Scientology as a New Religion

Keeping in mind the discussion of the five categories listed above we now try to consider the role and the place of the Church of Scientology in the rapidly increasing corpus of the movements called “new religions,” mainly dealing with its teachings, practices and organizations. The crucial question again is as follows: Is Scientology a “religion” or not? This report may be compared to another study by Bryan R. Wilson, a British sociologist of religion who has studied Scientology on the following parameters of religion in general:

 a. beliefs, practices, relationships and institutions relative to the supernatural, man’s ultimate concern, etc.,

 b. practices which constitute obedience, reverence or worship,

 c. the collective or group character of religious life.

After a careful study of several world religions Wilson gives a detailed description of Scientology as theology and institution. His important final statements include: “religions change over time” and “religion per se undergoes change.”

Wilson has recognized the important point of “change” when he puts his emphasis on facts where we share his opinion: “newer religions” or “modern movements will not be in accord with all items in our (relatively timeless) model.” Wilson’s final statement is: “Scientology is a bona fide religion and should be considered as such.”

We next address Scientology under the five dimensions of a religion.

A. Cognitive Dimension

The cognitive dimension of Scientology is evidenced by its unique and detailed view of the world and the universe in its doctrine of the eight dynamics, which divides all existence into eight separate planes with the spiritual realm and God at the apex. Scientologists’ belief in the existence of the supernatural is embedded in their belief in the true self as a spirit—the thetan‑and the thetan’s immortality through thousands of former lives, as well as in their belief in the spiritual world and in God. It is through these supernatural powers and God that Scientologists determine their fates, their needs and their values.

Scientology certainly must be characterized as a literate or “book” religion. Its traditions are transmitted almost exclusively through its creed and the volumes of writings and lectures by its Founder.

B. Affective or Emotional Dimension

The affective or emotional dimension of Scientology can be found in the close relationship between Scientology practice and the supernatural realm. The Scientology religious experience lies in auditing and training, through which Scientologists commune with their spiritual reality. This communion is particularly marked in auditing as the Scientology minister guides the thetan through past lives in resolving instances of spiritual harm. Through their efforts to coordinate and balance their eight dynamics, Scientologists commune with the spiritual plane and with God. Scientologists think of themselves and others as spirits (not as bodies) that live well beyond the physical dimension. They generally have a shared attitude and solidarity with other beings and the spiritual universe.

C. Conative or Behavioral Dimension

The conative or behavioral dimension of the Scientology religion is found in its principle rites‑the religious practices of auditing and training‑and its rites of passage‑marriage ceremonies, funerals and name‑giving. Scientology doctrine also calls for the highest standards of ethical conduct by its parishioners and has a highly developed system of codes of behavior to guide their conduct. These can be found in the general principles of Scientology’s “system of Ethics and Justice” as well as in the more specific codes such as the Auditor’s Code, the Code of a Supervisor, the Code of Honor and Code of a Scientologist.

D. Social Dimension

The social dimension of the Scientology religion is reflected in its complex ecclesiology. The international ecclesiastical hierarchy of the Church of Scientology is composed of several levels and several specific organizations whose function is to control orthodoxy and the activities of individual churches. There is Church of Scientology International, the “Mother Church” of the ecclesiastical hierarchy, which supervises the practice and propagation of the religion on a worldwide basis. There is Religious Technology Center, which is directly responsible for the purity of Scientology Scripture and orthodox practice of the religion.

The individual churches under CSl’s supervision are arranged in a hierarchical order reflecting the level of religious services that they minister. There is, for example, the Church of Scientology Flag Service Organization in Florida, which ministers the highest levels of Scientology religious services, and the various “Advanced Organizations” and “Saint Hill churches” located throughout the world that minister intermediate levels of religious services. Below them are the local Churches of Scientology, Scientology missions and independent ministers, who minister the lower and lowest levels of services. Each of these levels in turn is supervised by an ecclesiastical organization that is subordinate to CSl.

E. Cultural Dimension

The cultural dimension of Scientology is both rich and varied. Though new, Scientology already has a distinctive culture identified by many unique features. It has its own nomenclature (set out in two separate dictionaries), with such terms as “thetan,” “Clear” and “auditing,” to name a few. It has its own calendar with holidays, such as L. Ron Hubbard’s birthday, “Auditor’s Day” and other dates of special significance only to Scientologists. There are special locations of great religious significance to Scientology to which members make pilgrimages, such as Hubbard’s home at Saint Hill Manor in England and the Church of Scientology Flag Service Organization in Florida.

Scientologists conduct their lives strictly in accordance with the Scientology Scripture. They apply Scientology ethics and morals in their daily affairs and in their relationships with others, and in the raising of their family. Many Scientologists enroll their children in schools that apply Scientology principles, such as the study methods developed by Hubbard. Scientologists of all ages are drug‑free and very opposed to drug use.

The Scientologists most dedicated to their religion‑members of the Sea Organization‑live a communal lifestyle, take care of each others’ daily and economic needs such as food, lodging and medical needs, wear distinctive uniforms, live by their particular customs, and devote almost all of their working hours to the service of their religion. The Church of Scientology with all its functions is clearly a “way of life” for people serving in its religious order.

IX. Conclusions