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What is Scientology?

One day a few years back a local deputy sheriff handed me a copy of a beautifully presented 590-page paperbound book entitled What Is Scientology? A guidebook to the world's fastest growing religion. He told me that someone just that week had delivered a big box of these books to the local county jail to be distributed without charge to any prisoner who would accept one. He thought that I might also be interested in seeing a copy. He was right. The subject of religion always interests me, and I am particularly interested in any religion that is said to be growing faster than all others worldwide.

Of course I had heard of Scientology before reading this book. In general, my impressions have not been positive, perhaps due in part to the decidedly negative disposition of the American media on the subject. The critical pieces have been ongoing and widespread, including the October '91 Reader's Digest article that termed Scientology a "dangerous cult…a racket disguised as a religion…" Five months earlier, Time magazine's cover story had referred to Scientology as a "thriving cult of greed and power…a ruthless global scam…" There are also all those multi-million dollar lawsuits that Scientology seems to constantly be filing. Many famous people like John Travolta, Kirstie Alley, and Tom Cruise are associated with Scientology, but often in controversial ways, as was the case when it was learned a few years ago that Lisa Marie Presley-Jackson was actually being used as bait to recruit her husband, Michael Jackson, into the church. All in all, it's been fairly difficult to be very objective in my analysis.

By reading this book, published by the Church of Scientology itself in 1993, I felt that perhaps I might be able to give Scientology a fairer hearing. I made a sincere attempt to compensate for my predisposed orthodox Christian bias and instinctive tendency to measure what I read against Christian Scripture. Yet even from a purely objective point of view it occurs to me that there would be problems with the credibility of Scientology on at least two counts. Let me address them separately, and directly, to any of our readers who may be scientologists. If you choose to respond, perhaps we can pursue the dialogue further.

  1. If Scientology and Dianetics is "the only thing that can show you who you really are" (text, p431), what about all those who came before Scientology and Dianetics? Why would such a “helpful” and “tested” route to truth and self-improvement have been withheld (by God?) from the human race until one Lafayette Ron Hubbard finally came along in the middle of the twentieth century? The fact that Hubbard alleges Taoism to be “an ancestor to Scientology” and the scientologist "a first cousin of the Buddhist" notwithstanding, certainly no one had ever heard of ARC breaks, engrams, electropsychometers, pre-Clears, MEST, Operating Thetans, disconnection, and hatting before 1911. Might it rather be that this absolutely ingenious, brilliant, multi-talented man who traveled thousands of miles, spoke and wrote over 40 million words on the subject of Scientology during his lifetime, sold millions of books, and made millions of dollars, had actually, deliberately gone about fulfilling his own 1949 musing (related six years before establishing the Church of Scientology in W.D.C.), that "if a man wants to make a million dollars, the best way would be to start his own religion."

  2. How can Scientology be considered credible when it insists that it “respects” and “does not conflict with other religions” (text, p435) that clearly conflict with it? How can Scientology say "there is no attempt to change a person's beliefs, or to persuade him away from any religion to which he already belongs" (text, p435) when to identify with Scientology may necessarily involve the categorical denial of doctrines that a particular religion affirms? For instance, in terms of Scientology and Christianity, consider that Scientology “has no dogma concerning God” (text, p436) but Christianity does. Further, Scientology denies orthodox Christian teaching regarding hell, sin, the exclusivity of salvation through Christ ("There are probably many types of redemption", p435), and the fallen nature of man ("Scientology is based on the premise that man is basically good" (text, p434).

    For Scientology to try to “include” Christianity is a little like the Mafia announcing that all FBI agents are cordially welcome to join the Mob. The two, by definition, stand in diametrical opposition to one another. You cant have it both ways and, by implying that you can, Scientology clearly loses credibility.

Sources and further references: What Is Scientology? (see above), The Phoenix Lectures, Hubbard, © 1969, Church of Scientology

Author: Daryl E. Witmer of AIIA Institute


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