Basic Skepticism for Anti-Scientologists

basic skepticism
This book by Michael Shermer Teaches Basic Skepticism and How People Create & Maintain Their Own Belief Systems
I’ve been debating the marauding Internet anti-Scientologists over the last few days, and it’s been a lot of fun.

I used to be a marauding Internet Anti-Scientologist myself. Back in my day though, there weren’t as many of us. All the recent media on Scientology has really swelled their ranks. And they are more cock-sure of themselves than I have ever seen them.

It kinda sucks that I’m no longer part of that tribe because, as an Anti-Scientologist, this was the future that I always dreamed of: legions of us descending on anyone who says they are a Scientologist and ripping them to shreds. Splattering them with all kinds of nasty information exposing L Ron Hubbard’s and David Miscavige’s utter depravity. And generally browbeating a Scientologist into seeing how “wrong” he is to be one.

So I’m really missing out on a present that I helped to create in the past.

Story of my life, I guess.

What have I been doing instead?

Something much more productive, and much more aligned with my own purposes: I’ve been practicing Basic Skepticism on Scientologists & Anti-Scientologists.

Here’s how it works:

Basic skepticism requires 2 simple skills –

  1. Recognizing when a claim is being presented for you to accept.
  2. Asking for, or looking for, positive evidence in support of that claim.

Seems easy, right? Ha! Just wait until you start practicing it!

Step 1 is very important. Sometimes people make claims and you don’t recognize that a claim is being made. This can lead you to accepting the claim without really noticing it. So here are some examples of claims that Anti-Scientologists routinely make about Scientology:

The Training Routines (TRs) in Scientology produce a hypnotic trance.

Scientology is a criminal organization.

The bad outweighs the good in Scientology, therefore it’s all bad.

Scientology is a CON and a SCAM

Scientologists are gullible.

David Miscavige is short.

If you go back in time on my own blog here, you will find me asserting almost every one of those claims. The recent shift in my perspective over the last couple of years has come as a result of my learning and applying basic skepticism to my own beliefs.

Once you recognize that a claim is being made – whether you agree with it or not – apply Step 2: Asking for, or looking for, positive evidence in support of that claim.

As an example, let’s take the first claim above:

The Training Routines (TRs) in Scientology produce a hypnotic trance in people who practice them.

When you apply step 2 to the claim, you will only be looking for evidence that positively supports that claim. You will not be looking for a negation of the claim, such as “No it doesn’t! I applied TRs and I felt quite refreshed afterward!” That’s simply a counter claim, and pursuing that ignores the evidence in support of the original.

So ignore counter claims and focus directly on the claim. You want to see positive evidence in support of that claim which demonstrates “The TRs produce a hypnotic trance.”

For this particular claim, you would need to first define exactly what a hypnotic trance is. Then you would need to look for, or ask for, the evidence that all people who practice the TRs – as they are written in Scientology – enter a hypnotic trance exactly as “hypnotic trance” is defined.

Are you starting to get the picture here?

It’s easy to believe a claim. That’s the easiest thing in the world. People normally believe claims because the claim feels good to believe it (Truthiness), or because the claim is consistent with their existing worldview (Confirmation Bias).

But to prove that a claim is true with positive evidence that supports it?

That’s very different. And quite a bit more difficult. And messy.

During the process of Step 2, your thinking changes. You get uncomfortable. And you realize the difficulty of the claim, and that its related issues aren’t so simple at all. You begin to see the problems associated with the claim and the oversimplifications and rationalizations people use to keep believing them.

Your feeling of certainty begins to wane. You realize how much you actually don’t know. And you grow up a little. The boiling temperature of your blood recedes, and you start to feel more peaceful.

So shouldn’t you apply a little Basic Skepticism to the claims of Anti-Scientology before you work yourself into a lather and launch marauding campaigns all over the Internet, shoving your beliefs down everyone’s throats?

Obviously, because I myself have engaged in such behavior in the past as an Anti-Scientologist, I didn’t used to think so.

But I’ve learned.

And now I think it’s important to apply Basic Skepticism to the claims of Anti-Scientology, and to Scientology.

