Why Is It So Hard to Give Up Scientology?

One of the continuing mysteries about Scientology is the dogged persistence of some Scientologists, both inside and outside of the Church of Scientology, in their devotion to L. Ron Hubbard and to Scientology’s technology despite its almost complete lack of success.

It is no secret that there are no Scientology OTs.  Even Scientologists are aware of this, though they prefer not to think of it at all.

It is no secret that today’s “Clear” does not match Hubbard’s definition of Clear from Dianetics: The Modern Science of Mental Health.  Unlike Hubbard’s original definition, today’s “Clear” doesn’t have any more powers or abilities than non-Scientologists (“wogs”).

And every Scientologist who has completed one of the Grades is very well aware that they do not have the promised Abilities Gained for their Grades as explicitly promised on Scientology’s Grade Chart.

Yet, some Scientologists doggedly maintain that “Scientology works!” despite its consistent lack of results and failed promises.

Why is that?

There are, in my opinion, a number of reasons.  While individual reasons undoubtedly differ, I believe one or more of the following justifications is the primary reason they simply cannot let go.

  • Investment.  This can be a factor.  Scientologists may invest hundreds of thousands of dollars and many years of their lives to Scientology.  They may have sacrificed their family, their job, their property and their friends in support of Scientology.  For some, it is extremely difficult to admit that they wasted so much on a scam.  This leads us to:
  • Reputation.  A number of people have made a big deal about how wonderful Scientology was and how very, very superior they are because they are a Scientologist.  Think of Tom Cruise as a good example of this.  As a result, they cannot confront the massive embarrassment if they had to admit they were wrong.  (It does not appear that Cruise has woken up yet, but this factor might deter him from saying anything when he does.)
  • OT.  Yes, despite the fact that none of Scientology’s OT Levels have ever produced a person with any “super powers”, some Scientologists still believe that some day, somehow, some Scientology technique will produce a “true OT” and they want to be there when it happens.  Sixty years of failure hasn’t convinced them that this isn’t going to happen.
  • Having all the answers.  In my mind, this is one of the biggest reasons some Scientologists stick with Scientology despite everything.  Those inside of Scientology have all the answers.  In their minds, this statement isn’t hyperbole, it is the bare truth.  According to Scientology they literally have the answers to everything: illness, insanity, war, crime, illiteracy, drug addiction, intelligence, failure, success, life, death, … any situation, any condition and every problem has been “solved” by L. Ron Hubbard.  There are no more mysteries, there are no more problems that can’t be fixed.  It is a feeling of tremendous power, certainty and superiority.  Naturally, Scientologists cannot and must not check these “solutions” to see if they really do what Hubbard claimed, for, of course, they don’t.

To any Scientologist clinging to that failed technology because of one of these reasons:  You are not alone.  All of us ex-Scientologists have had to confront the fact that Scientology has not delivered on any of its promises.  All of us had to confront the scary fact that, no, we don’t have all the answers.  Many of us believed in Scientology long past the point when it should have been obvious, even to us true believers, that it was a fraud.

It may be difficult to admit you were conned, but that embarrassment passes quickly and, after that, you can live in honesty and truth.  Trust me, the relief is incredible.

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24 Responses to Why Is It So Hard to Give Up Scientology?

  1. Anonymous says:

    conditioned to not see the scam

  2. lesj39 says:

    If I didn't know any better, I would swear you were looking over my shoulder. I had many dreams and hopes. And in trying to break away (in 1982), I ran across all that you said. I kept holding on to one or two things. Holding on to a dream… a hope. But it just wasn't there. It was hard to take. Your writings were the first I saw that truly helped me see what was really going on. I have seen others and now I know that I am truly not along. Thanks.

  3. python says:

    This is well written, but what I, as an outsider, am most interested in is how someone gets involved into something like Scientology in the first place? I get how cultish mind control tricks can prevent you from leaving once you are in.Because it is obvious to me that an organization that has real OTs would function much differently than Scientology does. There would be no need for stupid hard sell tactic, just walk into a hospital and heal everybody. Or if you can see future, why would you even need money from people, when you can predict lottery numbers.I can see from your writings that you are an intelligent man, but I have difficulties understanding what prevented you from seeing all this when you signed up?

