You can tell you're a member of an awesome "religion" when it's located next door to a bankrupt lamp store.

We here at Something Awful absolutely love the Scientologists. No really, we do. If it wasn't for their passionate, devoted crusade to free each and every one of us from the iron-strong stranglehold that the nefarious Lord Xenu, Intergalactic Emperor of Space, and his insidious Thetan spirits have on our very existence, then a good majority of the population would have no chance of salvation and eternal bliss. Also Zack and I would have to spend more time searching for the phrase "absolutely insane cults" in Google to make fun of each update, so I fully support L. Ron Hubbard's crusade to make my life just a little bit lazier.

Now please keep in mind that I am a fairly liberal, open-minded human being who enjoys embarking upon new and exciting experiences. For example, I expressed absolutely no hesitation back during my freshman year of college when that fraternity made me dress up as Alan Alda and took turns sodomizing me with a broken table leg. However, I tend to have a few issues with goofy cults like Scientology and Mormonism, both of which generate fortunes by brainwashing innocent folks through mind-numbing repetition and the threat of condemnation. Yes, I am aware that every religion expresses these tendencies to some degree, but if I wanted to start ranting about how all religions are evil and hypocritical and destructive and molested my dog Poofy, then I'd start up a Livejournal website and take time out of my life to inform you what mood I am currently experiencing by displaying a selected Sonic the Hedgehog animated gif. I classify Scientology and Mormonism as cults based on the following questions:

QUESTION #1: Has their "religion" been in existence since the days of the Wild, Wild West?
SCIENTOLOGY:Formed in the 1950s, around the same time the film "Invasion of the Body Snatchers" was released. Lucky for their founder, no aliens wanted to snatch L. Ron Hubbard's bloated body because it was a few space sizes too big.
MORMONISM:Invented in 1830 by Joseph Smith, just after the Wild, Wild West's birth. Other noteworthy things discovered that decade include the lawnmower, the electric streetcar, and how guns could be used to blow the heads off Native Americans who inexplicably acted uppity after settlers conveyed their desire to blow their heads off.

QUESTION #2: Was their "religion" founded by somebody who I could personally respect?
SCIENTOLOGY:Founder L. Ron Hubbard wrote a whole busload of science fiction novels that include "Mission Earth: Interdimensional Cyclops Attack," "Death Napkin," and the best-selling hit, "Dial 'A' For 'Alien' and Then Dial 'L' For 'Laser' and Then Dial 'A' Again for 'Attack Those Aliens' Which Would Technically Be 'ATA' But There is Clearly No 'ATA' Button on the Phone But If There Was, Then You Should Dial It Too."
MORMONISM:Joseph Smith died while shooting townsfolk from a jail cell with his brother Hyrum, where he was imprisoned for treason and burning down a printing press which produced anti-Mormon literature. I guess that's sorta like the whole Jesus and crown of thorns thing, and I can't help but wonder why God didn't bless His only son with access to an assault rifle when those filthy Romans were stapling Him to the cross.

QUESTION #3: Does their "religion" mention, in any form, goofy extra-terrestrial space shit that I would normally expect to see on a late night television show hosted by the increasingly doughy Dan Aykroyd?
SCIENTOLOGY:75 million years ago, a horrifyingly evil entity known as "Xenu" (or as "Big Red" to his close friends) used space psychiatrists and tax attorneys to put aliens inside planes piloted for volcanoes on Earth, which he then blew up with hydrogen bombs. Now the souls of these dead Martians infest each and every one of us, and the only way to rid ourselves of their dastardly curse is by opening up the mouth of L. Ron Hubbard's bloated corpse and shoving $100 bills into it. Sadly enough, this is pretty much all true.
MORMONISM:"God" hangs out near a star named "Kolob." The true Bible somehow fell off the Earth, and the Book of Mormon is its restoration, painstakingly recreated from bits and pieces of floating astro debris that Joseph Smith was able to grab with his Holy Tweezers. Also, if you are a really good Mormon and religiously give them all of your money, some day you will get your own planet to rule over. This is good news for Derek Smart, who can use an entire planet to store all unpurchased copies of his games. Once again, this is all true.

