The Skeptical Teacher

Musings of a science teacher & skeptic in an age of woo.

Posts Tagged ‘cult’

“The Secrets of Scientology” Documentary Exposes the Cult

Posted by mattusmaximus on September 30, 2010

I just finished watching a new documentary from the BBC titled “The Secrets of Scientology”, and I wanted to share it with you all here.  In it, investigative reporter John Sweeney interviews former members – from rank-and-file members to some of the most high-ranking church officials – about their time in the Church of Scientology, its practices, its secrets, and its abuses. After watching this documentary, I think it is safe to say the Church of Scientology is rightly classified as a dangerous & abusive, money-grubbing cult. See for yourself…

Posted in cults, religion | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments »

Physics of Board Breaking & Karate at The Amazing Meeting 8

Posted by mattusmaximus on July 14, 2010

This past weekend I attended The Amazing Meeting 8 in Las Vegas, along with about 1300 other skeptics & supporters of science.  And, like last year, there was a talent show in which I participated.  Last year I performed the bed of nails demonstration and explained the physics involved, but this year I decided to do the hitting, so I gave another skeptical physics lesson – this time on karate & board breaking.  And, thanks to my colleague Dean over at the Blog of Phyz, I have some slow-motion footage of my grand finale break…

It might surprise many people to know that pretty much anyone can break boards with little training – in order to do more challenging breaks like that pictured here takes more training, though the basic principles are still the same. But in the end there is *nothing* mystical involved – no chi or “life energy” or any of that rot. With proper body mechanics and good use of mass (twisting the body), velocity (dropping to convert GPE into KE), and a low time of impact (solid supports that won’t give) one can make lots of kindling out of boards. Oh yeah, and the spacers are a nice trick as well 🙂 For a fuller explanation, see my previous blog post on the subject.

And, just to put my money where my mouth is, I have to brag about one more thing: while at TAM8, I taught skeptic & paranormal investigator Joe Nickell how to break boards.  Joe had never before performed a board break, and – to my knowledge – has no formal martial arts training, yet I was able to get him successfully breaking boards with just 5 minutes of instruction.  Here he is successfully performing a palm-heel strike on a board I’m holding…

So, there you have it: if Joe Nickell, at his age & with no formal training, can employ the basic physics & body mechanics required to break a board, then pretty much anyone can do it… no special chi or paranormal powers required 🙂

Posted in physics denial/woo, Uncategorized | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 9 Comments »

Scientology: A History of Violence

Posted by mattusmaximus on March 28, 2010

While surfing the interwebs over at the JREF Forum, I was made aware of an upcoming CNN special with Anderson Cooper called “Scientology: A History of Violence” which is to air for four nights starting on March 29th.  Details to be found here.

I’ve made few posts here before about the Church of Scientology, which I consider to be a dangerous cult, and I’m all for having mainstream media outlets challenge them openly.  And I think CNN’s Anderson Cooper is a good person to do the sleuthing on such nonsense (just recall how well he publicly debunked psychic Sylvia Browne).  The biggest problem I personally have with Scientology isn’t their outright goofy beliefs about the alien-god Xenu and space-ghosts called “thetans”, though that’s some pretty damn weird stuff, but the manner in which they deceive & cheat their followers out of literally hundreds of thousands of dollars by the time they learn the Church truths (which are little more than a really bad sci-fi story).  Not to mention, the organization actively works to conceal these “truths” from their members until they’ve paid so much money to the Church that it’s very difficult for them to extract themselves from it.

In addition, those who dare oppose the Church and publicly criticize them are often subjected to all manner of personal attacks and/or harassment under the Church’s policy called “Fair Game” which declares such critics (using very Orwellian lingo) “suppressive persons”.  I am also opposed to the Church because they encourage their followers to “disconnect” from their families & friends who might otherwise attempt to talk some sense into them.  And then, as the CNN expose is likely to show, there are other things done in the name of the corrupt & power-hungry Church of Scientology which the Church would rather not have you know.

Here are some details, provided by Anderson Cooper, about what the program is all about.  I wonder if he’ll be listed as an SP anytime soon?…

Next week we begin a four-part investigation into allegations made by a number of former high ranking members of the Church of Scientology. The allegations are about physical abuse they say took place within the Sea Organization, the international management branch of the church.

These former members, many of whom dedicated their lives to Scientology, allege that the leader of the church, David Miscavige, has used physical violence against a number of Sea Organization members. The church adamantly denies these allegations, and back up their denials with numerous affidavits and testimonials defending Mr. Miscavige and attacking those who are speaking out.

Interestingly, the church spokesman, Tommy Davis, admits there was a history of violence in the Sea Organization, but the people he blames for it are those who are making the allegations against David Miscavige. He says they were demoted by Mr. Miscavige, and are bitter and disgruntled. Some of those making the allegations admit they did engage in violent acts, but say it was at the urging of Mr. Miscavige.

