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LA Times, L. Ron Hubbard & Tom Cruise

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At the risk of enraging "clear" Scientologists across the city, today's LA Times has a long story about Scientology's Number One Celebrity, Tom Criuse, and his wooing by the church's head, David Miscavige.

The paper tried to make sense of Scientology's theology in a long 1990 story they've put online to accompany this one. Shrouded in mystery, it involves ancient intergalactic souls called thetans, evil tyrant Xenu, engrams and implants. The more you read, the more weirdness emerges: past lives, frozen souls in big airplanes, a post-life transfer post on Venus, barren planets and telekenesis. Sounds like something a science fiction writer on acid might come up with.

Coincidentally, Scientology was founded by science fiction writer L. Ron Hubbard in the early 1950s and is based on his writings through the '70s. It has been rumored that there was a bet between Hubbard and his friend, fellow sci-fi writer Robert Heinlein, that he couldn't start a religion, but nobody knows for sure. But even Reader's Digest felt comfortable in citing Hubbard saying in the '40s: "Writing for a penny a word is ridiculous. If a man really wants to make a million dollars, the best way would be to start his own religion."

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The LA Times gives us a rare look behind the scenes of the Church of Scientology, and the photo essay is well worth it. Tom Cruise always towers over the 5-foot-seven Miscavige, although Cruise is also said to be 5'7". Maybe Scientology is a cool religion because you get to demand an apple crate.

Photo by Anah via Flickr