Our guide through the wonderful world of Scientology. Click on the image for a larger picture, and please check out the informative chart to the right of her.

So now that I've provided an excitingly tantalizing overview detailing my two favorite cults, I'd like to delve into my recent experience with the "Church" of Scientology in Sydney, Australia. As some of you may know, I decided to get off my fat ass and actually take a vacation a week ago. Details of the trip will come in the form of a guide within the next week, so stay tuned for exciting Australian stories of incomprehensible accents and never ending underground malls. During one of our wanderings through downtown Sydney, my girlfriend and I passed under a festively filthy sign reading, "DIANETICS INFORMATION CENTRE: CHURCH OF SCIENTOLOGY." I joked to Megan (my girlfriend) that we should go in and take the grand tour devoted to L. Ron Hubbard's exciting history of throwing people off boats and scrawling religious decrees on bar napkins, and she agreed. That's when panic struck me; I didn't actually expect her to support my hare-brained idea! She obviously had no knowledge of how remarkably crazy and persistent these folks were, so she was unable to grasp the inherent danger of entering a Scientology headquarters without being heavily armed. However, since I am so wonderfully liberal and open-minded (see previous claims), I agreed to enter the Scientology compound under one condition: if a Scientologist vaporized me with one of their space lobster ray guns, I wanted my eulogy read by famed Philadelphia Phillies' first baseman John Kruk, just as long as he had full and complete access to the buffet.

The first thing we realized upon entering the Scientology compound was the fact that everybody there seemed to possess tiny metallic rods inside their mouths forcing them to constantly stretch open in disturbing, unholy attempts to smile. I think they all clenched their teeth together to prevent the evil Xenu from flying his solar jetcar into their mouths and down through their inner thetan where he could then wreak unholy havoc on their unsuspecting cosmic kidneys. The receptionist asked why we were visiting and if we would like a tour.

"Oh gosh yes we'd like a tour!" I exclaimed while clutching my heart in case it launched itself out of my chest in utter excitement. "We'd love to hear what this is all about!" Megan and I decided beforehand that we'd play the part of two uneducated rubes looking for more information on the wonderful, helpful "religion" known as Scientology. I didn't have to work hard to play dumb, it just came naturally to me.

A Scientologist representative greeted us and began our wonderful tour into the colon of L. Ron Hubbard's mind. She never told us her name, which leads me to believe there was an error at the Scientologist Processing Plant when her unit was cloned off the assembly line. She began the tour by pointing to a photo of L. Ron Hubbard standing in a garden. "This is L. Ron Hubbard," she helpfully explained while pointing to a caption below which read "L. RON HUBBARD," shortly before launching into a rambling biography of his life. The representative explained that Mr. Hubbard, in addition to making up his very own "religion," was horribly famous for being horribly smart and doing a tremendous amount of exciting things such as "going to college." I pointed to the lush and vibrant collection of wildlife behind L. Ron in the photo and asked, "is that his garden?" and the lady claimed it was. Ain't no Xenu spreading weeds and grubs in that garden, baby!

Do not cry for this infant for it is already dead.

Speaking of babies, there was a small infant residing in a carriage inside the Scientology compound, randomly emitting a series of shrill shrieks. The child, who was some Scientologist's kid, was clutching a copy of L. Ron Hubbard's fictional novel "Dianetics" while screaming. I looked over at the baby and asked our helpful Scientologist representative, "so is 'Dianetics' the first book that child will learn to read?" and she said "yes" in an absolutely deadpan voice so serious it was almost chilling. The whole scene caused my very soul to weep; this poor innocent baby was being raised by a bunch of braindead nutwads who spend hundreds of thousands of dollars supporting a cult that believes we are all possessed by the spirits of dead aliens blown up by H-bombs. Oh how I look forward to the next generation of children.

