Tom Cruise discusses psychiatry, Scientology

Promoting his new movie, Tom Cruise has been discussing psychiatry and Scientology with members of the media.

Actor Tom Cruise sparred with Today show host Matt Lauer last week over the merits of psychiatry.

Although his ostensible reason for appearing on the morning show was to promote this week's release of War of the Worlds, Cruise got into a heated debate when Lauer brought up comments that Cruise has made in the past about depression.

The on-air argument is the latest in a growing number of interviews in which Cruise, known for his roles in movies like Minority Report and Top Gun, has defended his personal beliefs – including his chosen faith, Scientology – in blunt terms.

When Lauer mentioned Friday that Cruise had criticized Brooke Shields for taking anti-depressants to get over her post-partum depression, Cruise told the television personality he didn't know what he was talking about.

Cruise said such medications only mask mental illness. "That's all it does," the actor added. "You're not getting to the reason why. There is no such thing as a chemical imbalance."

Lauer countered that he knows people who have benefited from using medications like the anti-hyperactivity drug Ritalin.

You're being glib, Cruise replied. "You don't even know what Ritalin is. If you start talking about chemical imbalance, you have to evaluate and read the research papers on how they came up with these theories, Matt, OK. That's what I've done," he said.

Cruise has also been in the news lately because of his whirlwind romance with Katie Holmes, star of the recently released Batman Begins.

Holmes has told reporters that, since she started dating Cruise, she has also begun taking Scientology classes to learn more about Cruise's beliefs. Scientology was founded by L. Ron Hubbard, the science-fiction novelist who wrote Battlefield Earth.

Lauer had earlier asked Cruise if he could date someone who did not share his interest in Scientology.

"Scientology is something that you don't understand," Cruise replied. "It's like you could be a Christian and be a Scientologist.

"It is a religion. Because it's dealing with the spirit. You as a spiritual being."

Cruise was also asked about Scientology by a reporter at a media event earlier in the week. He was asked if, because of his belief in Scientology, the aliens in War of the Worlds had any special resonance for him (critics of Scientology contend that its theology is built around a mythos replete with ancient extraterrestrials).

A clearly peeved Cruise did not confirm or deny whether Scientologists believe in beings from other planets, answering instead by questioning the reporter's credentials.

"What? What paper are you from?" Cruise responded.

Internet enthusiasts who have been following Cruise's public appearances in the last few weeks have also been linking to an interview that Cruise and War of the Worlds director Steven Spielberg did with Germany's Der Spiegel in April.

In that story, the magazine asked Cruise – who helped set up a tent staffed by Scientology ministers on the War of the Worlds set – if he sees it as his job to recruit followers for Scientology.

"I'm a helper," he replied. "For instance, I myself have helped hundreds of people get off drugs. In Scientology, we have the only successful drug rehabilitation program in the world. It's called Narconon."

"That's not correct," the interviewer responded. "Yours is never mentioned among the recognized detox programs. Independent experts warn against it because it is rooted in pseudo science."

"You don't understand what I am saying. It's a statistically proven fact that there is only one successful drug rehabilitation program in the world. Period," Cruise said.