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Re: Chapter 4: The Faith Factory
I'm finding the book compulsively readable in a "just how weird can it get" fashion. Hubbard manages to top himself just when you think he couldn't possibly. Some lurid stuff in here. It's tragically ironic that Hubbard punishes his acolytes for numerous crimes, when he is a criminal himself. I mean, holy crap, it's in the previous chapter, but here's Wright's assessment of Operation Snow White on p. 123: "Nothing in American history can compare with the scale of the domestic espionage of Operation Snow White."
I don't find a lot for discussion comes up in the book until this chapter, when Wright gets to Hubbard's brilliant idea to recruit celebrities to promote Scientology's brand. Wright also discusses what people frequently say about religion, that its indoctrination amounts to brainwashing its believers, stripping them of their ability to think independently by implanting in them an alternate, paranoid worldview. Wright, however, distinguishes most religions from the totalism that scientology represents. The difference is obviously in the extremeness of the approach, but also in the purpose. For example, "confession is used to exploit vulnerabilities, rather than to provide the solace or forgiveness that therapy or religion seek to provide" (p. 143). The most famous example of thought reform comes from China in the 1960s. Today, it still exists in North Korea and arguably in a few Muslim societies.
As an example of how a movement, whether religious or not, develops in response to the facts on the ground, look at the emergence in American culture of the cult of celebrity. This was a cultural change that Hubbard shrewdly exploited just at a point when his empire might otherwise have faltered.
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