Director Paul Haggis says Scientology is 'a cult, of course it is'

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Oscar-winning director Paul Haggis sits down with "Rock Center" Thursday night (Jan. 17) to talk about defecting from the Church of Scientology after 34 years. "Today" had a preview, video above.

"I was ashamed of my own stupidity. Of how I could've been so purposely blind for so many years," says Haggis, of why he left the church. Though he admits it did help him, at first.

"Yes, it did [help me]," says Haggis. "I think picking up again good self-help book, you're going to get something out of it."

He goes on to say the way Scientology keeps the group strong is with its us-against-them mentality.

"It's this long, slow walk towards believing," says Haggis. "It's the idea of being part of a group that is ostracized and hated. It bands you together against the outside world."

What spurred Haggis to get out was the rumors he heard about abuse happening within the church, which he investigated on his own, including kids allegedly being made to work 16 hours a day.

The  church says Haggis' investigation was a sham and that there is no evidence tos upport these allegations. The church also says it adheres to child labor laws.

When asked if the Church of Scientology is a cult, Haggis replies:

"Of course it is. It's a system of belief, you've got these folks inside this fortress who won't look out, won't look at any criticism, can't bear any investigation and think that everyone is against hem. How would you describe that? It's a cult, of course it is."

The full interview will air Thursday night (Jan. 17) on "Rock Center with Brian Williams" at 10 p.m. ET/PT on NBC.
Photo/Video credit: NBC