There is no real proof offered by either side, but viewers can make their own assessment. We have spent several months working on this series, and believe it is a fair look at the allegations and the counter claims made by the church.

I have already received a number of emails from church members complaining about the series, and accusing me of attacking the church, its beliefs, its membership, and its activities.

Given that the emails are all very similar in content, I assume this is some sort of organized email campaign. None of those writing the emails have seen the series, but I appreciate hearing from all concerned viewers, and I certainly understand any church member, of any religion, being concerned about the portrayal of their beliefs.

For the record, I just want to point out that this series is not about the beliefs or activities of the Church of Scientology. It is not about the religion or the vast majority of Scientologists. This series simply has to do with what some former high ranking church officials say went on within the upper management of the church, and what happened to them when they left the church.

Posted in cults | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments »

Chilean Earthquake, Doomsday & “God’s Wrath”

Posted by mattusmaximus on March 6, 2010

Last weekend the South American nation of Chile was hit with a powerful earthquake, registering a whopping 8.8 on the Richter scale!  Of course, there was much damage done and many lives were lost due to the disaster, and while those of us who live in the real world look to understanding this purely natural event through the lens of science, there are those who – like Uber-Asshole Pat Robertson – will attempt to use such natural disasters as a way of pushing various paranormal, religious & cultish nonsense.

An excellent synopsis of the history of such woo & doomsday-mongering is outlined by Jeff Schweitzer in this article, and I thought I’d pass it along to you… Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in cults, doomsday | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments »

Scientologists Run Their Scam Again… In Haiti

Posted by mattusmaximus on February 7, 2010

So it seems that the folks living in Haiti have had quite a bad streak of luck lately.  First, they get hammered with a devastating earthquake which kills thousands and leaves millions homeless, and in the process their government – for all practical purposes – collapses & is virtually non-existent to deal with the crisis that follows.  After that, Uber-Asshole Pat Robertson heaps scorn upon them for their cultural heritage, and now this… the Church of Scientology has arrived to “save” the Haitians.

As this article from Gawker.com states…

Our Scientology sources tell us there’s an interesting reason that some members of the church are swarming into Haiti. And it’s even more appalling than you might have thought — tragedy profiteering.

John Travolta arranged for one plane of supplies to get to Port-au-Prince, and personally flew another Boeing 707 there himself. Those planes contained much needed food and equipment and genuine doctors. But they also contained volunteer ministers, ready to spread the word of Scientology.

Many Scientologists, says one of our sources, a longtime veteran of the church, “genuinely think that only they can help in an emergency.” They are misguided, but well-intentioned. But there are others who “are just total buzzards.” Those, he says, are engaging in a vain attempt to profit from the tragedy — a tale corroborated by another former church member. This email is doing the rounds:

By ‘help’, they mean money. And if those seminars result in confused and vulnerable Haitians signing up for any further courses in Scientology — unlikely as that seems, given the poverty in that country — these Global Pioneers get a 12 per cent cut of their future course fees. Our source says that over 100 plan to go to Port-au-Prince, and that he gets email and Facebook spam all day from ‘Pioneers’ seeking donations.

UPDATE: It seems, according to a tipster, that this email had done the rounds before the earthquake as well, apparently, as after. As such it’s not the smoking gun we first thought. But this may be. It’s a press release from the Global Pioneers, sent by the same man who sent the above missive — a Cary Goulston — outlining their achievements in Haiti since the earthquake:

I’m all for people helping out the Haitians in their hour of need, but from these documents I get the eerie sense that the Scientologists are looking to use this tragedy as a way of 1) raising money for non-relief efforts, and 2) spreading their twisted ideology. One reason I say this is the constant reference in the above documents to VMs – also known as “volunteer ministers”.  The VMs are the folks who will be spreading the Scientology doctrine among the vulnerable population in Haiti.

My advice: people of Haiti, beware.  Fortunately, there is a silver lining, because it seems that Anonymous is on the case.

Posted in cults | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

Physics of Karate – No Woo Required

Posted by mattusmaximus on November 14, 2009

I’ve practiced martial arts of various styles for 20 years, and in all that time I’ve heard a number of very strange & woo-filled explanations for why people can accomplish the physical feats they can.  One such example is breaking wooden boards with the bare hands & feet – often people provide an explanation by referencing so-called “chi, ki, or qigong energy”. The whole concept of chi is more of a philosophical concept than anything else, and it is little more than a “dragon-in-the-garage” (an untestable notion that cannot be verified through scientific means).

karate chop

Well, I’m here to tell you that such physical feats as board breaking can be performed & explained simply by referencing the known laws of physics – no woo required.  Take a look at the video of me performing such a break with five pine boards at once…

How do I accomplish this feat?  Here’s how: I hit the boards really hard – the question is how do I generate such a large force of impact?  Read on…

Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in physics denial/woo | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 26 Comments »

Remember, Remember the 5th of November: Anonymous Continues Protests of Scientology

Posted by mattusmaximus on November 3, 2009

I just wanted to pass along a little info to you all concerning some upcoming protests this Thursday, November 5th, of the Church of Scientology by the group called Anonymous. An image that has become synonymous with the Anonymous protests is the mask of Guy Fawkes, who is recognized for his involvement in the infamous Gunpowder Plot on the 5th of November every year in the United Kingdom.

