Reading Time: 7 minutes

Scientology and Christianity

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.

facebook twitter instagram

“A cult . . . is a group of people polarized around someone’s interpretation of the Bible and is characterized by major deviations from orthodox Christianity relative to the cardinal doctrines of the Christian faith, particularly the fact that God became man in Christ Jesus” (Walter Martin, The Rise of the Cults).

Basic traits

  • Authority figure
  • Extrabiblical text
  • Unorthodox theology, somewhat related to Christianity

General characteristics

  • Presents a Jesus different from that of orthodox faith
  • Claims new truth
  • Offers new, non-orthodox interpretations of Scripture
  • Cites non-biblical authority source(s)
  • Rejects major tenets of orthodox Christianity
  • Generally develops a changing, often contradictory theology
  • Strong leadership, usually centered in a single person or group of persons
  • Almost always offers a salvation by works
  • Generally makes unsubstantiated prophetic claims

Introduction to Scientology

“Scientology” means “the study of truth.” The movement was founded in 1952 by L. Ron Hubbard, an American fiction writer. He had earlier authored a self-help system called Dianetics. Hubbard later called Scientology an “applied religious philosophy” and the basis for a new religion. Hubbard produced more than 500,000 pages of writings in support of his movement, working from 1952 until his death in January of 1986. He is called “Source” by his followers.

As a young man, Hubbard was highly influenced by Freudian analysis. He later befriended writers who were influenced by the Hindu concept of karma and the theories of Carl Jung. He credited the Tao Te Ching, the Dharma, and Gautama Buddha as forerunners of his movement.

The Church claims some 10 million members, though objective estimates place the number at 100,000 to 500,000. The first Church of Scientology was incorporated in Camden, New Jersey in 1953. When a Scientology Mission reaches the size required to administer all courses and auditing to reach the State of Clear, it is considered a church. There are 142 Churches in 28 countries around the world, and over 300 missions in 50 countries. Advanced Organizations are located in Los Angeles; Clearwater, Florida; the United Kingdom; Sydney, Australia; Copenhagen, Denmark; and the cruise ship Freewinds. Organizations such as Narconon (to deal with drug rehabilition) are associated with Scientology.

Beliefs

Ultimate reality: Scientology is “the study and handling of the spirit in relationship to itself, others and all of life.” Followers believe that we are spiritual beings, that our existence spans more than one life, and that we are endowed with abilities beyond our normal experiences. We are basically good, though we err by considering only our own point of view.

The ultimate goal: “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.” Nothing is to be accepted on faith; all is to be tested by observation. Scientology provides means by which people can achieve greater spiritual awareness of themselves and their world.

Authority: There is no single book which forms the basis for Scientology. 15 books, 15,000 pages of writing, and over 3,000 lectures compose the “canon” of the religion. Followers study these books and lectures in chronological order.

Mankind: We are immortal spirit beings (thetans) who possess both mind and body. We have lived through many past lives and will continue to live beyond the death of the body. Through “auditing,” we can free ourselves of past traumas and bad decisions which restrict us from being “Clear” and then an “Operating Thetan.”

In each state we recover our spiritual abilities and achieve mental and physical benefits. We are good but become “aberrated” by pain and unconsciousness. Psychiatry and psychology are destructive practices which keep us from progressing toward our personal fulfillment.

We are Mind, Body, and Spirit.

  • The thetan (spirit/individual being) has no mass or energy; it is the creator of all other things.
  • The Mind is the way our thetan communicates with our environment. We have an “analytical” or conscious mind and a “reactive” or subconscious mind. Dianetics helps us resolve our engrams (bank of traumatic memories) which inhitibit our success and happiness. Many of these have been accumulated in past lives, as thetans have lived for tens of trillions of years.
  • Some of our past traumas resulted from “implants” used by extraterrestrials such as Helatrobus to brainwash and control us. A gigantic Church of Spiritual Technology symbol is carved into the ground at Scientology’s Trementina Base so that followers know how to find Hubbard’s works in future lives when they travel to Earth from other places in the universe.
  • The Body is a carbon-oxygen machine engineered by the Thetan.

We live successfully when we coordinate affinity (emotions), reality, and communication (the exchange of ideas). This is the ARC triangle. When we increase Knowledge, Responsibility, and Control, we improve our lives and take control over our environment. This is the KRC triangle.

Progress

The “tone scale” locates our behavior from -40 (“Total Failure”) to +40 (“Serenity of Being”). Emotions, physical health, mating behavior, and ability to deal with truth can help identify our place on the tone scale.

Those who have achieved the State of Clear may proceed onto the Upper or OT (Operating Thetan) Levels. These are designated OT I to VIII, and are open only to those who have been invited into the process. OT VIII is granted only at sea, aboard the Freewinds, the Scientology ship. Teachings which lead to these levels has been guarded zealously by the movement, but some elements have been leaked by followers or entered into court records over the years.

One example of these teachings has to do with Xenu, an alien ruler of the “Galactic Confederacy.” He brought billions of people to Earth 75 million years ago in spacecraft resembling Douglas DC-8 airliners, stacked them around volcanoes, and blew them up with hydrogen bombs. Their souls stuck to the bodies of the living; alien souls continue to do this today, creating many of our problems and diseases. They are called “Body Thetans”; advanced Scientologists work hard to remove them and their effects.

“Auditing” is one-on-one communication with a trained Scientology counselor (“auditor”). An E-meter is used to measure small changes in electrical resistance. The follower (a “preclear” or PC) unburdens himself of specific traumas and bad decisions, often by answering specific questions. The E-meter helps locate areas of concern. Auditing is said to lead to improved IQ, enhanced memory, and general happiness.

Followers progress from “Scientology Zero” to “Scientology Five.” They learn how to deal with their environment; then find ways to live better; then engage in specific Scientology training; then begin OT levels; then reach the highest echelons.

Practices

“Silent birth”: the delivery room should be silent lest the newborn associate words with the trauma of the birth experience and thus induce engrams in the baby. “Barley Formula” (which Hubbard claims to have learned “in Roman days”) is a suitable substitute for breast feeding (though it has been much criticized by health professionals for lacking important vitamins).

Ceremonies for marriage, birth, and death are performed by an ordained Scientology minister. Most are found in Ceremonies of the Church of Scientology. At a funeral, the minister speaks specifically to the thetan and grants forgiveness for anything the deceased has done.

Followers are encouraged to practice “disassociation” from antagonistic family members or friends. They are not allowed to participate in the activities of other religions (though Scientology claims to be compatible with all religions).

Celebrities

L. Ron Hubbard helped form a special Church of Scientology for artists, politicians, industry leaders, and sports figures. Eight throughout the world are called Celebrity Centers; the largest is in Hollywood.

Among the best-known celebrity Scientologists are John Travolta, Kirstie Alley, Jason Lee, Isaac Hayes, Tom Cruise, and Katie Holmes. James Packer (Australia’s richest man) is a Scientologist.

Controversy

  • Germany considers Scientology a business; many other European countries do not recognize it as a religion.
  • “Disassociation” has been much criticized.
  • The “Fair Game” policy which encourages the abuse of critics has been exposed.
  • L. Ron Hubbard’s reported intent to start a religion for profit has been critiqued.
  • Attempts have been made to force Google and other search engines to omit any articles which are negative toward Scientology.
  • Auditing confidentiality has been much criticized.