So I am passing this simple but completely subversive critical thinking skill over to my friends in the Anti-Scientology and Scientology Tribes.

Do you think they’ll use it?

47 thoughts on “Basic Skepticism for Anti-Scientologists”

  1. just addressing the title of your post Alanzo, as a ANTI SCIENTOLOGY person, one day after I left the scintology hubbard created mindset of he was source and figured it all out so I did, myself, did not have to research, why I wondered what is the history of religion, philosophy, knowledge, etc. So I researched.

    I didn’t know the ancients were before Christ, so I decided to research.

          • no problem, I should define what I mean by ancients, and that is philosophers before Christ such as Plato, Aristotle, etc. I even went so far as asking google the timeline of religion vs philosophy and the difference between them and reading up on it.

            I never learned to do such things with my 27 years in scientology until I decided to question.

        • I remember those quite well. Virginia did a tremendous service to Scn’ists and exes trying to figure out what on earth was happening on OTVII.

  2. To this I would also add my own skepticism about the actual motives of most anti-Scientologists, especially the rabid hardline ones that populate ESMB and the Bunker. I could be wrong but back in its heyday when it was busy, OCMB came across as somewhat more reasonable. At least I don’t think there was the kind of cultic attitude so common nowadays, let alone the bizarre idol worship of Master Ortega. Back in the day when Bob Minton was Scientology Enemy #1 and the first person who I’d say was “charismatic” (even flamboyant) in their anti-Scientology zealotry (like the hilarious pickets in front of FLB in Clearwater, which I believe Bunker uploaded to YouTube), he wasn’t the sort to cultivate that kind of blind following. Others may disagree, but off camera he seemed fairly down-to-earth though for the life of me I couldn’t understand why he was investing so much time & money in anti-Scientology activities since he had no background in it (as far as I know) and kind of popped up out of nowhere after the Lisa McPherson flap started becoming a serious media controversy.

    That whole thing with Brian Culkin (the yoga guy from Boston, that’s his name, right?) for instance. Guy spends over $300K in just a few months of getting involved with Scientology, wakes up one day and realizes this fact and tries to get his money back to no avail, goes online to talk about his situation and get advice from the folks over at ESMB and so on. I guess at some point the Church comes around and offers him all his money back (was there an additional payout on top of that?) so long as he accepts their terms to stop talking about Scientology and criticizing it online, and naturally, being a sane rational human being, he accepts and then is made out to be the bad guy by ESMB and even Ortega himself who goes to town on the guy.

    Now this to me is a serious issue because I’m of the view that if you gave the church money for services that you never used or were not satisfied with the services that were rendered, you should have the right to get that cash back in full without going through all the ridiculous hurdles the church usually throws in the way. And critics, if they actually give a damn as they claim, should be doing everything they can to help those who can’t afford a lawyer with practical advice on how to get that money back. Caulkin spent over $300K, so that makes sense to take that to a lawyer, but for most who spent less than $100K (average based on financial records from various churches I’ve seen seems to be around the $25K-45K range) it just wouldn’t be the worth of trouble and expense of getting a lawyer unless they’re willing to work pro bono, which is rare even though for that amount of money a few letters from a competent attorney are enough to get the church to settle without going to court or taking up too much time. The Luis Garcia situation seems to be an exception to that but I don’t know enough about their case to comment one way or another.

    So I think what would be most helpful to those thinking of getting out of the church is assisting with this kind of thing, providing access to attorneys who would be willing to work pro bono or for reasonable cost and so forth, but I’m not seeing that happen. The few times I emailed Ortega to get legal advice or simply even leads or references to attorneys who are familiar with Scientology on behalf of some people I knew, he literally told me off and said unless I was willing to be a snitch for him (at the time I was still working in the SO but planning on leaving at some point) that he wouldn’t waste his time helping anyone trying to get their money back. He made a big deal of being a “journalist” and that “journalists” aren’t in the “business” of helping anyone, they’re in the business of reporting “news” and that if there wasn’t any money in dishing dirt on Scientology, he wouldn’t bother with it. This was not long after he had gotten kicked out of the Village Voice and was blogging on his own. [For those curious, I don’t think I saved any of my email exchanges with him so feel free to disbelieve all of that.]

