Thursday, April 26, 2007

What Do You Do With Your Holy Book, and Where Are You Going To Put All Those Icons?: The St. George Greek Orthodox Church on 54th Street

When nobody’s speaking English, how do you make sense of what’s going on in a worship service?

I decided to visit the Greek Orthodox church on 54th Street partly because it was very close to my apartment, and Fear Not The Gods does not love to travel long distances on Sunday mornings to pay tribute to foreign gods. But I also chose to visit the church because it advertised “Worship Service in Greek AND English.” That sounded just about right, I reasoned. Enough Greek to get the flavor of the time-honored tradition, but mostly it would be an English service with the familiar elements I would recognize from the Protestant services I have attended.

Not so. Fear Not The Gods, the Companionable Atheist, and the Grandmother of Fear Not The Gods took ourselves to St. George Greek Orthodox Church’s last Sunday for the morning worship service, which we managed to sit quietly and observe for approximately 70 minutes. Approximately three of these minutes were devoted to prayers or readings in English. The rest of the time, obviously, they spoke Greek.

Why This Church Is Kind Of Jewish

If you could ignore the architecture, you might be able to say that the Greek Orthodox Church is the most, um, Jewish of all the churches out there these days. They spend the first hour or so of the worship service singing a couple songs, listening to the Chanter(aka the chazzan). The “eastern” key and the ornamented single-voice melodies of these songs are very familiar to me. Then there’s some prayer, then somebody walks around and holds up a copy of a silver-covered book, which is second in importance only to the part where you eat Jesus's body and drink his blood (okay, that part is not very Jewish). They read a short excerpt from the book. Then comes the communion, and then it’s over and you can go have lunch.

Why it isn't
However, one cannot ignore the architecture, even in a church like 54th Street, which is in the grand scheme of Orthodox Churches, a very minor and modest single-room establishment. Truth be told, it had a sort of a King Tut’s tomb look about it – a lot of gorgeous, gilded, decorated things all jumbled together. The walls were covered with mural paintings of the Stations of the Cross, and Mary and Jesus and whatnot, and liberally ornamented in gold. The paintings were in that austere Eastern style, with Jesus and Mary very pale and thin and staring at you with wide serious eyes. Orthodox Jesuses and Maries also have very good posture, unlike those Roman Catholic Jesuses and Marys, who collapse against each other and against the crosses, in the dramatic fashion that was clearly very exciting to Italian painters.

This church had layers on top of layers of decoration. Icons and paintings of Jesus and Mary and the saints were propped against the painted walls. We guessed that maybe these were donations from the various parishioners’ families, and how could the church establishment refuse to take them, even if they were cluttering up the place?

The front of the room was just as elaborately decorated as the front of the Hare Krishnas’ sanctuary, and even more cluttered (though no life-sized wax statues). There was a screened off portion in the very back, covered in latticework, where we found out later in the service that some priests had been lurking, and in front of the screened off places were wooden and golden crucifixes of various sizes, wreaths of real flowers and fake flowers, a big Greek flag, a big American flag, something made out of evergreen branches, more paintings, more icons, several carved wooden podiums, a table with chalices and brightly covered cloths and other holy paraphernalia on it, several lecterns, and one incongruous microphone that one of the priests kept having to noisily move as he shifted his position. Other priests kept coming out and doing things on the altar table that we couldn’t quite see because they were facing away from us. We thought this was somewhat inconsiderate.

We Take Our Places
There were only about 20 people there when the service started, mostly older, and mostly women, and we were clearly the only first timers, because we were the only ones looking at the books and the only ones who weren’t crossing ourselves at appropriate moments in the liturgy.

When you can’t figure out what’s going on, first you try looking in the prayer book. The prayer book, in this case, was a three-ring binder with about twenty pages of prayers in it. The entire service in Greek was written on the left hand side of the page, and the entire service in English was written on the right hand page. As I mentioned, 95% of the time, the prayer leader was using the Greek, and when he used the English, he seemed to be using a different translation from the one printed in the book. We tried to keep up.

I know that sounds easy, but this worship service was complicated. The text itself was mostly your standard things about praising God (very little petitioning God, very little talk about peace for all humanity – the Greek Orthodox seem to stay very focused). We kept hitting new sections and losing our places when they started again in Greek. There was some call and response, where it was written in the text that the priest should say one thing and the worshippers should say something in response. In the religious services I’m used to, this is very simple, because the rabbi slows down and makes sure everyone’s on the same page. In this service, the guy who was singing most of the songs took the place of the congregation in reading the response. I mean, there was one old lady I saw who was doing the responses, but mostly everyone was just standing there.

