This joint report about the Church of Scientology has been written by a scholar of religion and a social worker and scientist. The focus lies in the background, history and current state of the Church of Scientology. The main question to be answered below is the role and the possible status of Scientology as a “religion”: Is Scientology a religion or not?
The history of Scientology is short. It could either be started from the publication of Dianetics: The Modern Science of Mental Health, by L. Ron Hubbard in 1950, or from the establishment of the first Church of Scientology in Los Angeles, California, in 1954. Both, of course, are related to the thinking and the life history of Hubbard (1911–1986) himself, called Founder, because it was he who both created the principles of Dianetics and established the doctrines of Scientology.
The fact that Scientology has its roots in America has led to some cultural specifics belonging to the Church. Its mother tongue has been English and its lifestyle so American that this may have periodically disturbed its efforts to disseminate more deeply to cultures speaking other languages. In spite of this, the contemporary distribution of the Church of Scientology is remarkable, even in countries outside Western territories.
In the course of 40 years, the Church of Scientology has, according to a report by the President of the Church in 1994, established a basis in 107 countries on all of the continents. The number of the established organizations‑either a church, a mission or any organized group of practicing people‑was then 2,318, which number has been rapidly growing.
The growth is particularly remarkable in Eastern and Central Europe as well as areas of the former Soviet Union from Moscow and St. Petersburg over to Ukraine, Kazakhstan, Moldova and all the way to Siberia: 21 new missions in 1994 and 24 in 1995. Hungary with over 10 missions is another center in Eastern Europe. With a growth trend also in such remote areas as China, Australia, New Zealand, Africa and Latin America, the Church of Scientology is approaching global distribution, at least geographically.
The total number of the practicing Scientologists or parishioners, is in the millions. It is, however, difficult to give in precise numbers, due to the special nature of the Church which, besides offering space for religious rituals, also is a working place and a complex social center for those involved and interested, without necessitating the full‑time devotion of the people inside and around it. That is typical of many religious denominations.
According to the Church of Scientology International in 1994, there were some 8 million Scientologists all over the world.