Exscientologists’ terrible humility: An open letter to Jon Atack


I am writing concerning some statements you made about Exscientologists in your foreword in Chris Shelton’s just-published book Scientology: A to Xenu. I am assuming you wrote what was published.

There is considerable disinformation in the book, and, while presenting as critical of L. Ron Hubbard, Scientology, Scientologists and their collaborators, it actually serves their antisocial purposes in key areas and ways. I will take these up with Mr. Shelton over the next days. Right now, I will only address a few things from your forward.

You write:

I first heard about Chris Shelton in 2013 when I began blogging at the Underground Bunker. I was pleasantly surprised to find someone who had survived such a profound involvement and managed to dig himself out. Believe me, it is highly unusual: more usually, former members spend years embroiled in the halfway-house of the self-styled Independent movement, until some external event triggers reflection.

Of course, recovery from prolonged trauma does not happen overnight, and Chris has the humility to admit he has further to travel – as do we all – but that very humility marks him out from most former members, who retain the phoney élite status implanted by the cult into its devotees.

Unlike 99% of former Scientologists, Chris was prepared to consider other explanations and to leave the cage of phobias induced by Scientology.

It is not clear what explanation of what exactly Mr. Shelton was considering when he became prepared to consider other explanations. You might be viewing Scientology as providing or being, for Scientologists, an explanation of human existence, or the human condition, or some such thing, for which there are other explanations. You might have an explanation for what you had in mind.

You also, of course, could be seen to be writing that while a Scientologist Mr. Shelton had an explanation for his Scientology-implanted phony elite status, and at some point after becoming an Exscientologist he became prepared to consider other explanations for his phony elite status.

In either case, or whatever the various explanations are that you had in mind, it has never been my experience that 99% of Exscientologists were not prepared to consider other ones themselves. I have not experienced any quantifiable percentage at all of Exscientologists who were not prepared to consider such or different explanations. Without searching out all the explanations Mr. Shelton has said he considered, I do not believe, and I challenge the notion that Exscientologists in any large percentage were not prepared to consider virtually everything Mr. Shelton has said he has considered. I would have to examine a lot of facts, which are not immediately accessible, to confirm for myself your assertion about the Exscientologist class.

What evidence do you have that, unlike Mr. Shelton, 99% of Exscientologists were unprepared to consider the explanations you say he was prepared to consider? And what evidence is there that any meaningful percentage of Exscientologists were unprepared to leave the cage of Scientology-induced phobias you say he was prepared to leave?

Obviously, I consider your conclusion about Exscientologists erroneous. It also obviously denigrates the Exscientologist class, and is worth getting to the bottom of and correcting.

I disagree with your conclusion that most Exscientologists retain the phony elite status that was implanted in them while Scientologists. I also question the claim that it is Mr. Shelton’s humility that marks him out from these Exscientologists. I can say from personal knowledge, which I have made available for some months, that, after you had heard about him and apparently found him dug out and his humility remarkable, he treated me knowingly, arrogantly, indeed contemptuously. In doing so, he also was serving the Scientologists’ inimical purposes. While he has not corrected the black propaganda record he made targeting me, I have also observed that he is generally remarkably unhumble in his public presentations.1

He, of course, has now put his humility, with his corresponding arrogance and resultant hypocrisy, into issue publicly. It is prominent in your foreword, which he published, and, I would guess, he requested you to write.

It is conceivable that you and I could have different definitions or values for “humility,” and what could be the essence of arrogance to me might be ever so humble to you. Just going by the usual, common definitions, however, what is your basis for construing Mr. Shelton’s humility as so deep, profound or clear to you that it marks him out from most Exscientologists?

His book, as I noted, has made his humility or lack a possibly quite educational public issue. Contrasting this psychological trait with the same trait of other Exscientologists has also made the humility or arrogance of the whole class a public issue for educational purposes. So there is a good issue for a public debate.

You write in your foreword:

My friend Christian Szurko, who is surely as expert about cults as anyone else alive, has pointed out former Scientologists tend to be even more arrogant than escapees from other groups. Chris is a notable exception. He has no pretensions to guru hood nor any need to form his own cult of personality. He has done remarkable work thus far, and I have no doubt that he will make many more contributions beyond this exceptional book.

I wrote to Mr. Szurko a week or so ago to have him confirm that he said what you attribute to him, and what he based such a conclusion on. I have not heard back from him. In any case, I have not found Mr. Shelton at all a notable exception to other Exscientologists regarding his level, quantity or manifestation of arrogance. In fact, it is clear to me that an honest analysis of his public persona and communications, and his handling of sincere questioners of his claims, as he did with me, will show that his arrogance or narcissism is a significant characteristic, and a psychological concern, not a virtue. I do not mean that Mr. Shelton’s arrogance or narcissism is a concern to him, but should be a concern to people who might look to him for guidance or tout his humility. Perhaps you can provide whatever evidence you have that he is a “notable exception” to the claim you ascribe to Mr. Szurko that Exscientologists are notably more arrogant than escapees from other groups.

You also write that Mr. Shelton “is driven by the compassionate urge to help those who have been harmed by Scientology.” I have never hidden, but have been very clear that I have been, and am being, harmed by the Scientologists and their collaborators. Yet Mr. Shelton has exhibited no urge whatsoever to help me, when he could, but has shown a determination to help the Scientologists and their collaborators in harming me. Do you really believe that it was compassion that motivated him, after claiming to be free of Scientology, to publicly black PR me, shun me, not grant me credence, all in service of the Scientologists’ malevolent purposes?

I look forward to hearing your answers to my questions, and your thoughts on the humility and arrogance issue generally, psychologically or socially from your perspective.

Yours frankly,

Gerry Armstrong