Occasionally they’d stop and one of the priests would swing some bells and incense around (like the altar, the strings of bells were cluttered - there were about 20 bells on his string, of all different shapes and sizes).

The Father Is Going To Walk Through There
We had been sitting quietly for about fifteen minutes, minding our own business, when one of the old ladies got up and came back to our row and shooed us out of it, admonishing us in Greek as she did so. "English?" I asked meekly, and she said "The Father, he is going to walk through there." And soon enough, he did, processing to the back of the room and back.

There was a lot of choreography in the service. There was the chanter in black robes, who stood in one place for basically the whole service, sang all the songs, and read the parts marked "congregation" in the reader. There was the priest with a wrap around his shoulders, who made only guest appearances from his back room to read important prayers from the Greek. Sometimes he prayed out loud in a low voice while the chanter sang loudly over him. This was a very cool effect. There was a third priest in dark brown robes, who seemed to be doing most of the gofer work, and there was a fourth priest who only came out when things were getting very important with the communion.

There was only one guest star – a woman who got up and chanted – in English, but to a Greek melody – an excerpt from the Gospels, about how the Hellenes chastised the Hebrews for spending too much time in the study house and not enough taking care of the women and the poor, and some of the head honcho Hebrews said, you know the Hellenes have a point, and seven of them volunteered to go help out the poor and the women so that the ones in the study house wouldn’t get harassed about this kind of thing anymore and could go back to their studies.

Then the priest carried a big rectangular book around. It was covered with silver decorations. He read another excerpt from the text. Ah, the holy book, the CA and I said to each other wisely. We get this.

We left when it seemed that everyone was gearing up to take communion. We were just too dazed by the language barrier to keep going, plus we would be the only ones sitting in our row and refusing to take it...

As I mentioned, in some ways, I found this service to be the most familiar of any non-Jewish service that I have attended. The structure of the service was incredibly complicated, but it was stabilizing. There were candles and there was a holy book. There was Eastern music. The iconography and the communion, of course, were totally alien to my tradition. Plus, this was the least outwardly friendly service I attended. It was totally frontal, and almost no congregational members participated. The priests were busy! This wasn't about personal testimonial - there just wasn't time. There was stuff to get done. THe service was distinctly of and for people of Greek ethnicity, but not in the generic, schmaltzy way that Americans (as Matthew Jacobson explains in his brilliant book Roots Too) are used to expecting ethnicity to be presented to them. This wasn't about bringing new people in. This was about - they had 2000 years of approved traditional things to do, and they had to get through them. If you wanted to be there, that was great, but it wasn't necessary.

The church did seem to be conscious of how it would come across to outsiders. My three-ring binder contained an entire page of explanation of why non-Orthodox Christians, even those baptized in other churches in good standing, would not be able to take communion at the Greek Orthodox worship service. Basically, it said "our tradition is very old, we've been doing it this way forever, this is the right way to do it, and while we respect you and we're glad you're here, if you're not part of it we're not going to try to act like you're part of it." In a way, I found this extremely comforting. When people greet you at a worship service, whether you accept it or not, they're making you part of their religious experience. These ones said, we're not going to try to bring you in, so let's not pretend we are. Come, and witness, and leave. We'll keep doing our thing.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

RELIGIONS THE US ARMY WILL PUT ON YOUR TOMB STONE, PART 1: Eckanar: Religion of the Sight and Sound of God

After about three minutes of research, here is what I know about Eckanar, which has a logo officially recognized by the United States Army.

Eckankar is ancient wisdom for today. Its teachings, which resurfaced in 1965, emphasize the value of personal experiences as the most natural way back to God. Whatever your religious background, they show how to look and listen within yourself—to expand your consciousness and enjoy spiritual freedom. See, perhaps for the first time, how to lead a happy, balanced, and productive life and put daily concerns into loving perspective.

This guy is the current leader of Eckanar.

This is the symbol that you can put on your tombstone if you are his follower.