  4. Anonymous says:

    Python asks the question everyone wants to know the answer to, not to intrude on you, Bill, but for ourselves – if an intelligent, educated, mature sensible person (and yes I mean you, Bill) could be deceived for so long, what about the rest of us? It raises serious questions about free will and self-determination. Humans are far more easily manipulated than we want to believe; we want to know how to resist. You and others testify to the strength of the human spirit; I'd like to know how to have that strength myself.Sheepherder

  5. Just Bill says:

    @pythonI can understand that and, in my mind, it's an important thing for people to know — how do reasonably sane, intelligent people get suckered into something so controlling and cultish?The scene today is not the same scene it was not too many years ago. There was little true information available, very little exposure of Scientology's secrets and lies.Scientology doesn't tell you anything when you first visit their church. They tell you "Scientology can help you" and tell you just enough to keep you interested so you take that first step. Then just enough so that you take the one next step after that. Then the next. You are told nothing about the "upper levels" other than how wonderful it all is.Today, I wouldn't get suckered in. Today, I can't imagine who would get suckered in. There is too much information available about Scientology's secrets, failures and lies.You will notice that Scientology's big push today is in countries where the Internet is not so widely available — and especially where the truth has not been translated into the local language. Scientology's recruitment tricks can only work where there is a lack of information about Scientology.Even today, I catch myself just before I order something or commit to something and think, "Uh oh! I'd better check on this!" — and I find out it's a scam. Thank God for the Internet, I wish this information had been available years ago.

  6. Just Bill says:

    @SheepherderI agree. It's a very important question. How do people get conned and how to avoid it.Certainly, Scientology is an example, albeit a rather extreme example, of trapping people. They are so very, very careful to rope people in using the very least information necessary — so as not to alarm them — but to keep them hoping.And hope really is where they get their power. It is such a betrayal — they prey on people who are willing to hope that there are solutions.People can be gullible, and often are, and I don't think there is any way to stop it. Some gullibility is harmless, such as loading up your toothbrush with too much toothpaste just because that's what the advertisements show. And some gullibility can do serious harm, such as with the Church of Scientology or Nigerian 419 scams.One of the abilities I really did gain from my Scientology experience was the power to say "No". One gets pressured to commit to something today. "Limited time offer!" "Don't wait!" "Special, today only!" "We're only in your neighborhood this week!" "Your entire future depends on what you do today!"The answer is always: more information. When I feel pressured and uncertain it's because I don't have enough information — and now, for me, that raises a big alarm and engages the brakes. Anyone, any company, any group that insists on a commitment now-now-now is, in my experience, pulling some kind of con.Unfortunately, it took getting majorly conned before I learned this. I guess I'm just a slow learner.

  7. python says:

    Thanks for replay, Bill.I agree that times have dramatically changed with the internet. However I still don't "get" it fully. They promised you guys perfect memory, didn't they? I think you said somewhere that Hubbards definition of Clear from Dianetics includes it, right? And you read Dianetics before taking any courses.That's pretty large promise that's easy to prove or disprove. All you have to do is pick a random book of poetry from library, and ask Clear to read it once and then recite pages from memory. Yet for some reason no one posed such challenge.I think that problem with mankind in general is that we put too much faith in authority figures and too little in data and experiment. That's why it took science so much time to develop; everyone just read Aristotle instead of testing stuff. It took 1500 years and Galileo to disprove Aristotle's assumptions. There is nothing wrong with making theories of how things work. There is no inherent reason why telepathy wouldn't work. However every rigorous test proved that it doesn't.

  8. Just Bill says:

    @pythonYou make a couple of assumptions that aren't necessarily true. I did not read Dianetics as the first thing. That's a large, turgid book. I would hazard a guess that, unless required for some course, most Scientologists have not read Dianetics.Second, one never challenges some Release, Clear or OT to prove they have any specific abilities or powers. It is an Ethics offence to "doubt" anyone in that way. No Clear would agree to such a test, and they would report you to Ethics. (Hubbard was quite clever in that way.)Hubbard also gave an entire lecture on the subject of how "aberrative" and "suppressive" it is to demand proof. "Good" Scientologists do not, and cannot, demand proof of anything.In addition, Hubbard warned Clears and OTs not to display their abilities and powers to anyone "not ready for it". Obviously, all those Clears and OTs are not demonstrating their powers and abilities because you're not ready for it — but they could, you know, if they wanted to.You see how Hubbard covered all the bases, so there was always a good reason why no one was demonstrating any special abilities and powers and why no one was asking them to.

