Vanity thought #1320. Scientology and FSM

FSM is a Flying Spaghetti Monster, a clever idea to troll Christians. Both are obviously fake but one made billions and won the war on IRS, the other failed to convince anyone. So, is it really that simple to create an artificial religion and make it work? What’s the secret ingredient?

Is it just about faith? Would FSM satisfy people’s desires if they really prayed to it? Some say that Scientology works because people take it seriously. Well, will sincerely praying to FSM compel people to donate hundreds of thousands of dollars to it?

There’s a case to be made that it might work. Atheists would probably argue that all religions are simply self-fulfilled promises that rely on placebo effect and nothing else. They dismiss “miracles” and any other empirical proof that God works and they say that people feel their prayers for peace, love, and tranquility are being answered because people self-hypnotize themselves. No different from self-help seminars with their affirmations that seem to bring results.

Since Scientology has no connection to actual God whatsoever I’m inclined to believe that this is actually the case. They can’t be getting by on mercy, can they?

We know very little about how Scientology actually works and so it is possible that they have discovered a way to attain some siddhis without doing hard yoga. If they did real yoga they would have attained real superpowers, not just glimpses of what is possible, as they have now, but they’ve got discipline and dedication, two most important qualities for any method to succeed.

In fact, any method would work if one has developed discipline and a strong desire, Kṛṣṇa promises that in Bhagavad Gīta. He would give people intelligence to achieve their goal, be it yoga or jñāna or meditation or, indeed, Scientology.

We tend to focus on ridiculous stuff about Xenu dropping hydrogen bombs into volcanoes but I bet it’s only a very small part of Scientology process, inconsequential in a big scheme of things, just a story to fill a gap in history. Most of the practice is dedicated to clearing the “thetans”, which we could call anarthas.

In Scientology these unwanted thetans carry impressions they got from watching a 3D movie brainwashing them into believing untrue things, like Christianity and much of human progress. We can laugh about 3D movie part but, at the end of the day, that’s what our anarthas are, too – impressions from observing nonsensical Kali Yuga civilization, and much of this observation comes from watching movies and learning history.

Letting this stuff go, letting our attachments go, cleanses our hearts and allows our bhakti to grow. It must do something to Scientologists, too. Jñānīs are following the same process and they, theoretically, can attain Brahman, glimpses of which would feel superior to any sensual experiences in the empirical world. I can understand why Scientologists are willing to give an arm and a leg for that. They feel that sense gratification they could get from spending money is incomparable to realizations they get from letting go of anarthas, or thetans, whatever they call them.

Another explanation for Scientology’s success is a mundane one. It’s a scam, it’s a cult, it’s a pyramid scheme, and so it apparently works just like any con, except it doesn’t. It might be a very elaborate con and the most successful one in ages but it should be easy to replicate, one just have to follow the same steps.

FSM creators, for example, declared the identity of their ridiculous God from the start. Scientology’s Xenu is no less kooky character but he is not introduced until a person invested so much that there’s no turning back and Xenu story must be accepted on faith. First they build faith, then declare the object of it, and by that time it’s too late to leave.

It’s a good argument but then I don’t see how FSM can build this kind of faith at all. In Scientology people learn to believe because there are certain processes to follow and they seem to work. In FSM there’s no equivalent. It has nothing to offer but Spaghetti Monster itself. They have their prayers that end with “Ramen” but I don’t see how people would fork any money for participating in that. Maybe pay a few bucks to cover the snacks and as a thank you for the good time but I don’t see anything in FSM that would inspire people to invest most of their income.

I don’t accept the argument that FSM is a scam. For all I know, LHR really believed in his own BS, and I don’t think it was all about money and power for him. He spent a decade on “saṅkīrtana”, after all, living on ships and preaching his Scientology to anyone who would listen. He had enough money to quietly retire in a number of safe places and live off his success but he didn’t, he kept pushing until the end.

Personally, I don’t see his successor, Miscavige, as being obsessed with perpetuating the scam either. One of Scientology high ranking ex-members says that Miscavige doesn’t have much personal wealth but, as Scientology’s CEO, he can spend Church’s money at will. He surely can, but we don’t know if he does so frivolously. I’m inclined to think that he sees the power as a side effect of his dedication to the Church, not as a goal in itself. We have reasons to suspect, but not to believe, that he is not a true follower of Scientology and he is simply scamming the faithful.

Same accusations are leveled against Catholic church as well and it sure had a number of highly questionable Popes but it has the staying power that can’t be explained by perpetual greed alone, there must be sincere faith there, too.

Likewise, I don’t think calling Scientology a cult does it justice. In English the word has pejorative connotations but it has numerous definitions coming from observing different practices at different times and in different places. People might label it as a cult with expectations that if it’s classified as such it would naturally bring all the negative aspects of cults, possibly mass suicides. This is a fallacy. Scientology will behave like Scientology, not like cults people have in mind when they want to attack it.

Scientology can’t be a pyramid scheme either, its memberships has been shrinking while donations continue to grow. It will eventually collapse, like everything does in this world, but it won’t be like a collapsing pyramid scheme where one person takes the loot and runs away leaving everybody else with nothing. The things that Scientology gives to people, the discipline and the powers, cannot be taken away and they already GIVEN the money to the church, unlike in a pyramid scheme they are not hoping that the church would ever pay it back with interest.

Like with cults, applying this label to Scientology with hope that it would behave like a pyramid in the future is unjustified even though there might be some common traits.

Hmm, I’ve got no time to talk about FSM at all. Will continue tomorrow.

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