Give a gift subscription
If you believe in the importance of this work and want to support me, subscribe here to get everything I publish and access to the community. All you have to do is click the button above. A subscription is just $5 a month or $49.99 a year. You can also give a gift subscription. This is the best way to support my work (especially if you have enjoyed my Twitter feed).
I’ve been investigating Scientology for five years (and been obsessed with it for much longer) and have done over a dozen stories about its abusive practices and corruption.
Something that always fascinates me is the different impressions people have when it comes to Scientology and how they first learned about it. Some will say “it’s just as bad as any other religion!” Others will refer to it as some sort of kooky sci-fi religion. And some will call it a cult.
I always want to be clear with what my position is: Scientology is a dangerous, criminal cult that inflicts horrific psychological devastation on its members. It is not a religion by any stretch of the imagination…it is a totalitarian state and for-profit business masquerading as a religion.
When did you first learn about Scientology and what is your impression of it? What do you think of their practices and how they handle former members and staff?
Now…let’s discuss! Also, I’m happy to answer any questions you might have about Scientology as an organization, its practices, celebrity Scientologists, etc.
If you want to learn why I care about exposing Scientology's abusive practices, I was honored to sit down and chat with my friends Leah Remini and Mike Rinder on their podcast about it. https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/episode-33-journalist-yashar-ali/id1523307706?i=1000514033545
My first real intro to Scientology was probably South Park. I think I was vaguely aware that it was a thing but not much else.
I always felt uncomfortable judging other people’s “religions” donut took a long time for me to realize what it really is. I had some vaguely negative feelings about it after the fucked up shit Tom Cruise said about Brooke Shields but didn’t know how corrupt the organization was for a few years even after that
I first learned about Scientology in the early 1980's while I was in the Navy. A roommate read Dianetics and thought it was wonderful. Commercials for the book seemed always to appear on TV. I was already familiar with Hubbard as a SciFi writer but certainly wasn't a fan. At my roommate's urging I tried reading Dianetics but just couldn't get through, what I thought, was all the silliness. Until Leah's TV show, I'd always considered them more of a cult than a religion. I now live near Tampa. You have to go through Clearwater to get to the causeway that takes you to Clearwater Beach. Clearwater has such potential as a Florida coast town but Scientology ate up all the real estate. It's like a ghost town. Nobody goes there unless going to Flag or the Fort Harrison Hotel - one drives through it. A shame.
First learned about it in 2002 or 2003 from one of the early documentaries. Then I found out the stars of 2 of my favourite TV shows, Cheers and King of Queens were Scientologists. Can't tell you how happy I was when Leah left. But Kirsty is a nutjob whether she stays or leaves.
Got interested in it several years ago. I had just graduated law school and briefly worked for a barrister in Sydney. I'd walk past the Scientology centre there on my way to Martin Place every morning. I'd see this Colonel Sanders-looking old man handing out personality test flyers. That got me to watch Going Clear and Aftermath. Then I discovered YouTube channels like Chris Shelton, Jon Atack and Aaron Smith Levin.
When i was 7 years old, a girl came in my class. She was a super bubbly and funny kid, i would describe her as a child-size version of Phoebe from Friends.
We had an instant connection, but i quickly noticed something was "off" about her and her family. I was the only kid in class she would play with.
In breaktime, if i wouldn't play with her, she would play by herself. She wouldn't interact with any of the other kids.
I wasn't allowed to go to her house, and she wasn't allowed to play at my house.
We would just play on the street and by the time dinnertime would come around, we would part ways. She wasn't allowed to celebrate her birthday (or mine) or any holiday.
My parents found out that she and her family were Jehovah's Witnesses, and they basically wanted as little as possible to do with non- witnesses.
By the time we were 16 and graduated from high school, she informed me that she was ending our friendship and would not be able to ever talk to me again.
She had to focus on the church. I was heartbroken.
12 years later, she contacted me.
She got out and was now disconnected from her family and her own husband. We had numerous of talks about the church, and that's when she told me there are a lot of similarities between the witnesses and Scientology when it comes to disconnection.
The reason she mentioned that is because i lived across the street from the Scientology building in Amsterdam! I could see the giant sign from my living room window. She warned me to never go in there or talk to them.
But because i'm a stubborn little shit, I started investigating it. Looking into the activity around the building.
I went against the wishes of my friend, and booked one of the free "tours" in the building. I even
took a "personality test" and did a "personal efficiency" course. Not because i was into it, but i just needed to know what on earth was going on my own street!