  9. python says:

    thank you for replying. It wasn't my intention to insult you in any way, I was just trying to build a picture in my head of how it looked like. I see now that my picture was largely wrong, because it was built on wrong assumptions.Hey, maybe you should write another article about how one gets suckered into it? How much you knew at the beginning, how much they told you, how much they omitted, when and how questions stopped and mind control started?Because the whole subject is fascinating to me, and I believe to others.

  10. Just Bill says:

    @pythonTrust me, I was not insulted at all. I enjoy trying to explain what happened and what is still happening, even if it doesn't paint a very commendable picture of my own discernment and intelligence.It's a good idea for another article.You might check out Counterfeit Dreams if you haven't already. The first part is a pretty good example of how someone got into Scientology back then.

  11. Anonymous says:

    Another aspect to Scientology and recruitment is less about the technology and more about what Scientology stands for. When I was doing recuitment for the Sea Org we learned to find the "button" that would make someone join. We start with the Tech and promise of gained abilities, then when that failed we moved onto, a promise of a better world. Who wouldn't want to join an organization that wants to make the world a better place. After a while you learn to "read" the person and press the right button upfront. I got suckered in with the "better world" proposition, I was in the Sea Org for many years and it wasn't until I was moved into recuiting that opened my eyes and I went, wait a minute…. This was the beginning of the end of me and finally did get to the place that helped me walk away forever. It's really simply how people get trapped, look at them and figure out some info, are they impovished, then talk about wealth gained from the tech. If they are from a country that is in turmoil, talk about how Scientology wants to make the world better. If they are spiritual, talk about gained abilities. The point was that you already have a mind that is dedisposed to that idea and they are looking for validation. Makes sales, I mean recruitment, so much easier.

  12. python says:

    Also it seems to me that Hubbard was very immature, childish person. That is the only way anyone could explain Sonya Bianca episode http://www.scientology-lies.com/press/toronto-star/1988-01-16/messianic-con-man.htmlHe was arrogant enough to believe that he can force his way thought reality.

  13. I would guess that another reason some long-term Scientologists stay devoted to the cause is that they essentially have no life outside of the cult. From reading many first-hand accounts, and my own observations, it appears many veteran Scientologists gradually filter out their wog friends, family and associates. Their social life, from the important to the trivial, almost always has a Scientology-related aspect to it. I wouldn't be surprised if there are L. Ron Hubbard dog grooming services that Scientologists take their pets to. The thought of leaving this 'family', as faulty, expensive and bizarre as it is, is probably too scary for many of them. So they stay the course, using mind-control on themselves to banish any doubts. That is why I believe it is extremely important for a Scientologist, no matter how committed he/she may be, to have at least a few close wog friends/family. Such people can give them a different perspective on life, if they ever choose to look at it. This 'different perspective' may one day be the inspiration that begins the process of helping a Scientologist get out of the cult.

  14. Anonymous says:

    Many years ago, after listening to an OT extol the tremendous powers Scientology had to offer, I gestured toward a Styrofoam cup he'd been drinking from and asked him whether he could, using just his mind, move the cup. His reply: "No, but I can become that cup." Jeez, I thought to myself, what an accomplishment.

  15. Vera says:

    I've been suggesting these points for awhile on here, as you know, Just Bill. I know you seemed to take a more moderate view in the past, but I'm glad you are getting more impatient with those who want to cling to Scio beliefs. I only go on ESMB now every blue moon to blast them (and support the opposite posters)for saying it's okay to be ex- but not anti-. To not be anti-child neglect,child endangerment, child abuse, fraud and criminal activity is to be PRO those things. If that is black and white thinking I am proud of it. If that makes people angry and upset, they need to look at why they can't accept responsibility for having been part of something very, very bad.Right now all I do is comment and post all over the net anti-Scio, but very soon I will do more. I have always been active politically, but now I see I need to step up and take similar actions against the cult that I personally know to be criminal and in favor of laws to curb such cults.It IS embarrassing to stand up and say publically I was a deluded fool, but it is better than cowardly silence and self-protection.I also want to scold those like the ex-Mrs. Heber Jentsh (sp?)and others who get out of Scientology and then NEVER apologize to the public and the children they defrauded and abused. Where, on ESMB or here or anywhere, is the remorse? I've apologized many times, including on Ex-Scio Kids, for having "enjoyed" my "wins" from CoS while others paid and paid and paid for my deluded experiences. I'd like to hear some genuine sorrow from people, not for what THEY suffered, but for what they perpetrated. I'd like a personal apology from the regs who defrauded me of my inheritance from my grandmother, although there's probably no chance in hell I'll get it.Sharon Stainforth, who was in no way responsible for her being raised in Scientology, has many times expressed her sorrow and guilt. How about it, out there, anyone sorry for what they did??

