God Bless America – Karen Stollznow

godblessamerica2013| God Bless America: Strange & Unusual Religious Beliefs & Practices in the United States
Karen Stollznow

ISBN-10: 1939578000
ISBN-13: 978-1939578006

This book is a whistle-stop tour of a variety of American religions including fundamentalist Mormon groups, the Amish and Mennonites, Voodoo and Satanism.

It includes an extensive section (chapter 7) on Scientology which focusses on the contemporary church. This is well-researched, and includes of a few telling anecdotes about Scientology’s recruitment practices.

Scientology’s war against psychiatry is covered, including its controversial exhibition, “Psychiatry: Industry of Death”. A discussion of ‘touch assists’ (including the farcical “Bring back to life assist”) leads into a discussion of the ‘work’  ‘of Volunteer Ministers’ in disaster areas.

To her credit, Stollznow deals with Scientology’s practices in a straightforward way which authors (and publishers) would once have avoided for fear of  litigation from the church.  She does not flinch when describing controversial issues such as:

  • The Xenu story (and a number of other ‘space opera ‘incidents’)
  • The  involvement of celebrities with the Church.
  • The terrible consequences of  Scientology’s denial of mental and physical illness (which discusses the death of  Lisa McPherson and others
  • The persecution of critics by the Church according to the policy of ‘Fair Game’
  • The continuing practice of Disconnection
  • Hubbard’s mythologised life

The chapter closes with the author’s entertaining description of her visit to a Scientology ‘Sunday Service’. After some puzzlement, a service was undertaken for a congregation of one, while staff worked on around her. This experience supports the proposition that Scientology’s claim to the status of a religion, and its adoption of religious trappings, is a cynical device to avoid paying tax.

It’s an excellent introduction to the contemporary Church of Scientology, especially for someone with no previous knowledge. Well worth a read.

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