Scientology & Hindsight Bias: An Ex-Scientologist’s Deadliest Disease

On Mike Rinder’s excellent blog, a person named “Peter Turner” wrote:

“I joined Scientology to help create a world without war, insanity and crime. I used to believed it was possible and others believed it too. But now? War is still with us – crime is on the rise and I don’t know if Scientology is now certifiably insane yet but it is certainly “crazy”. I now think that the world would be better off without Scientology. So I spent 35 years wasting my time.”

I understand this reasoning. It was my own for many years after getting out of Scientology.

But I have come to see the flaws in it.

There are actually several.

Flaw #1 of “I Spent 35 Years Wasting My Time in Scientology”

From the very first time you read “The Creed of the Church of Scientology” to find out what “we of the Church believe”, you were being lied to about Scientology. In innumerable ways, and by many people for very different reasons, you were being presented with a false picture of what Scientology itself was all about.

For you, Scientology held all your hopes and dreams for a better self, and a better world. So when you read The Creed of the Church that first time, it was written specifically to correspond with your “buttons” and to make you feel that Scientology was just like you. The Creed of the Church of Scientology was actively and intentionally created to deceive you about Scientology.

You did not know at that time that if you followed every point of the Creed, you would get into ethics trouble with the Church. And if you continued to follow the Creed, you would be expelled, declared, and fair-gamed.

You could not have known that because it was actively being withheld from you throughout the time you spent in the Church as a Scientologist. You could not have known for instance that Int Base itself was the place were all the lies emanated to Scientologists.

As a Scientologist, you were not even allowed to know where Int Base was located.

Think about that.

You had clues that you were being lied to, but these were very easily explained away. And those lies you were being told were actively explained away by other Scientologists whenever they revealed themselves.

In order to accurately weigh the gains and the losses of spending so much time in Scientology, you have to factor in the onslaught of lying and deception that you were being subjected to as a Scientologist. And then you have to do something that Scientologists are taught NEVER to do: You have to realize that you are not responsible for being lied to.

The people who lied are responsible for lying to you.

The people who were lied to are not responsible for being lied to.

You have to find the point at which you became responsible. It is a very exact point. The point at which you became responsible for being deceived, is the point at which you had enough information to see that you were being lied to. And it is from that exact point that you must assess your actions, and ask yourself whether you are proud of what you did, or ashamed of what you did.

But there is no shame in being actively lied to.

Flaw #2 of “I spent 35 Years Wasting My Time in Scientology”

Stephen Hassan, in his work with former cult members of every kind, points out how often it occurs that the people who are followers of the cult leader are more intelligent, more sane, and much more spiritually insightful than the cult leader himself.

Often, the cult member, because they are so sincere and focused on their own spiritual advancement using the leader’s beliefs and practices, produce extremely valid “wins” that the cult leader never even thought could happen.

We know now that this happened routinely around L Ron Hubbard. The development of the technology of Scientology which occurred at Saint Hill in the 60’s was a kind of Thomas Edison light bulb factory where Edison himself is not the guy to have invented the lightbulb – one of the engineers that worked for him did. Edison just took the credit for it and no one ever found out about the real inventor until much later.

For more on this, read the experiences of someone who was there:

Alan Walter’s Posts From ESMB

L Ron Hubbard routinely took the “tech” developed by SHSBC students and others and claimed it for himself. And then declared or discredited the real authors of the tech because he was afraid their influence among Scientologists would surpass his own.

Again, this is something that you could not have been aware of because you were being actively lied to about it.

What you did with the information once you found out about it is the point at which you were responsible, and not before.

Flaw #3 of “I Spent 35 Years Wasting My Time in Scientology”

The human mind has certain biases which routinely, and falsely, color the perceptions of people called cognitive biases. One of the most important for a former cult member to know about is called the “hindsight bias”, or the “I knew it all along” effect.

The Hindsight Bias occurs when:

“… people feel that they “knew it all along,” that is, when they believe that an event is more predictable after it becomes known than it was before it became known. Hindsight bias embodies any combination of three aspects: memory distortion, beliefs about events’ objective likelihoods, or subjective beliefs about one’s own prediction abilities.”

Hindsight bias is the central plague of the Ex-Scientologist.

Your mind has a tendency to take the information that you know now and mix it with your past – when you didn’t know it yet.

So you now look at yourself as a stupid idiot for what you did back then – based solely on what you know now but which you did not know then.

When I look at who I was back when I was first getting in, getting involved in Scientology was absolutely the right move for me. I did not know about the beatings, or the RPF, or Xenu, or even the real world consequences of the Sea org or disconnection. None of that was going on around me in Peoria, IL where I first got involved. It was all very good, actually.

I knew the ARC triangle, granting beingness, the tone scale, auditing, how Scientology got me off of drugs, and gave me more discipline and hope for my own future than I ever had before.

Because it’s been reported in the news so much, people generally now know all about Xenu and all of the weirdest and most abusive stuff from Scientology. That was never the Scientology I joined, or belonged to for so many years. People generally still know very little about the good that it did for most people when they were first getting involved.