The representative babbled on about reactive minds and self-help and all this other crap from an introductory college psychology course. Then she moved on to the mind, body, and soul ("thetan") and all this other crap from an introductory religious studies course. I suppose they intentionally start off their tours with such plausible, obvious information so they can gradually burn out into a downward spiral of insanity towards the end of the tour without it being as noticeable. The Scientologist pointed to a gigantic chart composed of approximately 100 million sections and colorful boxes representing each "level" you go through during your quest to become "clear" (i.e., you have no "reactive mind," i.e., your body is free of alien invaders, i.e., your bank account is empty). She would read the label of one level and then read the words next to it. Whenever I asked her any specific questions regarding that particular level, she would respond by reading the text again, only much more slowly. Our representative was very skilled at not only avoiding every direct question I asked her, but was also quite adept at reading large blocks of text printed on the side of a wall. I'm not sure what progressing up the ladder of insanity allows you to do, but I suspect you gain an additional 10 hit points every level in addition to strength, dexterity, and constitution bonuses. Once you hit OT III, you learn a character class-based skill ("Blizzard Attack") and are able to embark upon the dreaded Quest of Zygbar's Haunted Castle.

As the tour progressed, our friendly evasive representative explained that one is "audited" to determine if they have enough experience points to level up. Auditing is performed with an "e-meter," a device which is "especially religious." The lady repeated that statement three times, just in case we had any doubts as to the validity of her precious e-meter. "This is a religious device," she chanted once again while pointing to a photo of a bright blue Radio Shack device hanging on the wall. Me, being the curious asshole I am, asked if she could demonstrate the e-meter for us. Me, being the cowardly asshole I am, requested it be tested on my girlfriend because I have a personal fear of getting hooked up to electrical devices manufactured by tiny space elves. She agreed and returned after a brief period of time with a locked metal case she placed upon a wooden stand and began to fumble with its complex five-digit combination. I assume e-meters fetch a handsome price on the exclusive L. Ron Hubbard black market, and I feared the woman would attempt to stab beef skewers into my eye sockets if I even dared to joke about stealing her precious thetan magic machine.

Oh no! The e-meter is failing! Is nothing sacred?!?

Unfortunately, all did not go as planned during this e-meter demonstration. Things got off to a poor start when the Scientologist accidentally knocked over the device, causing it to loudly crash upon the ground. I helpfully shouted "oh no! You dropped your e-meter, ma'am!" in the same tone of voice you'd use to tell your best friend they have cancer. She seemed slightly embarrassed while picking it back up and setting it upon the stand, but the determined Scientologist insisted on continuing the demonstration. Apparently those Radio Shack transistors were built to last, and the helpful hand of L. Ron Hubbard's dead fat ghost helped guide her through such a grueling trial with the utmost confidence.

Now let me describe your typical e-meter. It's basically a Wheatstone Bridge only it's different because, as you can tell, it clearly has a different name. The subject being audited has to hold a large metallic soup can in each hand (one generates electricity and the other receives it) while the Scientologist asks them a series of questions such as "how are you feeling today?" and "what is your bank account routing number?" If you are nervous, then your body begins to sweat and this moisture helps the current flow from can A to can B quicker. This heightened response is noted on the e-meter which then informs you that you are either lying or chock full of alien ghosts from another dimension. The Scientologist explained that the reactive mind, one of the arch-enemies of Scientology, is responsible for all these horrible emotions and feelings in our lives and once we free ourselves from the tyranny of the reactive mind, we'll finally be able to transcend to level 600000 on the Scientology chart where we are awarded an experience bonus and additional critical hits against orcs. To illustrate what a horrible effect the reactive mind has on our body, she pinched Megan on the arm before powering on the e-meter. According to Mrs. Scientologist, Megan's reactive mind would then associate the phrase "pinch" with pain, and therefore simply remembering this traumatic event would trigger such pain.

