The Scientology Comparative Theology Page

Hello and Goodbye from RVY,
Robert Vaughn Young, 2000.
Hubbard's public relations writer.
"Back to the McPherson case, on the religiosity of Scientology, I testified about my own role in creating the "religious image" that ranged from the programs that Dept. 20 had back in the early 70s (during the FDA trial) to do everything possible to make Scientology appear to be a religion, e.g., get crosses up, find a room and create a chapel, start "Sunday Services," get the org listed in the phone book under "churches" etc."
Scientology Auditing and its Offshoots,
Robert Kaufman.

L. Ron Hubbard raised Scientology from Dianetics' ashes with the aid of a device that tracks electrical resistance on skin surfaces of the "auditee's" hands during sessions.
Start a Religion FAQ*,
Don Lindsay.

"L. Ron Hubbard is widely rumored to have said The way to make a million dollars is to start a religion. ... the short answer is that it's almost certainly true."
* FAQ = Frequently Asked Questions
Is Scientology a Religion?
Georg Otto Schmid, 1998

Metamorphosis to Religion

Dianetic auditing consists of finding "earlier similar" engrams until the first or "basic-basic" engram is found, which then clears the entire chain. In Dianetics, Hubbard had limited the beginning of the chain to conception, and natal engrams were the goal of most early Dianetics sessions. However, some of Hubbard's pre-clears were finding the base engram in what they claimed was a "Past Life". Meanwhile, Hubbard needed an answer to explain why Dianetics didn't always work. As independent scholars were repudiating Hubbard's theories and the FDA was looking into Hubbard's false medical claims, Hubbard "found religion" in Past Lives.

In a 1953 letter , Hubbard is seen to be increasingly desperate to find people that would pay for his dubious therapy. He proposes adding a "religion angle" to Scientology to avoid the legal pitfalls of claiming to be a science. Unfortunately, Hubbard tried to have it both ways. He simultaneously called Scientology a secular mental therapy to attract scientific-minded people, then he called Scientology a religion to foil FDA scrutiny. William Barwell, a.r.s. poster, has compiled a list of Hubbard quotes, circa 1952-1962 in which Hubbard denies that Scientology is a religion.

In late 1962, Hubbard issued the "Religion" policy letter while pursuing a tax exemption in England and the US:

The conversion of Scientology from a secular self-help group to "applied religious philosophy" began in earnest in 1975. Hubbard was still having various problems with his "technology" - the IRS scrutinized Scientology's interesting accounting system, the FDA had forced Hubbard to abandon his medical claims, auditing was expensive, and Scientilogy suffered from a poor image as a cult devoted to and for the benefit of L. Ron Hubbard. Hubbard ordered the establishment of various religious trappings - he called his staff ministers and had them wear clerical collars, he called auditing spiritual counselling, and the high auditing prices were called fixed donations . Hubbard even wrote a few "religious services", such as Marriage and Confession.

Recognition finally came in the United States in 1993. As reported in the Wall Street Journal, the IRS reversed 30 years of legal precedent by granting 501(c)(3) (charitable organization) status to Scientology in a secret deal. In return, Scientology dropped nearly 2000 lawsuits against the IRS. The Clinton administration (1992-2000) defended the "religion" of Scientology in Europe in various State Department human rights reports and Trade Commission actions. France and Germany see Scientology as a psycho-sect which continues to harm people and have taken steps to curtail the abuse. Canada in 1998, and the U.K in 1999 again denied that Scientology was a charitable organization.

This difference between the United States and Europe can be traced to the U.S. immigrants who fled the state churches of Europe. The U.S. Constitution's First Amendment provides that the government "shall not make an establishment of religion". The freedom of faith is so cherished that the U.S. Government is even barred from deciding what is or is not a religion, which may explain why so many New Religious Movements [nee: cults] are started in the U.S. As a government agency, the IRS does not recognize Scientology as a religion; rather it recognizes Scientology as a charitable organization.

Thus, Scientology became a religion because Hubbard asserted that it was so. True to form, Hubbard's proof is by repeated vehement assertion. Religious scholars have been divided on the issue ever since. The "Church" of Scientology continues to sit firmly on the fence, declaring themselves to be a religion in those countries which offer tax advantages, and as a fraternal association in those countries with an exclusive state church.

