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Mark Oppenheimer, writing in The Washington Post, suggests Germany’s ban on Scientologists (including Tom Cruise) is an overreaction, and one we’re all a little guilty of. He says it’s Scientology’s similarities to mainstream religion that embarrasses us, not it’s strangeness. Oppenheimer points out that, on inspection, Scientology’s practices are no weirder than more common faith.
“‘Engrams’ and ‘E-meter’ are no worse than what’s propagated by your average ‘intelligent design’ enthusiast,” Oppenheimer writes, though he confuses his point when he adds, that “its very silliness makes it less pernicious.” (If intelligent design is as silly as engrams, why would it be pernicious?) “It’s the similarities between Scientology and, say, Christianity and Judaism that make us so uncomfortable,” Oppenheimer says. “We need to hate Scientology, lest we hate ourselves.”


Oppenheimer does object to Scientology’s requirement that its most elite students pay, and pay a lot, to be further indoctrinated. But his main beef with the church of L. Ron Hubbard is its aesthetics. Their bland videos and brochures and scientific-sounding nomenclature, he says, “scream nouveau-‘Star Trek’-riche.”
Scientologists’s taste, of course, should not lead to discrimination against them. And before he makes a final judgment on aesthetics, we’d be tempted to ask Oppenheimer whether he’d prefer to sit through “Left Behind,” or “Battlefield Earth.”

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