Critical Thinking Applied to Church of Scientology Promo for one of their Free Online Courses
Some time ago I came across the following video posted on the official YouTube Channel of The Church of Scientology. From what I understand, the series of videos is part of a “giving back to the community” policy, which at first may sound OK, but in my opinion, this is a rather poisonous gift they’re giving.
So, The Church of Scientology provides some Free Courses for those willing to improve their lives in different areas – human interactions, marriage, education, work, etc -, but what kind of skills are they conveying?
The video I chose for this article is called “Scientology Explains How To Resolve Conflicts” and it’s actually a promo for their free course.
You can watch it here:
Even if you are not familiar with the controversy surrounding The Church of Scientology or do not care about organized religion, you may find this article useful in what regards applying critical thinking in everyday contexts, understanding the assertive way of being in human relations and avoiding manipulation.
So, their (this time) free course allegedly teaches you how to resolve conflicts, which is great. We all have to deal with conflict in our everyday lives and acquiring the tools to manage them is a big step forward in bettering our relationships.
But the method proposed by The Church of Scientology promotes a rather unusual way of seeing and dealing with conflict. I will mainly analyze their own words.
“When you look at the world around you, trouble and conflict seem so commonplace. So inevitable, that it’s easy to assume that it’s just the way life is.”
Well, yes. Conflict is part of our everyday lives…isn’t it?
“But it’s not natural for friends or colleagues to quarrel or deteriorate into open hostility.”
This is one of the first ideas they introduce, that it is not NATURAL to have a conflict. Therefore, you are expected to understand that conflict is something unusual, unnatural… and unnatural things are, perhaps, wrong. So if YOU experience conflict, you are in the middle of something unnatural. But that is definitely not the case. Anger, frustration and various manifestations of violence are natural and normal for human beings. They are feelings and emotions and attitudes. Are they pleasant? No, for most people. Are they desirable? Again, no, for most people. So, UNDESIRABLE is very different from UNNATURAL. We want to learn how to deal with conflicts so that we will avoid their outcome, not in order to return to our natural form. Our nature includes violence, we just need to work with it so that it won’t work against us or others.
And after placing the idea of the “unnatural conflict” into the mind of the viewer, they go on with showing us examples of conflict, one of them being a couple fighting.
*Also, be aware of the visual and verbal association between the “unnatural” conflict examples and some situations that are definitely not the norm: “husband and wife constantly being at each other’s throats”, “conflicts simmering between nations” that then “explode into open warfare”. Of course it’s not OK for a husband and wife to constantly be at each other’s throats, nor is for nations to be at war. These two ideas are intended to act as support for the first – but not valid – statement, that conflict is not natural. The three ideas merge in our mind and seem to portray the same situation, but they do not. Just because the last two are not “conflicts of the natural kind” (meaning they are rather exceptions than the norm), it does not mean that the first is valid (“Any conflict is unnatural”).
So, going back to that couple. They have a nice quiet dinner, he gets up and says that he has to leave, because “he has this thing” and she immediately and quite hysterically starts asking him whether he is cheating on her. He calls her “crazy” and tells her she’s losing her mind, like any loving and religious husband would do, and the fight goes on until he leaves.
Anyway, after watching almost two minutes of the video, I remembered I was promised the answer to “What causes conflict” so I hope that that information is going to counterbalance the little immature play I’ve just witnessed.
“As no one else is around, the obvious thing to assume is that they caused the fight”
Um, yes. No one else around, who’s there to start a fight, but the two people?
“You see, neither of them actually caused the fight”
No??! Get out of here! I could’ve sworn that both partners had at least something to do with you know…they themselves fighting. But was I wrong this whole time? Let’s watch further… (second bag of popcorn popping in the microwave; This is going to be a great 7-minute educational video!)
“In Scientology it was discovered that there was a fundamental and natural law of human relations, which explains the real underlying cause of all human conflicts.”
Wah-wah-wah. Popcorn dropped on the floor. Um, there are several things that just do not sit well with my Critical Thinking “nature”.
“It was discovered” – Well, very impersonal. “Who” it was discovered? I know that’s not valid in English, but the point is that there seems to be a scientific result, but it lacks the author, so it’s just a “believe us, we know, we discovered”, whatever. I would assume that if a person or group of people would discover such a great thing about human behavior – the cause of ALL conflicts – , he/she or them would deserve at least some recognition. Imagine this: “In biology it was discovered that DNA has a double helix structure…” and that’s all folks. My opinion is that for a first presentation of the double helix structure, leaving out the names of Watson and Crick would seem pretty unusual.
“A law that explains ALL human conflicts“
– A law – it means it’s general, it affects everybody, like gravity.
– “ALL human conflict” – given the wide range of conflicts and source of conflict, this is a cognitive distortion known as generalization, meaning that you put everything in a single category, denying the existence of exceptions.
* On their website, they mention L. Ron Hubbard (the creator of Scientology) as the discoverer of the law and the creator of the conflict resolution tool.
“The previously unknown law would seem to be this: a third-party must be present and unknown in every quarrel for a conflict to exist.”
THIS is their discovery. There’s a third person causing EVERY conflict between two parties.
This kind of view implies the following secondary ideas:
– The parties fighting have no responsibility whatsoever regarding the conflict.
– A third-party has a direct purpose in causing the conflict.
– The two persons fighting are therefore good, they were just reacting to an external stimulus.
– The third-party is bad, an “instigator”, as we later find out.
They then show us the active role the instigator allegedly played in several scenarios. Regarding the couple, it’s a male friend both partners know and while talking to the woman, he deliberately insinuates that marriage never stopped her husband from cheating and he then tells the husband that his wife is “a little crazy”, words the husband later uses in the fight.
