Scientology: Its Origins and Its Implications for Society
What is scientology? Most people don't really have any idea, other than that its mentioning conjures up vague notions of a cult in the minds of many. Scientology is relatively new, as far as religions go, but it has captured a rather large worldwide following in a short amount of time. In fact, since its founding, scientology has experienced a phenomenal amount of growth, and has attracted adherents worldwide. Yet the religion is still shrouded in a lot of mystery and misunderstanding. This is why it is important to know about scientology now, so that we as human beings are able to make informed decisions regarding it whenever the religion comes into contact with us or our family and friends. This paper examines the religion of scientology, its origins, its principles, and public perceptions regarding the religion.
Scientology was founded in the 1950s by science fiction author L. Ron Hubbard. The basis if the religion is to improve mental health and personal emotional well-being through scientific and spiritual principles. Scientology adheres to the notion that regular science has not been able to answer many of the questions that man has asked himself from time immemorial. Some of the most important of these unanswered questions are the questions of who we are as people, what we consist of, where we come from, where we are going, and what we are doing here on this planet ("Scientology: Its Background and Origins"). Since science has not been able to answer any of these questions with any degree of certainty or accuracy, it has been left up to mankind to find the answers to those questions through alternate methods. This is where scientology comes in.
Adherents of scientology, in fact, believe that the religion has found the answers to these questions. The religion itself consists of a whole system of methods for understanding man's place in the universe. Scientology is, of course, a traditional religion in the sense that it teaches that man is a spiritual being, with more to him than merely flesh and blood ("Scientology: Its Background and Origins"). This in itself sets scientology apart from mainstream scientific thought, as modern science views man as little more than a bag of organic cells and chemical interactions that make up a living being. Scientology also believes that man is basically good, and not evil, thus setting it apart from many modern religions that believe that man's basic nature is sinfulness. While scientology views man as sometimes making mistakes in his ongoing quest for answers to life's important questions by using methods that consider only himself, it also believes that man is capable of seeing how this self-centered attitude can cause harm and trouble to himself and others and to change his ways. In fact, scientology believes that man's spiritual fortitude degenerates only to the degree that he abandons his consideration for others.
Because scientology views man as basically good, it also believes that he is capable of spiritual betterment. To this end, then, scientology has the aim in mind of bringing man to the point where he can sort out and solve his own problems through the use of universal truths. Scientology believes that when man is able to be in a position to solve his own problems, then he is vastly able to improve his own life while still acting for the benefit of others. Basically, scientology contains solutions to the problems of living. The desired end result of following the principles of scientology is increased awareness and spiritual freedom for the individual and the rehabilitation of his basic decency, power and abilities ("Scientology: Its Background and Origins").
The followers of scientology believe that its founder, L. Ron Hubbard, found the answers to life's toughest questions through diligent study and the earnest seeking out of those answers. Upon discovering these answers, he laid out the method that he used to find them, so that these methods could be duplicated by others. Scientology is not so much about having other people tell you what to do to reach enlightenment, but about giving you the tools by which you can learn to reach enlightenment on your own. Of course, L. Ron Hubbard's work into the field of human potential did not originate with scientology. Before creating this new religion and its principles, Hubbard did a lot of work and study into an area known as dianetics. In fact, he wrote a whole book on dianetics, which became an international best seller. It also became the prototype of scientology.
The word "dianetics" comes from the Greek and basically means "what the soul is doing to the body." Hubbard believed that through his study of dianetics that he discovered the source of life itself ("Scientology: Its Background and Origins"). What Hubbard believed he discovered was that man did not have a spirit, but was, in fact, a spirit himself already. Hubbard believed that man was a spirit that happened to have a mind and a body. Dianetics looks at how the spirit affects the body. It also provides a guideline of how the body may best handle those effects. Thus, dianetics provides a framework by which mental conditions such as unwanted thoughts, feelings, and even psychosomatic illnesses can be relieved. This is the foundation upon which the principles of scientology rest, and it is no accident that those interested in becoming scientologists are asked to read Dianetics as an introductory work.
Scientology takes the principles of dianetics and goes to the next step with them. Instead of focusing merely on how the spirit affects the body, scientology focuses on how to treat the spirit as a whole. It is essentially a pseudo-scientific guide to the care and handling of the spirit within the body. By practicing principles that directly affect the spirit, it is hoped that man will be able to overcome the negative factors that inhibit and plague him. It is because of this potential for freedom from distress that scientology has grown so much in so short a time.
Scientology sounds like a very promising and gentle religion to follow, if all one does is look at its history and principles. However, not everyone who is familiar with scientology agrees with this. In fact, many who are familiar with scientology believe that it is downright sinister, and it has even been banned in some countries, most notably in Germany. As mentioned in the introduction to this paper, many people call up images in their minds of cults when they hear scientology mentioned. This is not for no good reason. There is every reason to believe that scientology is a cult, and may actually be dangerous.
The internet, particularly, is rife with information discrediting scientology. If an entire country that is reputed for being progressive and liberal like Germany has seen fit to ban scientology, then some of the criticisms of this religion need to be heard. Most commonly, people who criticize scientology say that the organization is only out to make money for itself, and that it destroys people's lives. As far as the first charge goes, that scientology is only a money-making operation, this accusation is not without merit. The founder of scientology himself, L. Ron Hubbard, said in a Reader's Digest article reprinted in 1980:
Writing for a penny a word is ridiculous. If a man really wants to make a million dollars, the best way would be to start his own religion."
This statement from Hubbard makes the origins of scientology very suspicious, especially considering that he started scientology soon after this article was originally printed. If the founder of scientology himself claimed that starting a religion was a good way to make money, then how can others coming into contact with the religion for the first time really believe that it is a benevolent and beneficial organization. When it is also taken into consideration that most people who join scientology are asked to buy numerous things from the organization, including books and study materials, the claim of mercenary money-grabbing tendencies gains credence.
As far as the charge of destroying people's lives goes, there is also some truth in that. Most critics of scientology claim that instead of strengthening a person's character and mental abilities, as scientology promotes itself as doing, scientology weakens the person's mind and makes them susceptible to brainwashing. It is claimed that a person under the influence of scientology experiences their mind going from a rational to an irrational state very quickly, and that they begin to have delusions, as well ("What is Scientology?"). Most critics believe that scientology's teachings result in a person being placed in a permanent light hypnotic trance, thus allowing the person to be more easily controlled. When the religion is better able to control people, then those people are more easily convinced to devote themselves more to the religion, as well as to hand over increasingly large amounts of money to the religion. People…