A handsome man in a suit. Black hair, killer blue eyes.
John Travolta. Tom Cruise.
These are the images that came to mind when I thought of Scientology.
This summer, I learned my perception of this group was entirely wrong.
My boyfriend and I were in LA for the first time. On our way back to the car from the Chinese Theater, I saw a building that read “Scientology” down the side.
We were all about taking on new, peculiar experiences together. So naturally, we went inside.
Never could we have predicted the odd series of events that unraveled next.
The moment we entered, a young blonde woman at the front desk greeted us.
Immediately, she asked if we were interested in taking the Scientology personality test (more formally known as the Oxford Capacity Analysis).
Together, we laughed and thought, “Sure. What’s the worst that could happen?”
We followed her down the hall of the brightly-lit, sleek building, toward the “testing area.”
Mid-walk, she cut off her friendly small talk and said she had to ask us a question before we continued:
If we could change one thing about ourselves, what would it be?
Neither of us expected such a heavy question. It was one that, coincidentally, came just a day or two after our argument about how our personality traits didn’t seem to be “clicking” anymore.
We laughed nervously. Sh*t just got real.
I told her I wanted to become a better long-term planner. My boyfriend said he’d like to be more empathetic.
Seeming strangely satisfied by our answers, she smiled and continued our trek down the hall.
The test had 200 questions, ranging from the innocuous, “Do you enjoy being outside?” to the uncomfortably specific, “Do you get occasional twitches of your muscle when there is no logical explanation for it?”
We rated each question with a “+” (highly agree), an “M” (somewhat agree) or a “–" (highly disagree).
An IQ and aptitude test followed.
After our scores were processed, we were separated and sat down, one-on-one, with a Scientologist to analyze our results.
Let’s call my Scientologist “Tim.”
“How much do you know about Scientology?” Tim asked me.
I told him not much, but I know Travolta was a big fan. He stared, unappreciative of my attempt at humor.
Tim then pulled out a graph labeled with a series of characteristics, such as “activeness,” “communication,” “happiness,” “trust,” etc. Confused, I glanced at the chart.
“Your life is falling apart,” Tim told me.
What the f*ck?
Tim then proceeded to spend the next 30 minutes tearing my confidence to shreds.
He informed me that with the exception of the areas of communication and activeness, I was dangerously low on all levels of the graph.
Tim told me I was a “selfish individual who only trusts a handful of people.”
I am one of the most “judgmental and pessimistic people he has ever come across.” I am “dangerously depressed."
To top it all off, Tim told me I am reckless and give “no thought toward the future.”
I told him I wasn’t sure about the validity of the results. He assured me “the test works.”
You can’t argue with science.
He continued to analyze me with a high sense of certainty.
“This is bad,” he would note.
“Well, at least you’ve got this going for you.”
Tim explained the test assessed me in three sections: how I view myself, how I view others and how I view life.
According to Tim, I view these areas poorly, poorly and poorly.
“We’re in the business of raising graphs,” he told me. “You need our help.”
He then went on to tell me there was no way I could have reached such “dangerously low” levels on my chart without having experienced something absolutely, unimaginably, indescribably traumatizing during my childhood.
He asked if I had been raped. I said no.
He asked if I had a parent or sibling die. I said no.
He asked if I had been verbally or sexually abused, experienced a horrible accident or suffered from PTSD. I said no, no and no.
My childhood was perfectly normal.
Tim didn’t buy it. He continued to push.
"Tell me what happened to you," he told me. "Stop lying right now."
In an attempt to make him shut up, I finally told him about my family’s eviction three years earlier. It got quiet.
I waited for his response.
“That’s it? No, that’s not enough to make you this way.”
That’s when I got pissed. I told him this test was bullsh*t. I told him he knows nothing about me and can’t judge my personality based off 200 ridiculous questions.
Tim didn’t like that.
He told me I was the most irritable person he had ever worked with, and he pities me for being unable to recognize the “scientific validity” of his test.
