Scientology and other religions

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The relationship between Scientology and other religions is very complex. While Scientology claims that it is fully compatible with all existing major world religions and that it does not conflict with them or their religious practices, there are major differences in the beliefs and practices between Scientology and most religions, especially the major monotheistic religions. Members are not allowed to engage in other similar mental therapies or procedures, religious or otherwise.[1] However, some ministers from other churches have adopted some Scientology secular programs.[2][3]

According to Jacob Neusner, Scientology is a "synthesis of existing ideas and a reflection of particular cultural, social, and historical circumstances in which it was born and developed". The religion reflects Western and American values, such as "beliefs in democracy, individualism, and freedom", while borrowing little from religions based on the Bible. Similarities exist between Scientology and eastern religions such as Hinduism and Buddhism.[4]


The Church of Scientology has capitalized on the religion's similarity to Buddhism to win followers in historically Buddhist-influenced countries like Taiwan. [5]

Church of England[edit]

The Church of England complained in March 2003 to the Advertising Standards Authority about the Church's advertising poster promoting Narconon—the drug rehabilitation program based on the works of L. Ron Hubbard. The poster claimed "250,000 people salvaged from drugs." The Church of England Diocese of Birmingham challenged the claim. Upholding the complaint, the ASA considered that, "without clarification, readers were likely to interpret the claim '250,000 people salvaged from drugs' to mean that 250,000 people had stopped being dependent on street or prescription drugs because of Scientology. The Authority "accepted that more than 250,000 people had undertaken the Church's Drug Purification and Drug Rundown programs, which were designed to free people from the effects of taking drugs," but "the Authority understood that, within Scientology, the concept of 'drug use' referred to a variety of behaviors that ranged from heavy use of street drugs to occasional ingestion of alcohol or prescription medicines and exposure to chemical toxins."[6]

The Diocese of Birmingham objected to Scientology using space in the community centre allotted for religious use. The Diocese pointed out that Scientology does not have religious status in the UK: "Scientology has rightly been refused recognition as a religion by the UK Charity Commissioners" in the words of a Diocese spokesman.[7] The Diocese also stated that Scientology is "as much a religion as a dog is a vegetable."[7]

Greek Orthodox Church[edit]

Maximos Aghiorgoussis, the bishop of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America in Pittsburgh, has stated that Scientology is not in fact a "church", but rather a gnostic or theosophical system of thought. He went on to say that there are at least six serious points of contention between the two groups, including:

  • the pantheistic nature of Scientology,
  • Scientology's contention that the individual is a noncorporeal, semi-divine "thetan," which runs contrary to the Greek Orthodox view that the individual is both body and soul and, while created in the image of God, not a god himself,
  • Scientology's belief that the universe is the "result of a game of the thetans", rather than the account of the Genesis creation narrative,
  • Scientology's belief that the thetan can be saved through the clearing of its engrams, which differs from the Christian view of salvation being only through Christ, and
  • Scientology's view that death is "of no consequence and significance because death is repeated innumerable times", which runs contrary to the Christian view of a single physical incarnation.

He also states that "Scientology teaches that psychic powers, (evil) spirits, and out-of-body events can be used in order for the thetans to rediscover their true powers. Because of this, there have been parallels drawn between Scientology and occultism[citation needed]. He goes on to say that, in spite of Scientology's claims to enhance mental health, that many people have already been damaged by Dianetics. Calling upon what he describes as "unclean spirits", the inexperience of those who do auditing cause "hallucination, irrational behavior, severe disorientation, strange bodily sensations, physical and mental illness, unconsciousness, and suicide. Hubbard admitted most of the above hazards, 'although he maintained that they occurred only through misapplication of the technology of Scientology'".[8]

Russian Orthodox Church[edit]

In May 2001, the Russian Orthodox Church criticized Scientologists, Jehovah's Witnesses, Unificationists, and Mormons as being dangerous "totalitarian sects."[9]

Lutheran Church[edit]

The Lutheran Church in Germany has criticized Scientology's activities and doctrines, along with those of several other religious movements. According to the U.S. State Department's 2004 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices, "The Lutheran Church also characterizes The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormons), the Jehovah's Witnesses, the Church of Christ, Christian Scientists, the New Apostolic Church, and the Johannische Church as 'sects,' but in less negative terms than it does Scientology."[10]

Roman Catholic Church[edit]

The Roman Catholic Church has not made official doctrinal pronouncements specifically related to Scientology, however Cardinal Marc Ouellet stated "Scientology is something else. For me, this community is not a Church".[11] Certain beliefs that are widely associated with Scientology, such as reincarnation, are specifically rejected by the Catholic Church as being incompatible with Catholic belief and practice. Scientology is also, according to a number of religious scholars, a form of gnosticism, which would make it hard to reconcile with Roman Catholicism and other denominations that regard gnosticism as a heresy.[12]

