Ew! You've got thetans on you!

Salon is doing a "four-part series chronicling the suddenly higher profile of the Church of Scientology", and of course the first installment highlights none other than Mr. Crazy Cruise: Missionary man (Get a day pass, it's worth it.)

Regarding the romance -- who can explain love? It's a mystery, particularly in Hollywood, and we're unlikely to ever get the particulars about Cruise and Holmes. But the buzz in some Scientology circles is that Cruise may have reached one of the highest echelons of the Church of Scientology. While not a lot is known about this level, known cryptically as OT-VII, Scientology observers say that attaining it could explain Cruise's behavior in recent months.

I'm still boggled by the fact that Scientology is actually considered a genuine "religion". I mean, read this and tell me if that's the sort of thing sane people base their lives on:

According to experts and the church's own literature, OT-VII ("OT" stands for Operating Thetan, "thetan" being the Scientology term for soul) is the penultimate tier in the church's spiritual hierarchy -- the exact details of which are fiercely guarded and forbidden to be discussed even among top members. It is where a Scientologist learns how to become free of the mortal confines of the body and is let into the last of the mysteries of the cosmology developed by the church's longtime leader, science fiction novelist and "Dianetics" author L. Ron Hubbard. This cosmology also famously holds that humans bear the noxious traces of an annihilated alien civilization that was brought to Earth by an intergalactic warlord millions of years ago.

That's Heaven's Gate material, if you ask me. Not the foundation of a culturally powerful religion. At least Germany still agrees:

Germany refuses to recognise Scientology as a legitimate church, claiming it is a fake religion based on making money from its followers.

While you're in the mood, check out CultNews.com for more (from an obviously biased source). If you really want to dig into Scientology, be sure not to miss Operation Clambake. Wow.