The basic beliefs are the following:

Soul is eternal and is the individual's true identity.
Soul exists because God loves It.
Soul is on a journey of Self- and God-Realization.
Spiritual unfoldment can be accelerated through conscious contact with the ECK, Divine Spirit.
This contact can be made via the Spiritual Exercises of ECK and the guidance of the Living ECK Master.
The Mahanta, the Living ECK Master is the spiritual leader of Eckankar.
Spiritual experience and liberation in this lifetime are available to all.
You can actively explore the spiritual worlds through Soul Travel, dreams, and other spiritual techniques.

Religious Symbols Provided to You On Your Tombstone by the US Military

These symbols now include the Wiccan Pentacle, as you may have recently heard in the news.

A lot of the other symbols are worth looking at too, though. The Christian Scientist symbol and the Muslim symbol that are not depicted "due to copyrights."

The Eckanar? The United Church of Religious Science?

Fear Not The Gods will investigate these religions further.

UPDATED: To me, what's interesting here is that in death, all these beliefs are treated the same. You get to check one box - you have a few square inches of logo space to express what you stood for. Atheism, Christianity, United Methodism, IZUMO TAISHAKYO MISSION OF HAWAII. "Religion," in a sense, is defined by what goes on your tombstone. It's like, in Jackson Mississippi, people ask you what's your name, where are you from, and what Church do you attend here in Jackson. "Temple Beth Israel" is a perfectly acceptable response to this question. Cause, duh, it's the Jewish church.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Long Stories and the Hare Krishnas, Part III

As the lecture began to wind up, people started slipping out to get a good place in line for dinner. The Companionable Atheist and I stayed mostly to the end, and learned that we were supposed to be good to other people for the sake of God. "What about the announcements?" I asked him. This has become sort of a running joke between us - whenever the worshippers get most antsy, that's probably when the announcements are about to take place.

Then we went down to dinner to meet the Sunday school teacher and his wife. As we walked in the dining room, a purposeful local intersected us J(almost a body check, really - they're probably used to some serious moochers) and told us to go up and out and into a different line. "But we're with him!" we announced righteously, and pointed to the Sunday school teacher, whose fraternity sweatshirt made him easy to pick out from the other side of the room.

The Sunday school teacher had a bunch of other things to take care of, which seemed to include herding an unruly bunch of elementary school-aged kids who weren't quite willing to end their previous activity, drumming class. (Musicians know how this is. Drummers are never willing to lay down their weapons). The Sunday school teacher gave us a harassed wave. Somehow he collared one of his charges, and before we could say "no thank you, we'll do it ourselves," the kid had gone and brought us plates of delicious Indian vegetarian food (dairy okay, no meat and no eggs). We said thanks but the kid had already gone. The Sunday school teacher rejoined us and gestured at the kids apologetically. "Earlier this afternoon we were actually teaching them lessons, which was a little..." "but yeah, they really like the music stuff."

Okay, so good to know that the Jewish professionals tearing their hair out about the fact that their kids are bored in Sunday school, at least they're not alone!

Finally he managed to sit down with us, and his wife soon joined him. I noticed that while he assumed we wanted the Indian food (we did) the two of them had both opted for pizza (the pizza also looked good). Another couple was also sitting at our table - a bearded guy and a girl with blue-tipped hair. Ah, maybe these are hippies, I thought to myself. I'd been on the lookout for hippies ever since my pre-Sunday Wikipedia search had revealed that in the 60s "Hare Krishnas became confused with the hippie subculture." See, I don't know why I said I hadn't done any research.

But they were not hippies, really. The guy was a Catholic student theologian (interestingly, he had been raised an evangelical Christian, just like the devoted Episcopalian guy I met in January). He was studying the overlap between the Hindu tradition of illustration/pantheon and the early Christian illustration tradition. I am probably not describing his thesis very well (Jon, if you're reading this, please correct me). He was studying this stuff at a seminary in Belgium, where he had apparently discovered a great number of similarities between the two traditions. He explained this.

The Sunday school teacher responded with many further tales from the Mahabharata. Stories on stories and stories. He told us another story about how Karna's teacher found out that he was a warrior - because a bug bit him on the leg and it bled a lot but he didn't stop doing what he was doing, which was sitting peacefully with his teacher snoozing in his lap. So when his teacher woke up and found Karna sitting peacefully in a pool of his own blood ("Good morning!") he realized that he was a warrior. I asked, kind of to be obnoxious, why Karna's invincible armor didn't stop the bug from biting him. I thought this was a joke, but the Sunday school teacher answered seriously, "Well, there's actually another story about that."