  16. Squash Lady says:

    AS for how do intelligent people get suckered in, well, there is no ONE answer.But for me, it was like this.When I went CLEAR, I was very happy about it. I felt different. I felt that something significant had happened. I felt more present, more me. It really did feel like a miracle.I also felt a little confused because I did not feel like the "Clear" as described in Dianetics. I did not feel like I had any special powers or abilities. I asked about this. I was shown one sentence from some reference (not from Dianetics). I described what had happened and was told that I was Clear. When I questioned this further, it was explained that Scienotology was a developing science and that now the description of Clear in Dianetics was really more like an OT 8.The thing is that I bought it. Why? I think because I didn't care. What I cared about was the fact that I felt better! Someone had run some processes on me and I felt better! It was great!I had learned in a college psychology class that by the time a person is 21 the personality is fixed, that a person can not change.And here was absolute subjective proof that that was false. I was a changed person. It had happen not by chance but via processes and it was a science and we could keep going and do more and more of this good stuff. I was now predisposed to accept just about anything they told me.Problem is that that fabulous feeling lasted only for a day or so and then I was tremendously invalidated in a reg cycle. Why didn't I see the light then? I don't know. I think by then I believed that it worked and if it didn't it was because of my own sins, misunderstood words, ignorance, etc.I wanted to believe that there was more good stuff to be had. Once I experienced a significant positive change, they owned me. Sad but true.At least, that was the process of me. And as long as I kept getting some of the good stuff, the dream lived.I hope that helps answer the question of how intelligent people get suckered in.

  17. Just Bill says:

    @Squash LadyThanks for the story. I love to hear people's different experiences and how Scientology did what it does.To me that is one of the cruellest tricks that Scientology pulls: Scientology never delivers any of the miraculous results promised because you're all evil! And we bought it.Thanks.

  18. Squash Lady says:

    Dear Bill,This thread has gotten me to thinking about how it all began. How did the wool get pulled over my eyes.Here's the rub. When I went "clear", something changed and it seemed miraculous and I was shown this other definition of Clear and it was something like someone who no longer has their reactive mind. I questioned for days what that meant and got "the look". You know "the look". It is kind of a stare and it says, "Well it is perfectly clear to the rest of us, what's wrong with you?" and the ever present question: "Where is you misunderstood word?" After days of this I figured that if I attested, we could move on. So I attested.They had me at that point. Now I had to be right. I had just attested to Clear so I felt I had to live up to the description in the book. I think I was had from that point forward. I became a stranger to myself no longer willing to admit to thoughts and feelings that did not fit in with that description. I was lost but told myself I had been found.And to complicate things further, I read that LRH says it is cruel to make Clears without training them, without educating them about the reactive mind. Because without this training and understanding, the person will just make another reactive mind.Given that LRH says that. Given that everything LRH says is true. Given that the Church is charged with respecting and implimenting the Tech standardly, how come the push is to make Clears. The push is not to train people.So if it is cruel to make Clears without training the person first, the Church then is in the business of cruelty all the while saying it is in the business of setting people free.Here is another thread: Let's say that LRH indulged in some hyperbole in Dianetics. Let's say he was onto something and he was trying to make an impression and saw what he wanted to see, etc. Let's give him the benefit of the doubt. I find that forgiveable.What I don't find forgiveable is the absense of an admission by LRH that as it turns out, "Clear" is just a person who no longer has his own reactive mind. And you are free to interpret what that means. So it means almost nothing or everything.LRH was alive when I was shown this "updated" definition of Clear. But I never saw an apology or explanation or correction by LRH.When I questioned this, the explanation I was given was that LRH was so busy moving forward with his new discoveries and research that it was not correct thinking to expect him to go back and correct earlier work. If you read everything, it all fits together. He did the ground breaking work, it was our job to read everything and put it all together.I bought it. I bought that explanation. In retrospect, it sounds like double speak. But I bought it.Here is another thread. LRH says, reality is defined by the majority. I was then in a world at that time that thought that made sense. So I bought it. Here is another irony. LRH says profound things like, "Reality is defined by the majority" and you think "Thank you. Thank you for pointing that out. Of course, I knew that but I had forgotten it. Thank you."And that very thing that you are thankful for is something that you somehow unknowingly become trapped by all the while thinking you are on the road to spiritual freedom and you aren't.I really just don't get it. It is still such a puzzle to me.

