Usually cults of this kind die when their founders die. But in this case the group persists. It’s very small, but it does persist. Goodstein reports poll data showing only about 25,000 Americans as Scientologists. National polling organizations have trouble estimating very small groups, as I pointed out in a different context, but Scientology, whatever its true strength, is not very large and would hardly justify the amount of ink lavished on it by mainstream media.
If — a big if here — it weren’t for the curious presence of famous movie stars among its adherents. Of course other stars have graced equally kookie causes. At least one is said to be among the “truthers” who say that the US government commissioned 9/11, and at least another among the folks who maintain that Jews are the cause of all evil. But the contingent of Scientology stars is much larger and much better known than these.
When I was young, (some) movie stars could still shock by engaging in serial polygamy. Now that this charming practice has gone mainstream, what’s a poor star to do to get a little extra exsposure in the ever-compliant press ? Enter the ghost of L. Ron Hubbard.