What is Scientology?
What is Scientology?
Scientology is many things to many people:
Scientology and Religion
Is Scientology a religion?
That's a very difficult question to answer accurately. To many individual Scientologists, Scientology definitely holds the place of a religion in their lives; however, most of them would probably tell you that it has nothing to do with faith or belief, relying instead on things they believe they've seen demonstrated or proven.
Other Scientologists, especially those who joined more than 20 or 30 years ago, would tell you they never considered it a religion, but rather a technology.
Scientology as a Business
Is Scientology a business?
Scientology conducts itself in ways that are more typical of businesses than churches. Due to Scientology's doctrine of exchange, services are not given away but must be paid for. In the Scientology policy entitled "Governing Policy," L. Ron Hubbard wrote, "MAKE MONEY. MAKE MONEY. MAKE MORE MONEY. MAKE OTHER PEOPLE PRODUCE SO AS TO MAKE MONEY." [capitalization for emphasis is his]
Scientology has filed court cases to protect their trademarks and even trade secrets. Official Scientology publications typically state that "Scientologist is a collective membership mark designating members of the affiliated churches and missions of Scientology." A collective membership mark is a type of trademark - and hence is related to commerce - and this suggests that Scientology organizations wish to control whether an individual may call himself or herself a Scientologist. Scientologists practicing outside the official church are unlikely to recognize this arrogated authority.
Scientology missions were originally called "franchises." When Scientology management drastically increased licensing fees owed by missions/franchises, at least one mission refused to pay but continued offering Scientology services. Scientology sued the mission for trademark infringement and obtained an injunction.
Scientology, Deception, Coercion, and the Cult Question
Is Scientology a cult?
"Cult" is a difficult word. For some people, it just means "a group of people who believe something I don't", reflecting bigotry. For others, it's an innocuous word, simply meaning "group of believers" - among the Merriam-Webster definitions of "cult", you'll find "a system of religious beliefs and ritual; also : its body of adherents" and "great devotion to a person, idea, object, movement, or work".
I prefer to use the term "coercive group" - there's plenty of evidence that Scientology is a coercive group. Scientology uses deception and social pressure - and sometimes, threats, extortion, and physical restraint - to coerce compliance from participants. Individual Scientologists face different amounts of coercion and respond differently to that coercion, but the coercion has been a consistent, destructive presence in Scientology, around the world and across decades. Policies directing this coercion are widely discussed on the internet, and stories of those who have faced it are legion.
Is Scientology a scam?
Yes - Scientology is fraudulent and deceptive through and through - and that's true even though many individual Scientologists believe what they tell others about it and believe that it has benefitted them personally. Scientology lies about every aspect of the organization, claiming it's expanding when it's shrinking, claiming it's scientific when it's been disproven, claiming extraordinary success rates that are contradicted by a simple examination of their results. Many intelligent Scientologists with the best of intentions continue to promote Scientology; their sincerity does not change the fact that they have been lied to.
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