So I got up and left.
Now, I’m not sure if that’s how the typical Scientology evaluation is supposed to go, but that’s how it happened for me.
Afterward, my boyfriend and I filled each other in on our experiences.
It turns out they told him he is a “cold-hearted genius” who is brilliant intellectually, but emotionally lacks the ability to connect with others.
Hmm. Now where have I heard that one before?
My boyfriend’s Scientologist insisted it was time for him to begin his journey to enlightenment. He needed to attend his first Scientology workshop that very night.
We left with our handful of Scientology pamphlets, went to the Griffith Observatory and crashed at a friend’s house.
We watched the HBO documentary on Scientology, “Going Clear.”
It would take me thousands more words to explain just how ridiculous and cultish this organization is, so to give you a summary, here’s a list of 10 things you actually should know about Scientology:
1. Scientology’s founder was a science fiction writer.
The foundational texts of Scientology and the church’s creation story involve aliens.
The church denies it believes in aliens, however.
2. The founder of Scientology once told his wife he murdered their child.
Hubbard is an extremely controversial figure, particularly for exhibiting paranoid and abusive tendencies, which the church seems to have adopted as well.
Apparently, when his second wife threatened to leave him, he kidnapped their daughter.
He then called his wife and claimed he’d butchered the girl, but later called back and admitted she was still alive.
3. Members are forced to talk about their sex lives.
Scientologists have to go through a process known as auditing, in which the church asks them extremely personal questions about their lives.
This seems to be a form of blackmail, as the church keeps detailed records of the proceedings, and the questions often pertain to people’s sex lives.
If members ever want to leave the church, it can threaten to reveal this information.
4. Scientologists believe mental illnesses do not exist.
Hubbard believed psychiatrists were evil and even characterized them as terrorists.
Scientologists do not believe in psychology and are vehemently against using psychiatric medication.
5. There was apparently a “Scientology prison camp.”
Previous members of the church have described what seems to be a Scientology “prison camp,” where disobedient members were sent for “re-indoctrination.”
At the camp, known as the Rehabilitation Project Force, people were forced to eat meager meals and do hard labor.
6. Many celebrities have dabbled with Scientology.
In order to increase its power and status, Scientology actively seeks out celebrity members.
Some of the more famous ones are Tom Cruise and John Travolta, but many celebrities have also left the church for various reasons.
7. The FBI investigated Scientology for human trafficking.
The church has been accused of enslaving members, the Telegraph reports.
Indeed, there have often been allegations that it’s nearly impossible to leave the church once you join.
There have also been reports of violence from church officials, all of which prompted the FBI to investigate the ways in which members might be controlled and coerced into staying.
8. Scientologists are constantly preparing for the apocalypse.
Scientology is hardly the first religion to reference the apocalypse, but not every faith is building secret bunkers in the woods in preparation for it.
These bunkers include nuclear-proof shelters and massive vaults with footage of Hubbard.
9. The church tried to censor Wikipedia.
Wikipedia has banned any organization affiliated with Scientology from editing its articles. The church has been accused of repeatedly attempting to remove information from it.
This should come as no surprise, considering Scientology has a very antagonistic and repressive relationship with the media and Internet.
10. The church spied on Nicole Kidman at Tom Cruise’s request.
Nicole Kidman’s father was a psychologist (a profession the church isn’t too fond of), so they reportedly began spying on her.
At one point, the church supposedly wire-taped Kidman’s phone.
All of this ultimately helped lead to Cruise and Kidman’s divorce.
If that list wasn’t enough to give you an idea of how crazy this cult is, here are 25 more Scientology facts.
Hell, take another 74.
All in all, despite the irritating experience I had with Tim, I’m glad we went and took those personality quizzes.
It taught me no matter how tough life gets, and no matter how much I feel a need for some spiritual guidance, one thing is certain: Never become a Scientologist.