    That kind of attitude disgusts me and it actually made me reconsider leaving the SO and becoming a vocal critic of Scientology because it put everything he and others allied with him in question. In a way he did me a favor because when I finally did leave I just got on with my life instead of wasting time on ESMB and the Bunker. It was this blog that actually got me interested in anti-Scientology soap opera again, but mainly because of the Phil Jones drama that I first posted about it that when I heard about it from Mike Jone’s non-SO friends and was searching online about it because I thought it couldn’t be true his parents would be insane enough to get a billboard(s), but lo and behold, I was wrong and they are really that nuts. I won’t get into that again here though. ;

    I’ve got to hand it to you for even bothering with this blog because I don’t think I have a thick enough skin or the balls to confront ESMB and Bunker fanatics on a frequent basis and wade through anti-Scientology hysteria and drivel day after day. Major props to anyone who does.

    • Yeah the Culkin Incident was the first time I noticed that there was something wrong with Tony Ortega and his underground bunkerites.

      The church had offered to give Culkin his money back if he submitted an affidavit that they promised him they would never use in court. Then the church promptly used it in the Garcia trial.

      The lynch mob that formed against Culkin was so cruel and uniformly stupid, that it shocked me. And you’re right, OCMB was never that dim and tribal. Tony Ortega really has a way of dumbing things down and whipping up his crowd into going after individuals – even to the point of silencing and discrediting people who the church wants silenced and discredited.

      I’m not saying they’re a group of Osa agents. I’m saying that the consensus Ortega manufactures is generally so shallow and stupid that bunkerites end up pilloring people who should not be pilloried.

      Brian Culkin was the first time I’d seen that at the underground bunker. But I do remember a group of critics going after Bob Minton when he ended up settling with the church instead of allowing himself to be completely bankrupted.

      The passions of Apostasy are very strong, and too easily manipulated. And God help you if you should end up on the wrong side of them.

      • “…whipping up his crowd into going after individuals – even to the point of silencing and discrediting people who the church wants silenced and discredited.”

        You realize from reading my post the other day, that the Ortega/Carriere contingent actually solicited my son that they would publicly host a public attack on my husband and I under the guise of “his scientology experiences” back in early 2015, right Alanzo?

        That was done to try and “discredit” us and not for ANY concern whatsoever for our children.

        So, if you ever see any of our children being thrust forward publicly to tell stories of abuse and so on by anyone associated within this Ortega/Carriere contingent, no matter WHAT the content is you will know what the real reason is and who is behind it. It would also stand as a perfect demonstration of just how fanatically obsessed with silencing legitimate criticism these people actually are.

        They are every bit as vicious and insane as some Scientology operatives are. In fact, so much so…that it could even make someone wonder just what difference between them is there really.

        Note: The post I’m referring to is this one:

    • Thanks for this. Did Tony Ortega really try to force you – meaning in a tit-for-tat way – into being a snitch for him?

      If so, man, does that stink.

      This is Alanzos blog, so its his decision if he doesn’t want to have this here, but I for one wasn’t aware of what you’re talking about regarding Mike Jones. May I ask what you are talking about? I had done a posting myself about what I thought about this billboard crap – I was appalled, to put it simply, and I am no fan of scientology but that was just such transparently blatant media posturing that really demonstrated no care whatsoever for their children, in my opinion. And so I found myself in the interesting position of defending a scientologist, the Jones kids.

      Since I think that’s part of Alanzo’s point about that these so-called critics need to grow up a little and stop being so fanatical they can’t even see they are AS BAD OR WORSE than some scientologists, I think your perspective could be interesting on the Jones issue.

  3. regarding your first point which is:

    “The Training Routines (TRs) in Scientology produce a hypnotic trance.”

    I wasn’t quite sure about that so I decided to research the history of hypnosis, hypnotic, mesmerism, etc. Afterall Hubbard said Dianetics was not hypnosis which puts somebody to sleep whereas Dianetics wakes people up.

