Another in the weekly series from our old friend Terra Cognita.
With the exception of a couple of old-timers, everyone in my bustling Scientology mission back in the day was in their late teens and early twenties. Now? The demographics have completely flipped. Everyone’s grown old; most are in their sixty’s or seventy’s; a smattering of thirty-something, second-generation staff round out the ranks.
From what I can tell from all the pictures of Scientologists in magazines and promo pieces, this trend has spread worldwide. Ideal orgs have done nothing to reverse this upward demographic drift. The ones I’ve visited look like empty Christian Science Reading Rooms, their scant staff looking more like grandparents than Millennials.
The church has failed to attract young people. Over the last forty years the average age of its members has continued to climb. Those few remaining are ready to retire or already have. A decade from now, the majority of Scientologists will be too old to do services any more. Or will have died. Or run out of money.
There is no next generation of Scientologists.
The Riches of Youth
An easy answer to what befell Scientology is that poor products didn’t work as advertised.
And yet, there was a time when Scientology had more followers.
Back in the sixties and seventies young people were looking for something different. Something unlike the lives of their staid parents. Kids were into new things. Transformative experiences. Eastern religions. Hip therapies. It was a time of drugs, sex, and rock and roll. Woodstock. Moonies. EST. New Age this. New Age that. And of course, Dianetics and Scientology with its promises of freedom and planetary salvation.
Instead of taking advantage of this youth movement, David Miscavige gutted the mission system, enforced heavy ethics throughout the organization, declared the brightest minds were SP’s, and assigned those executives closest to him to someplace called The Hole.
Nails and Coffins
Back in the old days, people didn’t use the Internet for research. The Internet didn’t exist. In the sixties and seventies, if someone wanted to learn about Scientology, he talked to a friend, checked out a copy of DMSMH from the library, or filled out an Oxford Capacity Analysis at some funky mission, downtown on Main Street.
Today, when kids want to know about something, they Google it. Yikes! After even a shallow search of Scientology, it’s a wonder anyone would have anything to do with the organization. If the Internet isn’t the last nail in the coffin, it’s one big-ass spike. There is no hiding anymore. All of the church’s dirty little secrets have been posted online for the whole world to see. Articles are posted about Scientology every day of every week that would discourage any rational person from ever walking into one of its churches.
LRH said there was no “hidden data line” in Scientology. There were no hidden texts, essays, or books. Everything he wrote was open for everyone to see. Unfortunately for his successors, the Internet made sure of this. From abusive ethics to “confidential” OT levels and body thetans, it’s all out there.
If the Internet is the Wild, Wild West, Scientology got bucked off the horse, has a foot caught in a stirrup, and is being dragged through the cactus.
An Unkind Media
We live in the information age. No longer are we limited to three TV channels. News and exposé journalism can be found twenty-four/seven among hundreds of available channels.
Every year sees more and more books exposing Scientology’s crimes—adding more nails to the coffin. (Apparently, this sad coffin takes lots of nails. Hard to keep its gilded lid shut.)
From the Tampa Bay Times to the New Yorker, newspapers and magazines regularly print unfavorable articles about Scientology. The nails just keep coming.
The media is no longer scared of the church; they’re back with a vengeance.
Friends and Advertising
The best advertisement for attracting young people is lots of other young people involved in what you’re selling. Unfortunately for the Church of Scientology, few young people exist anymore within its ranks.
I have nothing against older people. Fifty is the new forty. Seventy is the new sixty. Gray hair is the new blonde. That said, the typical eighteen-year-old isn’t all that receptive to sixty-five-year-old grandmothers telling them what’s ruining their lives. And what to do about it.
For the most part, young people have young friends and old people have old ones. Teens hang out with teens, and Boomers hang out with Boomers. Just the way it is.
The few young people inside the bubble have no friends on the outside. And since they’re discouraged from interacting with “Wogs” (except for passing out OCA’s and Way to Happiness pamphlets on street corners), they have no friends to bring into the fold.
As people age, they slow in their journey for spiritual enlightenment. Baby boomers are more concerned with making the mortgage payment, curing their chronic lumbago, and making sure they have enough for retirement than why their inability to communicate effectively is ruining their lives. The thought of giving away their life savings to some fringe church is a hard sell.
A few faithful, internet-avoiding, last souls will continue to carry the torch for Scientology. Too much money, real estate, and soul-sucking spiritual investment exist to walk away. As for luring new serfs into their ideal castles, good luck. A harsh Lord Google guards the gate.
There is no next generation of Scientologists. That train left the station and is barreling south.
Still not Declared,