Most of us were a little taken aback when Tom Cruise jumped on the couch on The Oprah Winfrey Show over his love for then new girlfriend, Katie Holmes. We knew he was a Scientologist, but because of the mystery surrounding the religion, we didn't know whether any of his behavior had to do with Scientology or if he was just a bit off (don't forget that argument with Matt Lauer about psychiatry).
But the secrets of this mysterious "religion," with celebrities like Cruise and John Travolta as the unofficial spokesmen, have been revealed over time.
First, there was a South Park episode that detailed parts of Scientology's doctrine in 2005. It was shocking for Non-Scientologists to learn the doctrine that only Scientologists of the highest levels are privy to. This is what the big secret was? Something that could be out of a sci-fi novel? The gist is: Frozen galactic Lord Xenu sent other frozen aliens to earth 75 million years ago and put them in volcanoes. These volcanoes then exploded and now these souls float around to cling to us and cause us pain and problems in our current lives. Scientology's aim would be to rid us of those once frozen aliens so we could become "clear."
Which brings us to 2015 and the award winning documentary Going Clear (based on a book of the same name) that completely shredded the veil that separated the general public from the secrets of Scientology. Former members and experts –like The New Yorker writer and author of the book Going Clear, Lawrence Wright – revealed everything from the full doctrine, to disconnection (a form of shunning), to auditing, to billion year contracts minors can sign, to "the hole" as a form of punishment (it's even worse than it sounds), and other abuses.
But this past year, it would be Leah Remini, a former Scientologist, who would focus specifically on the abuses Scientology has committed in Scientology and the Aftermath, as well as focusing on the mindset of people in the religion and why they do not leave when abused_._ Just this week, the show was renewed by A&E for a second season, undoubtedly making some parts of Hollywood very unhappy.
Whether Scientology is a religion or a cult is debatable (and people do debate it). But one thing that differentiates it from other religions is the cost. You must pay to "move up the bridge." Scientology also makes certain promises at each level, motivating people to pay to move up "the bridge" and even pressuring people to pay to "to help save the planet." So, what does it cost if you aren't a celebrity but want to be a Scientologist? And what do you get for your money?
Remini has claimed she has spent millions of dollars, but that the average person pays over a quarter of a million dollars in their lifetime (as well as spending hours each day studying their teachings).
There are twelve basic books a Scientologist needs to buy. These cost about $4,000. But there is a catch. Every time there is an update to the books (as in oh, we missed this part of L. Ron Hubbard's writings last time but now it's fixed), a Scientologist needs to buy a new set. Apparently, this happens quite often. There is also pressure to buy sets to donate to libraries as well as to buy CDs and lectures from the now deceased founder's, L. Ron Hubbard, teachings.
The most basic level courses can cost as little as $15 to $35. Remini says these courses are used to hook people so that eventually they will pay a much steeper price to reach higher levels in the religion. Frankly, it's good business sense not to ask for much at the beginning. It's only once people are fully entrenched that the bills start to mount.
In order to become "clear" and reach complete spiritual enlightenment, one has to climb "The Bridge to Total Freedom." These courses are about $650 each but there are a lot of them and they can also require hours of studying. Some courses, Remini claims, require studying from 9 a.m. to 10 p.m seven days a week.
The upside? Once you get to the higher levels like Remini did, you're promised that you can move things with your mind or even cure cancer. Former members, like Remini, claim they never experienced such this, though.
The simplest way to explain auditing is to call it therapy, but that is not wholly accurate. It involves a machine called the E-Meter (which is technically one-half of a lie detector test) that Scientologists believe has the capability to measure the mass of thoughts.
The auditor is able to read the E-Meter to tell if an individual is "clear" or not. The church charges around $800 per hour and auditing is a necessary part of moving up The Bridge. You can't skip it.
The church may also require you to do extra auditing if they think you are committing "transgressions." Many types of religions require you to make amends or confess if you have erred or sinned. But they don't charge you $800 an hour to do it. By the way, it may be $800 an hour but a minimum session is two and a half hours long.
And that's just the bare bones. Members are pressured to give to certain Scientology causes and to constantly continue up the bridge. Once you reach the highest levels, you would still require auditing.
Since the Church of Scientology has tax exemption status – hence their do or die rally against the IRS in the 1993 – their coffers are full AF of cash they don't have to pay taxes on. If you think it's messed up, then don't miss Leah Remini's next season of Scientology and the Aftermath. According to Remini and the victims on the show, the money is the smallest abuse this "church" commits against its followers.
Lawrence Wright's book "Going Clear: Scientology and the Prison of Belief" was also used as a reference in this article.