So now, we are expected to believe that this is what caused the couple to fight. Some dude talking stuff about the two. Because yes, all independent and mature people would just assimilate the information as valid and use it against their loved one. “Dave” said so, so it must be true. Any husband that hears a description of his wife as being “crazy” coming from one of his friends will just go on and say “He is right. She is crazy.” and team up with the friend. Yes, now that’s valid research right there.
After presenting their great discovery, which they call “The Third-Party Law”, they keep on focusing on this third person, that they basically blame any conflict on.
They continue showing examples of situations that escalate into conflicts, based on the alleged action of the instigator. They show this person having the intention to cause conflict, using “false report” technique in order to get their way and enjoying the results of their hard work. Basically, this is what we would call manipulators or people with antisocial traits.
But do all conflicts need them in order to occur? Obviously, no. That would put the manipulator in a very powerful position. Relationships, jobs, and businesses would rise and fall at the will of manipulators. The instigators seem to be fewer than their victims, so, Scientology actually presents a model of the world where a minority manipulates the majority. And the majority seems to only have one way out of this unpleasant and “unnatural” situation: “Find the third-party and establish the proof”. Why must this third-party be involved? What are we, children going to our parents, needing their approval or advice so that we could solve our “quarrels” with our peers?
And what is proof? Proof that the third-party lied? Proof that he didn’t cheat and she’s not “a little crazy”? What exactly is proof and why should it have anything to do with the third-party?
The video also promotes the idea that if the third-party is not identified and their actions are not stopped, the conflict will not be resolved.
“But marriages can literally be saved if both parties sort out who actually caused the conflicts.”
“The only time a conflict cannot be resolved and continues is when there is a third-party actively promoting the conflict.”
“But how do you uncover someone who’s hidden or unknown?” – Or nonexistent?
Great question. How?
“In studying “The Third Party Law” you’ll learn precisely how to find out who’s been spreading false reports and stirring up these conflicts and why this discovery opens the door to their resolution.”
Oh, one needs to take the course. Also, that “precisely” is quite worrying. And, “opens the door to resolution”? Doesn’t it teach you how to step through that door and actually solve the conflict?
Oh, it does.
“The Third Party Law is the tool that solves all those previously unsolvable conflicts in life“
Really, ALL conflicts? Then how come the Church of Scientology still has open conflicts with so many *cough* instigators?
“It may seem incredible, but the law is always true.”
But what seems and is credible is that it’s actually not.
After fully watching this clip, my overall impression is that the main outcome of this course would be mastering the ol’ skill of scapegoating. One would learn how to “precisely” pinpoint the individuals that allegedly robbed them off of the good life they could have had if only “the bad guys” wouldn’t have interfered. And that is dangerous. It turns people against people. Of course there are times when conflicts may escalate because a third-party has a hidden interest for that conflict to arise, but that is not in any sense “a law”.
The thing that bothers me the most about this video and the perspective it promotes, is that it makes the majority of people seem like dependent, submissive, manipulation-ready individuals.
It’s like we all experience a numbness in our brain and absorb any external influence, no matter how inept or trivial. We take in any information and without asking for proof, we use it against our loved ones. And personal responsibility seems nonexistent. One is not capable to assess their own relationships, uses ready-to-use ideas provided by someone else and is definitely not capable of solving life conflicts without a third-party, who by the way, in this case, also becomes the person who allows resolution and restoration of harmony. So the manipulator pulls all the strings.
*It’s funny how this may actually be the result of projection, church leaders letting you know what they actually think about their followers, or believers, which one you prefer.
It may seem that they give you a tool in the assertiveness area, but that is actually not what they are teaching. It’s rather a tool that prepares people for manipulation. It makes you comfortable with the idea of being manipulated. You now expect manipulation.
This course does not teach conflict resolution, it teaches scapegoating. You are a wonderful, innocent, but brainless blob, so the unpleasant parts of your life must be someone else’s fault. It sends out the message that what happens in your life has nothing to do with you, but with the external forces that manipulate everything you experience (external locus of control). And that takes individuals further away from their goals, it diminishes the role you have in your own happiness (or unhappiness) and teaches you no other skill than searching for help in others, rather than yourself.
We can resolve most conflicts by talking directly with the other person involved, convey what we feel and what we think and reach a point of mature agreement (agreeing to disagree is still collaboration, we know and accept the other one’s position, we are in the know). If that bond is strong enough, no third-party should be able to threaten it.
Accusing someone of cheating while having no proof or calling them crazy is not acceptable or easy to get over even if it was triggered by false rumor. Take responsibility in your life. It’s the husband who called the woman crazy, and the wife who accused him based on hearsay, not the third-party. Applying the basics of Critical Thinking would have made both husband and wife aware of the manipulation and they would be able to discriminate between their own thoughts and emotions and those of a third-party. Also, assertive behavior can help solve a conflict, not the submissive, aggressive or manipulative ones.
Critically assessing a source of information may reveal hidden and perhaps unhealthy instructions or recommendations about how one should live their life, see the external world or themselves, so we need to keep the critical eye open at all times.
Believe nothing, question everything and let evidence, not opinions, guide your decisions.
P.S. By applying their conflict solving method, it is sensible to say that there is a good chance you will come to be in conflict with the instigator, if you confront him/her about their alleged role in your life. And how do you solve that conflict? They do not say, at least not in this video. But I have an idea about who the instigator may be this time.
The ideas presented on this website are my own. When reading these articles, keep in mind that Psychology Corner is a blog. Also, I am not a native English speaker.