Sunday, April 05, 2015

the only way to make any real money is to have a religion!


salon |  In America, salvation is big business, and he who dies with the most souls wins. Plenty of lives are wrecked along the way, but no matter. When consumer capitalism meets religious yearning, the sky’s the limit of what can you can get away with. That’s the subtext of Alex Gibney’s latest film, Going Clear: Scientology and the Prison of Belief, which premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in January and screened on HBO on March 29.

L. Ron Hubbard, or LRH, as he liked to style himself, was an American of unprepossessing origins in search of meaning and money. Possibly he found the first, and is just now cavorting with intergalactic spirits in the sky. Most definitely he found the second, riding a rocket ship of wacked-out ambition to create what is now essentially a tax-free shell company with $3 billion in assets and real estate holdings on six continents.

Gibney doesn’t give us LRH as a madman, or even a simple huckster. The penny-a-word pulp fiction writer could have just been another loser who couldn’t manage to finish college and whose less-than-stellar naval service went awry when he inadvertently used a Mexican island for target practice and was deemed unfit for command. Going Clear traces the young man’s early perambulations through California occultism and various hare-brained moneymaking schemes to the Jersey Shore, where he washed up exhausted and plagued by anxiety. Another man might have just given up. But not LRH.

Instead, he marshaled a smattering of knowledge from various strains of psychological and philosophical esoterica to gin up a mental health self-help system he named Dianetics, which he introduced in a hugely successful book in 1950. For a while it seemed like LRH had finally found his pot of gold, but alas, the Dianetics fad faded like the hula-hoop craze, its foundations disintegrating into debt and disorder.

Then came the epiphany, shared with his second wife Sara Northrup, who appears in the film as the shell-shocked survivor of LRH’s dreams. “The only way to make any real money,” he told her, “was to have a religion.”

3 comments:

Vic78 said...

I'm going to celebrate Easter by going to the strip club.

arnach said...

So why, CNu, at least three decades after pointing out LRH's project, did you decide to join an existing old-line religion rather than starting one of your own?

CNu said...

Because I didn't know enough to properly serve the faithful, that has changed.....,

CIA Showed The House Speaker Its Pictures Of His Little Johnson.....,

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