*** DEBUG START ***
*** DEBUG END ***
Important information: We are currently experiencing technical issues with the webiste and it is currently running with reduced functionality, some category pages may not contain a full list of articles and the search is not currently working. We apologise for the inconvenience and should have everything back to normal as soon as possible.

In the Hubbard zone

by
07 October 2016

Stephen Brown sees Louis Theroux’s Scientology film

His movie: Louis Theroux outside the Scientology HQ. The film is in cinemas from today, and a special screening followed by a live Q&A with Theroux will be broadcast to cinemas nationwide on Monday

His movie: Louis Theroux outside the Scientology HQ. The film is in cinemas from today, and a special screening followed by a live Q&A with Therou...

IN THE documentary My Scientology Movie (Cert. 15), the presenter, Louis Theroux, tries very hard to secure the co-operation of that religion. This sharply contrasts with Alex Gibney’s approach in Going Clear (Arts, 3 July), who wouldn’t meet any current members, fearing an ambush.

With John Dower, his director and co-writer, Theroux engages actors to replicate dialogue either in the public domain or what former Scientologists have reported. The consequences were attempts to hack Theroux’s emails, being tailed by private detectives, and receiving threats from Scientology lawyers. This is a pity, because Theroux “remained open to Scientology’s good points and tried to see it for what it is: a system of belief that is not so different from other religions, capable of enlarging the soul as well as crushing the spirit; a tool for wickedness but also of kindness and self-sacrifice.”

Far from gratitude to the seemingly disingenuous Theroux, it transpires that he has become the subject of a movie made by the Church. The same thing happened to Gibney. Scientology has never been averse to embracing the movie business. Its founder, L. Ron Hubbard, wanted to be a Hollywood director. Several luminaries (including Tom Cruise and John Travolta) have been recruited to its ranks.

It is relatively easy to dismiss Scientology as neither Christian nor scientific. It uses a dubious method called “auditing”, which involves employing a rather primitive lie detector to deliver members from so-called past lives and memories. The closer anyone attains Scientology’s ultimate peak, the more perilous it gets for people. Accounts by some of those admitted to the inner sanctum include beatings and harassment.

The film makes it clear how difficult it is for those who wish to escape. By that stage, their whole being is wrapped up with the Church. If they leave, they are losing all their friends, sometimes relatives, and general security. A former church member of 35 years’ standing describes the experiences of those rejoining mainstream society: “It’s a foreign world that they have to go out and somehow cope with alone . . . because in essence, it’s a kind of a suicide.”

Once back in the outside world, their lives can be made a misery by “squirreling”; the name given to the way Scientology relentlessly pursues defectors. While the religion’s methods of processing current members can be harsh — verbal abuse, licking the floor, and incarceration behind barred windows are all depicted in the film — Theroux gently reminds us that it may be that every religion carries within it the DNA for its own distinct crimes.

Church Times Bookshop

Save money on books reviewed or featured in the Church Times. To get your reader discount:

> Click on the “Church Times Bookshop” link at the end of the review.

> Call 0845 017 6965 (Mon-Fri, 9.30am-5pm).

The reader discount is valid for two months after the review publication date. E&OE

Forthcoming Events

29 September 2020
Festival of Preaching
A one-day online version of our popular preaching festival. With Mark Oakley, Sam Wells and Anna Carter Florence.   Book tickets

 

19 October 2020
Creativity out of crisis: Hymns and worship webinar
In association with RSCM, this online event will explore creative uses music and liturgy in the context online and socially distanced worship.    Book tickets

The Church Times Archive

Read reports from issues stretching back to 1863, search for your parish or see if any of the clergy you know get a mention.

FREE for Church Times subscribers.

Explore the archive

Welcome to the Church Times

​To explore the Church Times website fully, please sign in or subscribe.

Non-subscribers can read four articles for free each month. (You will need to register.)