Friday, September 28, 2007

Way of the Master: Operating Thetans?

Below is a repost from, where I am a new contributor. Enjoy. -Morse

It always struck me how easily the boys over at Way of the Master ridicule other religious faiths. In most cases I won’t really argue with them. Other religions and their corresponding stories are quite silly…but so is Christianity.

In a special edition of their radio show, broadcasting from England, Todd braved London’s pub district and ended up witnessing to some young Brits who had been dancing with a group of Hare Krishnas. You could hear the distaste dripping from every word as Todd told these kids how wrong they were to dance with the Krishnas when they didn’t even know that they were committing idolatry!

But that’s not what I want to dwell on. Because after covering how his religion is the only correct one, Todd fell into the tried and true WOTM witnessing method. The Brits, it isn’t necessary to say, were non-hostile but unimpressed.

So I started to think. Todd has always maintained that Christianity (or at least his brand of it) is unique among all the world religions. Yet there was something strangely familiar about his witnessing. And then it hit me.

Could Todd Friel be a Scientologist!?!?

No, I’m not serious. But it does make a certain amount of sense, doesn’t it? If you’re still scratching your head then let me break it down for you.

What I’m hinting at is the similarity between the evangelizing methods of the Way of the Master and the Church of Scientology.


Ray, Todd or occasionally Kirk will approach people in public places and begin with one of two gambits. Either they will ask if you believe in god (not much of a gambit in America, where approximately 80% of the population says they are believers, the majority of those being some sort of Christian) or they will ask if you think you’re a good person. In either case the probability is that you will respond positively to their opening questions, and they’ve got you on their hook.

The Church of Scientology is slightly less public with their pitch, but they operate under the same general guideline. They ask a question that has the most probability of getting a positive answer. In their case, it’s “Would you like to take a personality test?” And of course, who wouldn’t? Everyone thinks they have a great personality (or at least close to the same percentage who think they’re a good person), so who wouldn’t want to take a test that proved it? But just like the WOTM guys, they’ve caught you!


Here’s where the real similarities start becoming clear.

By now we’re all relatively familiar with the witnessing method that Ray Comfort created. He or Todd or Kirk runs you through the Decalogue, asking if you’ve ever broken them. Never mind the fact that you may not believe in god, he tells you, what’s important is that if god exists then these are his commandments, aren’t they?

So you go through them. And if you’ve ever lied, then you’re a liar. And if you’ve ever stolen anything, you’re a thief. Maybe you’re not a murderer or an adulterer. But don’t worry! They have that covered as well. Because of course the bible says if you’ve ever had hateful thoughts about someone or looked at a person with lust, you’re a murderer and an adulterer. Suddenly you’re not so happy about stopping to talk with Todd, are you?

The key difference in this step is that the Church of Scientology has the decency to tell you that you’re taking a test. Unfortunately a Scientologist stress test makes no more logical sense than the WOTM method.

They take you in a room with their own version of Ray or Todd, whom they call an auditor, and they hook you up to an e-meter. It supposedly detects responses in your body and mind to questions given by the auditor. It should be noted that these e-meters don’t do anything. But that’s beside the point. The needle on the readout wobbles back and forth, and your friend across the table records its “readings” as if they actually meant something. I should point out that no one who has had an e-meter reading has ever been told that they don’t need the services of the Church of Scientology. Sound familiar?


So now you’ve failed the test. Not only have you wasted a good ten minutes speaking with Todd “Freakishly Tall” Friel, but you’ve found out that you’re a dirty, filthy sinner. But there’s hope!

In actuality EVERYONE is a dirty, filthy sinner. Yes, even Todd, Kirk and Ray. And while we all certainly deserve to go to hell and burn for eternity, there is a way to avoid that. To gain forgiveness we must give ourselves to Jesus, admit that we’re horrible and unworthy, praise god’s name and become evangelical and spread his word.

Oh, and why not purchase some of the Way of the Master training videos to learn how? (Order now, only $99.95!)

Let’s go back to the Scientologist testing room. Surprisingly you’ve failed their exam as well. But it’s not because you’re a sinner. The reason you failed their test isn’t even your fault!

It turns out you failed because you’re full of “engrams”. These are, essentially, bad memories that cause everything bad in your life, from stress and anxiety to psychological disorders and medical problems. (Never mind that these engrams are caused by the souls of dead space aliens…they’re not going to tell you that right off the bat!) But there’s hope!

The only way to get rid of these evil vibes and become “clear” is by more auditing. With more training, you can become an “operating thetan”, which means you start to have the ability to affect the world with your thoughts. Only a few years of auditing sessions and you can become a superhero. (Just like Tom Cruise!)