"Now recall the pinch," the representative said while adjusting her top secret, highly religious e-meter knobs. "Recall the pinch." Nothing. No response. My girlfriend was obviously a literal Thetan magnet, as her failure to register a reading on the e-meter represented a problem so impossibly complex that only L. Ron Hubbard himself could rectify it, possibly by standing around in his garden and eating McDonalds cheeseburgers for hours. The representative continued to increase both the amount of electricity outputted as well as the machine's sensitivity.

Do I win some sort of prize for having the most Thetan-free girlfriend or something?

"Recall the pinch. Recall the pinch." Megan claimed she was recalling the pinch, but you know how deceitful those pesky space alien ghosts are. For all I know, Megan was recalling the time I DIDN'T pinch her, therefore making a mockery of precious Scientology. I knew I should've dumped her months ago.

"Recall the pinch. Recall the pinch." The Scientologist kept saying that phrase over and over and over until it felt as if my head would detonate and thousands of tiny flying souls would escape into the stratosphere. "Recall the pinch. Recall the pinch." She continued to rotate the electricity and sensitivity knobs, obviously desperate for some kind of reaction. "Recall the pinch. Recall the pinch." I offered to pinch Megan again, but the Scientologist claimed that was unnecessary. L. Ron Hubbard would guide her through this tough situation and, by golly, we'd finally be able to "see a thought" as promised. "Recall the pinch. Recall the pinch," she continued to plead while staring at my girlfriend. Megan peered uneasily back at me while I smiled and waved.

"Recall the pinch. Recall the pinch." After about the 50th "recall the pinch" demand, the Scientologist gave up. It was obvious Xenu had won this round and there was no way her e-meter would be able to defeat such a powerful foe. The representative offered various explanations as to why the e-meter was not seeing her thoughts correctly, and these reasons include:

Megan was tired.
Megan was exercising, so therefore she was not tired.
Megan was hungry.
Megan, who just ate, was not hungry.
Megan needed to moisturize her hands. Megan was on her period.

The last excuse was definitely my favorite of all. The Scientologist just brazenly asked, "are you on your period?" as if she was casually asking somebody, "so did you see 'The Sopranos' last night?" She explained that she was not on her period, and I helpfully interjected that the Scientologist could check if she felt Megan was lying. This comment causedboth of them give me rather nasty glances, so I went back to staring at the photo of L. Ron Hubbard in his garden and pondering if he used his books as compost to produce such vibrant florae. So while e-meters may be incredibly useful and wonderful tools crucial to maintaining a healthy lifestyle, they won't work if you're hungry or if you're not hungry or if you're tired or if you're not tired or if you don't moisturize your hands or if you're on your period. But other than that, hey, they work perfectly, all praise L. Ron Hubbard.

Whew! It seems as if I've written an awful lot already, so I'm going to kindly step out and continue Part II of the Scientology adventure next week. In the meantime, feel free to learn more about the wonderful "religion" of Scientology so you too can be prepared when their army of lawyers comes marching through your town, threatening tax audits if you don't convert to their clam-based cult. Fun ahoy!

I see London, I see France

There are two definitions for tarot cards.

1. Any of a set of usually 78 playing cards including 22 cards depicting vices, virtues, and elemental forces, used in fortunetelling.
2. Any of these 22 pictorial cards used as trump in tarok.

I have no idea what the hell that second one means. And I have no intention of finding out, either. I'm going to be on my deathbed, happy knowing that whatever the hell tarok is, I don't know a damn thing about it. This week, we're dealing with the first one. That crazy card game where some hippy slaps a few cards down then tells you that you're going to fall in love, or die, or fall in love and die at the same time. Except we have fun. And there is no dying.

Okay that's a lie.

A small one.

You're going to die someday.

Thanks to forum Goon stasis for starting this weeks Comedy Goldmine.

It's whatever time where you are right now. Do you know where your children are?

– Rich "Lowtax" Kyanka (@lowtax)

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