All of them, those in power, and those who want the power, would pamper us, if we agreed to overlook their crookedness by wilfully restricting our activities.
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[caption, "Mysterious Faiths: Secrets of Scientology" in off-white lettering on red and dark brown background]
KATIE COURIC: This morning on day three of our series, Mysterious Faiths, we are uncovering the secrets of Scientology. It's a religion based on the teachings of a deceased science fiction writer and it counts some of Hollywood's biggest celebrities among its most ardent followers. But the public support has done little to stop the question about Scientology's origins, beliefs and practices. Here is NBC's Peter Alexander.
[footage of Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes out in public]
PETER ALEXANDER, VOICEOVER: Tom Cruise's biggest starring role this summer may not have been in the movie "War of the Worlds" but as Scientology's most public spokesman.
[Tom Cruise and Matt Lauer on previous Today Show interview from June 24, 2005]
PETER ALEXANDER, VOICEOVER: Particularly after this controversial debate about psychiatry on The Today Show.
TOM CRUISE: You don't know the history of psychiatry. I do.
[more footage of Tom and Katie in public, footage of John Travolta, Kelly Preston, Kirstie Alley and Lisa Marie Presley]
PETER ALEXANDER, VOICEOVER: Scientology's media exposure is fueled by star power: John Travolta, wife Kelly Preston, Kirstie Alley and Lisa Marie Presley are all among its celebrities.
[footage of Scientologist Edith Reuveni]
PETER ALEXANDER, VOICEOVER: But most Scientologists are not famous. Take Edith Reuveni, a 28-year member of the church.
EDITH REUVENI (caption, "Edith Reuveni, Scientologist"): It gives you a better understanding of who you are, where you came from, how to do things and how to live a better life.
[caption, "Is Scientology a Religion?" in off-white lettering on red and dark brown background; footage of Celebrity Centre in Los Angeles, "Internal Revenue Service Building" in white lettering]
PETER ALEXANDER, VOICEOVER: But is it a true religion? In one sense, yes. The IRS gave the church tax-exempt religious status after years of lawsuits.
[Scientology video showing people studying]
PETER ALEXANDER, VOICEOVER: But its detractors say that its pricey methods of training, seen on this church video, are more about mind control and making money than spirituality.
[caption, "Who Founded Scientology?" in off-white lettering on red and dark brown background; Scientology org, L. Ron Hubbard; "Dianetics" and other Scientology book covers]
PETER ALEXANDER, VOICEOVER: So who founded Scientology? The church was the brainchild of a one-time fiction writer L. Ron Hubbard, who died in 1986. His 1950 self-help book "Dianetics" is the basis for much of the church's teachings, including its ban on psychiatry and drugs.
[footage of LRH, caption, "What Is Scientology's Goal?" in off-white lettering on red and dark brown background]
PETER ALEXANDER, VOICEOVER: From a 1966 interview provided by the church, Hubbard addresses the question, "What is Scientology's ultimate goal?".
L. RON HUBBARD (caption, "L. Ron Hubbard, Church of Scientology"): The finite state known as Clear. And that means that the individual has erased what the Freudian has said was his basic illness which is his reactive mind. His unconscious mind is gone and he is totally alert and totally capable.
PETER ALEXANDER, ON CAMERA (caption, "Peter Alexander, NBC News": The idea Scientologists say is to cleanse the spirit, known as the thetan, of its past psychological traumas, to reach what they call a state of Clear.
[footage of Scientologist Edith Reuveni]
PETER ALEXANDER, VOICEOVER: After 28 years, Edith Reuveni says she has reached the mysterious level called Operating Thetan VII. She bristles at critics.
EDITH REUVENI: I can guarantee you that they have not walked into one of our churches and found out for themselves.
PETER ALEXANDER, VOICEOVER: For "Today", Peter Alexander, NBC News, Los Angeles.
[Michael Rinder in studio]
KATIE COURIC: Michael Rinder is a member of the Board of Directors for the Church of Scientology International. Mr. Rinder, good morning, thanks for being here.
MICHAEL RINDER: Good morning, Katie.
KATIE COURIC: How many Scientologists are there worldwide? Do you have any kind of figure on that?
MICHAEL RINDER: Well, yeah, there's about 10 million around the world spread among 156 countries with churches, missions and groups now totaling about 4200 internationally.
KATIE COURIC: When people say to you, "Explain Scientology, sort of in a nutshell", how do you do it? Because I'm not sure I still understand sort of the basic tenets of the religion.
MICHAEL RINDER: Okay, well, obviously it's a big subject.
KATIE COURIC: Right.
MICHAEL RINDER: The first principle or the first thing is probably what the word itself means, which "Scio" meaning "Knowledge", "-ology" meaning "study of", the study of knowledge. Scientology is a way of finding self or self-realization, finding the answers to life, the answers to spiritual awareness, and it contains practical tools and solutions to everyday living as well as those big questions of, "Who am I?", "Where do we come from?", "What are we doing here?" and "What happens when we die?"
KATIE COURIC: And that--what does happen when you die if you're a Scientologist?
MICHAEL RINDER: Well, we believe that man is a spiritual being. That's a fundamental principle of Scientology is that man is a spiritual being, he has a body, he uses a mind to direct the activities of his body, that he has lived many lifetimes and is an eternal spirit. And the object of Scientology is to attain a full understanding of oneself, a realization of one's innate spiritual nature.
KATIE COURIC: And that's thetan or whatever?
MICHAEL RINDER: That's--in Scientology, the individual, the spiritual being is called a thetan. It is literally just a word that is used to differentiate it from other terms such as "soul" because it has a slightly different meaning in Scientology.
KATIE COURIC: So it's sort of to reach self-actualization in the most sort of complete way?