You were your own person getting yourself into Scientology. You were curious and courageous and rebellious and interested in new ways of looking at things.

You probably still are.

So screw em. Be yourself. And take heart that you are not a cookie cutter dishrag like too many others – and you now have the scars to prove it!

Your experiences are valuable. Don’t devalue them for no good reason.

And don’t get down on yourself for having been a Scientologist.

After all, you left when you found out that it was not what you were told. The same ideals that got you in, got you out, too, didn’t they?

You stayed true to your own ideals.

Isn’t that what you’ve always asked of yourself?

So go back to BEFORE you knew what you know now and look at the environment you were in back then and the information and the resources that you had at your disposal then to learn the truth about Scientology. And don’t forget to factor in the huge onslaught of social coercion you were under as a Scientologist.

Also, don’t forget to factor in where Scientology was actually helping you to overcome real problems in your life.

There are many reasons that you could not know what you know now about Scientology.

So, Peter, whoever you are, I question your rationale, and your conclusion, that “I spent 35 years wasting my time in Scientology.”

I think that when you look at things from the perspective above, you will come to another rationale, and to another conclusion.

15 thoughts on “Scientology & Hindsight Bias: An Ex-Scientologist’s Deadliest Disease”

  1. thanks.. so sounded good, but I am better… I got out.. unfortunately my daughter didn’t.

  2. Very cool, Alanzo……And good to know you have a blog where I can visit you and your insight on occasion. Cheers Matey 🙂

    • All right, Carmel!!!

      Very good to see you!! Long time no hear from, girl!

      I’ve been thinking of writing a post about you as part of the Scientology History series. Stick around. It’s coming in the next few weeks.

      For anyone who does not know who Carmel Underwood is – you are in the presence of one of the true stars of the exposure of abuse in Scientology.

      I am honored that she stopped by to say hello.


  3. Great post, Al. Truly, the same ideals that got me in – anti-abuse, empiricist, willing to tell the entire world to shove it if I observed something to be true or right, with a strong desire to help people – are the same things that got me out despite all of the lies, manipulation, and flat out coercion I received while volunteering for them.

  4. Oh , the last comment of yours Alanzo…so true. Being on staff for a year and two months really intensified my cognitive dissonance. I worked in the HGC. I saw the disrespect of the pc´s privacy, the assumed superiority of some staff members and execs(we are not dilettantes), and the general scilo-shittyness behind the public, love-bomby facade of scientology. The experience was stressful and disheartening and, finally, enlightening. After I blew…and was able to decompress…I read voraciously. It was(and is) the usual suspects: Jon Atack, Tony Ortega, Russell Miller, Gerry Armstrong, Arnie Lerma, and a host of other writers and journalists, as well as blogs, message boards, films, youtube videos, etc.
    ¨Baby¨, who posts at Tony Ortega´s blog, directed me here. Thanks for the timeless truths:)

  5. I’m especially fond of Flaw #1. I think the subject of all subtle contradictions in the basic Scientology creeds, tenets and codes is something that needs further highlighting. Chris Shelton seemingly took the fast tract to waking up to the reality of Scientology as soon as he was exposed fto the practice of discrediting members with dirty from their own ethics folders. His explanation regarding how that unethical contradiction opened his eyes was revealing imo. So here’s hoping you do more exploration into this area in future posts Alanzo.

    • Yes, this is a very fruitful area for exploration.

      The contradictions between the moral codes in Scientology, and the every day actions of the group, are very therapeutic to examine. In fact, almost everyone I know who has broken free from thinking with Scientology, did so because they recognized that an earlier moral code of their own was being routinely broken by some aspect of being a Scientologist.

      Thanks for the idea, CofSEZ.

      And thank you so much for your support of AlanzosBlog!


  6. Thanks for the compliments, Gimpy, Pepper, and Mark.

    Everyone’s been so nice to me lately on the Internet, I’m not quite sure how to act.

    All I can say is that things are really improving out here on the fringes.


    • “I’m not quite sure how to act.”

      FWIW, here’s a constructive suggestion on that front: put the vastly under-used “Scientology Recovery” search string back in the blog’s subtitle.

      Those keywords together are golden googlefu that indy sites are currently cornering exclusively. Besides, recovery has to come first before the warm, fuzzy hugbox state of “Happy, Stable, and Productive…” can commence.

      And I think this blog proves beyond a doubt that you do your best work outside of the constraints of a hugbox. 😉

      <3 <3 <3

      • Good point, CoSEZ.

        I got a wild hair last night and realized that this was the end result of “recovery from Scientology”.

        But The GoogleFu rules right now.

        Thanks for your suggestion.


  7. This is a wonderful post and outlook Alonzo. I’ll remember this one and show it to someone else. Thank you.

  8. I don’t know how old this post is as there is no date on it, but thank you, it helped – those early days in the subject did have some good in them, it was not all a complete waste of time and money.

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