I WENT TO SCIENTOLOGY MASS

I'm sitting on my couch, eating a bowl of popcorn and watching these Scientology DVDs I got from Sundays mass. If you've ever seen commercials for any of those motivational self help DVDs, i.e. the Lucinda Bassett program, or maybe you've seen the commercials for drugs that help you deal with depression or anxiety, well these Scientology DVDs are just like that. There's all that sappy stock footage of people walking along a beach barefoot with their pants rolled up to their knees, somebody laying in a grassy field with wind blowing through their hair, and any other sappy happy crap you could think up.

Theres all that and then there's footage of people on the verge of tears with their heads in their hands, people with a puppy dog sad face looking out a window at the rain coming down or a couple arguing with each other in slow motion and on mute. You can't help but to try and read their lips as this narrator is explaining The Arc Triangle, a Scientology tool to better interact with other human beings or "Thetans" as they would call us. This is all in an effort to show you how life could be verses how it really is. It's supposed to remind you that you're unhappy and why. It's supposed to make you see how Scientology can provide the tools necessary for a better life.

A Scientology mass isn't as weird as you might think and maybe that's the weirdest part of all. It kind of felt like a support group in a way. About nine people showed up to this particular mass along with me and two friends. This one guy from the church lead the mass. I dunno if they call em ministers or not, he just called himself Gary. This guy Gary, dressed all in black just like everyone else in the building, reads aloud some teachings of scientology that he bookmarked prior to the mass.

We got there early and Gary was standing there just looking over this big red book of Scientology, it's their bible if they'd call it a bible but I don't think they do. He started asking us questions. "What made you decide to come here? What made you give this a chance?" We asked him the same questions in return.

Considering all the controversy surrounding Scientology, asking a scientologist "What made you come here?" is a question worth asking. Nobody asks a Jewish person why they are at a synagogue or a Catholic why they are at church. Those religions are hand me downs. No disrespect to those religions it's just that you're usually born into them, they're inherited. Scientology is new and a choice to practice it is made solely by the individual. So you ask each other, what made you come here? What made you give this a chance? And we did.

Gary came here because he was unhappy. The truth is that everyone that comes here comes here because they are unhappy. You could say Scientology is a rehabilitation clinic for the unhappy.

Unhappiness can easily make a person desperate. In desperation there's little one won't do to fill that void. Scientology promises something that we all want and that's a better life. No matter how good our lives may be, we always want something more. Scientology thrives on our discontent.

Gary opens the big red Scientology book at mass and he reads a selection he bookmarked earlier.

Two Rules For Happy Living:

1. Be able to experience anything.

2. Cause only those things which others can easily experience.

Gary explains this as being open and positive about the things and situations that happen to you in your life and to cause only positive situations for others. We talked about this for a while. People raised their hands and asked questions. Some people shared how they live by these rules in their own lives. The weirdest thing about Scientology mass is that it really isn't weird at all.

Scientology is considered to be a cult by many, a pyramid scheme by others and even banned in some countries. Knowing this, it seems bizarre that this mass can seem so normal and almost mundane. All twelve of us sitting in a quiet room listening to Gary tell us about the Two Rules For Happy Living. Is this the stuff that cults are made of?

Gary told us before the mass, "If you're looking for strange stuff, you're not gonna find it here. You might as well leave now." He was right, we didn't; at least not that day. I've read that the strange and unusual comes only after you've spent time and money graduating to higher levels set up by the church.

Apparently there's a certain level in which they'll reveal the story of Lord Xenu, the dictator of the Galactic Confederacy who brought billions of his people to earth 75 million years ago and killed them all off in volcanoes. The belief is their spirits have attached to our souls and cause us harm. Conveniently, the only way to rid yourself of these alien spirits is through auditing, an expensive practice of spiritual counseling in the church. A pyramid scheme.

Whether Scientology is taking advantage of people I can't say for sure. I can't go on what I've read as the truth and I haven't spent the time and money necessary to really immerse myself in the church. All I can be sure of is what I saw at that mass and what I saw was a bunch of people who genuinely want a better life. Some of them were returning customers and others were first timers like me. It's people trying to figure out life, looking for answers to big questions. Whether you go to a mosque, a synagogue or a church, you're going for the same reason. These people chose scientology for the same reasons too.

The mass ends with Gary saying something like "...And these are the teachings brought to us by L Ron Hubbard" as he points to this bronze bust of LRH himself. Everyone stands and claps as they look at this statuette.

We hung around for a bit and talked to some of the scientologists. They could sniff out that we were newcomers, I guess it wasn't hard to see considering the questions we were asking. I felt they were all constantly on the defensive. It's almost as if they thought it was just a matter of time before we asked about Lord Xenu or said something else stupid that they heard a million times before. I can't say I blame them, I'm sure they deal with that stuff all the time.

I'm sitting here watching these Scientology DVDs and wondering how much they pay these actors. There's an angry guy unsuccessfully trying to hail a cab and another guy watching the sunset on the edge of a cliff. I could do that. They should show me drinking a whiskey and coke having a deep conversation with a complete stranger, having a ball and laughing. I could even turn to the camera and wink. All that sappy happy crap. It's just an infomercial but what religion isn't trying to sell you something? Whether they're selling happiness, an after life or a release from Lord Xenu's evil alien spirits. What makes one more valid than the other and what's the difference anyway?