Once upon a time, 75 million years ago, an intergalactic overlord named Xenu decided to rid his empire of some of its more undesirable individuals—that is to say, aliens. Instead of just shooting them and dumping them in mass alien graves like some less-imaginative dictators might, Xenu ferried billions of these individuals to Earth, where he put them in volcanoes and killed the aliens by dropping nuclear bombs on them. The souls, or “thetans” of these aliens were then captured by Xenu and forced to watch a really long 3-D movie, which brainwashed the thetans into believing false things, like the legitimacy of Christianity and Islam. Human beings exist as the reincarnation of these immortal and tormented thetans.
In case you’re wondering, I am not in the peak of an acid trip. Rather, these are some of the core beliefs of the Church of Scientology. Tom Cruise actually believes this stuff.
Scene of the alien genocide carried out by Xenu, the interplanetary Hitler.
Scientology is the runaway winner for Most Transparently Fraudulent Religion in History. Of course, from this heretic’s perspective, all religious are at bottom equally absurd more or less. But even still, the histories of most the world’s major religions are long, giving them an undue appearance of plausibility. Scientology has no such history. It was founded in 1952, making it younger than Steven Seagal.
The church was founded by science fiction writer and shameless huckster L. Ron Hubbard, who charged exorbitant amounts of money so people could have the privilege of being indoctrinated with his bunkum. Hubbard even reportedly told another science fiction writer, “I’m going to invent a religion that's going to make me a fortune. I'm tired of writing for a penny a word.”
Boy did he ever. By the time Hubbard died in 1986, his net worth was north of $600 million, which bought Hubbard this estate:
"Meh." - Mitt Romney
One of the key concepts in Scientology is auditing, whereby a person hooks up to an E-Meter and is asked a series of questions by a trained Scientology auditor. The E-Meter supposedly determines whether a person has been freed of past experiences that could impede one’s spiritual development.
The E-Meter is so effective, it can detect things that aren't even there.
Like other people of faith, Scientologists don't like it when their insane religion is criticized. Scientologists are instructed to handle crticism by interrogating the person offering it. Scientologists think their religion is so super, that anyone who criticizes it must be hiding some dark secrets. "What are your crimes?" is a frequent refrain, as seen here in this creepy video:
For some reason, many celebrities have found Scientology to be not a weird thing at all. Arguably the most famous Scientologist is Tom Cruise, who is about to endure a very expensive divorce with Katie Holmes, who said she didn't want her daughter to be subjected to auditing.
"I'm in love with crazy things! I'm in love with crazy things!"
John Travolta is a Scientologist, which tragically led to the production of Battlefield Earth, based on the novel by L. Ron Hubbard:
Battlefield Earth was so bad, it didn't even reach it's-so-bad-it's-good status.
Scientologists are also notorious litigious, always prepared to take legal action against those who smear the religion and its profiteering prophet. Time magazine was once sued for $400 million by the church for having published a story on Scientology, which cost the publication some $7 million to defend successfully in court.
Time's priciest cover ever.
Whether the Church of Scientology will continue on as a viable religion for years to come, or fade into obscurity and become a freakish footnote of history remains to be seen. One thing is clear, Scientology, like all religions, is crazy. And maybe even a little crazier.