While on the subject of religion and Easter, it would be remiss not to mention Tom Cruise's lates scientological escapade, as captured faithfully in the Daily Terror, though their story's actually just a pick-up from the Daily Mail, which ran it under the header Suri Cruise to start five-days-a-week Scientology training.
Now there's a fair argument that any kind of religious teaching of young kids is a form of cruelty, a form of unusual punishment that deserves no place in the modern world, but I think it's particularly relevant to a three year old being exposed to Scientology.
I guess if Cruise can spring for the 6,000 pounds a year, where's the harm - certainly no more harm than the poor kids around the corner trapped in a scientology school which even manages to attract a bit of federal government subsidy.
But it unnerves me, to think of kids being given this kind of education. It induces a creepy feeling. We have a friend who escaped the Brethren, but you can't ever really escape, just like the Catholic church hovers like a spectre in my mind, reminding me of the long arguments I had with a Jesuit, who funnily enough converted me to agnosticism, so rigorous was he in his philosophical fair mindedness.
Because he's a celebrity, Cruise was once a poster boy for the cult, but is now perceived as more of a demonic figure, a serial family abuser, the latest victim being Katie Holmes. Katie Nicholl, author of the Mail story, is particularly appalled at Homes being forced to go through a Purification Rundown diet, apparently as a prelude for having a second child, and Cruise's domestic management practices, as laid out in the 'Scientology code':
‘Katie has to confess to something as minor as forgetting to tell him she has met with a friend,’ says a source. ‘If she commits a transgression against the moral code of their marriage, she has to tell Tom in writing, giving full details of the time and place and what happened.’
But domestic politics aside, the remarkable thing is the way Cruise's public cavortings have drawn attention to the downside of the cult, which is litigious and vengeful in the extreme. And other scientology celebrities have recently tended to keep their heads down, for fear of being caught in the wash.
What can you say about a cult, born of the mind of a second rate science fiction writer who realized his mental health therapy Dianetics would bring in so much more moola dressed up as a religion?
So he made up a whole bunch of stuff about thetans and aliens and the need to get audited into a clear state, and over the years, this guff has accreted all kinds of secondary jargon (all cults have to have their own private languages) as a way to obscure the relatively recent and sordid origins of the faith.
Some cynic once remarked that the major difference between the Catholic and other Christian churches, and Scientology, was only a couple of thousand years. After all, a cult's a cult, however you dress it, and Scientology is such a wonderful religion, it claims no conflict with every other religion on earth. Neat trick.
Meantime, the rampant rise of the cult shows just how a group of energetic people can organize themselves, get tax-exempt status as a religion, and carry on a lucrative business - with the de facto admission by many governments that there's not much you can do to stop people on a delusionary quest, especially if they've got good lawyers.
One thing that's tended to disappear these days is disparaging references to the hypnotic basis for much of Scientology's induction techniques. Hubbard himself was apparently a good hypnotist, and when the church was banned in Australia in the sixties, it was on the basis that the techniques involved hypnosis, and in particular forms which involved 'positive authoritative control' over patients.
There's a more than half way decent article on the cult in Wikipedia, which surprisingly manages to get across most of the salient points about the business (and hasn't been taken down or attacked) - see Scientology - but if you look hard enough, you can dig up a lot more dirt on the hypnotic component.
From the little I've seen of scientology's base level of interactions, a form of hypnosis is involved. I've experimented with hypnosis enough to know it when I see it, and when applied to yourself by yourself in the quietness of your home, there's little harm to be done, and if you know what you're doing, the benefit of a kind of fast track form of meditation.
But in the hands of unscrupulous operators, it can be a powerful manipulative force. Especially if you can distinguish between the stereotypes of show biz stage hypnotists, and the more practical effects of its application (and we're not just talking NLP here).
Of course the intertubes is full of cranks, crackpots, the official versions, and the unofficial slagging off of scientology, but next time you get approached in the street with an offer to attain scientological enlightenment, remember there's a sucker born every minute, and while you might not end up in Jones Town, you might not end up cured, and you will certainly end up a lot lighter in the pocket.
Tom Glaister at ConsumerAffairs.com summed it all up neatly in Scientology Cruises Along, Thanks to Command Hypnosis: The Best Way to Make a Million? Start Your Own Religion.
He also helpfully reveals the secret you will be ultimately striving for as you seek to get clear:
L. Ron Hubbard had discovered that around 75 million years ago, the evil ruler of a Galactic Confederacy, called Zenu, brought billions of dissidents to Earth and blew them up in volcanoes. Then he captured their "Thetans" (roughly equivalent to souls) and sat them in front of a 3D cinema in Hawaii and the Canary Islands.
There he brainwashed them with all the images of God, the Devil and all kinds of religions. The souls then took refuge in the bodies of the few survivors and this is why all humans apart from Scientologists (who have "cleared" themselves through auditing) are such a messed-up bunch today.
Hubbard goes on to describe other events of this grand "space opera," including several events that happened several trillion years before most scientists believe the universe came into being.
Did I mention earlier that Hubbard was a prolific science fiction writer?
So how could anyone in their right mind come to believe any of this? If someone approached you in the street and asked if you wanted to be freed of trauma instilled by aliens millions of years ago you'd take them for a lunatic.
But of course, they don't do that -- they invite you to take a personality test instead. Then they slowly, slowly win your confidence and release the information one step at a time, using hypnotic techniques that give you a feeling of elation and thus confirm the whole process.
Come to think of it, it's not such a bad riff. Where's the harm? Now look into my eyes, look into my eyes, the eyes, the eyes, not around the eyes, don't look around the eyes, look into my eyes. (Finger click). You're under.
Thanks to Kenny Craig for that, and now there's just one more thing - send thousands in unmarked bills to me care of this blog, within seven days, without fail. You'll feel so much happier, so much clearer, so much lighter. Now look into my funny hypnotically coloured cat eyes again, that's right, stare, stare, until your eyes start to feel heavy, must lighten your wallet, must fight thetans: