I’m an Atheist. I first realized it when I was in basic training and they asked my religious preference for my dog tags. The military engraves your religion on your dog tags because in a war, there are representatives of different religions who will check the dog tags of the critically injured and provide spiritual comfort. My dog tags say “No Religious Pref” because I decided if I’m ever in that position on a battlefield, the only person I want crouched over me is a medic, and I’d hate to have one pass me by because some idiot is reading me a story.
I grew up with a Christian upbringing and self-identified as an armchair Christian well into my 20’s before finally admitting I don’t believe a word of the bible nor want to be a part of the dogma. Having a scientific mind, I love experiments, and there’s no better subject of experimentation than myself so as a free agent, I explored many religions. I found every religion has good intentions, but the human organization and application of these beliefs creates turmoil. Everyone wants their belief to be the one truth. The one religion I found difficult to learn about, and thus relate to, has always been Scientology.
This past August, that all changed. After blowing the whistle on Bank of America and severing my ties in Arizona, I moved to Clearwater, FL to further my education in legal studies. A lot happened in the four months I’ve lived here so far. The event that bothered me the most was in October when I got fired from my job as a legal assistant for identifying myself in the Huffington Post as an Occupy activist. The law firm I worked for was owned and operated by the Christian Conservatives whose old money and votes and influence consistently make Florida one of the least progressive States in the Union. I was told my activities outside of work conflict with the beliefs of the company. Being a broke full time college student, the loss of income was devastating. Three days later, however, I got another job. The small business that hired me is run by the management principles of L Ron Hubbard.
When I accepted the job, I was admittedly a little worried. Clearwater is a Scientology mecca, and as a known Anonymous collaborator, I didn’t expect a warm welcome. I assumed I would be chased out of town with torches and pitchforks. Scientologists are infamously secretive, and even they’re aware that the outside world looks at them as a crazy cult. On top of that, my connections in Anonymous may not appreciate me sleeping with the enemy. Life is filled with gray areas, but I’m walking a very thin line in a black and white situation. I need the income though, so I put my fears aside, read a book on Hubbard’s management principles, and dove straight into the liver of the beast. What I learned shocked me…
The first thing that stuck out is Scientologists are accepting of anyone, regardless of their personal history or beliefs. In fact, I signed a contract stating that while I’m working under L Ron Hubbard’s principles, I have religious freedom and am in no way required to join their church or follow their beliefs. They bring business down to the numbers. As long as you produce the numbers they need for the business, they don’t care if you spend your weekends sacrificing goats to appease the gods and make it rain. You may think every business in our society of “free religion” is run this way, but deep down we all know better than that. If Chick-Fil-A separated their Christian beliefs from their business model, I could buy bland chik’n on a Sunday with my gay friends. I can’t even get a Jamba Juice on Sundays, and I bet their CEO thinks homosexuality is a sin as well. The Christian Conservative owners of the law firm I worked at fired me within 4 hours of starting my HuffPost blog, and if you read that post, it’s not even remotely religious or political. Experiencing this side of Scientology intrigued me. I had to explore further.
I started talking to my coworkers to feel them out. I found that while they have their idiosyncrasies and faults just like everyone else, they’re all really good people. I never once felt like I was being brainwashed, pressured, or any of the other stories I’ve heard. Over time some of us built up enough trust with each other to breach the subject of Scientology. What I learned was they’re no different than the followers of any other religion. They’re simply looking for peace and happiness. I found their teachings to be very similar to Buddhism, which is my favorite religion at this point in my journey. Nothing in our conversations seemed any more cultish than the buildings I visited every Sunday as a child to imbibe an effigy of the tortured man adorning every wall and window. So if these people are inherently good, why is there such a stigma attached to Scientology? My hypothesis is the title of this post: Scientologists are the Americans of religion.
Few Americans alive today have seen a war fought on our lands. We can’t even imagine the possibility of going to work amongst barbed wire fences, demolished buildings, and armed soldiers. Red Dawn is nothing more than a Hollywood fantasy. In the mind of the average American, history is over, and we won. The reason we’re allowed to walk around thinking we own the world is because we have very strong defenses. The rest of the world can loathe and mock us, but they don’t act because they fear the power of our drone army. The drones protecting the Scientologist nirvana are expensive attorneys. These attorneys go to great lengths to ensure the continuance of their way of life. You may badmouth their beliefs to your friends, but few outside Anonymous have the cojones to speak out against them. In fact the only reason Anonymous ever had beef with Scientology isn’t because of their beliefs. It’s because they tried to censor the internet, and nobody…and I mean NOBODY…messes with our interwebz.
As an American, I hope you understand that your thoughts about Scientology are pretty much what everyone else in the world thinks about you…
As for me, I’m excited to see the ramifications of writing this article. Will Anonymous turn on me like the “radical terrorists” they’re made out to be in the media? Will I end up fired or locked in one of the storied Scientology detox rooms?
Or will it turn out that both of these groups are more compassionate and understanding than we’ve been told? So far they’ve both got the Christians in my life beat…
What do you think?
Brian Penny is a former Business Analyst at Bank of America turned whistleblower, freelance consultant, and troll. He’s a frequent contributor to The Street, Cannabis Now, and Fast Company, Huffington Post, Mainstreet, Lifehack, and HardcoreDroid.