"There’s no doubt that the Church of Scientology has improved its image in the last decade or so. A little less secretive, a little less scary (although still creepy), more the butt of a good joke than a genuine threat."Now, while this statement may be surprising considering the amount of negative information to be found about Scientology on the Internet, consider the following:
My web site has been around for the last 10 years. At the time, people thought that by revealing the Xenu story through the Internet, and circulating horror stories about Scientology, the CoS will have to close doors in short order.
Yet, what happened in those 10 years? In spite of all the information available, the CoS is still around, and rather than closing doors it is busy buying historical buildings around the world for billions of dollars. The Xenu story is widely available, and yet people keep on joining Scientology. The dwindling legions of anonymous protest outside the CoS with accusatory signs and conspiracy theories, and they are being roundly ignored.
Because criticis have been putting out such an exaggerated portrayal of Scientology, the public at large ended up seeing through their propaganda, and they lost credibility. The negative publicity, combined with external information the public could evaluate, turned Scientology into "the butt of a good joke" rather "a genuine threat".
In other words, the public did not buy eventually into the myth that Scientology was a dangerous cult that kills dissidents and that brainwash its members, and which should be stopped at any cost. It has become less of a mystery, and though still universally decried, it is only viewed as a sort of lunacy rather than something from which to be really afraid of.
In this sense, Scientology indeed improved its image in the last decade and, frankly, in spite of the Internet, things have not changed that much. Whereas before hand they would say to a prospect "do you believe everything you read in the newspaper" to get people to listen to them, they would just say "do you believe everything you read on the Internet" now. People may start to listen and realize that many of the assertions made by critics simply were not correct, and so Scientology will continue to expand in spite of the negative publicity, or maybe thanks to it.
Morality: don't exaggerate, don't paint a picture grimmer than it actually is. Be honest, proportionate, and reasonable. Then, when somebody encounters Scientology, he may have real tools to question its indoctrination, rather than sensationalized and childish arguments easily dismissed and that are of no help whatsoever when the going get though.