Unlike the first test, further sessions begin to cost money. Not to worry. If you can’t afford the price it costs to become clear, you can work it off by becoming an employee in one of Scientology’s many centers.


Looking at just the surface, no one would ever guess that the Way of the Master brand of Christianity and the Church of Scientology have anything in common. I like to think I’ve disabused you of that opinion.

Both approach you with seemingly positive motives.

Both administer a test that you not only fail, but which is designed specifically so that no one can pass it.

Both tell you the way to salvation, which conveniently can only be found through their organization.

They are creating a problem where no problem exists and then claiming that only they can solve it. This has been the method of every religion that seeks converts, and I doubt it will change any time soon.

Does this mean that Christianity is wrong? No. Does this mean that Scientology is wrong? No. All it means is that the methods of the salesmen, no matter what their product, is exactly the same. And that's the point. How can you choose between two ideologies that have the same message ("Our way or the highway!") and employ the same tactics?

(Hint: Choose neither.)

So the next time you laugh because Scientology is so ridiculous, remember one thing: The difference between the WOTM and the CoS is just the difference between how much they take from your bank account.

Monday, September 24, 2007

How many of us are there?

Atheists, agnostics and unbelievers are a minority in American. I'm not going to argue that point. But how small of a group are we, really?

Jacqueline Salmon, in a recent article for the Washington Post, points out that we nonbelievers may not be as small a group as most people think.

"A study released in June by the Barna Group, a religious polling firm, found that about 5 million adults in the United States call themselves atheists. The number rises to about 20 million -- about one in every 11 Americans -- if people who say they have no religious faith or are agnostic (they doubt the existence of a God or a supreme deity) are included."

I don't know about you, but I never answered that poll. Polling is an easily misleading technique as it is anyway. Depending on how the questions were asked, there could easily be twice as many as atheists in the country. There could just as easily be half as many as well. But how do we know?

I'm only been an atheist for a little over a year. Looking back I can recognize the process I went through, over many years, that brought me to this point. But if you had asked me two years ago what I was, I would have told you I was a Roman Catholic.

So what does this mean? Maybe nothing. Perhaps the few of us will still be struggling to express ourselves as this country becomes the Theocratic States of America. (Boy, that thought gave me a chill. I don't honestly think it will happen...but who knows?)

Or perhaps we're a bigger and stronger group than anyone knows. There's only one way to find out. Step forward and declare yourself. Don't be afraid to let people know.

Remember, all we have is each other.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Ken Miller is my hero.

For those of you who haven't noticed this little beauty floating around YouTube in the path few months, this is your chance to finally see it.

To my atheist friends: Yes, I know, the video starts with a prayer. Don't run away! You'll thank yourself later.

To my theist friends: Yes, I know, Miller is saying that Intelligent Design is bunk and Evolution is the real science. Don't run away! He's a practicing Catholic!

To anyone on either side of the evolution vs. ID debate: This lecture is a must watch. If you were like me and left scratching your head in science class in school, Ken Miller is the answer to our prayers. (No pun intended.) He does an excellent job of explaining evolution and debunking ID as a science, and he does both with kindness, intelligence and humor.

Check him out, and he might just end up as your hero too.


Introductions are in order...

Yes, that's right. Here's yet another atheist with a rinky-dink page who has decided his opinion needs to be sent out into the blogosphere. Are you bored yet?

There are lots of us. But that's a good thing. Because despite the fact that atheists may be terribly over represented online (which I don't think is necessarily true, but let's go with it for a minute), each atheist blog is unique to that person.

Not, of course, to say that the theist blogs aren't original. They certainly are, and I speak from the experience of having read one or two of them. The originality, however, can be somewhat limited.

Take two blogs from two Catholics, for example. I used to be an RC, so I can at least talk about them with some knowledge. Now, you could have a pair of blogs that are very different. One could be a Republican and the other a Democrat. One could be a fundamentalist and the other a lapsed Catholic. When you get down to the bottom of it, though, they have the same spiritual background.

Atheists, on the other hand, can (and often do) have nothing in common with each other. I'm a former Roman Catholic who was always quite liberal and have been finding myself leaning, over the past few years and months, towards libertarian in my views. On the other hand, you have Sam Harris, who was somewhat atheistic his whole life, quite liberal (I think) and leaning towards Buddhist spiritualism. The only thing we really have in common is our shared opinion that god does not exist. (OK, ok, we're also both pasty white men. But besides that!)

And so I've decided to share my views here. I doubt I'll be heard over the rumble, but it's worth a shot. What I say may not always be smart, or right (I'm wrong a surprising amount of the time), but it will be what I believe.

I also invite anyone and everyone to tell me what they think in response. Even if it involves screaming and tearing out your hair. Especially the tearing of hair. It makes me feel special.