The OG of Cult Whistle-blowing: Dennis Erlich and Scientology

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VICE just did an article about a weed smoking former Scientologist with a very impressive resume. His name is Dennis Erlich and he was the first person who exposed Scientology on the internet. For people like me (the first person to expose Master’s Commission and subsequently the Assemblies of God, Mercy Ministries and other groups), that’s impressive. Also, I feel his pain. Also, he must have giant balls of steel.

Part of Dennis’s credits include being the first internet censorship case in 1994. This happened “when he scanned pages of Scientology texts to an online newsgroup, telling the wider world about Thetans and Xenu for the very first time. In 1995 a federal judge permitted Scientologists to raid his house, a video of which can be seen here.”


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Dennis, the OG of cult whistle-blowing and internet activism had a lot of interesting things to say. Here are the highlights from the interview:

A lot of the things in Scientology knock down the barrier that separates what you’re willing to accept and not.

If you’ve been in a cult, you know this to be true. It’s how they get you to accept such bullshit and go along with the weirdest rituals. They go at it systematically and before you know it, you’re one of them…if you’ve made the cut. They kick out people who are non-compliant or rebellious. And they pick away at your personal rights, your personal space and your personality until you become a drone.

Dennis helps get people back into reality, which isn’t always a smooth transition for ex-culties:

[When someone leaves a cult] I like to get a person plugged back in to reality…basic things that a cult member might not grasp, how they relate to being a person. It’s like coming from a different planet. I know it took me a long time to figure these things out. Scientology arranged for everyone to drop me; even my own family.

Again, true. This is one of the most important things you can do when you leave a cult: plug in to reality. For me, that’s why pop culture has become such a staple in my life: the TV, films, music and politics of the ‘real world’ have played a huge role in plugging me back into reality. It’s important to see what the world is all about–the color, textures, voices–and join in it. For a cult member, isolation is key. You close yourself off from the world (and are closed out) and in many cases, living in a cult means living on a compound. Getting back into reality feels foreign and uncomfortable…wrong, even.

Dennis has this thing where he smokes people out (gets them high) in order to get them to relax and help them get back into reality. His take on the ganja when he was asked, “What does weed do for people?”:

For a cult member, his [or her] ideas are rigid, very solid. When I smoke marijuana my thoughts become more liquid, they melt. You can do a certain amount of melting away of those fixed ideas from the cult. Since trying to get my feet back on the ground, marijuana has been a great help.
This is true on all ends. When a person enters a cult, they might not be so rigid and black and white but over time and acclamation into the cult, they become fixed, rigid and set in their ways. Actually, set in the cult’s ways. To some degree, being in a cult means you drop the ability to think logically (at least for the time being) and it takes some practice and letting go of it all to learn to decompress from that way of thinking. Relaxing is hard, for someone who’s been so on-guard and uptight for so long. The guilt that is associated with being out of a cult and doing mainstream things is overwhelming.
For me, experimenting with all that life had to offer was the answer. Everyone has a way of getting out of that mindset and trashing the shitty beliefs, but for me a full-on rebellion and pendulum swing was in order. Getting high? It was definitely on the menu.

The whole interview is quotable, so go read it. 

Read more on Dennis Erlich here: 

Scientology and the Internet on Wikipedia

inFormer Ministry (Dennis’s website and where it all started)