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Ed Hudgins

Scorning Sicko Psychics

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My argument is this:

If psychics are marketing a service and receiving compensation for it that they cannot demonstratably provide, then they are committing fraud.

If psychics are committing fraud, then they should not be legally allowed to do so.

Additionally, If psychics offer their services as honest brokers.("here's what you're paying for and here's exactly what you will receive"), then that's fine. I have no problem with that.

Yes, fraud is the argument.

Kacy,

Let me ask you a question to flesh this out a bit. I recently resold a Nintendo DS and game bundle on Craigslist for a small profit. I identified the game in the ad as "Metroid Hunters: First Hunt." Anyone who looks up the game online will immediately learn that this is a demo version of the Metroid Hunters game with only a couple of playable features. I didn't explicitly mention this to the buyer, and although I had no direct knowledge either way, it was somewhat likely the buyer wasn't aware of this information. Was it my legal or moral responsibility to assume his ignorance and explain to him exactly what he was buying? Was I guilty of "fraud" for taking advantage of this potential information asymmetry between us? I think you know my answers to the above questions already, but I would be interested in hearing yours within the context of the broader discussion.

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Michael – Scientology will never become mainstream the way Mormonism did.

First, surveys show the cult’s numbers dwindling. A recent survey found membership in the U.S. at about 25,000. In Canada it’s only 1,745, compared to 9,000 who call themselves “Jedis.”

Second, the information revolution means anyone can read about the teachings, idiocy, and crimes of this cult. You can even watch the very funny “South Park” takedown. This cult is already the laughing stock of the internet.

Third, L. Ron Hubbard was a combination con-man and mental case. All the info is out there to be read.

Fourth, the only way anyone can not fall down laughing at the crap they teach—we have psychological problems because the ghosts of space aliens, called Thetans, killed 75 million years ago by the galactic emperor Xenu, infest us—is through years of careful brainwashing.

Fifth, their auditing techniques amount to a form of brainwashing.

Sixth, they argue that all physical and psychological problems can be cured--in indeed that individuals can gain superpowers--through their training. Training includes, for example, of talking to ashtrays and other such idiocy. They advise epileptics and other with treatable illnesses to throw away their medicine, which has resulted in suffering and deaths.

Seventh, the cost of going through all of their bullshit brainwashing is hundreds of thousands of dollars. It takes a real mental case to be competent enough to function in the real world and make money yet self-deluding enough to fall for their crap. I suspect that this is a small group.

Eighth,Scientology is now run by a violent psychopath, David Miscavige. Most of his top lieutenants and even family members have defected and revealed the inner secrets of the group.

Ninth, they’ve forced their “Sea Org” members—who work long hours for no money and are cut off from contract with anyone or thing critical of their bullshit—to have abortions when they get pregnant.

Tenth, they mandate that members “disconnect” from family or friends who are critical of the cult. For example, a former member’s son recently died and this grieving mother was barred from the funeral.

Eleventh, they maintain their own secret police to harass critics.

Twelfth, they maintain a prison camp in California for “Sea Org” members who run afoul of the psychopaths who run the organization. It’s supposed to be a “religious retreat.” If state of federal officials had any balls at all, they’d raid the place and jail the lot of them.

Thirteenth, Narconon, their quack drug treatment facilities chain, has been shut down in Canada, and after a number of deaths of patients in their U.S. facilities, some of those have been shut down too. Those facilities are under investigation for insurance fraud.

So I wouldn’t worry about a Scientologist ever running for president!

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My argument is this:

If psychics are marketing a service and receiving compensation for it that they cannot demonstratably provide, then they are committing fraud.

If psychics are committing fraud, then they should not be legally allowed to do so.

Additionally, If psychics offer their services as honest brokers.("here's what you're paying for and here's exactly what you will receive"), then that's fine. I have no problem with that.

Yes, fraud is the argument.

The Devil is in the details. Reality comes down to brass tacks. The question is: how would you cut down on fraud?

1. Would you ban psychics. You say no.

2. Would you regulate psychics? For example a psychic must have a license from government. You say no.

3. Would it be simply a trial, like 2 people in front of Judge Judy? You probably wouldn't need any additional laws for that.

4. Would you simply expose them, like James Randi and others did? Maybe make a website devoted to exposing psychics. You are free to do that.

5. Do you have another idea?

You say you don't know how it could be done and you seem to not care. But reality comes down to details.

