It is worth noting that this is a list of crazy things we learned from watching Alex Gibney’s documentary — not horrifying or seemingly illegal. While there is certainly some crossover, the latter list would include much more about the decades of deception, government and private intimidation, forced imprisonment, and physical and mental abuse the documentary alleges against the Church.
1. L. RON HUBBARD KILLED LOTS OF TREES.
L. Ron Hubbard, the founder of the Church, “holds the Guinness book of world records for the number of books published, over a thousand.” So, while some might think of Hubbard as a megalomaniacal snake-oil salesman, glass-half-full-types may choose to portray him as highly prolific or an overachiever.
2. THERE USED TO BE BOATS, WHICH MAY EXPLAIN THE NAVAL-STYLE UNIFORMS.
In the ‘60s, Scientologists who traveled along with Hubbard aboard his modest fleet of ships — which he used as a wildly creative form of tax evasion — could be thrown overboard as a punishment for mishandling the electronic “auditing” devices used to divest their fellow members of painful, repressed memories. Surprisingly, this is only one of the ways in which practicing Scientologists may resemble pirates.
3. THE DC8 IS A STARSHIP.
According to Scientology doctrine, the DC8 airliner, which the Douglas Aircraft Company began manufacturing in 1958, shares its exact design with the space planes that, 75 million years ago, carried a surplus of frozen aliens across the cosmos to Earth to be dropped into volcanos and later thawed out as disembodied Thetans. (Look, you try picking one, single crazy element out of Scientology doctrine.)
4. DEATH, TAXES AND RELIGION
On October 1, 1993, thanks to an aggressive campaign of intimidation conducted by the Church, the IRS officially recognized Scientology as a religion, making the organization fully tax attempt. This was good timing, too, since the Church owed somewhere near a billion dollars in back taxes.
5. TAPPING NICOLE KIDMAN.
"Tom Cruise’s lawyer denies this.” Denies what, you may ask? Specifically, he denies that Cruise ever asked his cohorts in the Scientology elite to tap Nicole Kidman’s phone while they were married. But, in the broader sense, the fact that Cruise managed to somehow be taken seriously as the world’s biggest movie star while simultaneously belonging to this incredibly controversial, disturbingly secretive organization, seems to indicate Herculean feats of denial on both the actor’s part and that of his audience.