The first thing that really threw me off, was how terrifyingly nice the people there were. Like, scary nice. Way too nice. Dishonest nice. They were showering me with love and understanding.
It freaked me out!
I found out via a friend who worked for the city, that Scientology was first renting a building in another part of town, and they had severe problems with paying for it.
They moved to the another location in the city ( a massive office type building) they purchased for 5 million euros, paid for in cash through "donations".
Besides the opening party with roughly a 1000 people attending, nothing ever happens there.
It would not surprise if they only have a handful of members left at this point.
Yashar, Do you have any intel on how many active members Scientology has in my country of The Netherlands, or Europe in general? I never got an answer from them when i asked it them directly.
Anyway, i could go into great detail about my experience, but i don't want to take over the comment section with this long ass story.
(sorry for grammar mistakes, i'm dutch)
Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard, one of America’s great con men, reportedly said if you want to get rich you have to start a religion. And clearly he was right given the literally billions of dollars in property and other assets the church has amassed over the years. Becoming a religion also seems to be a “break any law you want and get off free” card. The numerous crimes committed by Scientology--ranging from breaking into government offices to physically abusing members--haven’t hurt them.
A good indication of just how powerful and vicious Scientology is a vicious and powerful organization. I mean they literally coerced the IRS into granting them tax exempt religious status after a decade long battle.
I grew up as my mother joined the Apostolic Christian movement. It's the same energy running in both circles. I know that both like to find people with mental health problems to fuel their movement. My mother was schizophrenic, and the Apostolic group used that to their advantage.
In 1974 my family moved to LA. I babysat for a family who were Scientologists, in the evenings when the parents were on course. I remember the kids telling me they were getting a TV that summer because they were practicing Scientology. The kids were so indoctrinated and annoying that I changed the time on the clock to get them to sleep earlier one night. As an adult I have been fascinated by cults and read about a lot of them. I read Going Clear before the HBO movie and it had me shouting to my husband 'can you believe this shit?!' for the entire weekend it took me to finish the book.
Leah Remini, Mike Rinder, and the other ex-Scientologists are brave for speaking out and dealing with their Fair Game tactics. Their podcast Scientology: Fair Game is exposing the cult week by week. People like you, journalists and activists are helping to expose this dangerous cult.
The Aftermath Foundation https://theaftermathfoundation.org/ is doing great work to help people escaping from cults.
Keep up the good work Yashar, there are children being abused and neglected who need adults to fight for them.
Yashar I agree with your description of what you believe Scientology is. It's dangerous, destructive, money and power making cult. I don't understand why it can't be stopped. They probably would like to take over and would if they could or maybe planning to do so.
First learned about it in a college religion class in the seventies! It was called Dianetics then, and not yet powerful, but more of an example of how a conman can use multilevel marketing to start a “religion”. Of course, everything since then has screamed “cult” to anyone paying attention. I live near Clearwater, and Scientology has ruined it. The Pulitzer-Prize-winning St. Pete Times (now the Tampa Bay Times) has done many in-depth exposés, especially on the Lisa McPherson murder. It’s so sickening and frightening. One of my former neighbors is an attorney who got rich representing Scientology. Tom Cruise is, of course, their best and worst PR. His public behavior and unauthorized biography by Andrew Morton, in addition to Leah Remini’s memoir and TV show with Mike Rinder were so revealing. Scientology seems to be fairly openly engaging in criminal activities daily, and has apparently intimidated or paid off government officials from top to bottom, including the IRS. My heroes are Katie Holmes and Leah Remini!
The first time I heard about Scientology was in 2015, when ABC's 20/20 did a special on Leah Remini's experience in the "religion". I then had a very strange experience of my own at my job with an actual scientologist (male).
I was 18 at the time, living in NYC and working retail in Times Square. I remember I was checking someone out and they mentioned they worked at a Scientology building nearby. Mind you I had no idea there was a Scientology building in the area. I then for some reason told the man I've heard about many of their horrible practices and that I've been following everything Leah Remini has been saying about the 'religion".
The man got visibly irritated after I said this and replied with "Well you should really go and see for yourself. Experience it on your own instead of listening to what someone else says." he wasn't hostile but I can tell I hit a nerve.
Anyways, he left and that was the end. I've been following Remini's interviews, her shows, and that podcast since and I have to say it is all very interesting and scary. The amount of power that so called "religion" seemingly has and how much they have gotten away with is beyond belief.
More than anything, I want to know where Shelly Miscavige is.
