Things I did not know
A while ago, I visited my local Church of Scientology.
I took a self-guided tour of the displays they had set up, then my guide tried to sell me some stuff, then I saw the film Orientation. After that I got a tour of some of the rest of the building.
There is serious money here. For every set of 8 foot high color panels, there was an inset flat panel display playing a relevant video loop. I'd say at least 7 just in the downstairs area.
They had coffee, I'm guessing it was decaf. Later, I grabbed a chocolate wafer from a plate that hadn't been there when I came in.
In the film:
They made no apologies that the best place to go next was to the bookstore, where it would be best to buy the entire starter set, plus Dianetics.
There were a series of 'testimonials' that were so dry I can only assume they were actors, of the three celebrity actors I picked out, Kirstie Alley and Anne Archer each said that scientology saved their life. John Travolta just said it had helped every area of his life. No one else said it saved their life, and I wonder how differently they treat their celebrities.
I think everyone in the film was an actor, the credits seemed to indicate this as well.
I learned that they have a chapel and sunday services, and a library with all of Hubbard's works available for free. Also aparently the Minister (Minister? not sure that was the word) will try to set you up with free scientology services if you can't afford to pay.
Every 'Org' (note the use of in-group jargon.) has an Ofice for L. Ron Hubbard. This is a holdover from when he was alive and would travel and work in many different places, it is retained as a symbol that the given church should remain 'on source'. I don't know if it's my christian upbringing, or southpark talking here, but I think they think he's coming back.
At the end they let everything drop: You can leave and never think about scientology again and spend your next trillion years writhing in agony. It would be stupid, but it's your choice.
The host talked about something happening to the planet, but it wasn't clear what it would be.
Later I got a tour of some of the upper floors. I saw the library, the chapel, L. Ron's office, and this other, thing...
The library was nice, in the advanced section they had scraps of clay for molding things, I'm not sure what was up with that.
The chapel had the history of L Ron's life in panels all around the room, almost like the stations of the cross in a catholic church
adjacent to the chapel was a room with a 'canteen', an area for refreshments, and 5 more video displays high lighting the humanitarian efforts of scientology.
In one of the training rooms, I saw a large glass panel with a lion's head etched into it. My first thought was of Aslan, but that wouldn't fit, I'm not sure what it is.
Hubbard's office was small.
The 'other thing' was a standalone video Kiosk that seemed to be on a floor that was otherwise just administrative. It was an interactive unit about 10 feet wide that let you preview and order audio tapes of speeches of L. Ron.
Overall my feel for the building was 'weird but churchy', but then I'm a Unitarian, so weird but churchy is normal for me. Somebody coming straight from a traditional background might be very impressed or very freaked out.
I was only a little freaked out.