I can offer a possible free market solution. XYZ Psychic Certification Service tests psychics and if they pass all the tests, they are approved by the XYZ Psychic Certification Service. Any psychic who has this approval has more credibility with the public and therefore gets more business and can charge higher prices. There is no legal requirement to be approved by XYZ; this is free market. The value of XYZ approval depends on XYZ's reputation, which depends on performance of XYZ approved psychics. XYZ is in competition with ABC Paranormal Testers. It is possible to be approved by both XYZ and ABC, so much the better. If a XYZ approved psychic turns out to be a bullshitter, this might ruin XYZ. Same deal ABC. Notice in all this, there is little or no government involvement. XYZ and ABC are not branches or extensions of government; they are private businesses. The government might get involved if a psychic falsely claims to have XYZ approval or ABC approval, and that would be a trial in front of a judge. Maybe there would be a law office that registers approvals.

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My argument is this:

If psychics are marketing a service and receiving compensation for it that they cannot demonstratably provide, then they are committing fraud.

If psychics are committing fraud, then they should not be legally allowed to do so.

Additionally, If psychics offer their services as honest brokers.("here's what you're paying for and here's exactly what you will receive"), then that's fine. I have no problem with that.

Yes, fraud is the argument.

You are begging the question as to what service they are actually providing.

--Brant

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Michael – Scientology will never become mainstream the way Mormonism did.

Ed,

I don't know. I am very familiar with Scientology as it has been a hobby of mine for a few years now. Here are some of the books I have read on it:

The Scandal of Scientology by Paulette Cooper

Bare Faced Messiah by Russell Miller

Blown for Good by Marc Headly

My Billion Year Contract: Memoir of a Former Scientologist by Nancy Many

Counterfeit Dreams: One Man's Journey Into and Out of the World of Scientology by Jefferson Hawkins

Inside Scientology: The Story of America's Most Secretive Religion by Janet Reitman

Going Clear: Scientology, Hollywood, and the Prison of Belief by Lawrence Wright

There are a whole bunch of others. Right now I'm reading Beyond Belief: My Secret Life Inside Scientology and My Harrowing Escape by Jenna Miscavige Hill and Lisa Pulitzer.

In addition to this, I have a lot of bootleg stuff from Scientology, mostly from Hubbard, but also from some of his former associates (like John McMaster). I haven't read entire Dianetics and Scientology books by Hubbard, but I have read large chunks of several of them. I have also read through the training routines (and seen videos on them) and his material on learning--including several essays dissecting what they do, where they work, and where they indoctrinate right at the beginning.

I have a lot of material from Free Zone Scientology universe, too. This is a movement of people who left the organization and still practice Scientology in their own manner.

It would be tedious to list the websites I visit at times on Scientology. There are too many. Probably one of the best resources is Tony Ortega's stuff in the Scientology archives of The Village Voice, and now his blog, The Underground Bunker. He's currently writing a book on Scientology. Here's his famous list of The Top 25 People Crippling Scientology starting with L. Ron Hubbard himself.

Also, there are many, many videos I have watched on YouTube and other places on the Internet about Scientology. Two of my favorites are:

Tory Magoo (I've seen well over 100 videos by her, probably closer to 200--for some reason I like her and I'll be damned if I know why :) ), and

Steven Hassan - I have seen most of his videos here on Vimeo and YouTube (his channel doesn't have many, but he's been uploaded by lots of different people). I watch Steve also for his stuff on other cults.

For a hoot, here is

on YouTube after he left Scientology (it's about 2 hours). He's quite a character. He's of Objectivist interest because, I'm sure you know, he played Hank Rearden in the second Atlas Shrugged.

I'm not saying all this to show off, but merely show that I'm not pulling an opinion out of where the sun doesn't shine. I posted quotes by Lawrence Wright earlier where he comments on Scientology from his book, Going Clear, and after going through all the stuff I have gone through over the years, I agree with him.

I just read Going Clear: Scientology, Hollywood, and the Prison of Belief by Lawrence Wright. It just came out, is going bestseller, and I was lucky enough to grab a library copy, so I did and devoured the book. (You don't have much library time on new releases and you can't renew.)

I highly recommend it. Wright is one hell of a good writer. (Pulitzer Prize winner and all.)

Here are some quotes you might like from that book. I sure did and they partially explain why I am fascinated by the dear Commodore and his antics:

I have spent much of my career examining the effects of religious beliefs on people’s lives—historically, a far more profound influence on society and individuals than politics, which is the substance of so much journalism. I was drawn to write this book by the questions that many people have about Scientology: What is it that makes the religion alluring? What do its adherents get out of it? How can seemingly rational people subscribe to beliefs that others find incomprehensible? Why do popular personalities associate themselves with a faith that is likely to create a kind of public relations martyrdom? These questions are not unique to Scientology, but they certainly underscore the conversation.

. . .