Scientology -- Is This a Religion?
Dr. Stephen Kent
, 7th Deutscher Evangelischer Kirchentag, June 20, 1997, Leipzig, Germany.
"Although some social scientists insist that Scientology is a religion, the more appropriate position to take is that the organization is a multi-faceted transnational that has religion as only one of its many components."
Examining the Theology of L. Ron Hubbard
Rev. Kurt Van Gorden
, 50th Evangelical Theological Society, Orlando, Florida (November 20, 1998).
"Our message will mainly focus upon the theological aspects of Scientology. But, for those who are unaware of the person of L. Ron Hubbard and the church he founded, I will take a few moments to briefly sketch its background."
When Scholars Know Sin,
Dr. Stephen Kent, Theresa Krebs
, Skeptic Magazine (Vol. 6, No. 3, 1998)
The article addresses the larger problem of scholars being co-opted by alternative religions.
Scientology: Religion or Racket?,
Dr. Joseph Martin Hopkins
, Department of Bible and Philosophy, Westminster College, New Wilmington, Pennsylvania.
Christianity Today, 7 November 1969
Scientology's Relationship With Eastern Religious Traditions,
Dr. Stephen Kent
, Department of Sociology, University of Alberta.
Journal of Contemporary Religion, Vol. 11, No. 1, 1996
The French and German versus American Debate Over 'New Religions', Scientology, and Human Rights,
Dr. Stephen Kent
, Department of Sociology, University of Alberta.
Marburg Journal of Religion, Volume 6, Number 1, 2001
CESNUR, Massimo Introvigne, and J. Gordon Melton,
Anton Hein
, Apologetics Index.
"CESNUR describes itself as "an international network of associations of scholars working in the field of new religious movements." It has gained a reputation for being mostly uncritical and, in fact, supportive of movements considered to be cults by secular anticult- and/or Christian countercult professionals. "
Review of The Rediscovery of the Human Soul
The Skeptic's Refuge

Religious Scholars' Opinions

[Note: This section is rather unbalanced, as only negative opinions are currently presented. As time permits, I will include some positive viewpoints for completeness. ...or visit the official Scientology website. Scientology is quick to point out positive scholastic opinions on their website. However, these positive views suffer from a number of problems; some opinions are based on a superficial understanding of Scientology, other opinions assume a definition of "religion" which is broad enough to include the sport of soccer, while other opinions discount the veracity of "apostates"' negative opinions.]

Any discussion of Scientology and religion must first begin with a definition of religion:

Re - li - gion \ re-'lij-en\ n [ME religioun, fr. L religion-, religio reverence, religion]

  1. a
    1. : the service and worship of God or the supernatural
    2. : commitment or devotion to religious faith or observance

    b: the state of a religious <a nun in her twentieth year of ~>
  2. : a personal set or institutionalized system of religious attitudes, beliefs, and practices
  3. archaic: scrupulous conformity: CONSCIENTIOUSNESS
  4. : a cause, principle, or system of beliefs held to with ardor and faith

    - Webster's New Collegiate Dictionary, 1981

Scientology, as a belief system, has an poorly-defined concept of God or the supernatural. This is probably attributable to Hubbard himself, who had no formal religious training. While Scientology can be considered a belief system (though, as a "Science of Mind", this is debatable), not all belief systems are necessarily religious. In his "Religion Angle" letter, Hubbard reveals his misunderstanding in his conclusion that Scientology is religion:

Hubbard also reveals In History of Man and the Volunteer Minister's Course, that he considers all belief systems to be religious.

Given Hubbard's ill-defined concept of religion, scholars were questioning whether Scientology was a Religion or a Racket as early as 1969. Scientology does not serve or worship the supernatural - rather, Scientology merely acknowledges humanity's spiritual dimension by side-effect of auditing Past Lives. Hubbard reasoned that if Past Lives are true, then Scientology was dealing with spirits, and that is as close to the supernatural as Hubbard went.

One important aspect of religion is its social context. The practice of Scientology is unlike all other religions in that its central "rite", auditing is exclusively practiced individually and never as a community. Scientologists may engage in training, both individually and as a community, but these classes are non-religious in nature. There is no God or other supernatural elements at the lower levels of Scientology. In the upper (Operating Thetan) levels, there is communication with spirits in a "very Space Opera" context, but the secretive nature of Scientology causes spokespersons to dismiss this one true marker of religion as "para-Scientology".

When a Scientologist is audited, the Auditor asks them questions which place little or no emphasis on supernatural subjects. Any supernatural events found during auditing are originated by the preclear and not the Auditor. A rule forbidding Verbal Tech (interpretation of auditing results by one Scientologist to another) effectively squelches any social interaction between Scientologists. Scientologists remain socially isolated from one another and must create their own religious beliefs without benefit of the group. Thus, official Scientology beliefs regarding the supernatural are nearly non-existent, while the individual Scientologists' beliefs in the supernatural are rudimentary. There is no social background of commentary, community understanding, and intellectual development that is common to most religious belief systems.

Scientology's primary claim to being a religion lies in Past Lives, and by extension, its claim to be treating the spirit. However, to be a religion, a belief system must have more than a superficial contact with the supernatural realm . Scientology claims that its roots are in Eastern religions such as Buddhism, which have a different concept of the supernatural than Western religion. However, Kent points out that Scientology (and Hubbard) have only a superficial acquaintance with Eastern Religion. Without the superficial veneer of Past Lives and Thetans, Scientology "rituals" look exactly like their secular Dianetics counterparts.

Former Staff' Opinions

Governments' Opinions

Webster's definition of religion refers to a relationship between God and humanity. Because Scientology, as a self-improvement therapy, lacks any mention of God, then from a definitional view , Scientology is not a religion. For this reason, many governments do not recognize Scientology's religious status.

Next: Scientology Doctrine