So, inevitably, I had to pull out the "Yeah, and I'm a Jew." And there was a long religious trialogue about Our Various Traditions, And Their Iconography (I didn't have much to contribute here) but it didn't get acrimonious or sappy. It was just cool. We also didn't get very far, because we were coming from totally different places, but that was okay too. Theologians and Hare Krishnas are both very used to having to explain what in the hell it is that they believe in. They are very patient.

And then we went home. I missed the premiere of this episode of the Sopranos because we had been at dinner for so long, but it was totally worth it.

I highly recommend that everybody visit the Hare Krishnas. A bunch of nice people with a lot of good stories. I continue to be disappointed, though, with the underlying message of these religions, which is be good because God wants you to. And then praise God, because God is good. A couple of years ago, I made my peace with this - it just doesn't quite work for me - by solving it like an algebra problem - God was whatever it was that made me feel compelled to do good. But it doesn't quite work anymore. Luckily, I don't feel like I'm on an urgent spiritual quest right now. I like to see myself more as a peaceful, wayfaring anthropologist, not the kind that brings back natives to study and accidentally infects them with deadly smallpox, but the kind that serves as an honest and interested witness to the ways that other people convince themselves and each other to be good. More on this later.

Stay tuned for next week: Can I Get A Ride in a Mitzvah Mobile? Even though I'm a chick and they're all dudes? What if I ask really, really nicely?

Telling Long Stories.... The Hare Krishna Temple, Part II

Just inside the door of the Hare Krishna building, a receptionist was waiting to direct traffic. I gave her my winning smile and said I was here for the worship service. She gestured behind her, where there was a huge room filled with about 150 pairs of shoes, and told me to put my shoes down there and to go on in.

In the central room, about 150 people stood, clapped, and danced in a loosely circular mob that was slowly rotating around a couple of guys singing into a microphone near the back corner of the room. One of these guys was white, a couple were Indian. They were also playing some good drums. The worshippers were probably 85% Indian (or Indian-American or whatnot) and the rest black, white, Asian, whatever. Nobody was wearing the orange robes that I associate in my head with Hare Krishnas (later it was explained to me that these were the monks, who have given over their lives to praying and proselytizing, but that the majority of practicioners don't live this lifestyle). Lots of kids were running around. A lot of the women were wearing saris and a few of the men were wearing traditional white tunics and little cloth bags on strings around their neck. The celebrants had all painted their faces with the same little mark - an elongated gold oval on the nose with two arching branches - like the horns of the Taurus zodiac sign - going up to their hairlines.

The room was big and high ceilinged, and it smelled like incense. Metal chairs ran along the sides. There was a big, shiny altar/creche thingy in the front - with sparkly statues of Krishna and his consort, flowers, colorful painted panels, and baskets full of fruit.

In the back of the room where we came in, facing the altar, was a giant throne, also multicolored and covered with flowers, and seated on the throne was a life sized statue of -- I'm not exactly sure who. Maybe the founder? A big white pillar, which wasn't attached to the ceiling at all, stood behind the founder and to his right, a little bit. Frankly, I found this statue pretty scary - it was a little too realistic. But then I used to get really freaked out by department store mannequins, so maybe I'm just over sensitive.

There were also yellow banners all over the walls, announcing the celebration of the 40th anniversary of the Hare Krishna movement (1966-2006). These posters also displayed the official logo and what amounted to a brand name of the Hare Krishna movement, which is ISKCON (International Society for Krishna Consciousness). There are local ISKCONs all over the country. They are registered nonprofits. There's even one in Hillsborough, NC, for all you Triangle Area readers...

The Companionable Atheist and I had just started to get a read on this fun dancing scene, when we got collared by a cheerful member of what looked to be the unofficial greeting committee. "Have you visited our temple before?" she asked. We said no, and she invited us to go over and sit with her in their temple office to get a crash course on what was going on.

As I mentioned, I hadn't done my homework, so she had to start from the very beginning. The upshot is that the Hare Krishna movement is a subsect of Hinduism, devoted to the particular deity Krishna. Krishna is their particular favorite god, though he also represents all gods.