Nation of Islam[edit]

In May 2011, the Nation of Islam (NOI) announced in an official newspaper that an estimated 700 NOI members have become certified Hubbard Dianetics Auditors, with more NOI members soon to be trained in Scientology techniques.[13]

Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan is known to encourage his congregation to read Dianetics and receive training for auditing. Eliza Gray comments on a comparison and contrast of the two religions, asserting that “at the core of both religions is a never-ending pursuit of a better self. In the case of Scientology, that best self is ‘clear’ of residual traumas buried in the subconscious. In the Nation [of Islam], that self is free of hang-ups of white culture that black people have internalized to their detriment.” Farrakhan has taught his followers to seek truth wherever it is contained, despite the inherent contradiction of following Hubbard’s teaching while he poses resistance to the “whites.” He declares to his followers that L. Ron Hubbard has made “white people better than they are,” describing Hubbard’s Dianetics as a way for “whites to expunge themselves from ‘devilish’ qualities.”[14]

Farrakhan supports Hubbard’s spiritual technology, including auditing, which he claims is a “vital tool” for the awakening of his people. Leah Nelson writes that Farrakhan “has been telling his followers to embrace Scientology in order to move closer to perfection in preparation for the end times.”[15]

Speculating on the curious embracement by Farrakhan of Scientology doctrine, Chip Berlet of the Southern Poverty Law Center, hypothesizes: “The possibility exists that Farrakhan sees his followers as not ‘clear’ enough to make contact with the ‘Mothership.[16]

Gerald Williams asserts that just like NOI, Scientology is a “very rationalized or modern religion.” Jacob Michael King states that both religions are “engaged in reframing traditional spiritual ideas, and both employ scientific language in an attempt to “modernize” elements seen as outdated.” Dianetic Auditing runs parallel with NOI’s determination of the knowledge of self. “While self-knowledge in the NOI offers the believer an identity as part of a collective, auditing through ‘locating areas of spiritual distress… and improving their condition’ purports to free the individual to determine herself and to better author her own destiny,” states Jacob King.[17]

Hubbard's definition of religion[edit]

In 1970, Hubbard offered an old-fashioned view of religion that included some broad ideas: “In a few words, religion can be defined as belief in spiritual beings. More broadly, religion can be defined as a system of beliefs and practices by means of which a group of people struggles with the ultimate problems of human life. The quality of being religious implies two things: first, a belief that evil, pain, bewilderment and injustice are fundamental facts of existence; second, a set of practices and related sanctified beliefs that express a conviction that man can ultimately be saved from those facts.”[18]

Religious compatibility[edit]

Scientology's claim of religious compatibility to entry-level Scientologists is soon modified by the additional teaching that the various levels of spiritual process which can be reached through Scientology are more advanced than those attainable in other religions. The major monotheistic religions and Scientology share the claim of Universality of their belief system which precludes compatibility in the view of most scholars.[1] Critics point out that, within Scientology, "spiritual abilities" tends to be synonymous with "mystical powers" rather than with "inner peace." Hubbard himself cautioned against the unwise or improper use of powers in his book History of Man.

In its application for tax-exempt status in the United States, the Church of Scientology International states:

Hubbard sometimes identified himself with Maitreya (Metteya in Pali), a prophesied Buddha of the future. This identification is made most strongly in his 1955–1956 poem Hymn of Asia,[20] which begins with the line "Am I Metteyya?" and emphasizes certain traits of Hubbard that the editors of the publication said matched traits predicted by the "Metteya Legend," such as Metteya appearing in the West, having golden hair or red hair (Hubbard was red-haired), and appearing in a time of world peril, with the earliest of the predicted dates for his return being 2,500 years after Gautama Buddha, or roughly 1950. According to sociologist Stephen A. Kent, however, the traits which the editors say are predicted by the "Metteya Legend" either are not actually present in the Buddhist texts or in some cases are contradicted by the texts: instead of coming at a time of world peril, for instance, the predictions about Maitreya say he will be born to royalty whose domain is "mighty and prosperous, full of people, crowded and well fed," and rather than having hair "like flames," Kent says that the texts predict curly black hair for the Maitreya.[21]

It is important to note that Hubbard discussed Buddhism in an early 1952 lecture in London, speaking about Buddhist reincarnation stories, about the Christian God and other religious topics. While theologican Marco Frenschkowski claims that Hubbard may have been experimenting with ways Scientology is similar to Buddhism, some scholars such as Frank A. Flinn and Stephen A. Kent interpret the Scientology founder’s “reverence for Buddhism as a rather awkward response to external pressure.” Hubbard clarified that Scientology is not a neo-Buddhist group.[22]

