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FROM THIS EPISODE

I Heart Scientology

This is Rob Long with Martini Shot on KCRW.

Here's a great practical joke to play on friends who don't know you that well. When the subject of Scientology comes up --- and, you know, it does -- wait a few moments for one of your friends to say something disparaging about it -- and, you know, they will -- and then fix him with an angry stare, plaster a forced smile on your face, and say in a falsely cheerful, irritated voice, "Do you know anything about Scientology? Have you read any of the literature?" And for the next two seconds or so, everyone will get really uncomfortable. Then you say, in a matter-of-fact, this-conversation-is-over tone, "If you want to know something about Scientology, the world's fastest growing religion by the way, why don't you just ask?" And stop talking and try your best to look really angry.

Wait a few painful moments, just until the moment someone is about to ask you, hey, um, are you saying that you're a..., and then feel free to laugh at your friends and make fun of them for their stupidity.

Tell them you were kidding. And then say in a spooky voice, "Or was I?"

And then say in a spookier voice, "Or wasn't I?"

This is really a roundabout way to say that, for the record, I'm not a Scientologist, never have been, not interested, thank you. I've got no problem with psycho-pharmaceuticals or aspirin or any of that stuff. Live and let live, I say.

But, to be honest, I've never been much for psychiatry or therapy, which apparently I share with the Scientology community. I've never been to a therapist, and if I did go, I'd probably spend the hour lying in an attempt to be more entertaining and interesting. And I find it impossible to talk about sex at any time, with any one, unless it's, you know, during or right before, so if I started talking about it during therapy, I'd sort of expect it to lead somewhere, and I'm pretty sure that would, as shrinks say, "break frame."

Come to think of it, I've known and worked with a few prominent Scientologists in my career, and all of them -- really, honestly now, all of them -- have been incredibly polite, considerate people. We once offered a role to a very talented, funny Scientologist, and she wrote us a note (a nice one, too) telling us how much she enjoyed the script, but that she really didn't want to jump into another television comedy just yet. See, I'm a WASP, and we'll tolerate any religion that includes the sacrament of the thank-you note.

So why the snickers and derision and spooky-voice reaction to what is, let's be honest, an eccentric but not totally nutty set of beliefs that somehow leads actors to avoid drugs and to write thank-you notes? Sure it's weird when you get really into is, but then, no one has ever clearly explained the idea of the Holy Ghost to me, either. And then there's the Great Flood, and the Burning Bush, and don't get me started on why Good Friday is supposed to be so "good."

So maybe Tom Cruise -- who used to have the office upstairs from mine on the Paramount lot, and who was, let me just say, incredibly polite and nice whenever I saw him -- so maybe he's a little intense or tightly wound or believes that we're all descended from space aliens, and maybe the Katie Holmes thing makes some of us uncomfortable in some non-specific way. I don't know, maybe Scientology is what Christianity was in pre-Christian Rome: a creepy, disturbing, all-encompassing cult that irritated and infuriated the establishment. If there's one thing I know about Los Angeles in 2005, it's that it's not too different from ancient Rome.

To me, Tom Cruise just seems like an intense, maybe eccentric (but polite!) guy who happens to have an intense, kind of eccentric religion in a town where that really isn't all that unusual. What's unusual, I think, is his incredible focus and incredible success. And if he credits that to Scientology, well then, maybe we should all become Scientologists.

Okay. I've gone too far.

Or have I?

Or haven't I?

That's it for this week. Next week, we'll sweat the ratings. For KCRW, this is Rob Long with Martini Shot.

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