Enemy bomber intercepted … last reported down in flames

Posted: March 8, 2008 in Media
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Scientology: Born Again
Former Scientologist speaks out

By Chase Mitchell
Staff Writer
Gwinnett Daily Post

Considering the veritable constellation of big-screen stars alligned behind the Church of Scientology, it’s fitting that what Astra Woodcraft says she experienced as a follower sounds like something straight out of a horror movie.

While the public sees smiling celebrities attributing their health and happiness to the teachings of L. Ron Hubbard, Woodcraft speaks of cramped quarters and meager rations. Of hard labor and harassment. Of pledging service that extends beyond this life and into the next.
Unlike those famous faces, she was literally born into the church, in London. Her mother was already a member, and even at a tender age, Woodcraft learned things that struck her as odd. When she had an accident – say, hit her head on a door, for instance – she was taught to perform a “contact assist,” gently repeating the motion that led to her injury while standing exactly where it happened.

“My mom, if I would hurt myself, she would make me do this, Woodcraft said, “and she’d make me do it in public.”

For awhile, the occasional bout of embarrassment was the only red flag in an otherwise normal childhood.

Then, when Woodcraft’s grandfather died, her grieving mom flew to the states to seek counciling at Scientology’s “spiritual headquarters,” the Flag Service Organization in Clearwater, Fla.

“While she was there,” Woodcraft said, “she was recruited to join Sea Org.”

Established in 1968 by Hubbard himself, The Sea Organization is a sect of Scientology dedicated to the study of past life recollections and, as Woodcraft puts it, “saving the world.” A truly epic commitment, members are expected to sign a billion-year contract, one that requires them to report back for duty over the course of several lifetimes.

Woodcraft’s mother soon sent for her children, and just like that, a family of five was plucked from a comfortable life in a nice house and thrust into an impoverished existence in a roach-infested hotel room.

Getting out

According to Atlanta Scientologist Deb Danos, “no way” is anyone who wants to leave the church pressured to stay.

But Woodcraft says she was once in charge of doing just that – keeping potential quitters in the fold.

“I can say firsthand that the pressure brought upon people to not leave is immense, psychologically and physically,” she said, speaking specifically of Sea Org.

If you wanted out of The Sea Organization, she said, you were immediately assigned hard labor, and put under a security watch. Interrogations using an E-Meter, a sort of Scientology-crafted lie-detector, soon followed.

You’re called “a degraded being,” she said, and asked what crime you’re hiding that would make you want to renege on your contract.

Of course, once you’ve endured all their intimidation tactics (which can take years, Woodcraft said), you’re free to go – if you haven’t already changed your mind. But those who don’t play by the rules are instantly branded a “suppressive person,” forbidden from any sort of contact with family or friends still involved with Scientology.

“If you leave without permission, you’ll be cut off from everyone,” Woodcraft said.

‘An ax to grind’?

Danos said she believes that anyone who leaves Scientology and goes on to publicly criticize the church has some sort of ulterior motive.

“These people who are the most noisy have a very specific ax to grind,” she said.

According to Danos, Scientologists pride themselves on “absolute and utter truth and integrity,” and people who abandon the group do so because they have skeletons in their closet they didn’t want the church to expose.

Woodcraft, who has not only left the organization but now runs an anti-Scientology Web site (www.exscientology kids.com) along with two other escapees, called the deflection of criticism an attempt at damage control.

“To me,” she said, “that’s a pretty transparent attempt to stop people from speaking out.”

According to Woodcraft, disillusioned parishioners are told that if they’re not responding well to the teachings, the problem lies with them, not the church. And for a long time after she made it out, Woodcraft felt that guilt.

“I didn’t leave saying, ‘I hate Scientology,'” she said, “I left saying, ‘I’m a horrible person.'”

Calling anyone a liar simply for reporting the church’s alleged misdeeds is “like blaming the abused,” Woodcraft added, pointing out that she and the other women who run the site all grew up in Scientology from birth, “so how many skeletons could we have in our closet? … It’s a ridiculous accusation.”

The cost of salvation

The church has been accused of being directly responsible for the financial ruin of some of its most fervently faithful, but Danos said getting started in Scientology is “extremely inexpensive.”

“You can go in and do something for 30 bucks,” she said. “The first book is 10 bucks.”

Warning … danger Will Robinson. I can’t help but note that this would be like walking into your local jewelry store and overhearing the clerk tell a young couple that they can get a “starter” ring for $19.95. Paaaalease! My head’s exploding again.

Woodcraft, though, warns that things get exponentially pricier once you reach the religion’s highest echelons, or if you try to quit.

“If you leave,” she said, “they send a bill for everything you’ve done.”

Woodcraft’s, which she still has a copy of, was $89,000. Modest compared to the hundreds of thousands of dollars she said some people end up dropping just to rise up the ranks.

Danos said that by the time anyone gets to the point where they have to pay more for Hubbard’s teachings, “well, they’re either on board or they’re not on board. … Nobody who’s doing that is complaining about it.”

Do I hear the voice of Tom Cruise in the background?

“Either you’re in … or you’re out.”

It’s like … phoooff!

What the heck does that mean anyway?

Every religion has to make money somehow, she added.

“If somebody goes around giving away Bibles,” Danos said, “somebody has to pay for that. Instead of taking up collections, we’re structured in a different way. We don’t meet on Sunday and pass around a hat. We have a very different, very set method of deriving funds. It’s very much a ‘this is what you get for your money’ kind of thing.”

