Monday, June 22, 2009

Anonymous Scientology Recruiting

We attended a multi-cultural festival at Victoria Park in Kitchener yesterday (June 21, 2009). It was refreshing to see so many people with different ethnic backgrounds together. Festivals like this go a long way to helping groups respect each other.

There was one booth that did not seem to fit... an unlabeled tent that simply advertised "Free Stress Test". Under the canopy were two "stress-test" stations. Each station had one person operating the test, and the other held two shiny hollow cylinders, one in each hand. Each cylinder had a wire that connected to a gadget that looked like this:

It's the infamous e-meter, and the booth was recruiting suckers to join Scientology. I could tell because one of the operators wore a shirt that said "Dianetics" in large letters. Oh, how I wanted to take the test and experience the lunacy first-hand. But I didn't think it would be fair to my wife to leave her with 3 young kids while I indulged my skeptical nerd hobby.

But next year, I'll jump into the line if I see that tent again.

The Scientologists tried to recruit me years ago. In the early 90's, I was walking down a street in Ottawa and someone asked me (and my friend) if I'd like to have a personality test. We both agreed to take the test, and followed into an adjacent building. The test was multiple-choice; unfortunately, I can't remember the substance of the questions. It was graded by a guy with a template (I noted that he was a heavy smoker). After the grading, my friend and I were ushered separately into back rooms to talk to the person who could interpret the results. And -- wouldn't you know it -- we were both low on the happiness scale. The counsellor-person suggested that I would benefit greatly from their program. That was enough for my friend, but I agreed to come back for a trial session.

In the follow-up session, I was in a small room with a person (I don't know what to call them). They asked me to tilt my head back and describe a traumatic event. We went over a few such traumas. The person told me that we all have the potential to remember our own conception. Yes, our OWN CONCEPTION!! I'm happy to say that I rejected that notion immediately. But the person insisted that our life traumas are what stop us from recalling that far back ("That, and the fact that a one-celled organism has no brain", I thought to myself). All I had to do, according to this counselor, is address one trauma at a time, each one allowing me to remember further back than before.

Eventually, the person asked me if I had any questions. I asked them what education they had. I can't remember the answer, probably because it wasn't a clear answer. If they'd said, "I have a Ph.D. in clinical psychology", I would have remembered that. Or at least a bachelor's degree of any kind. I expect they spouted some internal Scientology qualifications... meaningless in my world.

We left the small room and the person emphatically urged me to sign up for their "counselling sessions". They showed me the fee schedule, and I noticed that the fees increased over time. The further advanced you were, the more expensive the sessions. I said "no", and the small group of people in the office draped sad looks on their faces, and said, "Well, at least you can buy this book." They showed me what must have been the book Dianetics; it's basically the bible for Scientologists. I declined, and they issued their good-byes with a somber tone.

I feel good knowing that I was targetted, but not captured by the Scientology movement. As far as I'm concerned, Scientology is a religion that has gone over the line into cult territory. Their policies on collecting money is a big hint. But even bigger is how they treat insiders that dissent and leave the faith. They unabashedly try to intimidate those who criticize them. They denounce scientific evidence in favour of their own ideas of mental health. These are all indications that they are -- ultimately -- selling promises of happiness that they cannot fulfill.

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