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The Scientologists are coming

Dr. Jim Denison is a cultural apologist who helps people respond biblically and redemptively to the vital issues of our day. He is also the co-founder and Chief Vision Officer of the Denison Forum, a Dallas-based nonprofit that comments on current issues through a biblical lens.

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screen grab from Church of Scientology Super Bowl XVLII ad - Knowledge (Credit: Church of Scientology)

Many people watch the Super Bowl for the ads.  Of all the ads still being discussed days later, Scientology’s commercial is leading the pack.  The New York Times even weighed in on its popularity.  What do Scientologists believe?  Why do they matter to you today?

Scientology was founded by L. Ron Hubbard in 1952; it counts Tom Cruise and John Travolta among its members.  Its followers believe that the universe has existed for four quadrillion years.  We are immortal spirit beings (called “thetans”) who have lived through many past lives.  Through “auditing” we can free ourselves of past traumas and bad decisions (called “engrams”).

We are also plagued by “body thetans,” created when an alien ruler named Xenu brought billions of beings to Earth (originally called Teegeeack) 75 million years ago in spacecraft resembling DC-8 airliners.  He stacked them around volcanoes, then exploded them with hydrogen bombs.  Their souls became “body thetans”; millions of them can inhabit a single person.  When Scientologists rid themselves of “engrams” and “body thetans,” they become “Clear” and are able to become “Operating Thetans.”  (For more on Scientology, see my essay on our website, Scientology and the Search for Significance.)

A spokeswoman for Scientology said that their Super Bowl ad “would appear on prominent Web sites and air during prime time TV programs over the next several months.”  An ad touting their founder will also run in “major metropolitan markets across the country.”  I doubt it will tell you that Hubbard had seven children by three wives, that he was married to the second before he divorced the first, and that he was accused of abuse by several women, including his wives.

Why would the strange ideology of such a controversial founder be so publicized today?  One answer is financial: Scientology has more than a billion dollars in liquid assets and owns 12 million square feet of property around the world.  But the more significant reason is philosophical.  Hubbard was clear: “If it is not true for you, it isn’t true.  Think your own way through things, accept what is true for you, discard the rest.”  As their Super Bowl ad says, “the one thing that’s true is what’s true for you.”

Consider the logic of their claim: There’s no such thing as absolute truth, and we’re absolutely sure of it.  Now think about its moral implications: by this standard, 9/11 and the Holocaust could be justified as the “truth” of their perpetrators.  But most of all, beware the allure of such relativism.  The first temptation is still Satan’s strategy: “You will be like God” (Genesis 3:5).  Scientology just markets the devil’s deception through contemporary media.

All sin is our decision to be our own God.  Are you listening to your enemy or the one true God today?