I watched the Scientology Network for an hour and I understand why people become Scientologists

Ilana Kaplan

Its promotional videos were are bizarre as they were intriguing.

The show-reel for the new Scientology TV channel showed people in white lab gear zipping up gold containers, and feautred a man explaining that a device on screen was called an e-meter, and "is the cutting edge of spiritual technology".

The network devoted to one of the world's most secretive religions seemed like an interesting prospect, so we tuned in to the first couple of hours of programming at its launch, and what we saw was disturbing.

That's because, as someone who's creeped out and vehemently opposed to Scientology, I could immediately see how they could appeal to people.

Leader David Miscavige and his clan are very convincing; Do you have a drug problem? Scientology is the answer. Are you a bad father? Scientology again. Is your marriage on the rocks? Scientology is the cure. The case studies involved people whose pearly white smiles never faded - Scientology fixed their problems after all.

Their representatives make a point of saying the Church of Scientology "is not what you'd expect." The channel is supposed to debunk all of the supposed myths people have about the L Ron Hubbard-founded religion.

The first hour of their network show is meant to be educational: learning about case studies, the purification process, auditing, technology and humanitarian work. Scientology is portrayed as a healing experience rather than a religion: the allegations of abuse, exploitation, brainwashing, spying and cover-ups are left out of the narrative. Tours of the facilities including the gym, sauna, bookstore, church and centre are mundane enough to make people think everything happening is completely normal.

But that's what it's supposed to do: normalise Scientology. For someone looking for something to believe in, the life-changing "tools and resources" could be compelling. It's the perfect gateway drug for people who are looking for something missing in their lives. Commercial breaks tout activism - the work the church's volunteers do with impoverished children around the world and helping repair the damage of California's wildfires. Look beyond the plastic smiles and tag-lines and the network is effectively one big infomercial for the religion. Statements like "Scientology isn't just something you believe in it's something you do," "Scientology saves lives" or "every single person is free" are meant to be scripture, but they feel like knock-off horoscopes for someone who isn't looking to join the cult-like religion.

With all these things combined after one hour of watching, I truly understand why someone would be captivated by something that on the surface absolves you of your problems and creates a supportive community. That's why the Scientology Network is so clever: it latches onto vulnerabilities and operates as a solution. Unfortunately having an entire network dedicated to the religion allows it to prey on more people looking for something to complete them. Hopefully, they come out unscathed.