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7 reasons why Scientology is a religion

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In October, The Church of Scientology opened its first building in the United Kingdom, a TNS writer decided to write an opinion piece comparing the church to a cult. 

After reading why she thought this was, it occurred to me that most people forget the absurdities of religion. This is completely understandable, as it is something that has become so commonplace in the world. Yet, if an outside observer was to learn about our religions, they may gawk in a confusion similar to ours of Scientology.

She boiled it down to 7 reasons why Scientology should be labelled as a cult rather than a religion:

Scientology is fantasy

Religion is authentic

Churches aren't 'for-profit'

Scientology fails to accept criticism

Scientology is sinister

Scientology follows the commands of a single leader

Archbishop of Canterbury: “Scientology falls into the bracket of being a cult by the secrecy with which it surrounds itself”.

I'll start with Scientology as fantasy.

Scientology is fantasy

It’s probably not wrong to label the narrative of Scientology as a fantasy, science-fiction-based cult. But the problem I have with this is the claim that its origins prevent it from being a religion.

Look at the stories from the bible and what they represent: original sin, floods and exodus. These are all fantastic stories, but the irony lies in their value: fantasy.

A story that says we come from an intergalactic dictator is on the same level of fantasy as the fundamental belief that we originate from the garden of Eden.

Religion is authentic

Laura makes the claim that religion is authentic. In fact, we can generally agree that for the most part, all religious texts and views have been copied through history: in the process losing their original authenticity. The origins of religion are similarly fuzzy. For example, when the Dead Sea Scrolls were found in the mid 20th century they predated what was considered to be the oldest known Hebrew text of the Jewish Bible. The authenticity of religion is forever changing with new discoveries happening all the time.

How authentic is religion? Really? Some might argue that authenticity belongs in material goods that depict a true and real image in our world, not that of whimsical chance (and a slim one at that).

I think it’s fair to say that religion holds no real authenticity in all definitions of the word, and is, when you think about it, just about authentic as believing our souls come from an ancient race of aliens.

Churches aren’t ‘for-profit’

Laura goes on to point out that Scientology is more of a for-profit business than that of its religious counterparts, and that a real church isn’t a business. The church of Scientology does make a lot of money from its franchising network and property owned. In 1956, Hubbard personally received from the Church what would in 2012 amount to $600,000 – a pretty penny for writing a science-fiction novel.

But isn’t the church an even more prevalent business than Scientology? Every year a story breaks of some businessman or celebrity or public figure evading tax to top up their bank accounts. Well, there’s a slightly easier way to evade tax, and that’s to gain religious status. The church, especially the Vatican, has the most effective money making plan any business can grasp: become tax exempt.

The Institute for the Works of Religion, otherwise known as the Vatican Bank, is a private bank that reports to the Pope. This bank has been the centre of countless controversies, including fraud, failed business ventures, and deceitful investments… Bread gained by deceit is sweet to a man, but afterward his mouth will be full of gravel (Proverbs 20:17). We’re yet to see if the Vatican is full of gravel, but I’m sure if the holy book is authentic…

Just to put it into perspective:

The Vatican Bank manages $64 billion in assets (2014)

It owns $764 million in equity

It keeps gold reserves worth over $20 million

Scientology fails to accept criticism

There’s no doubt that Scientology fails to accept that anything it does is wrong. We’ve all seen Louis Theroux’s documentaries on the church and how strange things happen when members renounce their faith. Criticism seems to spark unremitting self-defence from the church, which takes the form of current members tirelessly filming ex-members.

Laura doesn’t make clear here whether the Scientologist’s failure to accept criticism means that they shouldn’t be labelled as a religion. But, considering that’s what her piece is about, I shall assume it is.

In 2008 Richard Dawkins and Dr Mohamad Mukadam appeared on BBCs Big Debate. Throughout the programme, Dawkins asked Mukadam several times what the penalty was for apostasy in countries that follow Sharia Law. Eventually, Jonathan Dimbleby, the presenter, intervened and pushed Mukadam to answer the question, to which he responded: death.

The penalty for saying that you don’t believe in God anymore under Sharia Law is death.

Response to the criticism of this has been fairly dogmatic from Sharia Law countries. The punishment seems not to resonate with all and is a huge downfall of the advancement of Islam into the 21st century. Yet Islam is still a religion even though it fails to accept public criticism for this.

So, we can see that Scientology’s failure to accept criticism isn’t a hindrance of its longing to be accepted as a religion.

I’m obviously not saying all worshippers of Islam approve of the punishment, but despite opposition within the religion, it still exists.

Scientology is sinister

There is definitely something sinister about Scientology. You could draw a similar conclusion to that of a Parasite. The Church lures those who may be going through a tough time, have mental incapability or are vulnerable beyond belief. It is very sinister to take advantage of those who are looking for a support system and envelope them in an inescapable world.

Yet, isn’t religion the very thing many turn to following a period of distress and grief?

Justin Bieber is a perfect example of this. He became famous at a young age, and by his early 20s was a bit of a loose wire. Reflecting in a period of confusion, Justin has recently turned to Christianity to solve his quarter-life crisis. But isn’t this just an image of the Church of Scientology? A sinister move from an organisation that looks to ‘cure’ people of their sins?

‘Authentic’ religion has acted far more sinister than Scientology ever has. The Catholic Church has undergone decades of uncovered child sex abuse, that more than likely started hundreds of years ago before we had the tools of investigative journalism to shed light on the sinister acts of frustrated priests.

To argue that Scientology cannot be a religion because it is sinister is frankly to ignore what religion is.

Scientology follows the commands of a single leader

This one is just plain ignorant.

The whole principle of religion is to follow the command of a single leader: God. The clue is in the name: The Ten Commandments. If following the commands of a single leader is what religion is, Scientology definitely qualifies.

 Archbishop of Canterbury: “Scientology falls into the bracket of being a cult by the secrecy with which it surrounds itself”.

This quote Laura uses from the Archbishop to round-off her argument is fairly ironic.

Religion is full of secrecy. The child sex scandals, the Da Vinci Code, the apocalypse and Mary Magdalene all hold secrets that religion chooses not to reveal. Whether these things hold more truth than what religion preaches itself we’ll never know. But there are far more investigations to be made into religion than Scientology as of yet.

If Scientology wants to be taken seriously as a religious group, it is going the right way about it.

 

 

 

 

 

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