The many discrepancies between Hubbard’s legend and his life have overshadowed the fact that he genuinely was a fascinating man: an explorer, a best-selling author, and the founder of a worldwide religious movement. The tug-of-war between Scientologists and anti-Scientologists over Hubbard’s biography has created two swollen archetypes: the most important person who ever lived and the world’s greatest con man. Hubbard himself seemed to revolve on this same axis, constantly inflating his actual accomplishments in a manner that was rather easy for his critics to puncture. But to label him a pure fraud is to ignore the complex, charming, delusional, and visionary features of his character that made him so compelling to the many thousands who followed him and the millions who read his work. One would also have to ignore his life’s labor in creating the intricately detailed epistemology that has pulled so many into its net—including, most prominently, Hubbard himself.

. . .

[During the years on ship:]

For all his wealth, Hubbard spent much of his time in his cabin alone, auditing himself on the E-Meter and developing his spiritual technology. He may have been grandiose and delusional, but the endless stream of policy letters and training routines that poured from his typewriter hour after hour, day after day, attests to his obsession with the notion of creating a step-by-step pathway to universal salvation. If it was all a con, why would he bother?

. . .

One might compare Scientology with the Church of Latter Day Saints, a new religion of the previous century. The founder of the movement, Joseph Smith, claimed to have received a pair of golden plates from the angel Moroni in upstate New York in 1827, along with a pair of magical “seeing stones,” which allowed him to read the contents. Three years later, he published The Book of Mormon, founding a movement that would provoke the worst outbreak of religious persecution in American history. Mormons were chased all across the country because of their practice of polygamy and their presumed heresy. Smith himself was murdered by a mob in Carthage, Illinois. His beleaguered followers sought to escape the United States and establish a religious theocracy in the territory of Utah, which they called Zion. Mormons were so despised that there was a bill in Congress to exterminate them. And yet Mormonism would evolve and go on to become one of the fastest-growing denominations in the twentieth, and now the twenty-first, centuries. Members of the faith now openly run for president of the United States. In much of the world, this religion, which was once tormented because of its perceived anti-American values, is now thought of as being the most American of religions; indeed, that’s how many Mormons think of it as well. It is a measure not only of the religion’s success but also of the ability of a faith to adapt and change.

And yet Joseph Smith was plainly a liar. In answer to the charge of polygamy, he claimed he had only one wife, when he had already accumulated a harem...

. . .

The evolution of Scientology into a religion also resembles the progression of Christian Science, the faith Tommy Davis was born into. Like Hubbard, Mary Baker Eddy, the founder of Christian Science, experimented with alternative ways of healing. Like Hubbard, she claimed to have been an invalid who cured herself; she, too, wrote a book based on her experience, Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, which became the basis for the founding of the Church of Christ, Scientist, in 1879. Far more than is the case with Scientology, Christian Science stands against mainstream medical practices, even though both organizations lay claim to being more “scientific” than religious. Many religions, including Christian Science, Jehovah’s Witnesses, even Christianity—have known scorn and persecution. Some, like the Shakers and the Millerites, died out, but others, including Mormons and Pentecostals, have elbowed their way into the crowded religious landscape of American society.

I think Scientology is going to be around for a long, long time.

I was particularly struck by a comment Wright made, and this makes more sense to me than anything else about why people believe such weird stuff among the valuable stuff in their respective religions:

"Belief in the irrational is one definition of faith, but it is also true that clinging to absurd or disputed doctrines binds a community of faith together and defines a barrier to the outside world."

Knowing the weird part of the dogma down pat and holding it up to the world like a sign is a mark of an insider. It's more social than epistemological.

If you look into the history of Scientology, you will see that it has been through far worse times than today. I have little doubt it will morph into something more palatable over time. I imagine the self-help side of it will start coming out more than just at the beginning and the mind-control part will start receding. And, of course, it will keep pandering to celebrities.

Right now Scientology has made an alliance with The Nation of Islam through the endorsement and promotion of Louis Farrakhan. That's right. No one, and that means no one, saw that one coming. :)

So while I agree in the main with your comments (except your statistics, which are way off--where did you get them?), I disagree with your prediction.

Just so you know, I have never been attracted to join that organization, but I am fascinated by cult stuff, especially covert hypnosis and mind takeover through indoctrination. This is an area mostly ignored in the Objectivist universe and I believe that is a shame. The philosophy of mind underlying this stuff has direct bearing on epistemology.

Even Obama used this philosophy of mind to great effect in two elections. Some day, look up COBS - The Consortium of Behavioral Scientists. That's an informal designation, but I bet it's a little more than informal behind the scenes after two successful underdog White House runs. They just put academic jargon and structure on this philosophy of mind, but it's the same stuff underneath.

Michael

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Right now Scientology has made an alliance with The Nation of Islam through the endorsement and promotion of Louis Farrakhan. That's right. No one, and that means no one, saw that one coming.

Thanks, Michael, for this bit of news ... and for the reading list. I am impressed with the depth of your researches. I was totally ignorant of the marriage. The mind boggles. Do you have any opinions yet on this seemingly irrational hookup?

