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Is Scientology Done?

Katie Holmes divorcing Tom Cruise has to be the happiest news for newspapers around the world since Michael Jackson was juggling babies. It will give them months of content to work with in the doldrums of the summer season. Every aspect of the divorce proceedings means more headlines.

Scientology is the elephant in the room. It’s a huge target for the media and for internet activism. But Scientology doesn’t really matter. It hasn’t mattered in a while.

Sure Scientology is pretty awful if you’re a member or if a family member is a member. But there really aren’t all that many of them, especially outside California. Their numbers are declining and their senior people keep defecting. The latest defectors include L. Ron Hubbard’s granddaughter and the father of their current leader.

Of L. Ron Hubbard’s seven children, only one, Diana, 59, the first of his children by his third wife, Mary Sue, is still a loyal member of the church.

This isn’t what a successful movement looks like.

Scientology probably peaked in the 70’s. It kept going through the self-help and corporate training seminars of the 80’s, but it was already fading. It just took a while for those on the inside and outside to realize it. Movements change with the times, but how do you do that when you’re a cult that reprocesses the ideas of a failed Science Fiction writer born in 1911?

Scientology is a therapy guru cult from the 50’s whose two biggest draws, Tom Cruise and John Travolta, are also on the wrong side of 50. It probably stopped expanding a while back and just exists to give some of its leaders a good life and a full time job. Its secretiveness and terror tactics made it a natural foe for internet activists. But if Scientology is such a powerful network, why wasn’t it able to protect Travolta from his massage meltdown going public or keep Cruise’s child bride on the reservation? If you can’t intimidate a few masseuses and the star of Dawson’s Creek (fun fact, James Van Der Beek is also in a cult) then you must be losing your touch.

Scientology won’t go away this decade but by the end of it they’ll be older and more shrunken than ever. They stopped mattering a while back. Kicking them around is easy, but no matter what they’re on the way out.


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