  19. Just Bill says:

    @Squash LadyThank you for your comments and thoughts about what happened to you. Much of my work on Ask the Scientologist was about that very subject. How did I get suckered in? How did they keep me under their control? Why didn't I see what was going on?So much of it was our own hope and wish for something better, for some miracles to be true. We fooled ourselves. We were the ones controlling ourselves.I think you do get it, but I understand it can be a long road to fully recover from it all — and to feel fully recovered.

  20. Anonymous says:

    Dear Bill,These stories are impressive, and enlightening – Anne/anon, Vera, Squash Lady – You rock, Sisters! And yes, it's a pretty good world out here; but it needs caring, honest people. Cult survivors have an edge there, for spotting lies and abuse and refusing to be silent. You're needed! Whatever drew you in, now you're free, and welcome, welcome!I've been wanting to write on my next theme but hesitated because of the person who was yelling that all Scios are evil (does he/she realize how much that sounds just like a scientologist?) so I'm putting it here on this article – for your amusement, Bill! I've thought many times how uncannily CoS resembles C.S. Lewis's fictional Hell in "The Screwtape Letters". I was surprised and delighted to read two Aussies over on ESMB saying exactly the same thing. Lewis wrote, "…my symbol for Hell is something like the bureaucracy of a police state or the offices of a thoroughly nasty business concern." It even has an RPF, the 'House of Correction for Incompetent Tempters' ; ( Screwtape writes his nephew , "… I am enclosing a little booklet … It is profusely illustrated, and you will not find a dull page in it." ) Screwtape sums it all up by saying, "To take EVERYTHING and give NOTHING in return – that's what really gladdens Our Father's (Lucifer's) heart!" "…. the justice of Hell is purely realistic, and concerned only with results. Bring back food, or be food yourself." Sound familiar?This site is a breath of fresh air. I do enjoy it so much. Keep it up, Bill, and keep some cold beer on hand. Wish I could buy you one.Very best regards,Sheepherder

  21. RontheCon says:

    Beautiful Bill! So right! To wake up and face that you were conned is so very difficult…and to face the fact that you spoke with such certainty about such falseness makes you sick…but one must leave once one sees this. I feel those still stuck. It's such a waste of living and life.

  22. Anonymous says:

    The bulk of humanity prefers fairy tales to reality. By taking advantage of this fact some enterprising individuals have been able to attain great wealth and power. Our fascination with ghosts, magical incantations, miraculous elixirs, supernatural powers, talking with the dead, and Ascended Masters lives on today as intensely as ever. Give us The Chronicles of Narnia, Harry Potter, the Lord of the Rings, Star Wars, Medium, the Ghost Whisperer, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, The X-Files, and The Twilight Saga. That’s where the box-office is. On the religious side there is Mormonism, Scientology, Heaven’s Gate, the Solar Temple, the Summit Lighthouse, and A Course in Miracles. That’s where the money is. Hubbard was right. Who cares about Paul Kurtz, James Randi, Derren Brown, Penn Jillette, Robert Sheaffer, or Michael Shermer? These days immortality has been repackaged in countless ways. The list of deluded or opportunistic salespersons is endless, but the basic principles remain the same. They are selling a fantasy as something real.– Dave

  23. Anonymous says:

    Your posts are great, and much appreciated. Please keep them coming, the more often the better!

  24. Just Bill says:

    Thanks!I'd post more often if I had something significant to say more often. I hate it when I start to repeat myself.

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