Fascinating piece from Alex Klein on the looming schism in Scientology, specifically over a real-estate scam involving the construction of its "Ideal Org" local headquarters:
But inside the church, the Ideal Orgs are sparking insurrection. Across the country, donors and high-ranking executives say that the aggressive fundraising and construction scheme is used to enrich the central church at the expense of the rank and file, helping to grow the Scientology war chest to over a billion dollars. Two former members, Mike Rinder and Mark Elliott, went so far as to call the project a "real estate scam." To some of these defectors, the structures are metaphors for the religion itself: garish on the outside, empty on the inside. The irony is that the very expansion that Scientology lauds as its renaissance is actually a symbol of internal dissent and decline.
One of the most interesting parts of the article is the dissidents' repeated references to L. Ron Hubbard's intent or original teachings. While some who've split from Scientology have ditched the whole thing, others have set up their own splinter groups.
That's a natural reaction. If people are attracted to a set of ideals and then the institution that supposedly represents them becomes corrupt or goes in a different direction, it's psychologically easier to find that the original goals were betrayed by the current leadership rather than abandon the whole structure.
The process of schism has happened in every creed from Christianity to Marxism, but this is a fascinating up-close glimpse at how it plays out. Hubbard's still within living memory, and people are already sharply disagreeing over what his intent really was. It's easy to see "Scientologists" in a century encompassing all swaths of ideologies.
This also highlights that arguing over whether a given creed, especially a large and old one, is good or evil somewhat misses the point. On a long enough timeline, multiplying sects will use the same founding mythology to justify every position.