Jon Ronsons’ “For The Love of… Scientology” Late Night TV Chat with Scientologists, From 1997

for the love of1997 | Jon Ronson | For The Love of… Scientology|  Channel 4 Television|   Watch Online | Download as .mp4

Jon Ronson is a journalist and writer, principally known as the author of books which explore weird beliefs and their social consequences.

These include:

  • “The Men Who Stare at Goats”, which explores the curious cold war programme designed to create ‘psychic spies’ for the US military (Another book “Remote Viewers” by Jim Schnabel describes the involvement of practising Scientologists in this doomed effort).
  • “Adventures With Extremists” which examines the extreme beliefs of characters such as David Icke (TV sports pundit turned extraterrestrial conspiracy theorist, Ian Paisley and others.
  • The self-explanatory, “Out of the Ordinary: True Tales of Everyday Craziness” and “What I Do: More True Tales of Everyday Craziness”.

Between 1997 and 2000 he hosted a curious late night talk show on Channel 4 (at that time, the UK’s second commercial TV channel, after ITV). In it he talks to, and draws out, groups of ordinary people who have extraordinary hobbies and beliefs.

The very first programme brought together a group of UK Scientologists. We have become used to the modern Church of Scientology’s hostile and controlling attitude towards media interviews. In contrast, these people  are unsupervised and relaxed. They genuinely appear to be speaking their minds . As a consequence, they come over far more sympathetically.

Some activists may criticise  Ronson for not asking hard questions about the abuses of Scientology. Fair enough. However, I feel there is a place for this type of programme. It is the nearest that  people like me (who have never been members of the Church) will get to observing how Scientologists interact with each other, and the operation of social influence, which normalises the most bizarre beliefs (as long as they keep them within the group).

Granted, on this occasion they are on their very best behaviour and anxious to make a good impression – but this is better than nothing.

You can view the 51 minute programme in  a video window after the break.

Ronson also gathered together believers in the extraordinary English cult, the Aetherius Society, Hare Krishna, Tibetan Buddhism, the controversial Jesus Army, Kabbalah, the Mormons, and many others which are equally fascinating.

For those of you with similar tastes, here’s a link to a lovingly-compiled YouTube playlist which covers the entire series


The Cast

Lizzy Calcioli is the sister of Neil Gaiman (the famous author) were was born in a family of Scientologists – their father was the late David Gaiman, once the Church of Scientology’s UK spokesman. Recently, the family were involved in a  UK court case which resulted in Scientology Orgs being recognised as ‘places of worship’, so that marriages could be solemnised there. She still seems to be actively  involved in Scientology
Dr. Edward Hamlyn  qualified as general practitioner, but seems to have abandoned scientific medicine for homoeopathy and the pursuit of  conspiracy theories. For example, claimed that:
Murie Cheshire has achieved the Church of Scientology’s Highest level of training – OT8, delivered only on its cruise ship, the Freewinds. As of this date, she would be in her early 90’s.
Georgina Roberts is a 2nd generation scientologist, attended Greenfields school in East Grinstead, while her mother worked as a teacher there. Greenfields is the UK’s prime recruiting ground for the Sea Org. “Georgina Roberts 26, an actress”, was encountered on staff at Saint Hill Manor (UK Scientology’s HQ) by a reporter for the “Independent” newspaper, who took a personality test there for a story “Signing up for Scientology“.
Sheila Bulger is another OT8. Once a member of the Sea Org, she was last reported on staff at a Scientology Org in London.
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5 thoughts on “Jon Ronsons’ “For The Love of… Scientology” Late Night TV Chat with Scientologists, From 1997

  1. This is fascinating; Thank you! Ronson does a really great job here, asking questions but mainly just letting them talk. They’re so comfortable with him. I’ve never seen anything like this. Most of the other things I’ve seen have been either stilted promo videos or Scientologists in confrontations of some sort.

    And of course we get someone raised from the dead via a touch assist and a Buddhism comparison. And the show wouldn’t be complete without this oft trotted out gem: “Mr. Hubbard was the first person ever to properly define the nature of humanity and to recognize the spiritual nature of man.” It’s not even wrong.

    Given the age of the older folks, I imagine they’ve died by now. But the younger ones, I wonder if they’ve blown. I hope so.

    PS – I’m a Bunkerite *waving*

  2. I suspect that this is a period piece, and the kind of openness shown here on the part of Scientologists has not been possible for some time.

    I suppose it shows why Scientology’s recruitment procedure has always emphasised social pressure, and has worked to persuade people to participate sight unseen. If they allow members to speak openly, they sound very strange – but if they try to repress open speech they come over as controlling and scary.

    Louis Theroux has been ‘advertising’ on Twitter for Scientologist to participate in an apparently similar “[…] non-judgemental inquiry into Scientology beliefs and practices, from inside the Church”. He will likely have to content himself with ex and independent Scientologists, because no present Church member would dare to do what Ronson’s guests did.

    The younger participants are likely blown – Scientology has always had a tremendous turnover of membership. One of the reasons for their present (probably terminal) difficulties is that their rate of recruitment no longer matches the rate of defection.

    Finally , I would love to hear from anyone who recognises any of the participants (or who actually took part).

    PS – There should be a secret handshake, or something *waves back*.

    • Sorry for the late reply. For some reason, your reply didn’t show up in my wordpress notifications.

      Anyhow, yeah, the difficulties in recruitment are terminal. Even if Miscavige were somehow outsted, the cherch’s terrible PR cannot be undone. it would take a generation or more of clean living and who knows what else just to make it seem remotely palatable to people. I don’t see that happening.

      I so hope the people in the video are out and well.

      I love your blog, btw – helps me get my daily fix! Thank you!

      Ha, we do need a secret Bunker handshake 🙂

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