie Holmes was going to join the religion which was regarded with some mystery and a lot of ignorance. She was becoming a star, with a role in Batman Begins, and since many people of my age who were native Toledoans all claimed to know her the people at work began wondering what Scientology was. Part of this was the group’s fault: they use as their symbol a cross which made many think that it was some fringe branch of Christianity. Even the city’s newspaper, the Toledo Blade made the problem worse by confusing Scientology with Christian Science (the religion which denies the existence of the material world, and thus all medicine–a very dangerous and foolish practice). 

One woman at work, a very religious person the kind that didn’t accept Evolution, asked me about it. I really had no idea, all I knew was that it was something that some hollywood actors did and that mainly they existed out West (this would be incorrect but it’s what I knew at the time). She knew that in not knowing something I would be forced to look it up, which I did. I took a break from my calls, grabbed some pens and a legal pad from the supply closet, opened up Google and began searching once my break was over. I learned, within a month, everything that I needed to know to stay away from them. 

One website in particular was full of information. The interesting thing about the search was that I was looking for doctrine and tenets, I wanted what Ms. Holmes would soon accept as being the truth, I wanted to know what I would encounter if I walked into the nearest Scientology church and said, “I want to be a member.” The trouble was that the group’s website itself didn’t tell me much. They (and this has since been a little amended but even a visit to their site now just gives a creed which speaks of spirit and laws, but it’s hollow as to why this is the creed) were pretty uninformative. It’s all style and very little substance: I want to know what their conception of “spirit” is, and who their “god” figure is; but nothing on the website worked to solve those answers. They promised to solve the troubles of man, but never listed what the troubles were. It seemed, and a subsequent visit to their website recently told me that nothing has changed. Although it is a very slick website, I have to give credit were credit is due on that. 

Clambake explained what auditing is, what Thetans were, who Xenu was, what operation Snow White was, and what the different levels of the faithful are. My co-workers thought I was making up the story, they knew I wasn’t a religious person and no one could believe what I was reporting. They decided that they would pray for Katie that she return to the true path. Native Toledoan, and comedy writer/political writer P.J. O’ Rourke, commented on Bill Maher’s show at the time that the Holmes’s were really big Catholics at weren’t too excited about their daughter joining “The Spaceman religion.” 

The comment struck me, because I began to think to myself, “what’s the difference?” Seriously if you think Scientology is ridiculous, a cult, or whatever; what is your justification for thinking so against the beliefs of the other religions? Let’s take their Cosmogony, their story begins over a trillion years ago with an intergalactic tyrant. Physics tells us that this timeline is absurd, the universe wasn’t a universe at that time, it was nothing and for them to claim that not only was there a universe but also an intergalactic empire, is contradictory to all models of the universe based on science. Now, is this any more ludicrous than denying the evidence of Evolution? If you think yes, then you need to explain how. Are the claims of the life of L. Ron Hubbard any different than those of Muhammad or Joseph Smith? Again, if you think yes, then please explain why they are different other than the actual claims themselves. Are the beliefs of what a Scientologist can do–once they achieve a certain level of adherence (“clear” in their speak) any different than that of a Mormon or Catholic? Again, how are they different because you need to prove that there is a fundamental difference. 

While I can’t speak to the religiosity of Katie Holmes within the organization, I can speak of the credulity of an individual born into a religion. What we are born with we perceive as normal, and anyone born into a world where the ghosts of volcano incarcerated nuclear weapon victims possess individuals isn’t going to be able to view that as strange. They will have no reference point external to whatever they have been told since birth. I was taught that a piece of bread turns into the literal meat of a man, but that there was no discernable difference between the two since the underlying change was not physical. Change and no-change simultaneously, a violation of the law of non-contradiction but this was not merely a matter of fact but also a matter of morality. To deny this, or even doubt it, was to declare oneself a heretic. Is it any weirder? No. 

What Mr. Cruise’s engagement forced me to realize was that no matter how crazy I thought their religion, mine was no less insane. The main difference was that I was born into mine. While one might wish to point out that my former religion has two thousand years behind it, that does nothing to point to the truth of the religion only that people believed it (besides if age were a measure of truth we all ought to be either Jews or Hindus). For what reason did I have in believing my religion aside that I was taught to believe it by everyone I knew growing up? None at all.

For any part of Scientology that I thought was odd, strange, or just plain stupid; I could easily find an equivalent that a Scientologist might think of mine. The only true difference that I could find was that any Catholic church in the world is very up front about their beliefs, it doesn’t cost money to learn the secrets of Catholicism. I learned through researching a religion that relies on aliens for its foundation that I had no reason to believe aside from holding to tradition. Lacking this objective reason for believing I could really only do the honest thing: abandon it until a reason could be found. 


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