General Heresy is a column dedicated to investigating, and making public, different faiths and philosophies, as well as religions and related organizations.
In this second installation, I spoke to former spokesman for The Church of Scientology, Mike Rinder, and asked him a few questions regarding the organization and the beliefs. See last week’s ‘Scientology in the Clear’, from General Heresy.
SWEPT: I’m curious, I know that you have said, since leaving the church, that Scientology is a valuable way to work through life, so are you still a believer in Scientology even though you’re no longer a church member?
MIKE: I would classify myself as someone who practices principles of the philosophy of Scientology that I find workable and true. I do not consider myself a Scientology “believer” I think that word implies faith and acceptance of anything and everything merely because it is “part of Scientology.”
SWEPT: I started taking some online courses on the main Scientology site, and felt as though a number of the lessons were about a sort of self-manipulation, and the site talks a bit about mind over matter, and knowing how to read people in order to better function in the world. I’m wondering if there is an element of self-deception in the teachings of the church? As well, I’m wondering if there is an element of social deception; attempting to better get to people (I know Miscavige is very skilled in this way, and is that an example of how the teachings can be used for ill)?
MIKE: Sure. I think the article on Tony Ortega’s blog today by Jeff Hawkins (read this article here) is a great example. I have written in the past about “the greatest good for the greatest number of dynamics.”
SWEPT: Aside from the John Sweeney documentary fiasco with Miscavige having him followed and whatnot, have there been other examples of heavy surveillance with people in and out of the church while you were still working in the church?
MIKE: Numerous. Bob Minton, which I have talked about. Michael Flynn when he was suing the church. Vaughn and Stacy Young. Pat Broeker.
SWEPT: What was the final straw for you in making your decision to leave the church?
MIKE: John Sweeney asking me point blank whether Miscavige had ever physically assaulted me. I have never flat out lied to the media before. But especially something like this where he said he had witnesses (and he did and I knew it) and I had a very hard time justifying why I felt it was right to lie about something like that.
SWEPT: This is a little touchy, and if it is too personal, please don’t feel pressured to answer. Have you seen or had contact with any family since the incident during the recorded cellphone conversation between you and Sweeney?
MIKE: No. I documented efforts to try and see my mother when I was in Australia on Marty Rathbun’s blog. No other contact whatsoever. Not even a message or call when my mother passed away six weeks ago.
SWEPT: What is the most important thing you would want people to know about both the doctrine of Scientology and the organization of Scientology?
MIKE: They are two distinct things. The organization is corrupt and I feel has no redeeming qualities and should be nothing but a bad memory. The philosophy has value. Not all of it, but there are things of value contained within it. Those things that genuinely help people to improve their lives should be preserved and available to anyone who wants them.
SWEPT: Is the notion of Xenu, and dead alien souls sent to Earth a part of the teachings of Scientology? If so, is this a faith position or is this a claim on some suggested scientific basis? Is this a belief that you hold to?
MIKE: Yes, it is (part of the teachings). And yes, it is a faith position. Good Scientologists will tell you it is not faith – it is fact and provable by their subjective experiences with auditing and an e-meter. But that is not scientific evidence, it is anecdotal.
SWEPT: Do you think people should support the Church of Scientology and feed it with as much money as is currently poured into it by its celebrity wing?
MIKE: Not at all. I think the subject should be FREE and freely available for anyone and everyone to use and apply.
SWEPT: What are your thoughts on having a separate celebrity church?
MIKE: From the church’s perspective it makes sense. Give them a place to make them feel important. I can’t imagine a celebrity Buddhist temple or Catholic Church.
SWEPT: Is there anything you would like to say to the readers of this magazine, and to any Scientologists who may come across this?
MIKE: Really, the most important thing is to think for yourself. Don’t accept things because you are told they are true or are necessary. If you see something that is abusive or wrong, you KNOW. Don’t let things be “explained away”. The church of Scientology has no monopoly on wisdom – it doesn’t even have a monopoly on Scientology. If there is something you find good and workable about it, use it. If not, forget it.
Thanks Mike, I couldn’t have said it better myself.