I read with fascination the extended New Yorker interview with Paul Haggis. Haggis is the writer of the screenplay of Million Dollar Baby, an undeniable classic and the director of Crash, an over-rated pile of sentimental rot. He was also a level Thetan VII which is the highest you can go in Scientology without setting sail on the sea in Goodship Crazy Boat, or whatever it is they call their floating headquarters.
The insidious and frankly bizarre phenomenon of Scientology has always interested me and as the years go by I am more and more convinced that it is an evil and malignant force in people’s lives while simultaneously I am less able to understand how it grows.
The interview is superb and while long (24,000 words), it is worth the read. But the paragraph that really struck me was this one where Haggis discusses the lack of interest he had in that tragic case of Lisa McPherson, a Floridian scientologist who died of dehydration whilst in the care of the religion’s operatives. Check it:
Haggis said that, at the time, he had chosen not to learn the details of McPherson’s death. “I had such a lack of curiosity when I was inside,” Haggis said. “It’s stunning to me, because I’m such a curious person.” He said that he had been “somewhere between uninterested in looking and afraid of looking.” His life was comfortable, he liked his circle of friends, and he didn’t want to upset the balance. It was also easy to dismiss people who quit the church. As he put it, “There’s always disgruntled folks who say all sorts of things.” He was now ashamed of this willed myopia…
I am often struck by how uninterested Christians are in the claims that are made by Christianity. “Born-agains” ought to be the most epistemically flexible of people since they have already had a change of mind in life and therefore are implicitly open to the fact that their mind may need a further traumatic change around. Yet in Christian community what I often find is an unwillingness to think and a discomfort about having to question. Of course I am making a generalisation to fit this thought inside about 500 words but the church has not been the hive of furious thinking that one would expect.
Haggis’ sad case is a reminder to all of us that honest and open curiosity about the veracity of the claims being made by Christians and being made against Christians is not just an optional extra for the few eggheads in the congregation but a responsibility all of us are called to, to the extent that we can stretch.
Don’t be a dullard Christian. If for no other reason, you might be wrong and therefore wasting your life.
Your Correspondent, Curiosity killed the cat, but for a while there he was the suspect