Scientology: New religion or science fiction novel?

Gonzaga Bulletin (Gonzaga University, Spokane, WA)/August 1, 2005
By Molly Wendt

The term Scientology has become common because of the outspoken support of it as a religion by celebrities such as Tom Cruise, Kirstie Alley and John Travolta. However, with all of the hype the question remains: What exactly is Scientology?

Well-known science fiction author L. Ron Hubbard created the idea of Dianetics in the early 1950s, an alternative to many psychiatric practices of the day. In order to remain a tax-free organization and to further delve into the religious aspect of Dianetics, Hubbard declared Scientology a religion in 1953. The word Scientology literally means the study of truth, which is what Hubbard based his religion on.

In Scientology, the three ways to live to the fullest are through what Hubbard called the ARC triangle. The triangle is made up of affinity, reality and communication. By organizing a person's life to this triangle, they increase their overall effectiveness.

Hubbard also created what he called a Tone Scale. A person's mood dictates how they are placed on the Tone Scale in Scientology. The Tone scale is how a person's worth or value is determined. Combined with emotions, how a person acts or reacts to outside forces affects their place on the scale.

Many aspects of Scientology appear to have commonalities with other, more mainstream, religions. Scientology's basic interests lie in what is called the thetan or spirit of a person. According to Hubbard, the thetan is a being that has lived through many lives and for trillions of years. The thetan influences a person's present life by remembering hurtful or evil incidents, and affects the person's personality and potential to do wrongdoing in its present life. In order to achieve enlightenment in Scientology, the person must gain mental awareness and realize that by accepting that they are an immortal spirit, they can ultimately reach the state of Operating Thetan. Reaching this level of thetan gives them the power to control matter, energy, space, time, thought and life - a nearly god-like state. Many who have studied Scientology and Hubbard have stated that Hubbard believed himself to be a modern-day version of Buddha.

To achieve enlightenment spiritually, the follower has to help others toward their own enlightenment, thus the Church of Scientology has created many facilities to help people overcome problems such as mental illness, drug dependency and immorality. Scientology practices Hubbard's ideas on treating people with psychiatric problems, ideas that were previously rejected by the American Psychological Association (APA).

After his thesis was rejected by the APA, Hubbard shifted the focus of Scientology to exposing all psychiatrists as frauds. According to Hubbard, 75 million years ago the galactic tyrant called Xenu brainwashed thetans, who then used human beings as a sanctuary. Through the process called auditing, or listening, many Scientologists have recited memories from past lives, including a previous life as a martian or an animal. Hubbard claimed that psychiatrists were the product of the brainwashing incident, still trying to continue the work of Xenu.

Many of the views toward other religions that Scientologists accept come from their experiences with Xenu. Hubbard teaches that Christ did not actually live, but was a memory planted by Xenu during the brainwashing episode and that Christianity is evil. Scientology teaches that Islam is also the creation of extraterrestrials. While Hubbard likens himself to Buddha, he claims that these religions, and many others, have failed to realize their true potential.

In the United States and also in Australia, Scientology has gained recognition as a religion, therefore giving it the rights and privileges awarded to other religions. In other countries, such as Germany, Scientology is considered a cult bent on taking over the government.

Several conspiracies to break into government offices have been connected to the Church of Scientology in both Canada and the United States.

With a wide range of beliefs and a focus on the individual, Scientology is quickly gaining followers worldwide. Hubbard's book "Dianetics: The Modern Study of Mental Health" was on the New York Times best-seller list for over 100 weeks and has sold more than 20 million copies in 50 different languages. Despite its controversial beginning, Scientology is gaining followers internationally.

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