So tell me Ms. Danos … if it’s a “this is what you get for your money” kind of thing, how is it that your “church members” get to take a TAX DEDUCTION on their training sessions. Do we have a little 1st Amendment problem here (I’m thinking the “Establishment Clause” was set aside, giving Scientology special treatment unlike ANY other religion in the U.S.)? Well, of course we do, but soon that’s going to change and the great empire of Pie-in-the-sky-in-tology will come crashing to earth!

But according to Woodcraft, what people really get for all that money isn’t the answers to life’s questions – it’s silly stories about “aliens invading our bodies.”

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Comments
  1. […] PseudoScientology added an interesting post today on Enemy bomber intercepted … last reported down in flamesHere’s a small reading […]

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  2. duke says:

    Peace be with the moderator, as well as those
    reading this message.(if it is not censored 🙂
    The time has come.
    I am here to bring judgment to the living and
    the dead. The harvest is ripe.
    Pass this on to all fellow believers.

    The Faithful Witness
    Duke

    Like

  3. […] at Pseudoscientology, they link to a great article in the Gwinnet Daily Post which features some experiences former […]

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  4. John says:

    I knew Astra personally when she was on staff – she had a different last name then as she was married. I lived and worked in the same place and I can say she is exaggerating her complaints and leaving out all the positive aspects. She’s now working real hard to justify the things she has said. Its sad. I liked her.

    Scientology works for me, I have a great family life, make lots of money and am blown away by the power and simplicity of what Scientology teaches. I understand why powerful and successful people are drawn to it. I can also tell a lot of the critics have no idea what they are talking about. Out of millions of Scientologists who are happily practicing their religion around the world there are just a few of these detractors by comparison. I guess every religion ends up with disaffected sub-groups. Every dog has his fleas.

    If you want to know what Scientology really is, don’t take my word for it, or someone else’s word. Read a book by L. Ron Hubbard, or take an introductory course and find out. Scientologists don’t do it for no reason, you know.

    If you don’t want to, that’s fine. Your choice. Live and let live.

    And for those who sit in the trees and scream and throw their baloney at Scientologists. My question is, who are you to try and tell me what religion I can be? Scientologists aren’t brainwashed. There are no crimes being committed at our church- if there are then PLEASE call the police. We are law abiding people too.

    As most Scientologists will tell you, Scientology has helped me have a fulfilling, wonderful life. You just can’t argue with results!

    Like

  5. MorkfromOrk says:

    John

    Obviously you haven’t reached OT3 where good old Xenu commits genocide and hauls his victims here in nothing but the finest…rocket powered DC8s.

    The beginnings of $cientology are the cheese in the mouse trap, using common sense, let’s communicate better and be honest sales pitch trap.

    However this isn’t about your religious beliefs, you wanna pay $300,000 to believe we’re all infested with blown up alien souls, go right ahead.

    At issue is the actions of your leaders and management, whose tactics and methods (like your post) hide your true organizations true nature.

    See ya 3-15.

    Like

  6. Anon says:

    John,

    Our battle isn’t with you, nor is it with your relegion. The war on the ‘net is against the Church (though most battle against the releigion as well) and the way it is run. If Scientology works for you, it works for you. None are trying to dispute that.

    Prehaps you’ve seen pictures of the Feb 10th protest. Notable among the signs are the ones that say “Relegion is free. Scientology isn’t.” This is one the main issues critics of the Church have. The above article says: “‘If somebody goes around giving away Bibles,’ Danos said, ‘somebody has to pay for that'” Compare this to Christanity. The Gideons International is a global organization dedicated simply to passing out free bibles. They ensure that the scripture of the releigion is free to all who want it. The Church of Scientology offers their Dianetics: The Modern Science of Mental Health for no less than $35. Similar prices for the vast ammonts of church literature quickly drive up the cost of knowledge. Every major relegion (Judaism, Islam, Christanity, Hinduism, Buddhism) has established organizations that freely distribute their relegious material. Sceintology does not.

    Furthermore, The Church of Sceintology charges for it’s services. Does the Catholic Church charge for baptism? Does Buddhism place a price tag on enlightenment? To charge for services is in all ways acceptable, but are the prices that the Church charges nessicary? Islam is a powerfull force on the planet, and it survives wholly on donations. Why doens’t the Church of Sceintology try? Have it’s leaders been caught up by the money? Regaless of the releigous intent, the CHURCH seems to be a church of coinage.

    Church officals and and parishioners who have pushed for reform have been expelled. This has occured in all faiths. Martin Luther began the Protestant movement because the Catholic Church turned into a “Cult of Greed and Power.” Today, the Freezone trys to reform the Church of Scientology, and they are silenced by the church just as Martin Luther was silenced.

    “You just can’t argue with results!” We’re not. We’re arguing with the way the church is run. Why is it so costly to practice Scientology? Why is reform so suppressed? If it works for you, keep your faith. But ask yourself, why are things the way they are? “If you don’t want to, that’s fine. Your choice. Live and let live.”

    Like

  7. beentheredonethat says:

    Hi all,
    I’m also a former $cientologist (like Astra) and also a former Sea Org member. I am so happy to be out. I am so happy to be able to think for myself for real. I am so happy to know who my friends truly are.

    John,
    Have you ever looked at anything that was critical of the organization? Like Operation Clambake? I know that you’re not allowed to read negative things about your church, that it’s considered entheta. I’m sorry you cannot see the information that would help you be completely apprised of the situation. I understand. Having been a member for 30 years (and yes, there were lots of positive things I gained from it), I am aware of how quickly you must shut down your mind when you encounter something critical. You must realize that you can never do a full “doubt formula.” You will never be able to see the whole picture. Reach out, we can help you. There’s a website for ex-SO, there’s an 800#, there’s a yahoo group. You won’t end up homeless. Really.

    Like

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