Let he who is without dumb beliefs be the first to laugh at Xenu

Watched HBO’s Going Clear last night. A powerful and infuriating documentary.

But here’s the thing: At several points in the movie, we shift from being told about the horrors of the organization’s practices to the silliness of many of its beliefs. Particularly the scene where Paul Haggis learns about Xenu and the interstellar DC-8s. I mean, it’s crazy, right? Who could believe such nutty stuff?

I want to urge caution when giggling at the odd Scientology creation myth and other related weirdness. While the organization does awful things, the content of its beliefs is really no more silly than the stuff present in pretty much every major religion. Rising from the dead? Water into wine? Devils controlling our minds? A trip from Mecca to Jerusalem on a flying horse? Talking bushes?

The only difference with Scientology, the only thing that makes it so okay to laugh at, is its lack of distance. Hubbard invented this stuff just decades ago, instead of centuries or millennia. Thus it’s very clear that it was invented. But so was all the rest of it. We just don’t have records of it.

So if you’re religious, chances are you believe things just as silly to the non-believer as the stuff in Going Clear. (And even if you’re non-religious, chances are you have all sorts of unfounded, silly beliefs. We all do. They’re just of a different category.)

Which is all just a long way of saying, “Be nice.” Or, at least, be a little self-aware when poking fun.

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