They are also devoted to a particular worship practice, which is the reciting of their mantra:

Hare Krishna Hare Krishna
Krishna Krishna Hare Hare
Hare Rama Hare Rama
Rama Rama Hare Hare

Want to know what this means? Think it's maybe some big secret? I guess maybe I thought so at first, because I kind of laughed at myself when I found out it means "praise god." Hare means praise. Krishna and Rama are two names for God. They just say "Praise God" in more contexts than I say it. You know. To remember that they should be mindful and do everything for God. The usual reasons. At the Hare Krishna temple, they answer the phones "Hare Krishna." They say "Hare Krishna" when they hang up, and also when they greet each other. This is surprisingly contagious. The Companionable Atheist really slapped himself on the forehead when he called for directions, thanked them, they said "Hare Krishna" when they were about to hang up the phone, and he blurted it right back at them. These religions, they just get you sometimes.

The Hare Krishnas trace this religious practice and belief back to 1000 AD, but it really got revived by an older fellow in India who was involved in India's nationalist movement and then started getting religion. He began hanging out with the monks and soon received his calling - to go around the English speaking world to spread the Hare Krishna religion and practice to English speakers. (I bet this is somehow related to his experiences in the nationalist movement, but how he developed this idea in relationship to the nationalists I have absolutely no idea). So in the late 60s this monk, whose name was A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, went to the US. He ended up in New York, preached his beliefs, and served a free vegetarian meal to everyone who showed up for worship services (the practice continues to this day!) Whether due to the beliefs or to the vegetarian dinners, ISKCON has maintained a foothold in the US. Prabhupada continued to travel, set up ISKCON centers, preach, and translate the Vedas into English throughout the rest of his life.

Anyway, nice Geeta our guide took us back into the office, which was beautifully colored and covered with paintings of various Hindu deities in various situations. She was soon joined by her husband, who was the son of one of the local guys in charge so he really knew a lot. While we were talking, the guys in charge wandered in, chit chatted, wished each other Hare Krishna and wandered back out again. It was all a very pleasant, relaxed atmosphere, and where I usually get a little bit of the heebies when someone takes me into an office, I was totally fine with this happening here.

With the help of her husband, she explained everything from her life background (raised Hindu in Texas; only became a Hare Krishna participant within the last five years or so) to the forehead decoration (representing the leaf of a sacred plant connected to the footprint of the god) to this whole religious backstory, and several of the legends of Karna (one of the heroes of the Mahabharata) thrown in for good measure.

By the time they were done, the singing and dancing were done, and the white guy who'd been helping lead the singing was now giving a lecture, as all the participants sat on the chairs against the wall or on cloth mats on the floor. The Companionable Atheist was not so fond of these cloth mats. They had only the thickness of that kind of potholder that is too thin to keep you from burning your hand on the pot. People were wandering in and out with their kids, cell phones were ringing, you know, the typical modern religious experience. I kind of like it - I enjoy the chaos. Keeps everyone from taking themselves too seriously.

This story (of Karna's birth) was hard to follow as the guy was longwinded and soft spoken. It contained elements of the Virgin Birth (Karna's mother summons a God to be her "boyfriend" but then changes her mind; the God, annoyed to be summoned refuses to go away without impregnating her but agrees to do said impregnation by hands-off and Godly means), of Achilles (Karna is born with an impregnable suit of armor that he is tricked into removing, just as the prophets predicted at his birth) and of Moses (Karna's mother sends him down the river in a basket when he's born, and he's fostered by the king's charioteer and his wife). At the end of the lecture, the lecturer tried to cobble together a "The Moral Of This Story Is" but I didn't find it very compelling. It amounted to that Karna was a really good guy. Most of the time. He tried to do his best and not hurt people. So we should do that too.

Why is the story always better than the moral? The Companionable Atheist prefers the firm story arc and the straightforward morals of Aesop to the rambling and overlapping tails of the Mahabharata. I find that I have a preference for the latter - it's hard to draw any life message from these stories, but the characters are certainly compelling. And their messiness echoes the messiness of life.

Stay tuned for Part III: We eat the long-awaited vegetarian dinner and hold an impromptu religious trialogue...