    So I go down that rabbit hole, wiki gave me the route to read:

    So I start researching and reading the researchers of hypnosis from earlier days, the authors and names of books they wrote and read some of them, all from the viewpoint of how hubbard tricked us.

    I came to the conclusion “trance” is the wrong word and even “hypnotic trance”, I think the correct word is agreement. Hubbard called his ARC triangle = understanding. I’ve come to the conclusion ARC= agreement with scientology.

    Hubbard said communication was the most important part, but not really if you get how hubbard tricked us, all he did ultimately was to capture agreement and get agreement with his ideas and that is hypnosis, no trance at all.

    so yes, I don’t agree with the ARC = understanding.

    • Yes, this process changes your thinking. And it doesn’t necessarily confirm your existing belief if you simply follow the evidence.

      I’ve found that it almost always leaves you with a more complex understanding than the one that’s got you all pissed off.

      And if, during the process of seeking positive evidence in support of the claim, you are wary of confirmation bias, you may finally end up farther from the original claim but closer to the truth.

      Confirmation bias is a powerful thing, though, especially if there is a threat that you might lose your popularity and standing as a critic if you don’t keep asserting the original anti-scientology claim.

      If you are not continually learning new things and if your viewpoint is not continually changing after Scientology, then are just not doing it right.

      • I’m not pissed off, Alanzo. Just an ex member who talks.

        Speaking of confirmation bias, see I wonder when did that term come into usage, who coined it, and what research did the person do, and was it before Hubbard or after Hubbard and did Hubbard use it in scientology?

        The only thing I can find for proof that Hubbard used confirmation bias was from Le Bon’s book which he sates:

        “Great power is given to ideas propagated by affirmation, repetition, and
        contagion by the circumstance that they acquire in time that mysterious force
        known as prestige.”

        So affirmation is probably the beginning of confirmation bias.

      • no, I said it earlier but not clearly enough, I’m not a writer sorry. I think TR’s produce agreement and conditioning. But if somebody uses that term hypnotic trance to try to explain them, whatever, if it helps somebody to leave scientology I’m good.

        • TRs never put me in a hypnotic trance, I also didn’t particularly find them all uber-amazing either. I also didn’t do them for days and weeks on end, which I could definitely see could be troublesome and definitely starting to resemble conditioning.

          Bull-baiting was useful in some ways, mostly it entertained the hell out of me.

  4. regarding your other 5 points, which are:

    The Training Routines (TRs) in Scientology produce a hypnotic trance.
    Scientology is a criminal organization.
    The bad outweighs the good in Scientology, therefore it’s all bad.
    Scientology is a CON and a SCAM
    Scientologists are gullible.

    I recall reading some philosopher from earlier days, I forget now, but he basically said after much discussion and debate and thinking, why the subject debated could be boiled down to a overall summary. I think ex scientologists do this on their blog postings since they were involved and now out and make general sweeping statements. Some do not have writing skills to fully express their experiences, and of course “fair game” sits in the way from full expression of their each own experiences, hence reduced down to simple sentences without more words, ie it’s a scam!

    Some use banter, which I did not understand at first, I realized I’m not good at banter which a lot of folks use on Tony O blog and other blogs and even ESMB, some of which I don’t get.

    You use banter yourself on your own comments to people here, which I do not understand.

    I have more words to say on your 5 points.

  5. Scientology seems to build upon itself. You can accept some early premises, and have wins with them, which encourages you to find more premises to accept, so that you can have more wins. And this is not limited to just scn either.

    Several years before the bubble of scn cracked open for me, I noticed how often promotional flyers aimed at existing scientologists had the word “certainty” in it:

    “Gain certainty as an auditor– do the briefing course.”

    “On the pro metering course, you will gain complete certainty using the emeter…”

    “Achieve total certainty of yourself as an immortal spiritual being…”

    These primo pieces were surveyed and this “certainty button” must have come up over and over.

    • repetition is one of the means of creating a “crowd” per Le Bon’s book which Hubbard read. Alanzo calls this “tribal”.

