A Method To Cruise's Madness?

Apr. 9 2008, Updated 5:32 a.m. ET

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From the looks of it, Tom Cruise’s televised crackup is actually helping theChurch of Scientology's recruitment efforts. Since he declared his eternal love for Katie Holmes in early May, visits to theChurch’s official website have shot up 263 percent to apeak of 375,000 visitors per day last week, according to site traffictracker alexa. A lot of those visitors must have come through Google, which listed “Scientology” as the 10th-fastest-gaining query for the week of June 27. While most were just rubber-necking, surely some will buy the sales pitch.

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Those looking to learn more about what makes Tom tick have also been heading to the bookstore. According toBarnes & Noble rep Mary Keating, “Sales ofDianetics in the last month have more than doubled. It took off in 1985 and has been a huge best-seller for about five years," she said. "It’s a title we stock in all our stores at all times and we anticipate astrong year.”

John Carmichael, a spokesperson for the Church, downplayedCruise’s influence, claiming “The popularity and uptrend was already there.Scientology is the largest-growing religion in the world," he said. (Hear that, Mormonism?) "All I can say is the people are here because of their huge interest in the church. Scientology has always been very, very popular.”

In several published reports, the 55-year-old church claims to have 5 million membersin the U.S. and 8 million worldwide. But critics say the total membership is actually closer to 80,000. Does the official head count include past lives?

Whatever the case, consider that people also thought Francis of Assisi was crazy, and now there’s a bustling gay metropolis named after him. Cross your fingers, Tom!

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