In Flint, Michigan, city council members will take any help they can get. So when Scientologist Monika Biddle showed up at their meeting earlier this week with a solution to their problems, they were eager to hear it. Her plan involves the distribution of a book called The Way to Happiness:
The booklet briefly describes 21 principles, including: “Take Care of Yourself, Be Temperate, Don’t Be Promiscuous, Love and Help Children, and Honor and Help Your Parents.”
“I think it’s a good deal, yes,” Police Chief James Tolbert said of the program. “From the information I’ve seen, apparently it works. I’m for anything that works.”
… some council members said public service announcements that reinforce messages like, “Do not murder, Don’t Do Anything Illegal, and Do Not Steal,” can’t hurt the city.
Biddle suggested Flint officials investigate “The Way to Happiness” programs in St. Louis and Compton, Calif., for guidance about how the program can help make cities better places to live.
[Biddle’s] group suggests police officers give the book to members of the community, to neighborhood watch groups and those involved in community policing; get “The Way to Happiness” public service announcements played for youth groups, schools, after-school programs and detention centers; and get educators using the booklet in tutoring and mentoring programs.
On the surface, it sounds like a longer, secular version of the Ten Commandments. It probably won’t help anyone since it just reiterates common sense ideas, but that’s not such a bad thing, right?
Well, when you take a closer look at the book, you realize it’s not as great as it seems.
For example, check out Precepts #17: Be Competent:
The test of any “truth” is whether it is true for you. If, when one has gotten the body of data, cleared up any misunderstood words in it and looked over the scene, it still doesn’t seem true, then it isn’t true so far as you are concerned. Reject it. And, if you like, carry it further and conclude what the truth is for you. After all, you are the one who is going to have to use it or not use it, think with it or not think with it. If one blindly accepts “facts” or “truths” just because he is told he must, “facts” and “truths” which do not seem true to one, or even false, the end result can be an unhappy one. That is the alley to the trash bin of incompetence.
That’s… complete bullshit. Facts are facts, whether you like them or not. If they make you uncomfortable, deal with it. The evidence may be absent or contradictory for the things that are “true for you,” like miracles or Creationism. And why should a city promote ideas that aren’t evidence-based?
There’s also this weird running thread throughout the Precepts about how life is all about “survival”:
Your own survival chances will be bettered in the long run since others, influenced, will become less of a threat. There are other benefits.
In an age of intricate equipment and high-speed machines and vehicles, one’s survival and that of one’s family and friends depends in no small measure upon the general competence of others.
If those around one lie to him or her, one is led into making errors and his survival potential is reduced.
And don’t forget this fantastic piece of advice:
The way to happiness does not include murdering or your friends, your family or yourself being murdered.
Thank you for that nugget of brilliance, L. Ron Hubbard.
Okay, so the book is a little strange, but it’s otherwise harmless, right?
Actually, it can do plenty of damage if it steers people into Scientology, and that’s precisely what the book is designed to do:
Critics of Scientology, including some former officials, argue that “The Way to Happiness” is primarily a recruiting tool for the church. According to Vicki Aznaran, who once served as inspector general of the Religious Technology Center, the church’s highest ecclesiastical organization, The Way to Happiness Foundation is “a front group to get people into Scientology” and the book is designed “to make Scientology palatable to the masses.”
Flint officials don’t need The Way to Happiness to teach moral character, just like they don’t need to put up a Ten Commandments monument in front of the local courthouse. They sure as hell don’t need to steer citizens to a cult that’ll take away the relatively little income many of them have.
The only reason they’re supporting this book is because they really don’t understand its history, purpose, or specific contents. So contact them and let them know that there are better ways to spread common sense than to adopt Scientology’s introductory playbook. Even if it’s free, it’s just not worth it.
(Thanks to Tom for the link. Portions of this article were published earlier.)