I live in Clearwater, the home of Scientology. I get random Scientology mail on a regular basis (I think many Scientologists used to live in my apt complex). I used to find it humorous in a kooky way…but that was a long time ago. Now I feel sickened by it. I avoid downtown Clearwater because it feels so overtaken by Scientologists and Scientology - real estate, businesses, vacant buildings, etc. They talk about what a steward they’ve been and how much they’ve restored the downtown, but…for whom? Not for the general public, and not without a cost. And that doesn’t even begin to cover the practices and history of this self-styled religion. It’s awful.
Scientology has nothing to do with religion. It started with the founder & author of "Dianetics", Elron Hubbard. He was a certifiable wacko. It's an evil, mind-controlling cult. This discussion has no business here.
Leah Remini has covered everything Scientology. There's no need to drag this crap through this newsletter. All you're doing is giving Scientology free exposure. Unless you live in a cave, everyone is aware of this poisonous cult.
Are there accessible routes to leave for people who are entrenched? I appreciate they need to be kept secret, but I wonder if there are people who get far enough in that they feel they can't get out, much like an abusive relationship.
With all of the exposure that Scientology and their horrific practices have gotten over the last few years, do you think that it has become less attractive as a “religion” or as a way for people who are searching to help find the answers they are looking for?
Thank you for writing about this. Why do you believe some high profile celebrities have been roped in?
Do they know what is truly going on? What is their draw?
I don't know much about Scientology. I've read that it's cultish and they do everything they can to keep their members in. If you don't have the freedom to leave without being harassed, then I think I'd label it as a cult. I don't really follow any organized religion anymore. I know what's right and what's wrong. I know what is expected of a good Christian, but I do err as all humans do.
I'm with you. It's clearly a criminal operation masquerading as a church. What can be done about it?
I am in my late sixties, grew up with n LA area went to school in Hollywood. Saw them in the sixties on Hollywood Blvd passing out pamphlets
South Park was my first real inkling of exactly how insane it is. Keep fighting the good fight. I’m a religious person and I can’t stand how they try to gather under our umbrella. True observance and worship is the opposite of what they’re doing.
I’m having trouble locating your dozen Scientology stories. Can you please link them?
What's going on with Scientology in Clearwater, FL, and is Scientology planning to buy up properties in any other cities? What do they aim to do with that effort?
Are you concerned speaking publicly against them? I've heard that they're not only notoriously litigious but often will stalk, harass, threaten, and blackmail public voices speaking out.
First learned about them when Anonymous led internet raids against them in the early aughts, exposing the higher levels of their teachings and abuse. They make my skin crawl.
My brother-in-law was heavily involved in Scientology after college. We had a deprogrammer come to our house and did and intervention. While he still has odd, destructive beliefs, he left Scientology. It is a cult and, as are many cults, is based on lies. My brother-in-law paid exorbitant amounts of money for self-improvement courses which fed him a bunch of crap. As far as I'm concerned, it's a money-making cult which scams folks into donating large amounts of money so that the "leaders" can enrich themselves.
1987, Took a course on cults at Harvard taught by https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/William_Sims_Bainbridge. My then girlfriend & future ex-wife's parents were involved with its predecessor, EST. Clearly, as fascinating as it was, I learned nothing from the course...
I've been bing watching the Leah Remini series. There should be laws against what the Scientology cult does. It's appalling. I can't imagine what you've learned in your investigation and the horrors you've uncovered.
Should we be skeptical of any person who is NOT a Scientologist, but is on a project, flim, TV show, etc. with a Scientologist in the cast?
My first encounter with Scientology: I was 18 and saw an "office job no experience required" posting in the job ads. Too young to know too good to be true when I saw it, went in. It was the Scientology office in San Jose. They described themselves as a church, a movement and a philosophy, had me watch a promotional film featuring L. Ron Hubbard and various celebs discuss their goal of getting "clear" and further "clearing the whole world" (their language). Building was full of busts and portraits of Hubbard. Paperwork was presented to fill out saying by signing I was giving up all my assets to Scientology. I had no assets, and still wouldn't sign despite no small amount of pressure to do so. Gave me the creeps and my impression has never changed.
In some countries, such as Germany and France I believe, there has been success in countering Scientology and banning the organization (I'm not sure to what degree), yet in the US it seems to proliferate unadulterated. What accounts for this difference? Is it as simple as our first amendment prohibiting the state from intervening in the practice of religion, (or "religion" in this case), or are there behind-the-scenes forces at play that are more nefarious?