Because of the press concerning HBO’s upcoming documentary Going Clear: Scientology and the Prison of Belief, I have been reading about Scientology the last two days. Some of the things that believers of Scientology believe in are mind boggling. The central story of the religion seems like a bad science fiction story. It is like if someone wrote a science fiction film with a mythology and plot so far fetched and incoherent that it was impossible to follow. I was just reading about Xenu. Xenu was the dictator of something called the Galatic Confederacy and the one who brought his people to earth millions of years ago. The story of Xenu, and it just gets more ridiculous and confounding from there, is important to the creation myth of Scientology.
I mean anyone who reads about Xenu who isn’t already a Scientology believer is probably going, “What the fuck?!!!” However, if you think about most other religions, they too have stories that defy common sense. But why is it that many other religions seem more respectable than Scientology?
I think it is because those other religions are much older. There is nothing like an ancient artifact or a strange stone temple to make something appear more mysterious and outside the realm of human understanding. Even if they are things that were made by human hands, they seem otherworldly. A parchment in a dead language with strange symbols seems like a clue to a much bigger mystery, even if all it really is is a piece of paper a priest in the olden days wrote down a bunch of mumbo jumbo on after tripping on mushrooms. A tomb from 2,000 years ago seems a lot more mystical than some shiny new gravestones that one of your neighbors has to weed whack around, even if it is inherently the same thing. These old sites and items seem spooky and enchanted because they come from an ancient world that we can’t completely comprehend. We therefore allow our imagination to infuse the stories surrounding these things with a weight and a mysticism that isn’t really based in reality anymore than the story of Xenu.
So in thinking about all this today, I came up with a simple equation:
Made-up stories + time = religion