Clearing the air: A first-time visit to the Church of Scientology

After actor Tom Cruise, a well-known Scientologist, criticized actress Brooke Shields’ use of antidepressants to treat postpartem depression in 2005 — later claiming in an interview with the Today Show’s Matt Lauer to be something of an expert on the history of psychiatry, a practice strongly opposed by Scientology — I wanted to know more about the religion.

Not about the field of Scientology itself; plenty of articles had been written and/or posted on the Internet by ex-Scientologists (including founder L. Ron Hubbard’s son, L. Ron Hubbard, Jr., who reportedly changed his name to Ron deWolf in the early 1980s).

Anything else there was to know could be found in any one of the many books written by L. Ron Hubbard. To name a few: “Dianetics;” “Scientology: The Fundamentals of Thought;” and “What is Scientology?”

What wasn’t available was something offering a glance inside the church itself — what did it look like on the other side of the front door? And what would a conversation sound like between a Scientologist and a first-time visitor?