Amol Rajan: A marriage that was not exactly made in heaven

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Poor Tom Cruise is in another spot of bother over his religious beliefs. According to a report in the latest Vanity Fair, the Church of Scientology is said to have held auditions to find him a wife after his divorce from Nicole Kidman. This is pre-Katie Holmes, and the scheme was led by Shelly Miscavige, whose husband, David, is the church's leader and possibly Cruise's best friend.

At this point I should say that the church vehemently denies the allegations, in case their well-funded litigation department resurrects L Ron Hubbard from the dead and sends a cosmic army to the skies above London to teleport me away to a realm full of sinners.

Back to the story: apparently the scheme was so secret that the women who auditioned, all of them church members, were told they were being tested for a training video. Nazanin Boniadi, a British actress born in Iran, was eventually selected, dating Cruise for several months after flying to New York, where she picked up a sense that an arranged marriage was coming.

Naturally, it being Tom Cruise whom she was copping off with, she fell in love. He was charm personified – until he wasn't. First he allegedly said, "I've never felt this way before"; but later he became frustrated by her reserve, and apparently told her he "wants someone with her own power – like Nicole".

After she confided in a friend about the problems, she was allegedly punished by being made to scrub toilets with a toothbrush, dig ditches in the middle of the night, and clean bathroom tiles with acid.

Scientology has received a lot of media coverage and opprobrium. One aspect of it that hasn't been noticed, however, concerns events in the 1820s. An early church leader, who happened to be a convicted fraudster, was directed to a bunch of gold plates near New York by an angel. From engravings on the thin metallic pages he translated a sacred text: the Book of Mormon.

Oops! I've jumbled up my cults, sorry, religions. That absurd narrative belongs to Mormonism, not Scientology. What's the difference between them? One lands Cruise in trouble for getting his mates to plan an arranged marriage. The other qualifies Mitt Romney for special praise at last week's Republican Party convention in Tampa.

When you next hear the Church of Scientology getting stick for its weird practices, ask yourself: is it really any weirder than any other church? The metaphysical claims of religion about the origins of our cosmos and species are always wrong. Being sponsored by the star of Top Gun has no bearing on that fact.

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