Via your link to Tony Ortega, I found an entry at Mike Rinder's blog that explores the Why, the WTF notion of the new bedfellows. (for those not hip-deep in chursh lore, Rinder is a high ranking apostate or 'squirrel' who has told tales of the topmost echelons of the shurch and its megalomaniac leader Miscavige).

Fascinating psychology. I do not presently have a clue why this happened or to whom may accrue which benefits. I only see further bad PR and richly-appointed Saturday Night Live skits.

I post a sample from Rinder's blog of his thoughts, in comments following his "Updated: It’s Official — The Nation of Islam and Church of Scientology Are One."

The buffet of gauds just gained a new deeply fried confection, I think.

GHop — I met a number of NOI people and they are smart, polite, well dressed and well spoken. And I certainly have no problem with them using ANY tech that can benefit them.

What I find so remarkable is that NOI is a different religion and yet there are “brothers” and “sisters” announcing themselves to the world as the representatives of the Church of Scientology.

And on a personal level, that is certainly their right and its all well and good.

BUT — how can Torquemada Miscavige, leader of the Fundamentalist Church of Scientology who sees bitter defrocked apostates, heretics and squirrels everywhere — who send out “squirrelbusters” to harass people for simply applying Scientology, how can he be engaged in that sort of witch-hunting and intolerance, but all the rules are swept aside when it comes to the NOI?

I perhaps should have made my point more clearly in the original posting here. It’s the hypocrisy that is so startling — NOBODY who deviates from what Miscavige deigns to be “pure Scientology” is to be tolerated. The NOI, whatever it IS, is NOT pure Scientology. Unless David Miscavige says it is.

___________________________

added) I could not stop reading up on the genesis of this merge/alliance/hookup/hosepiping, and so found a picture whipped up by former urch members, at an ex-Scientologist message board 'thread that erupted in September 2012. Looks like the dalliance/doggy-style has deeper roots. Minister Nutterface Farrakan has made pointedly nice noises about Elron in recent years, and his Ministers have been feted at the Celebrity Centre as early as 2010 -- all this captured in historical videos at the thread linked above. Skeeeeeery stuff. It makes any or many Peikoffian sins seem trifles, blemishes in comparison. Ayn Rand and her most whacked-out acolytes may be quackish here and there, but are not even in the same solar system as the maniac urch of ientolo, and its new hosepipe black mawslim whackaloon franchise.

noi.jpg

Edited by william.scherk

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Michael – You’re indeed knowledgeable on the subject! I’m also a fan of Tony Ortega and enjoy Torymagoo’s videos among other things. I spoke to Jason Beghe about his video trashing Scientology at the “Atlas Shrugged Part 2” world premiere.

Here’s a link concerning Canadian membership:

http://now.msn.com/jedi-religion-in-canada-dwindling

American Religious Identification Survey is the source for the 25,000 number in the U.S. But I couldn’t find “Scientology” on their list of religions in a recent survey; they seem to break out only religions with more members than that. Of course, some respondents who take Scilon cources might call themselves “Christians,” “Jews” or whatever as their principal religious identification.

The Pew global survey of religions—one of the best—lists 58 million adherents to “other” religions worldwide, with most in Asia and only 1.9 million in the U.S. The eight “others” broken out include Sihks, Baha’is and even Wiccans. A note in the survey added “Other faiths in the ‘other religions’ category include Cao Dai, I-Kuan Tao, Mandaeism, the Rastafari movement, the Rātana movement, Scientology and Yazidism, to list just a few.” So Scientology seems at best a blip in the U.S. to say nothing of the world.

I suspect Scientology’s visibility is higher than membership numbers suggest because a principal part of its raison d’etre is bilking rich suckers out of money; one estimate says they’re sitting on $1 billion. They put a lot of money into renovating buildings in major cities to give themselves high visibility. But as Anonymous protesters (see https://whyweprotest.net/community/ ) and others point out and document with videos, little public actually enter those buildings for auditing.

Wright is right that "Belief in the irrational is one definition of faith, but it is also true that clinging to absurd or disputed doctrines binds a community of faith together and defines a barrier to the outside world." Perhaps the Free Zoners will keep a variant of Scientology chugging along as a form of New Age therapy. But I still argue that the availability of information, vocal opposition to Scientology from Anonymous and other critics, and the reprehensible practices if the official “church” will keep it as small fringe religion.

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I find it fascinating how otherwise intelligent and functional individuals can fall for psychics, Scientology, and other cults.

Here’s a recent story from Denver media entitled “Psychic Victim: ‘How Could I Be So Stupid?’

In my piece on “Betting Against the End Of The World” I highlight one businessman in particular who fell for Harold Camping’s “The apocalypse is here” ranting exactly two years ago.

These examples speak to our need to figure out more effective ways of promoting a rational culture.

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