      • Gib – You or someone else once posted Le Bon’s book on Marty’s blog. I read parts of it – very interesting. Do you have a link?
        As I recall, in one part it describes how one person describes an event inaccurately, and then the rest of the “crowd” also “sees” it falsely.

        • since you read parts of it, then just google it again. It’s freely available to read as a PDF.

          The most important chapter is:

          Book 2, Chapter 3: The Leaders of Crowds and Their Means of Persuasion.

          All I’m saying is hubbard read that book and decide for yourself if Hubbard used what Le Bon said in his policy letters and HCOB’s and books and lectures.

          • Gustave Le Bon 1841-1931 “The Crowd: A Study of the Popular Mind”
            Google sends me to Amazon. I’m not that interested.
            Hubbard was well versed in crowd psychology, rhetoric and hypnotism. He was well prepared to start his own cult.

    • I’ll bet it did. Scientology isn’t the only ones I have seen do this…what would I call it…covert emphasis on the negatives or the ‘nots’, the not certains, the not wants, by slamming CERTAINTY into people’s faces. There’s good kinds of doubt and bad kinds of doubt, the problem is not distinguishing between them and selling NO doubt as some kind of false golden parachute escape route.

  6. I’ll start out by commenting on your last point of six which is:

    “David Miscavige is short.”

    This is true if everybody is taller than David Miscavige.

    • It is reported on the authority of Tony Ortega quoting someone whose name I forget quoting DM’s tailor that DM is 5 foot 1 1/2 inches tall. That’s… shorter than most.

      • That is the kind of positive evidence in support of a claim we need. So when an anti-scientologist makes this claim, they are probably on solid ground.

        I’d love to see such evidence for the rest of those claims.

  7. I must be on the same wavelength as you, Alanzo. Just before reading this topic today I was looking at Mike Rinder’s blog. Someone included in their comment that LRH had average intelligence.

    I’m no defender of scn or LRH, but just for the hell of it I replied:

    “I don’t know if I go along with Elron being just average intelligence. He wrote and said a whole lot of things about a whole lot of subjects. It’s the subject of blog critiques about what was junk and what was, perhaps, brilliant.”

    Am I turning OSA!? (joke)

    • Hmm – This might relate to the topic. Adyashanti, a nondualism teacher, has some new posts on youtube, “adyashanti 2017”. I had fun with a 9 minute one called “Discovering a Sense of Renewal”. At the beginning he says, paraphrased:

      “The spiritual traditions and spiritual teachings over many, many centuries have talked about the unknown. What they’re really talking about is this kind of renewal. We make the unknown into something. We can even make up a term like “The Unknown” and before you know it, there’s this place called the unknown which you have to find.” He laughs, I laughed.

      certainty/uncertainty;the known/the unknown There might be some comparisons.

  8. It’s weird, isn’t it, that a lot of people can’t seem to have both uncertainties and certainties in their lives. Like Patti said, they both have their merits. I think scientologists get confused on the idea of total certainty, thinking (or maybe believing) that it means that the world and all people in it, are some sort of freeze-framed shadow box with no surprises, no uncertainties. To me, the only really useful certainty is a faith in self enough to EXPLORE the world’s changing faces and not needing everything and everyone locked down. Maybe I’m just weird. lol

  9. No. The certainty is strong in them, they are infected with the joy of certainty, and they are anxious to pass it on. Unfortunately the people who were attracted to Scientology like the feeling of certainty. They are like addicts. I share that addiction but also crave the free falling feeling of uncertainty. Odd isn’t it?

    • Hi Patti,
      I agree. Uncertainty is so freeing! I bog down in certainty too often.
      Your theory that people who are attracted to Scientology like the feeling of certainty is interesting, I have often wondered whether that is true.
      When I was recruited for Scientology (1970s Cambridge MA) the (very good looking) man told me that if the young man I was with did not take Scientology courses he would kill himself in his 30’s. I “blew” from Scientology at that moment, because common sense said that the recruiter could not possibly be so absolutely “certain”. I have been married to that young man for 44 years, so I’m glad I didn’t listen.
      That moment has always made me angry, it would have been very easy to believe and maybe even break up based on the recruiter’s certainty.


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