Guy Fawkes

Many Anonymous protesters wear the Guy Fawkes mask when peacefully picketing CoS centers & passing out information to passersby about the cultish practices of the Church.  Contrary to CoS propaganda, these are peaceful protests which are designed to get out the truth about the Church and its practices; in no way, shape, or form do I, nor does Anonymous, encourage or condone any kind of violent or illegal action against the Church of Scientology!

So what’s with the Anonymous wearing the Guy Fawkes masks?  The answer is twofold: they do this not only to make a statement but also to protect themselves from the Scientologists who would attempt to ID them & label them as “suppressive persons” (SPs) and therefore target them for harassment. Believe me, even though I’ve never participated in an Anonymous event nor have I ever had a run-in with the CoS, from what I understand you do not want to be on that SP hit list.  So if you’re going to participate in one of these events, protect yourself (and others) and conceal your identity.

Anonymous tends to get its message out via the Internet, specifically through using online video.  For example, below are two Youtube videos: one of the first videos ever released by Anonymous back in January 2008…

… and a very recent video about the upcoming worldwide protests of the Church of Scientology on November 5th…

If you want more information regarding these protests, then check out the WhyWeProtest.net website.  For more information on Scientology in general, it’s hard to find a better site than Xenu.net, also known as Operation Clambake.  Spread the word.

Knowledge Is Free.

Posted in cults, skeptical community | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Church of Scientology Convicted of Fraud in French Court

Posted by mattusmaximus on October 28, 2009

Well, this latest news caps a really crappy week for the Church of Scientology, which makes me happy 🙂

Last May, I blogged about a story on how the French government was pursuing a court case against the Church of Scientology for fraud.  Well, today the verdict is in: guilty. And what was revealed during the course of the trial was very interesting…

Scientologists convicted of fraud

A French court has convicted the Church of Scientology of fraud, but stopped short of banning the group from operating in France.

Two branches of the group’s operations and several of its leaders in France have been fined.

The case came after complaints from two women, one of whom said she was manipulated into paying more than 20,000 euros (£18,100) in the 1990s.

A Scientology spokesman told the BBC the verdict was “all bark and no bite”.

France regards Scientology as a sect, not a religion.

Prosecutors had asked for the group’s French operations to be dissolved and more heavily fined, but a legal loophole prevented any ban.

Instead, a Paris judge ordered the Church’s Celebrity Centre and a bookshop to pay a 600,000-euro fine.

Alain Rosenberg, the group’s head in France, was handed a two-year suspended jail sentence and fined 30,000 euros.

Three other leading members of the group were also fined.

I have to admit, given the Church of Scientology’s overly litigious nature and proclivity for targeting their critics as “fair game” for a number of aggressive strong-arm tactics, it is refreshing to see someone stand up so strongly to them.  I suppose that more and more people are getting tired of the CoS cult and their quest for brainwashing & manipulating their members.  But, you can expect the CoS to continue their loathsome practices for as long as they are able.

And they can try, but as long as they do there will be those who oppose them.

Posted in cults, psychology | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

Church of Scientology Gets PWNed

Posted by mattusmaximus on October 27, 2009

It seems that the Church of Scientology has had a pretty bad week, and if it’s one thing the CoS hates it’s bad publicity because they prefer to do things in utter secrecy.  This, in addition to a number of other loathsome practices – including brainwashing their followers and forcing them to cut themselves off from friends & family (called “disconnection”) – have widely earned the CoS status as a cult. Fortunately, in recent years, starting with the high-profile flipping out of celebrity nutwad Tom Cruise on Oprah’s couch, the CoS has been attracting a lot of unwanted attention.

Most recently, there was an embarassing batch of news coverage from a recent ABC Nightline investigation which featured a lot of things about the organization that the CoS wishes people didn’t know.  Here’s a Youtube link to the Nightline story…

Worse yet, just in the last few days there was the defection of high-level Scientologist and Oscar-winning director Paul Haggis from the Church.  And, from all appearances, he’s publicly digging up lots of dirt in the process;  below is a blog post by Marty Rathbun, also an ex-Church member, which outlines the letter that Haggis sent to the Church announcing his plan to leave. I have reproduced the text of Haggis’s letter below in its entirety…

Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in cults, psychology | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments »

 
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