The revealed beliefs in Scientology at higher levels become increasingly contradictory with the world's major religions. The concept of past lives in Scientology is at odds with Christianity and Islam. Beliefs concerning the origins and age of the Earth, the root of evil, and the nature of man make it impossible to uphold the beliefs of most other religions while also being a Scientologist. Hubbard claimed that Islam was the result of an extraterrestrial memory implant, called the Emanator, of which the Kaaba is supposedly an artifact. Mainstream religions, in his view, had failed to realize their objectives: "It is all very well to idealize poverty and associate wisdom with begging bowls, or virtue with low estate. However, those who have done this (Buddhists, Christians, Communists, and other fanatics) have dead ended or are dead ending."[23]

The section of the Fishman Affidavit pertaining to Operating Thetan level VIII put forward that Hubbard said that Jesus was a pederast. The Church of Scientology has consistently held this section of the Fishman Affidavit to be a forgery.[24]

Author Richard Holloway writes that the underlying principle in Scientology is the ancient Hindu doctrine of reincarnation or samsara, but without nirvana. Scientologists believe in the immortality of souls that travel from one body to another in a span of a trillion years, without final salvation or damnation. “There is only the eternal return of life after life.”[25]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Steve Bruce: Cathedrals to cults: the evolving forms of the religious life. In: Paul Heelas (Hrsg.): Religion, Modernity, and Postmodernity, Blackwell, Oxford 1998, pp. 19-35, 23.
  2. ^ Scientology awards reach out to black community ROBERT FARLEY, St. Petersburg Times, February 18, 2006
  3. ^ Sedensky, Matt (2007-08-25). "Unlikely allies". AP. Knoxville News Sentinel. Archived from the original on 2007-09-01. Retrieved 2007-08-30. 
  4. ^ Neusner, Jacob (2009). World Religions in America (4 ed.). Westminster John Knox Press. 
  5. ^ "The Curious Rise of Scientology in Taiwan". 
  6. ^ Advertising Standards Authority record of successful Church of England complaint about Narconon advertisement
  7. ^ a b Cartledge, James (2004-04-24). "Church anger at 'cult' space". Evening Mail. Retrieved 2007-08-30. 
  8. ^ "The challenge of metaphysical experiences outside Orthodoxy and the Orthodox response" at ProQuest
  9. ^ "Russian Orthodox Targets 'Totalitarian Sects'" at Zenit News AgencyArchive copy at the Internet Archive Wayback Machine
  10. ^ "2004 Country Report on Human Rights Practices in Germany" at United States Department of State
  11. ^ Bussières, Ian (February 5, 2009). "Scientologie: "Ce n'est pas une Église" - Mgr Ouellet". Le Soleil. Power Corporation of Canada. Retrieved 2009-02-17. 
  12. ^ Derakhshani, Tirdad (2005-07-03). "Spirituality through therapy". The Philadelphia Inquirer. Retrieved 2006-07-01. [dead link]
  13. ^ reference:
  14. ^ reference:
  15. ^ reference:
  16. ^ reference: "Clearing the Planet: The Adoption of the Teachings of L. Ron Hubbard by Louis Farrakhan, and its Significance for the Eschatology of the Nation of Islam” by Jacob Michael King, Claremont Graduate University, 2014
  17. ^ reference: Willms, Gerald. “Scientology: ‘Modern Religion’ or ‘Religion of Modernity’?” In Scientology, ed. James R. Lewis (New York: Oxford University Press, 2009), Nook Edition, 301.
  18. ^ Frenschkowski, Marco (2016). "Images of Religions and Religious History in the Works of L. Ron Hubbard". Alternative Spirituality and Religion Review. doi:10.5840/asrr20166620. 
  19. ^ Response to Final Series of IRS Questions Prior to Recognition of Exemption Under Section 501(c)(3) As a Church, October 1, 1993
  20. ^ Frenschkowski, Marco (2016). "Images of Religions and Religious History in the Works of L. Ron Hubbard". Alternative Spirituality and Religion Review. doi:10.5840/asrr20166620. 
  21. ^ Kent, Stephen A. (1996). "Scientology's Relationship With Eastern Religious Traditions". Journal of Contemporary Religion. 11 (1): 21. doi:10.1080/13537909608580753. Retrieved 2007-03-31. 
  22. ^ Frenschkowski, Marco (2016). "Images of Religions and Religious History in the Works of L. Ron Hubbard". Alternative Spirituality and Religion Review. doi:10.5840/asrr20166620. 
  23. ^ Hubbard, HCO PL of January 21, 1965
  24. ^ Karin Spaink. The Fishman Affidavit: introduction. Retrieved 2008-02-29. [1]
  25. ^ Holloway, Richard (September 20, 2016). A Little History of Religion. Yale University Press. ISBN 978-0300208832.