What Scientologists believe - and what critics say

Buffalo News/January 30, 2005
By Mark Sommer

Among their beliefs

  • "A "Supreme Being" exists. The church is not Christian and does not worship any god.
  • "Humans are reincarnated, spiritual beings.
  • "Ever-higher states of spiritual enlightenment can be attained through courses and "auditing," which is done with the use of a lie detector-like device called an E-Meter.
  • "People are weakened by harmful experiences engraved in mental pictures called "engrams." Through auditing, this "reactive mind" can be eliminated. Past lives are audited, too.
  • "Disembodied spirits implanted with false memories and sent to Earth 75 million years ago by Xenu, an evil galactic warlord, cling to humans and create unhappiness and strife.
  • "Seventy percent of illnesses - including arthritis, migraines, asthma and ulcers - are psychosomatic and curable without doctors.

What they do

  • "Fight illiteracy through "study technology," a practice of reading and study advanced by founder L. Ron Hubbard.
  • "Encourage people not to use drugs through education, drug treatment and work with youth.
  • "Encourage the use of Hubbard's work in business settings through the work of the World Institute of Scientology Enterprises, an international organization which promotes Hubbard's approaches in business and management.
  • "Campaign against psychiatry and psychiatric drugs.

But critics say

  • "Scientology is an authoritarian, money-making cult that masquerades as a religion.
  • "The organization uses "training routines" that employ classic mind-control techniques.
  • "Scientology is based on faulty or outdated psychology and medical theories.
  • "Scientology-related entities around the world are front groups designed to hide the church's involvement and mask its controversial teachings.
  • " The organization breaks up families by pushing individuals to sever contact from relatives and friends critical of Scientology.

The money behind Scientology

How much money does Scientology collect each year?

No one except top members knows for sure, since the church's tax-exempt status allows its financial resources to be shielded from public scrutiny. Church officials won't discuss Scientology's gross income or net worth.

But a look at some of the numbers shows:

$398 million: Assets of the worldwide church in 1993, the last year the church had to declare income.

$300 million: Amount the church earned worldwide in 1993 from investments, counseling fees and book sales.

$300,000 and up: Potential cost to individual members to take all the church's courses and auditing sessions in order to climb the "Bridge to Total Freedom."

9 million: Number of members the church claims to have worldwide, about half in the United States. Critics and former members assert the number is closer to 150,000 to 200,000.

500: Number of Scientologists in Buffalo, according to church officials.

$2 million to $2.5 million: Amount spent on renovation of the Buffalo Church of Scientology building, according to its primary financial backer.

Unknown dollar amount: Value of the church's extensive land holdings around the world, plus the dollar value of the generous donations made to the church by Hollywood stars and other wealthy members.

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