BBC - Scientology Controversy

OK, I admit it. People's interactions with religion fascinate me, especially when they involve groups that are not part of mainstream life. An example of this is the case of Scientology, which has staunch supporters as well as staunch detractors. The Telegraph of the UK has an interesting article about a current controversy involving a BBC reporter and Scientology. It includes links to youtube videos that illustrate the story. One video not linked by the Telegraph is the following one, which provides more context.

If you wish to comment on the story, please remember my policy on comments: Comments are welcome at this blog, but are moderated. In general, I publish comments that focus on the substance of the post and use psychological theory & research; I decline to publish comments that use religious argument.


RTC said...

Fascinating. I should look for the BBC film. Did you see it by chance?

Michael Nielsen said...

I haven't yet had time to look for the BBC film; in fact I kind of stumbled upon this story and the youtube video. Please do let me know if you locate the film or related material.

Michael Nielsen said...

You can view the BBC report in its entirety
using this link here. The link is to the BBC search page, searching for "scientology" and "panorama", the name of the BBC program. In addition to the program, which lasts about 30 minutes, there are several links to other, related stories.

Tyler said...


I am not a psychologist, nor is my psychology vocabulary very large, but I found the BBC Panorama show very interesting. The interaction between the reporter and the Scientology representative was a fascinating view into the clash between believer and skeptic. I expect that from a general religious perspective, this is a relatively extreme depiction of the clash in modern day America. I was left wondering how much the reporter was trying to get a reaction and how much was just objective journalism. The reaction from the Scientology representative seemed to be extreme to me, especially the following and tailing of the reporter.

What is it about the interaction that causes tempers to flare. Is it the idea that people crave certainty and they don't like to have their certainty challenged? Most religious people that I know do not like to have their beliefs challenged, but rather than fight, they tend to back away from a clash rather than fight. That being said, I have seen people of several different religions come out metaphorically swinging when challenged.


Michael Nielsen said...

Good question, Tyler. You're right that people don't like their beliefs challenged, and that they often avoid a fight rather than relish one. But there are different strands of thought that suggest people may vigorously defend their view when it is threatened -- sometimes even more vigorously when they feel they are in a weaker position. One perspective on this comes from Kelly's classic work on hostility.