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IS SCIENTOLOGY A RELIGION

GARY D. BOUMA, PH.D.

I have been asked for my professional opinion on the question:

Is Scientology a religion? I have the following professional qualifications relevant to this issue:

B.A. Calvin College (Greek and Philosophy)

B.D. Princeton Theological Seminary (Church and Society)

M.A. Cornell University (Sociology)

Ph.D. Cornell University (Sociology of Religion)

I have been active in the scholarly study of religion for over a decade during which I have published extensively in the field, chaired symposia on the definition of religion, and lectured on the sociology of religion at Dalhousie University, Michigan State University and Monash University.

I have read various books about Scientology and visited the church in Victoria. On the basis of these documents and that visit it is my professional opinion that the Church of Scientology can reasonably be categorized a religion. Permit me to elaborate.

It is my professional opinion that the Church of Scientology can reasonably be categorized a religion.

While there is some debate in the study of religion concerning the definition of religion, all of the competing definitions would include without debate the Church of Scientology, its beliefs and practices, as a religion. The debates in the field center on the utility of applying the term religion to groups holding to meaning systems that do not have a clearly specified meaning system which is anchored in and articulated around a basic commitment to a supra­natural being, principle or entity. Since Scientology's credo clearly centers on and flows from such a commitment there would be no doubt among sociologists of religion that in Scientology they are dealing with a religion.

Emile Durkheim, one of the founding fathers of the Sociology of Religion, defined religion as “a unified system of beliefs and practices relative to sacred things ... which unite into one, single moral community called a church, all those who adhere to them.”

Gerhard Lenski, in his influential study “The Religious Factor,” defines religion as “... a system of beliefs about the nature of the force(s) ultimately shaping man's destiny, and the practices associated with, shared by members of a group.”

If one were to use these definitions of religion, one would surely conclude that Scientology is a religion.

Gary D. Bouma
October 30, 1979

At the time he wrote this, Dr. Bouma was on the faculty of the Department of Anthropology and Sociology, Monash University, Clayton, Victoria, Australia.

IV. The Religious Status of Scientology
by Irving Hexham, Ph.D.
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