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Oct. 11 2009 - 10:07 am | 110 views | 1 recommendation | 2 comments

The shame of Scientology

May 1950 issue of Astounding Science Fiction :...

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I just received another email from a ticked-off Scientologist, upset with my “snide” treatment of her belief system.  They’ve been a regular occurrence since the publication of my novel, Crisscross.  It’s one of my darkest fictions, and required  a particularly wacky cult for one of the storylines.

I researched cults and was shocked (truly) by what people are capable of believing.  Much of it is obviously wishful thinking, but some is so bizarre that it defies, well, belief.  I sat down and created the Dormentalist Church.  For some reason Scientologists see themselves there.  I can’t imagine why.

Here is my reply to the latest email:

I’m a congenital skeptic, (name), and I like to think of myself as an equal opportunity offender when it comes to wacky belief systems.  I’ve put down the big 3: Christianity, Islam, and Judaism. Mormonism too (there’s a wacky origin).  I’ve read DIANETICS and I also read a book by a woman who escaped Scientology. Both were pretty scary.

Scientology earned my ire when it tried to smear Prozac back in the day.  Over the years I’ve treated easily 1000 people with SSRIs, not with 100% success, but never with a serious side effect.  I’ve seen those meds dissipate stifling depression, panic attacks, crippling social phobias, imprisoning OCD.  I recently had a middle-age man, who’s suffered from social phobia since his teens, break down in tears in my office because after being on Paxil for 3 months, he finally got up the courage, for the first time in his life, to ask a woman to have dinner with him.  He bemoaned the fact that he hadn’t been started on medication 20 years ago, because his life would have been completely different. “I’m not dumb. I could have gone to college, but the idea of sitting in class and maybe being called on terrified me.”

And you want to suppress these meds.  Shame on you.


Yes, that’s an anecdote, and anecdotal evidence is largely useless. But I have a couple of decades experience with these meds, and I’ve seen so many lives transformed for the better that I can’t imagine family medicine without them. (I had one wife actually threaten me: “If you ever take him off that pill I will kill you.”  She said it with a smile, but it told me reams about the change in their home life.) (Yeah, I know – another anecdote.  I gotta million of ‘em, folks.)

Scientology has to answer for all the people it scared away from psychotropic meds.  Why does it fear them?  Because people with their neurotransmitters in balance won’t buy into the space opera at the heart of its tenets?  L. Ron Hubbard and I share a couple of things.  Our names scan the same, and we both wrote science fiction. (I use the past tense because he’s no longer with us and I’ve moved to other genres.)  But as a science fiction writer, I know sf when I see it, let me tell you: Only a science fiction writer could have dreamed up Scientology.

Due to the trial, the Travolta child has been in the news lately.  Something else Scientology should be ashamed of.


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  1. collapse expand

    I live only a few blocks from the enormous Scientology “Celebrity Center” in Hollywood. The people there are insane – if you happen to point to one of their buildings or signs (while standing on a PUBLIC street), their private security guards will come outside and harass you. Funny, that never happens when I walk past any other church.

  2. collapse expand

    Jack’s path in Crisscross danced through very familiar and scary territory for those of us who have been in similar religious organizations. Lucky for me I am a skeptic, much more so than my parents were. The manipulative Luther Brady received a fitting end.

    Everyone is free to and will believe whatever they want.

    However regarding SSRI’s I also question their necessity in life…it seems more that they have become a necessity to this American lifestyle. Something tells me Jack might be prescribed such pills if he was forced to domesticate his lifestyle such as his father wanted for him without Gia and Vicks being the driving factor…

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    About Me

    I was born in a happier time (when folks were celebrating the end of the Permian Extinction). I've been called the world's most skeptical man, but I doubt that. I've been writing since second grade and practicing family medicine since 1974. I've written 40 or so novels (you stop counting after a while), some of them NY Times bestsellers, most of them not. I attended Xavier high school in Manhattan and then Georgetown University, both Jesuit schools. I revere the Jebbies because they encouraged my questioning nature (and as a result I'm a devout agnostic). I lived through the birth of rock 'n' roll, the sixties, Vietnam, the Carter administration. I played in a garage band, and still noodle drums, guitar, and piano. I'm a blues hound and am currently teaching myself slide guitar (at this point, I suck, but I'm getting better). I live at the Jersey shore on an elevated tract of land I believe will gain an ocean view after the great tsunami. Oh, and for some unfathomable reason I joined Twitter and Facebook.

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