Robert F. Kennedy wrote: “What is objectionable, what is dangerous about extremists is not that they are extreme, but that they are intolerant. The evil is not what they say about their cause, but what they say about their opponents.”
The evil acts that many people associate with religion are in fact the work of religious extremists, not the work of mainline or moderate religious people. Whether we are talking about the Spanish Inquisition or 9/11, it is the extremists who insist that the end justifies the means, and that end includes the destruction of those who do not believe as they do.
There is nothing wrong with religious faith. There is nothing wrong with holding strongly to one’s beliefs. There is nothing wrong with having the conviction that one is on the right spiritual path.
But most people exercise a degree of tolerance. They recognize that others may not believe as they do. And they exercise some tolerance of other faiths and beliefs, recognizing that there are many paths to wisdom or enlightenment and “to each his own.”
As one moves toward the extremist end of the spectrum, one starts to treat “nonbelievers” with increasing attitudes of condescension (they are misinformed), to arrogance (they are stupid), to hatred (they are evil) to violence (they must be destroyed).
What does all this have to do with Scientology? Everything.
When I first became a Scientologist, more than 30 years ago, I don’t recall an atmosphere of extremism or fanaticism in the orgs. Maybe it was the times, the late 1960s and early 70s, but it seemed people were pretty easygoing. Many of my friends became Scientologists, many did not. But we all remained friends. Some of my family members got into Scientology, some didn’t. But we all stayed close.
We were enthusiastic, sure. And we disseminated to them, sure. But we didn’t judge people or condemn people or put them down because they weren’t Scientologists. Or because they tried Scientology and left – my best friend in high school tried Scientology for a year, decided it wasn’t for him, and left. But we’ve stayed friends.
And, incidentally, dissemination was at a high roar and orgs were packed.
But over the years, that shifted. In more recent times, I began to see Scientologists more and more isolated from any friends and family who were not Scientologists. They began to speak only to each other, to work in Scientology offices, to mix socially only with other Scientologists, to only read or view those things which would reinforce their beliefs. Razzline anyone?
Today’s Church of Scientology certainly encourages that trend. There are websites a Scientologist can read, and those they cannot. There are certain people who can be on one’s Facebook page, and those who cannot. And anyone who questions Church leadership is an enemy – to be destroyed.
And orgs are empty. Maybe extremism is unpopular.
American researcher Laird Wilcox, who specializes in the study of political fringe movements (both right and left), compiled an interesting list of 21 alleged traits of a “political extremist.” I found a few of these to be interesting:
Character Assassination: “Extremists often attack the character of an opponent rather than deal with the facts or issues raised. They will question motives, qualifications, past associations, alleged values, personality, looks, mental health, and so on as a diversion from the issues under consideration.”
Name Calling and Labeling: “Extremists are quick to resort to epithets (racist, subversive, pervert, hate monger, nut, crackpot, degenerate, un-American, anti-semite, red, commie, nazi, kook, fink, liar, bigot, and so on) to label and condemn opponents in order to divert attention from their arguments and to discourage others from hearing them out.”
Tendency to View their Opponents and Critics as Essentially Evil: “To the extremist, opponents hold opposing positions because they are bad people, immoral, dishonest, unscrupulous, mean-spirited, hateful, cruel, or whatever, not merely because they simply disagree, see the matter differently, have competing interests, or are perhaps even mistaken.”
Tendency Toward Argument by Intimidation: “Extremists tend to frame their arguments in such a way as to intimidate others into accepting their premises and conclusions. To disagree with them is to ‘ally oneself with the devil,’ or to give aid and comfort to the enemy. They use a lot of moralizing and pontificating, and tend to be very judgmental. This shrill, harsh rhetorical style allows them to keep their opponents and critics on the defensive, cuts off troublesome lines of argument, and allows them to define the perimeters of debate.”
Assumption of Moral or Other Superiority Over Others: “Most obvious would be claims of general racial or ethnic superiority–a master race, for example. Less obvious are claims of ennoblement because of alleged victimhood, a special relationship with God, membership in a special ‘elite’ or ‘class,’ and a kind of aloof ‘highminded’ snobbishness that accrues because of the weightiness of their preoccupations, their altruism, and their willingness to sacrifice themselves (and others) to their cause. After all, who can bear to deal with common people when one is trying to save the world! Extremists can show great indignation when one is ‘insensitive’ enough to challenge these claims.”
Belief that It is Okay to Do Bad Things in the Service of a “Good” Cause: “Extremists may deliberately lie, distort, misquote, slander, defame, or libel their opponents and/or critics, engage in censorship or repression , or undertake violence in ‘special cases.’ This is done with little or no remorse as long as it’s in the service of defeating the Communists or Fascists or whomever. Defeating an ‘enemy’ becomes an all-encompassing goal to which other values are subordinate. With extremists, the end justifies the means.”
Inclination Towards “Group Think”: Extremists “talk only with one another, read material that reflects their own views, and can be almost phobic about the ‘propaganda’ of the ‘other side.’ The result is a deterioration of reality-testing, rationality, and moral judgment. With groupthink, shared illusions of righteousness, superior morality, persecution, and so on remain intact, and those who challenge them are viewed with skepticism and hostility.”
Any of this sound like the attitudes of the current Church of Scientology?
These tactics have nothing to do with the basic principles of Scientology – such things as the granting of beingness, ARC, “gaining support by creative enthusiasm and vitality backed by reason” and “search for different viewpoints in order to broaden reality” (Chart of Human Evaluation).
So when someone tries these tactics on you, recognize what you are looking at.