I’m not particularly interested in using this website as a platform for advocating for a particular religious view. My metaphysical beliefs are my own, and I’ll debate them in an appropriate forum.
That being said, a website dedicated to examining the odd things in Oklahoma, especially in areas like politics, is going to run afoul of some deeply held religious beliefs inevitably. Some examples of religion intersecting the odd that this site has already covered are the poor spelling on the Ten Commandments monument at the state capitol, Judge Bill Graves’ mean-spirited use of his religious views to do harm to others throughout his political history, and anti-science advocates building monuments to ignorance in Woodward.
That last example shows that it isn’t just the weird intersection of politics and religion that this website will skewer when it comes up. When religious beliefs cross the line from motivating party affiliation and conservative or liberal social values, and move into the realm of advocating for humorous, empirically discredited, or downright harmful beliefs, open season will be declared. Neither liberals or conservatives will be safe. Trust me. If the next Deepak Chopra surfaces in the Oklahoma state limits, he’ll ribbed every bit as hard as Sally Kern. Fair is fair.
Case in point, this post and the next two will be dealing with Scientology and its presence in Oklahoma.
At this point, most readers are thinking one of two things. If they haven’t spent a lot of time on the backwaters of the internet or in California, they might be asking, “Odd Oklahoma, what the heck is Scientology?” We’ll answer that.
The second question that many readers will be asking if they already know a little bit about the religion is, “Odd Oklahoma, what the heck does Scientology have to do with Oklahoma? That religion is centered in California, and to a lesser extent Florida.” We’ll answer that as well.
Don’t let the name fool you, Scientology is a religion, and it is not based on the faithful adoption of the findings of science, as its name would imply. In fact, Scientology is a classic misnomer. It is also important not to confuse Scientology with Christian Science or Religious Science. Those are their own distinct religious traditions that share no background with Scientology.
The faith was founded by science fiction writer L. Ron Hubbard in 1952 as a successor to his self-help book Dianetics.
The up front beliefs presented by the church is that we are immortal persons who are plagued by these restless spirits called thetans. These thetans attach to our soul and are the cause of all human misery. The church teaches that by following its tenets and methods, a person can become what it calls “clear”, meaning free of thetans and their negative influence.
The church is structured differently than any church most people would be familiar with. People must pay for all of the services the church provides, and like many cults, members are given access to privileged secrets as they reach new ranks in the religious process.
For example, the church’s origin story for Earth and how thetans came to inhabit our planet isn’t told until members reach a fairly high level and have a lot of financial and personal investment. Ex-members have leaked this story to the broader public, and it has become rather notorious online. It has even been mocked on shows like South Park.
Scientology may have some odd beliefs, but that alone wouldn’t make it worthy of ire. The unethical practices of the church leadership over the years has been heavily documented. So has its doctrine of declaring former members of the church, or church critics, as suppressive persons (SPs) and targeting them for harassment and litigation. The Church of Scientology is notoriously litigious.
Members of the church are also encouraged to shun contact with anyone labeled an SP, even if they are lifelong friends or members of their family. This doctrine has led to a huge number of broken families and relationships over the years.
While all of this is terrible and should make the church a social pariah, the unethical practices of the church are only tangentially related to this series of posts.
It is the church’s belief that it is a superior alternative to mainstream mental health services where Oklahoma comes into play.
Scientology from the beginning has been criticised by mainstream health professionals as unscientific (hence the misnomer accusation above) and not supported by the evidence. Shortly after publishing Dianetics, L. Ron Hubbard began accusing psychiatry of being a conspiracy and a scam. This practice by the church continues today. In fact, the Church of Scientology runs a museum it calls Psychiatry: An Industry of Death, accusing the industry of being malicious. The church rejects both the mental illness paradigm and the use of drugs to treat psychiatric disorders.
One area where the church has set up an alternative approach to treating mental illness is in dealing with addiction. This is where Narconon comes into the picture. Not to be confused with Narcotics Anonymous, which is similar to the Alcoholics Anonymous program, Narconon is a scientology front group that purports to be able to effectively treat addiction to narcotics without use of mainstream methods. Instead, Narconon relies on L. Ron Hubbard’s writings, which claim that drugs are stored in our fat tissues. As the fat tissue is broken down, the drugs are released back into the system. Narconon claims that the drugs can be flushed using massive doses of vitamins, exercise and saunas. This is not supported by empirical evidence.
The largest Narconon facility in the world is located at Lake Eufaula in Oklahoma.
Part two of this series will focus on the history of Narconon in Oklahoma, starting in 1990 and up until today.
Part three will focus on what goes on inside the facility, including statements by former employees.