MICHAEL RINDER: That's exactly right.
KATIE COURIC: Let me--do you, do Scientologists believe in God?
MICHAEL RINDER: Absolutely.
KATIE COURIC: Do they worship God in the traditional way as a higher power or is the highest power the self?
MICHAEL RINDER: No, I'll just--I'll try and explain this. Scientologists have a very fundamental belief in God. There are eight divisions or compartments of life, eight urges towards survival. Those urges range from number one which is the urge towards existence as the individual, yourself. Then procreation and family, then group, then mankind, then all living things, then all things of the material universe, then spirituality and then ultimately the Supreme Being or Creator. And when one has reached an understanding across all of those dynamics up through seven, then one comes to a full understanding of the Creator or God.
[footage of LRH]
KATIE COURIC: I know that according to my research, L. Ron Hubbard, the father of Scientology, claimed that humans are immortal spiritual beings composed of body, mind and spirit. But he also claimed that 75 million years ago, an evil galactic ruler named Xenu killed billions of his people by sending them to Earth in space planes. You can understand why some people might feel this is, at best, pretty unconventional and I guess at worst just plain out there. Right?
MICHAEL RINDER: I can understand that certainly, Katie. That just has no, no basis in reality. This is one of those things that get spread around one of those old stories that--
KATIE COURIC: So he never--
MICHAEL RINDER: --is run around--
KATIE COURIC: He never wrote about that?
MICHAEL RINDER: No. Not--not in those terms. There is an alteration and twisting of things; and the real point about Scientology is that you can find out what Scientology is by going into any church, by reading any one of these books, getting them. We try and make them as available as possible so that people can see what Scientology is. You won't find anything like that in any of these materials at all.
KATIE COURIC: Let me ask you about the Celebrity Centres. Why do you have centers specifically catering to celebrities rather than non-celebrities.
[footage of Celebrity Centre in Los Angeles and LA Main Org]
MICHAEL RINDER: Because there is a big community of artists, particularly in Los Angeles, who are Scientologists. There are many Churches of Scientology in the Los Angeles area.
KATIE COURIC: Are they treated differently than non-celebrities in any way?
MICHAEL RINDER: No, no. They're Scientologists just like anybody else and they find in Scientology the same thing that other people find in Scientology.
[more footage of Tom and Katie in public]
KATIE COURIC: Let me ask you more about the controversy. Obviously Tom Cruise was on this program this summer, I'm sure you're well aware of that. And during the interview he, he was very passionate about psychiatry and the fact that there is really no proof of chemical brain imbalance, that he doesn't think antidepressants should be used. He doesn't believe in psychiatry in general. What's the basis for all that anti-psychiatric beliefs that are inherent in the Church of Scientology?
MICHAEL RINDER: Well, the basis for it--it's not a belief, Katie. It's the fact that the practices that are used by psychiatrists damage people, they harm them and--
KATIE COURIC: What about all the people, I mean, that they help? Obviously, um, I think the medical community would say there are a lot of people who are helped. Even if you accept the possibility that prescription drugs are overprescribed or that there are--there's not enough therapy, don't you think that there are many, many cases where it can be very helpful to people?
MICHAEL RINDER: I think that people don't understand what the side effects of these drugs are. They don't understand that psychiatrists do not have an understanding of what is the cause of the, quote, illnesses that they're treating. They invent these diseases literally by sitting around and voting on them so that then a new drug can be developed in order to address the disease. Those side effects can be extremely damaging: Suicide, violence. The FDA has issued--since that interview with Tom Cruise, whenever that was, some time earlier this year--
KATIE COURIC: This summer.
MICHAEL RINDER: There has been a number of FDA warnings that have been issued saying that these drugs are suicidal. There was a study that came out--the very drug that Brooke Shields was on, Paxil, a study came out and said that people who are taking Paxil are seven times more likely to commit suicide as someone who takes a placebo.
KATIE COURIC: Are you pleased that Tom Cruise has become such an outspoken spokesperson for the church?
MICHAEL RINDER: Pleased--I think it brings a lot of attention to Scientology. I think a lot more people then want to find out what Scientology is. We try and make as much information as we can available. It raises the interest level. People come into the churches, they get books, they find out for themselves. Because actually a fundamental principle of Scientology is you find out for yourself and what you find and find to be true is what you take out of Scientology.
KATIE COURIC: And why has the church been so litigious when articles have been written or pieces have been done that either criticize the tactics or the approaches? Because it is well known that the Church of Scientology uses very aggressive litigation when the practices are being examined in a journalistic way.
MICHAEL RINDER: Well, Katie, that's just--that really is just not true. There is one case that existed in the United States with respect to that, relating to the Time magazine article back--
KATIE COURIC: Right--
MICHAEL RINDER: --in 1991
KATIE COURIC: I remember that--
MICHAEL RINDER: --or something like that. That--that case is the only one that I am aware of with respect to the media. The other litigation that the church has been engaged in--and right now there is no litigation in the United States whatsoever. There are no legal cases at all. What--what cases were people were suing the church seeking to get money from the church. It just isn't the case.
KATIE COURIC: Well, it's interesting and we appreciate at least the beginning of this, we didn't get a chance to talk about this meter that raises your negativity or it measures your negativity and audits you--
[camera shows closeup of an e-meter]
MICHAEL RINDER: What that meter actually measures is areas of stress or upset and it literally indicates where there is an area of stress or upset in a person so that that can then be addressed. That's all it does.
KATIE COURIC: All right. Well, Michael Rinder, again thanks so much for coming by this morning. We could probably have a three-hour interview about this--
MICHAEL RINDER: (laughs) I'm sure we could!
KATIE COURIC: Maybe we could do it another time.
MICHAEL RINDER: Okay.
KATIE COURIC: Thank you.