For our final post -- for now -- from the self-proclaimed Scientologist apostate inside the San Francisco Church of Scientology, we talk to ethicstrouble about the path to deciding that Scientology was a hoax. "The reason I'm talking to you is I want this thing to fall apart," ethicstrouble told us. "I think it abuses people's faith, promises things it can't deliver, and I think it's awful."
If you'd like to catch up with our previous conversations, here are our posts to date:
Ethicstrouble releases San Francisco churches statistics
Life in the Org
Anonymous' Effect On Scientology
SF Weekly: So was this a long process or was there one "aha" moment that started you on the path to questioning Scientology?
Ethicstrouble: It's a very, very slow process. You had something in your life that made you so happy, that told you I've lived past lives, I'm an immortal being, and Scientology is going to bring me up to a state where I experience immortality. If you believe that, you're willing to overlook so many things. Once you're a believer, it's hard to break that spell.
SFW: When did the process start for you?
ET: Ive been looking online for about three years now for information.
SFW: So would you say that the Internet is the death knell of Scientology?
: Absolutely. Before you believed whatever they told you, I saw people getting in trouble years and years ago for reading A Piece of Blue Sky
[a 1990 book that criticized the church], for having that and looking at it. They were told the book is all a lie, and you were already converted so you totally thought the book was a lie. SFW
: Other than masked Anonymous protesters dancing outside the org, what made you start to question your beliefs?
: It's fueled by the fact the technology does not work. Anonymous wakes people up and makes them question more. The chairman of the board say we're going straight up in vertical, but it's been six years and the number [of people] in our courses is the same. You slowly start picking out lies. People who reach these OT levels are supposed to have these special abilities, and you look at them and say, 'They're the same they were years ago.'
[Ethicstrouble references a passage
from L. Ron Hubbard's History of Man
that states: "So, again, as a final note on this chapter, let's not go upsetting governments and putting on a show to 'prove' anything to homo sapiens for a while; it's a horrible temptation to knock off hats at fifty yards and read books a couple of countries away ..."]
None of them can knock hats off at 50 yards. People in the OT levels supposedly don't get upset anymore, but I know OT8's that get upset all the time. You start finding little things that don't make sense.
SFW: Was there any other major blows to your belief?
ET: The retraining for auditors was supposed to make so many auditors, but there's less auditors! The basics release was a big thing. [Reporter's note: In July 2007, Scientology leader David Miscavige announced the church would rerelease all L. Ron Hubbard's basic books after they'd found Hubbard's original recordings and corrected mistakes.] For the whole package of the books it's probably about $1,200. It's big money. The blame was put on the people who edited the books, made mistakes and didn't copy it exactly. That's why the books had to be resold. That was a big factor for me -- when I was at that event I was like, 'What the hell, didn't L. Ron Hubbard look at his own books and make sure they were correct?'
SFW: So hasn't the e-meter shown you to be a nonbeliever?
ET: I have learned how to beat it. When you ask a question, if the needle jerks that means there's something there. And when the needle floats back and forth that means you've told all. When you believe, you can't hide anything. But when you start not to believe, all of sudden one day I was in, and I got away with stuff, and I learned I could beat it.
: So were you scared to go online and post that message
thanking Anonymous for their protests?
ET: Yeah, but I'm scared of everything I do. Just like I had a purpose to be a Scientologist, now I have a purpose to know what's really going on.
SFW: So what's keeping you back from just walking out of the church and never returning?
ET: The stupidest thing would be say I know it's all a scam. So what I'm doing is what I have to do. Hundreds of people don't go to events and courses anymore, they have left the church, and nobody knows about it. I'm not doing that. If I were to leave the church, I would be declared a "suppressive person."
Every Scientologist would have nothing to do with me. They'd go to my work, put fliers around my house saying what a bad person I am, stuff like that.
[Reporter's note: ethicstrouble confirmed that Tommy Gorman and Jennifer Stewart
have been declared "suppressive people" after they left the church and now protest it. As covered in our 2008 cover story
, Stewart alleges she was repeatedly raped by a church leader from the Mountain View org, a claim the church denies while having settled with Stewart out of court for a handsome sum. Gorman and Stewart don't mind being declared suppressive people: They show up to protest the church with Anonymous, and Gorman once shaved the letters "SP" into his crew cut.]
: So when will you defect from the church?ET
: I plan on leaving when the things fall apart. You and me talking is no accident. With the attrition that's happening, there's less staff, there's auditors and leaders leaving, things are going downhill in response to Anonymous. At some point, the church is going to crash. I don't know if it's next week, or next year. The reason I'm talking to you is I want this thing to fall apart. I think it abuses people's faith, promises things it can't deliver, and I think it's awful. Me talking to you now is my one little part in bringing this thing down.Follow us on Twitter at @TheSnitchSF and @SFWeekly