I’ve already discussed this with O_N a bit on Twitter, but having just subscribed to HBO’s new cable-free ‘HBO Now’ service, I ran across a very interesting documentary called “Going Clear: Scientology and the Prison of Belief”. Which does a very good job of laying out the structure of that organization and how it manipulates its members.
As a wacky mystery religion with degrees/levels, and various off-shoot organizations and corporations, I see it as the perfect creepy Sci-Fi basis for where to take the Church of Mowen (ChoM) in WarStrike. Which I’ve always wanted to be oddly compelling, yet horrifying at the same time.
Scientology doesn’t really have a set of easily communicated beliefs until you’ve been in it for 7+ years and gotten to the stage where you get to hear about all the alien "Thetan" nonsense. But the Church of Mowen (ChoM) could have a basic set of myths and beliefs for the lowest level of church-goers. Which basically sum up to Colserans = Bad, Republic Humans = Good, and if you follow their example (the Way), we’ll all eventually triumph over the enemy and be able to live the good life again (cue applause). But at this level they're a little sketchy on just what "The Way" is.
Whereas Scientology has just one crazy all-powerful leader (accused by defectors of literally beating his minions), and a dead Sci-Fi author turned Prophet as its spirit-head, ChoM is led by millions of living Prophet-clones. Who tend to lead their local chapters in pretty much the same way, and therefore ensure a certain consistency and permanence to the actions of ChoM and the Fidelis.
The ChoM Prophets themselves are not exactly nice. One might even call them ruthless psychopaths. But they are true-believing shepherds of "The Way". At least as judged by themselves, and the results that they're brought about in humanity's quest to beat back the Colserans. But they're repulsive enough that much of the respect they gain, especially from the upper classes, is grudging at best.
As you ‘cleanse’ yourself (through Scientology-style 'Audits') of the manipulations of the Colserans and the human faults that enable them, you're also manipulated by ChoM to achieve political goals. Which might include overthrowing uncooperative governors, applying pressure to recalcitrant Great & Lesser Houses, etc.
Scientology calls this progression "The Bridge". I propose that we call ChoM's version "The Path". Which purports to show the "Steps" (levels of membership) that will lead you and all the rest of humanity along "The Way" that the non-Fidelis have only the barest understanding of.
|A Scientology E-Meter Used For Audits|
Of course these also provide a very good source of both blackmail material, and things that the church can do to manipulate their believers' lives in order to draw them closer to the church. Tom Cruise is lonely? Suddenly he has a new (church-groomed) girlfriend. John Travolta wants to leave? He has to weigh his desires to get out against all the dirty laundry that might well get aired as a result.
Now imagine that instead of a mere 50,000 members (and a billion or two in assets), you have an organization like ChoM that has Trillions of Fidelis members, and somewhere between 10 and 25 percent of the Republic's economy under its direct and indirect control. You also have members that aren't just actors, but governors, judges, military officers, and the heads of Republic-wide corporations.
That's a force to be reckoned with, like it or not.
The 'Sea Org' is an organization that represents the elite of Scientology. The name comes from those that took off with LRH when he was living at Sea on ships to avoid being arrested on tax evasion charges.
The 'Celebrity Centers' are the special temples used to lure in high-profile members.
The 'Office of Special Affairs' is the scary arm. The one charged with manipulating or smearing disobedient members, inquisitive reporters, or bullying the IRS into declaring the CoS a tax-exempt religious organization.
The really scary things they do to members fall under an 'Ethics' group, which is (IMO) a fine euphemism to steal for our equivalent of the Inquisition.
To sum it up then, the Church of Man (ChoM) is a multi-tiered mystery religion promoted by a very corporate organization. To those who first walk into a temple, it resembles some future version of the Catholic or Mormon Church, and has many outwardly benevolent projects that members at that level work on.
But there are other levels too. ChoM (almost) never actively recruits for members to join the Fidelis. You have to initiate contact and ask for information or permission to join up. However it becomes the obvious path for anyone with ambitions of higher status within the ChoM, as all ChoM leadership is recruited from within the Fidelis' ranks.
Once in the Fidelis, you undergo a series of continuing 'Audits'. Based on the results of these, you'll be sorted (army-style) into one of several 'career' paths. Those who are basically honest and not very manipulatable will be guided towards the service organizations. While those with more moral flexibility will be guided towards the more secretive projects which have concrete political aims. Those who are the most fanatical will be guided towards 'Ethical Affairs', where they basically become Inquisitors.
This being Sci-Fi, we could also have sub-orgs dedicated to cloning, secret archeology projects, alien contact or extermination, artifact examination, counter-spying against the Colserans (easier than you might think), the exile of "difficult individuals" to Fallen/Colseran territories, the hunting down of renegade Prophets, etc. Basically a melding of SHEILD and HYDRA type activities within a psuedo-religious organization led by clones of the first Prophet.
I don't want to delve much more deeply than this into ChoM at this point in development. But I do feel like we need to include such a sketch of what ChoM is like from the beginning, as it's going to be a major player in our universe, and a counter to the power of the Emperor and the Laansraad.