Monday, April 9, 2007

Dancing, Eating, and Listening to Very Long Stories in The New York Hare Krishna Temple: Part 1

The Companionable Atheist and I were wandering through Brooklyn on a cold evening. The sun was setting. We'd walked through Park Slope, across several windswept blocks that didn't seem to be part of any neighborhood at all, as the multimillion dollar brownstones gave way to empty storefronts and garages, and back to brownstones, and back to garages, and we had asked directions at a Holiday Inn Express and also at a Walgreen's.

Finally we found Schermerhorn Street and our destination: The New York Hare Krishna Temple, a handsome, well-maintained building in the middle of a not-so-posh block. I got my usual thirty seconds of "Why am I doing this?" feelings as we walked up to the door. Going into a new house of worship is like walking up to a stranger's home - you think they'll be home, you think you know the right way to behave, but you're never exactly sure.

I was particularly unsure about what to do here because I hadn't done my usual homework, not a bit of it. I know what to do in a church (sit in a pew, don't take Communion), in an conservative Orthodox synagogue (stand up when everyone else does; look both ways before shaking hands), but in a Hare Krishna temple? I knew nothing.

Monday, April 2, 2007

Fear Not The E-Meter: Part the Last

The 'guy in sales' was named Alex. He was a Russian immigrant who lived in Queens and worked in construction. He had a friendly, assertive gaze and wore a nice suit. He described himself as a consultant, and sort of winced when he heard that the technician had referred to him as a salesman. Like all the other staff at the center, he said, he was basically a volunteer. He made enough money from consulting potential Scientologists to afford train fare in from Queens, and for lunch, but that was about
it. He had been a Scientologist for five years, and had found the center by just walking by it, the same way I did. He said I'd done the right thing by trying to find out about Scientology on my own, rather than just taking for granted what other people had said. ("That's what L. Ron Hubbard did, find things out for himself.") He recommended a two-day intro course, which would have cost about $50, as well as the course on communication skills that the evaluator had recommended. He asked me questions about how I was doing in my personal life, the better to recommend the appropriate classes to me.

I was distracted by a chart on the wall behind him, which represented the progress that a Scientologist could make toward becoming a Clear (and then toward the levels beyond that, which were called Operating Thetan I, II, and so on). I asked him what level he was on. He pointed to a level about three from the bottom. (out of about 40, and Clear was at about 12). I said, this all seems very interesting, and I get how it helps people, but that seems discouraging to me. After five years of study and practice, the Scientologist consultant was not even close to becoming a Clear? He smiled and said that different people had different priorities, and he'd been putting his priorities in other places.

I said I'd have to think about it and come back, and he smiled and said that was totally fine. When I went out, I was intercepted by the first guy we'd met, who said that he'd not been able to get our phone numbers. I said, what with all the phone solicitations these days, I didn't want to give out our phone number. "Not even so I can just give you a call, and see how you're doing?" he asked. I said no thanks, the
CA and I would have to talk about the program together on our own. He smiled and said that was totally fine. He said I could go up to the second floor where there was a display about the life of L. Ron Hubbard – his youth as a dashing adventurer in a chapeau, his midlife as Executive Director of Scientology, his later life as a philanthropist. There was also a birthday cake standing on a table against one wall that said "Happy Birthday Ron!" on it. It was
standing below a TV screen. The TV was showing what looked to be a televised concert in honor of L. Ron Hubbard's birthday party. Performers were dancing and singing a pop tune of "Happy Birthday" while confetti came down from the ceiling and lights flashed.

My original contact followed me up the stairs. 'I saw you went up to look at the display," he said. He told me that today was the celebration of L. Ron Hubbard's birthday! The actual birthday had been earlier in March, and all the Scientologists had gone down to their headquarters in Florida for a live party. The regional celebration was occurring that very evening. I wasn't going to be able to go, so I
asked him what they did at the celebration. He said about 150 or 200 people gathered at a nearby hotel conference room, and watched a 3.5 hour video about the life of L. Ron Hubbard, which included interviews with old folks who knew him "way back when." He said I could go if I wanted to, but that I should introduce myself as someone new so that a staff member could help me understand the terminology they used, which
I wouldn't necessarily have been able to understand. These old guys were serving as the apostles of Scientology, I thought. The last eyewitnesses to anything that actually happened back in the day. In this day and age, their testimonies can be recorded on TV…

Finally, on the way out, I bought a copy of Dianetics for $8. I figured that at the very least, I'd gotten an hour and a half of entertainment out of the Scientology Center, so I might as well make a contribution. I'll keep you posted on what I learn.