Southern Religion

Not a happy Guy Fawkes Day for Scientology

Anonymous protester in Guy Fawkes’ mask demonstrating during the January 2009 raid outside the Founding Church of Scientology in Washington, D.C. [Photo by Ben Schumin: Some rights reserved]

Happy Guy Fawkes Day – a time to celebrate Guy Fawkes’ mask wearing Project Chanology anti-Scientology action and the St. Petersberg Times extraordinary expose’ of Scientology.
Monday, St. Pete documented the group’s strenuous efforts to track down, spy on and bring back members who tried to leave, and the measures applied in some cases to those retrieved.
Two Scientology Web sites were reportedly hacked on Tuesday – allegedly the work of Anonymous (Project Chanology), the Internet-based group whose public activities have come to be associated with wearing Guy Fawkes’ masks. The approach and techniques involved may have broad application, Wired argued in a recent profile:

But if Project Chanology fails to upend Scientology in particular, it may yet change the landscape of political activism in general. Already some Anons are applying the Chanology formula to other targets. Operation Didgeridie and Project Cntroll are gearing up to troll the Australian and Chinese governments, respectively, for their Internet censorship policies. And when post-election unrest broke out in Iran in June, Why We Protest dedicated a whole wing of its forums to online activism in support of the Iranian opposition.

Scientiology is also beset by more traditional setbacks.
Last week a French court fined Scientology almost a million dollars amid news of the resignation of high-profile member Paul Haggis.
Yet it may be the relentless parade of revelations about the Church’s essentially ludicrous core beliefs and sociopathic practices that do it the most harm. Consider the current introductory paragraph of the St. Petersburg Times series:

Scientology leader David Miscavige is the focus of this special report from the St. Petersburg Times. Former executives of the Church of Scientology, including two of the former top lieutenants to Miscavige, have come forward to describe a culture of intimidation and violence under David Miscavige.

Right on target, at Religion Dispatches, Gabriel Mckee wrote:

Religious fraud is one of the most ancient pitfalls of faith. The Didache, one of the earliest ecclesiastical texts, warns the first Christian communities against itinerant prophets who demand money in the name of the Holy Spirit. The Church of Scientology has built a business and a religion on that kind entrepreneurial charlatanism. But their business model requires good PR, and good PR requires a tight lock on secrets. At the moment, Scientology doesn’t have many secrets left, and it’s beginning to feel the impact of that liberated information.

November 5, 2009 Posted by | Religion, WWW | | 1 Comment

Thursday religious links

November 5, 2009 Posted by | Religion, WWW | | Comments Off on Thursday religious links

Resignation by Louisiana JP who refused to marry interracial couple

CNN reports that Keith Bardwell resigned in person at the Louisiana secretary of state’s office.

Meanwhile, Lillian Ladele’s lawsuit was heard early this week by a British court of appeals. A decision is expected soon.

November 5, 2009 Posted by | Law, Religion | , | Comments Off on Resignation by Louisiana JP who refused to marry interracial couple

British Creation Challenge video flyover

Creation Challenge is a joint project of the Methodist Church in Britain, United Reform Church and the Baptist Union of Great Britain and offers this eerily persuasive video:

November 5, 2009 Posted by | Uncategorized | Comments Off on British Creation Challenge video flyover

Undriven Rick Warren mag dumped in the shredder [Updated]

Rick Warren's defunct magazine

Update –>

Unable to inspire enough subscribers, Saddleback Church pastor Rick Warren’s Purpose Driven Connection quarterly magazine has been sent to the shredder by its partner, the bankrupt Readers Digest Association (RDA).

Launched as one of RDA’s “most important and far-reaching ventures ever,” after four print issues the $29-a-year subscriptions magazine and service is closing down its print product “due to a lack of subscriptions.” The Christmas issue ends it.

Next, the spin … wait for it … .

Yes, later there’s another view. The mag didn’t fail (What happenened to “lack of subscriptions”?).

Actually, the Purpose Driven Connection’s Web site is so successful they’re responding to reader feedback by going all-digital.

Translation: Readers wouldn’t buy the mag but Rick and RDA think they can make a few dollars off a Web site. Yes, now that the magazine’s editor Frank Lalli – veteran editor of Money and George magazines – is out on his keister (firing staff saves money), no doubt with others.

Warrens’ version of the spin is painfully embarrassing to read:

Our biggest discovery was learning that people prefer reading our content online rather than in print, because it is more convenient and accessible .. [As if the newspaper industry worldwide hadn’t noticed.] … So when we heard the feedback and noticed subscriptions to the print magazine lagging behind Internet usage, in spite of strong retail newsstand sales, we jumped at the chance to go all digital. Thankfully, Reader’s Digest was willing to help us make the transition. [Maybe recover some of the money lost in that bath they took on your print mag?]

What would you think of the Christian Science Monitor’s journalism if they had spun similar tales in October 2008, rather than explaining how print-publication losses left them little choice and staging their transition to full digital


In June, while reviewing the 94 magazines owned by RDA, president and CEO Mary Berner held the Purpose Driven Connection venture up as the company’s model for future success. The New York Times Stephanie Clifford reported:

For about $30, subscribers get a quarterly magazine with religious workbooks, along with DVDs featuring Mr. Warren, and membership in a social-networking Web site, including tips on what to pray for each week. It is available through churches and at Wal-Marts, and Ms. Berner wants to introduce other unorthodox distribution strategies.
“That is the model going forward,” she said.

“It’s an unabashed commitment to and focus on a market that’s ignored but is incredibly powerful,” she said.

If the new direction works, Ms. Berner said, she may consider introducing magazines around Rick Warren-like religious personalities, along with increasing the amount of spiritual content in Reader’s Digest itself.
“As far as I’m concerned, I don’t care what the religion is, what the spirituality is, as long as it’s legitimate, there’s a built-in community and it’s global,” Ms. Berner said.

By mid-August, all the other board members had resigned and Berner was leading the company through bankruptcy and contemplating a cut in pay to $1.5 million a year.
RDA’s interactive division was reorganized in September, although Purpose Driven Connection was characterized as “in development stages” at the time.

Finally came the announcement that there were “too few subscribers,” attended by a refusal to giving any numbers defining what “too few” is. with the Associated Press reporting:

Brian Bird, managing editor of the magazine and Web site, said subscriptions were between 2,500 and 5,000 per month.

“I imagine (Reader’s Digest officials) were hoping for this to explode, and it didn’t explode,” Bird said. “But it’s had slow, steady growth. It takes a long time for anything to really grow, especially in a competitive media culture.”

Death of the print product was spun by Warren into a fortuitous transition to all-digital, although limited-value but publicly available measures suggest that the site may be steadily losing traffic. Alexa (based on the behavior of users with the Alexa toolbar added to their browsers) indicates declines in traffic rank, reach and page views .

November 5, 2009 Posted by | Religion, WWW | , , , | Comments Off on Undriven Rick Warren mag dumped in the shredder [Updated]