Beliefnet
Idol Chatter

Rick Ross–head of the Rick A. Ross Institute for the Study of Destructive Cults, Controversial Groups and Movements–tracks benign as well as malignant para-religious groups on his site Cult News. Ross reports that the influence of nontraditional religion has been fading in Hollywood of late, and asks whether Kabbalah and Scientology don’t need new, younger spokespeople to replace Madge and Tom. A good question, especially considering the way Cruise’s recent faith-based antics seem to have made the star and his religion mutual liabilities of late. And Ross cites the public rejection of the kabbalistic Red Thread by Madonna’s own brother Christopher Ciccone in an interview with London’s Daily Mirror last week as evidence that Madonna is no longer the best proselyte for the mystical brand of Judaism. “Anything that’s organised can become very cultish,” says Ciccone.

But Ross ignores Ciccone’s partial endorsement of Kabbalah later in the interview, saying Kabbalah is hurt as much as aided by the celebrity buzz. “It takes something that’s actually kind of cool and really useful and makes it appear foolish, stupid, and faddish–and it’s not.” Ciccone also says Kabbalah is “the same as being Catholic. [You] make it whatever works.”

With pooh-poohers like that, who needs publicists?

Meanwhile Scientology doesn’t appear to be giving up on Tom Cruise, if you can believe the L.A. Weekly. The muckracking alternative newspaper reports that a theater close to Scientology’s L.A. headquarters has been selling tickets to “MI:3” by the baker’s dozen, suggesting that group members are attempting to boost Cruise’s numbers after a disappointing opening weekend for his new movie.

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