Really, what are we to make of Scientologists?
Just read any summary of its beliefs and practices. Look at its aggressive ways of dealing with even the slightest hint of criticism in the media, even in comedy. Look at the allegation in Wikipedia about Tom Cruise's reaction to an episode of South Park called Trapped in the Closet about the cult; given the continual attacks on religion in the guise of Ned Flanders and the clergyman at the church they attend in The Simpsons, even the American Christian churches would appear to have more of a sense of humour than the Hubbard brigade. It is very easy to conclude that Cruise, Travolta, and the other evidently half-witted Hollywood super-rich who have joined this bizarre phenomenon have all undergone permanent and drastic sense-of-humour bypass surgery as well as lost their intellectual marbles.
Scientology isn't the only instance of a more or less completely made-up new religion; the Christian Scientists, the Mormons and various others arose from the activities mostly of a single person and are sufficiently unconnected to pre-existing religions to be considered as separate ones. That is to say, whereas we might well consider that the Russian Orthodox, Greek Orthodox, Coptic, Roman Catholic, ANglican, Methodist, Presbyterian, Unitarian, Baptist, and other "churches" are not separate religions but rather all "denominations" of a single religion called Christianity, the difference between the tenets of all of them on the one hand, and those of either the Christian Scientists or the Mormons on the other hand, are sufficiently different to regard the inception of each of them as the invention of a new religion.
And yet, both Christian Science (so called) and Mormonism were based after a fashion on Christianity, and operate in a similar style, whereas Scientology has nothing to do with that tradition.
So what makes film stars join such a cult and become so prominent and so vehement in its promotion? Are they really so deranged as to seriously believe in it? Or is it all done as a huge private joke, yet keeping abslutely straight, grim faces in public, using their millions to hire expensive lawyers to harass anybody who expresses critical views on thier organization?
I have no idea. Given that we are in the post-modern age when everything has to be ironic, we ought to be able to conclude that they are the perpetrators of a huge sustained joke, rather after the fashion of the game Mornington Crescent, of which it was street-cred death to ask what the rules were (that is, to reveal that one didn't get that there weren't any*). But the façade is maintained so strenuously and at such great expense that one is driven to question that easy explanation.
The usual origins of genuinely deep-seated emotional attachment to a religion are either being inculcated with the religion from a small child, or undergoing a conversion while in an emotionally vulnerable state after some sort of trauma in life, particularly in adolescence or early adulthood. I am not sufficiently interested in the life or affairs of these actors to delve into their lives or look for traumatic moments or read up on what is known about why they became involved in it; I just know that I am even less eager to watch any movie in which any star is one of these (in my opinion) intellectually unstable people.
The only personal experience I had of Scientology was in the arly 1970s in Manchester, when they had rented a building on a city street and were talking people into going into that building to hear about their ideas. I said I knew about the science fiction writer Lafayette Ronald Hubbard (I am always suspicious of anybody who attempts to limit awareness of an unusual first name) and was almost thrown down the stairs and out onto the street. They were then and apparently still are very unpleasant, aggressive people who not only strongly dislike, but also definitely try to suppress, any criticism of their organization or of their founder's ideas; and the impression I got from a recent (2007) BBC documentary in which a reporter encountered some of them was that over the last 35 or so years that pattern has not changed much.
That very aggression confirms for me that the ideas themselves are most probably just as idiotic and deranged as they appear to be without wasting a great deal of time studying them deeply, for if they had any trace of connection with the real universe they wouldn't have to be so nasty about any criticism such as what I have written here.
I assume they will be too busy chasing media reporters to bother with me, but if I hear from any of them I shall take it as further evidence that my assessment here is quite correct.
* Wikipedia does a good job of explaining what the rules (of this game with no rules) are!