The more closely you study Scientology you more you realise that it was designed to appeal to the popular imagination of a particular culture in a particular historical period – that of Cold War America.
More than half a century later, many of its teachings are now dated and irrelevant – but they cannot be changed, as Hubbard’s writings are considered to be holy writ. For example, Hubbard attacked psychiatry by exploiting a popular distaste for the practice of lobotomy and electroshock – treatments which have since fallen into disuse.
Consequently, the Church has no choice but to cheat. They still attack psychiatry and psychiatrists -but now they exploit popular concerns about psychiatric medication (which they demonise as “psych drugs”) to do so. This breaks their own rules – they ignore Hubbard’s ‘infallible’ instructions to attack lobotomy and electroshock and substitute a target that is more relevant to the 21st century.
This academic paper examines another prominent practice of the Church of Scientology that has been rescued from irrelevance by selectively interpreting Hubbard’s writings. The “Purification Rundown” had its origin as a ‘cure’ for radiation poisoning that exploited popular fears about the aftermath of nuclear war. It is now promoted as a beneficial ‘detox’ regime, and a (quack) ‘cure’ for drug addiction.
2012 | L Ron Hubbard’s Alternative to the Bomb Shelter: Scientology’s Emergence as a Pseudo-science During the 1950s | Terra Manca | The Journal of Religion and Popular Culture 24:1, Spring 2012
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Manca argues that, when the US government failed to address the public’s fears of the consequences of a nuclear war with the Soviet Union it provided pseudo-science with an opportunity to prosper by offering false promises of safety and security. For example, L Ron Hubbard invented a pseudo-scientific ‘treatment’ for radiation poisoning which required ‘patients’ to take vitamin overdoses and spend excessive time in a sauna.
Manca nails her colours to the mast, criticizing scholars like James R Lewis who,
Uncritically detail Scientology’s beliefs and structures without acknowledging any potential harms they could cause adherents. I assess Scientology’s radiation-curing claims out of concern that those who turn to Scientology about radiation, its effects, and proper responses to it could suffer significant health and/or financial consequences.
She argues that Hubbard, had no knowledge of nuclear physics or medicine – and that his ineffective (and potentially dangerous) ‘detox’ was no more than a means to recruit people into Scientology and separate them from substantial sums of money.
Now that the threat of all-out nuclear war has receded, this unalterable doctrine has also been rewritten. The quack medicine that Hubbard claimed would cure radiation poisoning has been re-purposed to ‘cure’ drug dependency in Scientology-run ‘Narconon Clinics‘. This treatment is expensive and worthless. It has contributed to many avoidable deaths, and it used to recruit vulnerable people into Scientology.
This is a closely argued, comprehensively referenced account of the history of one of Scientology’s most dangerous pseudo-medical claims