‘The fastest growing religious movement on earth’ – that is what Scientology claims for itself. It is a staggering claim and there is no firm evidence to substantiate it. However, the official web-site reports that Scientology has ‘more than 3,200 churches, missions and groups in 154 countries’.
In Great Britain they claim a membership of about half a million, and several churches. The web sites make the further claim that ‘Scientology has become a firmly established and active force for positive change in the world in less than half a century’. In a word, it boasts that ‘Scientology works’.
They assert that ‘millions of people the world over use its principles in their daily lives’ and that ‘a growing number of people find relevance in Scientology for themselves, their families, their organisations, their nations and this entire civilization’.
An exaggeration? Yes, because there are many disillusioned ex-members of this organisation who question their beliefs, methods of recruitment and the claims made for the cult’s teaching and success.
No crime, no criminals
According to founder L. Ron Hubbard, the goal of Scientology is ‘a civilization without insanity, without criminals and without war, where the able can prosper and honest beings can have rights, and where man is free to rise to greater heights’.
These aims sound fantastic but sadly they are unattainable on the basis of the Scientology creed – or any other! For one thing, their view of human nature is superficial, optimistic and unbiblical.
They hold that humans are inherently good and teach the highly dubious theory that anti-social behaviour is attributable to ‘engrams’ – psychological difficulties that can be removed by Scientology’s techniques.
But the Bible teaches that it is sin, not ‘engrams’, that permeates and controls human behaviour. Only Jesus Christ can recreate and rebuild human lives in a radically different way – leading to real and lasting harmony and ultimately, in heaven, a perfect but redeemed humanity.
I acknowledge that this organisation seeks to provide practical help for people in needy areas of the world. For example, one of their official web pages relates how their ‘volunteer ministers’ provided aid during the early months of 2005 for victims of the Tsunami disaster in South-East Asia.
‘Based on the belief that you cannot free yourself spiritually without working to free others, Scientology has founded and supports many organisations for social betterment, particularly in the areas of drug abuse, crime, psychiatric abuse, government abuse of law, human rights, religious freedom, education and morality’.
But, as you might expect, ‘Scientology strongly favours the use of their methodology for spiritual/mental healing over the use of conventional treatment’.
Those who share the Scientology message with others are called ‘field auditors’ and there are ‘groups and missions of Scientology, which exist to minister the religion at the grassroots level’.
At a higher level are the ‘more established churches of Scientology which are the centres for Scientology in their cities and the focal points for many community outreach activities’. Then there are ‘the more advanced Scientology churches’ which ‘minister the highest levels of auditing and training…’
The worldwide churches of Scientology are ‘organised in a hierarchical structure’ and the whole organisation is vast and complex. In fact, the title ‘Church of Scientology’ is a misnomer for, writes Tory Christman, ‘in reality, global Scientology is a complex international legal structure of multi-corporations, some of which are non-profit and some of which are not’.
How did it all begin?
Scientology was founded by L. Ron Hubbard, born in Nebraska in 1911, the son of an American naval commander. Hubbard spent his early childhood years with his grandfather but was later able to join his parents in the Far East.
Here the young Hubbard was fascinated by Asian religions and became absorbed in the study of man himself. After extensive travel, he pursued and failed a college course in molecular and atomic physics before turning in the 1930s to writing for his livelihood.
During World War II he served in the United States navy but there are conflicting accounts of this period in his life. Scientology claims that Hubbard was wounded in action and taken ‘crippled and blinded’ to a naval hospital – where within two years he returned to health due to his discovery of ‘Dianetics’ and Scientology.
The reality seems to be somewhat different. There is no evidence of his being wounded or involved in combat during the war but he was discharged from the navy with a 40% disability pension suffering from arthritis and ulcers. He also received psychiatric treatment for depression.
Removed from reality
In 1950 Hubbard published his first book entitled Dianetics: The modern science of mental health, which dealt with the ‘reactive’ or subconscious mind. From this small beginning, Scientology developed and now claims a world membership of fifteen million.
The full title of the group is the Church of Scientology and its aim is ‘to establish a religious fellowship and association for the research into the spirit and human souls, and the use and dissemination of its findings’.
Ronald E. de Wolf is the oldest of Hubbard’s seven children and helped his father establish the Church of Scientology in 1952. In 1959, however, he left the organisation, thoroughly disillusioned. His father had become ‘further and further removed from reality’, suffering severe paranoia, delusion and physical ill-health.
‘In the process of trying to unravel Scientology out of my head’, says de Wolf, ‘I read the Bible, and in the course of time became a Christian’.
Hubbard’s son regards the Scientology church as a sham. ‘My father’, he says, ‘claimed that his theories relating to Scientology were based on thirty years of case histories and research. In fact, they were written off the top of his head while he was under the influence of drugs’.
The Church of Scientology reported Hubbard’s death on 25 January 1986 at the age of seventy-four. The Times obituary concluded, ‘Hubbard was the Henry Ford of occultism. He was not, by any standards, a nice man, but was a highly influential figure among the myriad inventors of magical and religious systems who have appeared in modern times’.
A month later, British friends and devotees of Hubbard paid for a full-page advertisement in the Daily Telegraph as a tribute to their leader. They described him as ‘best-selling author … founder of Scientology … friend to millions’.
Hubbard, they continued, wrote ‘scores of books, more than 15,000 pages of technical writing [and] discovered a workable means to set men spiritually free – to replace ignorance with knowledge, doubts with certainty and misery with happiness’. Over 3000 of his lectures are available on tape.
Scientology claims to be ‘an applied religious philosophy’ – in other words, it is a practical religion that really works. And one ‘fundamental’ idea it embraces is that ‘man is a spiritual being endowed with abilities well beyond those which he normally envisages’. Only Scientology, we are told, can offer spiritual freedom.
However, a growing number of people disagree and are extremely critical of most, if not all, aspects of Scientology. For example, there are many ex-members of the cult as well as many web sites where some of these people relate their experiences in Scientology and their reasons for leaving.
Videos are also available at http://www.xenuty.com in which people speak out who had completed a number of Scientology courses and were well into the cult. One former member explains that he was ‘in great standing’ in the cult for thirty years but now believes that ‘many have been lied to, betrayed, abused, deceived. These are common denominators for people who woke up finally…’
This same web site claims that Scientology ‘is a vicious and dangerous cult that masquerades as a religion. Its purpose is to make money. It practices a variety of mind-control techniques on people lured into its midst to gain control over their money and their lives…’ This is strong language but such critics are prepared to support their statements with reference to their own experiences or other facts.
The Scientology movement has been plagued by extensive and recurring criticism and allegations since the 1960s. See for example the internet newsgroup alt.religion.scientology.
A number of high profile lawsuits in the United States in the 1970s and 1980s resulted in the prosecution of some members or damages being awarded to complainants. In Britain, in the same period, lawsuits involving Scientology led to a government ban on overseas members of the movement who wanted to study or work at British Scientology centres.
Scientology has responded in kind and has a formidable reputation for litigation against its critics and detractors.
Sadly, Hubbard’s writings continue to deceive millions of people. Truly, ‘the god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God’ (2 Corinthians 4:4).