Over the years, I have answered a lot of questions about Scientology and one thing that I see which I have to comment on is this question of Scientology’s religious status. It claims to be a bona fide religion and has done a lot of work over the years to gain acceptance by religious scholars, governments and courts to legitimize itself. I, however, disagree.
Let’s be blunt: the Church of Scientology is a destructive cult. Just because it has managed over the years to gain tax exemption and religious status through the courts, does not make it legitimate. In fact, Scientology officials had to lie through their teeth, repeatedly, in order to get those legal protections which should never have been granted. Because it has religious legal status, a common retort from Scientology, and other religious-based destructive cults like it, is that critics are bigots and that protests and other actions taken against Scientology are hate crimes motivated by a desire to destroy Scientologists’ right to believe and practice their religion as they see fit. Well, the truth is nothing like that and it’s time we talk turkey about Scientology as a so-called religion.
Some people can’t think too clearly when it comes to religion. Often this is because they have some other agenda they’re pushing and they’re using religion as a front to cover up what they are really doing. These are the kinds of people who will get on the bigot bandwagon and who will support Scientology but bigotry has nothing to do with it. You see, I was a Scientologist for 27 years and I worked at its highest levels including spending 17 of those years in the Sea Organization, Scientology’s core group which manages all of its churches, sees to its promotion and marketing and which is responsible for delivering L. Ron Hubbard’s confidential scriptures to those willing to pay hundreds of thousands if not millions of dollars.
It’s a dubious honor to be an expert in Scientology. There really isn’t a lot of real world benefit to it and certainly it has been difficult to transition away from that group and use what I learned to move on with my life and find a new path. But when it comes to this subject, I do have the expertise to speak from a position of certainty. If there is one thing I learned during all those years, it is that Scientology is a religion in name only. Behind closed doors, no Scientologist I ever met actually thought of Scientology as anything like a religion. If anything, we described it more like a self-help group or, when we were feeling particularly fancy, we said it is an applied religious philosophy which gives one the tools to improve conditions in life and achieve personal immortality. Sounds great but when you get past Scientology’s smoke and mirrors, you find that it’s really just a bunch of people following the very bad advice and instructions of L. Ron Hubbard, a pathological liar, a bigamist and a documented fraud.
First off, Hubbard was going around in the 1940s, before he started Dianetics or Scientology, and literally told friends and acquaintances on no less than three separate occasions that if you wanted to make a million dollars, the best way to do it was to start your own religion.
Secondly, Hubbard had a runaway bestseller in Dianetics: The Modern Science of Mental Health in 1950 but through bad faith, ineptitude and gross financial mismanagement, he drove it into bankruptcy twice over the next two years and ended up losing the copyrights to his own work. He created the subject of Scientology in 1952 as a new operation and initially described it as the “science of certainty” and made it very clear that it had nothing to do with religion. For example, in the first edition of his book, Creation of Human Ability written in 1953, Hubbard said:
“Scientology has opened the gates to a better World. It is not a psycho-therapy nor a religion. It is a body of knowledge which, when properly used, gives freedom and truth to the individual.”
In a private letter with a Scientology affiliate, a woman named Helen O’Brien, around that same time, Hubbard wrote about his plans to resucitate the Dianetics business under a new banner:
“I await your reaction on the religion angle. In my opinion, we couldn’t get worse public opinion than we have had or have less customers with what we’ve got to sell. A religious charter would be necessary in Pennsylvania or NJ to make it stick. But I sure could make it stick. We’re treating the present time beingness, psychotherapy treats the past and the brain. And brother, that’s religion, not mental science.”
Hubbard clearly was a very confused man when it came to understanding the difference between psychotherapy and religion, and you’ll note how he is talking here about customers and selling things. There’s no question Hubbard was running a business and he retained that business model from those early days all the way to now.
There are many other quotes from Hubbard I could draw on to make this point, but here is just one more from a policy letter from 1962 called “Religion” where he makes it clear that the religious angle is nothing but a label:
“Scientology 1970 is being planned on a religious organization basis throughout the world. This will not upset in any way the usual activities of any organization. It is entirely a matter for accountants and solicitors.”
When I say that Scientologists themselves don’t think about Scientology as a religion, I mean exactly that. Most of them actually think it’s a bit ridiculous when Scientology staff members parade around wearing clerical shirts or cassocks with the white collars. All of those kinds of clothes and the ceremonies that go with them have nothing to do with the practice or business of Scientology.
Religion is a highly personal business and people in general should be left alone when it comes to their religious beliefs, so long as they are not hurting or damaging themselves or others with those beliefs. But let’s not kid ourselves about Scientology. It’s called a destructive cult for a reason and just because Scientologists run around claiming they are part of a religious movement doesn’t mean they are. In their case, all they are really proving when they say stuff like that is that they have been conned, in the same way that someone who is conned into a multi-level marketing scheme believes they are part of the best opportunity ever to make a million dollars in a year and live the easy life. Such a person would tell you they are positive that they have found the “next big thing” and they may even try to convince you to join up too. Check back with them in a year or two and see how amazing and wonderful their MLM scheme turned out to be. Then you’ll likely hear a more measured and objective assessment when they tell you how they were cheated out of their money, how the whole thing was a sham and how they regret ever having been part of it. So was that MLM really legit and was it really an entreprenurial opportunity for fame and fortune? No, it never was any of those things. It was a con job. And so is Scientology.
The United States has a tradition of religious freedom and we pride ourselves as Americans on that issue. But if we are really going to face facts, our laws are far too lax when it comes to protecting the public from sham religious groups like Scientology and something needs to be done about that. Real religions organize around a common belief system and these groups offer a public benefit. That is why they are granted tax exemption and special privileges in the first place. Groups like Scientology make a mockery of legitimate religious organizations by twisting the law and public opinion in their favor, pretending to be charitable and humanitarian when in fact they are just conduits for money, power and influence. The evil of this really cannot be overstated. In any religous group where one man or a small group of people are benefiting on the backs of thousands or millions, where the members are struggling to make ends meet financially yet feel guilty for not giving over all of their money and time to such a gruop, you have to ask yourself what is that really all about. Does eternal spiritual salvation and freedom mean living a life of poverty, desperation and servitude? I say no. And I say that just because a group claims to be doing good, that doesn’t mean they are doing good.
Scientology is not a legitimate religious enterprise. It is a destructive cult which ruins more members than it helps, which has destroyed lives, separated families and caused untold financial hardship for many of its most devoted members. There’s a lot more I could say about this, but I think the point is clear. It is not and never has been a legitimate religious organization and it should not be treated as such by anyone.
Thank you for watching.