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Religion Library: Scientology

Modern Age

Written by: J. Gordon Melton

Scientology was also born amidst the dramatic advances in communication technology made during and after World War II.As technology continued to improve, Scientologists had no traditions that would prevent them from adopting the latest developments for communicating their message, and most recently they have developed a massive presence on the Internet.Scientology is a strongly literary religion and was initially communicated through the books and various shorter writings of its founder.Scientologists have worked to make those books universally available, to assist people whose low reading skills would inhibit their use of the books, and provided much of the information from the books in a variety of audio and visual formats and on the Internet.They have also integrated the Internet into their aggressive program to reach prospective members and permeate society with Hubbard's ideas.

One consequence of Scientology's making its appearance just as the Internet became pivotal to life in the modern world has been the controversy it has experienced.A number of the new religions (the Unification Church, The Family International, the International Society for Krishna Consciousness, to name a few) that became prominent in the late 20th century experienced similar controversies.Like Scientology, they have had to listen to the claims of ex-members who had negative experiences in their community, they have suffered discrimination from intolerant governments, and they have gone through bitter legal proceedings and have seen leaders sent to prison.However, in most cases, the controversies have faded.With Scientology, while particular controversies in particular places have been laid to rest, a high level of tension with society continues and new issues have persistently arisen.

Three reasons for this continued controversy are important to note:first, of all the post-war new religions, Scientology appears to have grown the fastest, confronted the largest number of people with its claims, gained the largest number of new adherents, and hence has affected the largest number of people concerned about its growth.Much of the attention given to Scientology seems to be similar to that given to Jehovah's Witnesses and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, a simple reaction to sudden success. Second, in growing, it has, like the Jehovah's Witnesses and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, developed an aggressive recruitment program, and, while not as large as either of these two older groups, has come to share their negative public image in many regards.

Finally, Scientology, as an esoteric faith, has at its core secrets that it wishes to disclose only to its members.In an open society that values the exchange of information and full disclosure, some feel that Scientology has not made the case for keeping their secrets from the general public, while at the same time, Scientology's critics hope that revealing those secrets will do fatal harm to the organization.In some ways, Scientology's esoteric world appears to be at odds with the same Internet that has been such a valuable tool for it.

Study Questions:
     1.    How does contemporary pluralism affect Scientology?
     2.    What is Scientology's theological perspective? Why was it developed?
     3.    Describe the relationship between Scientology and Christianity. Why are there similarities?
     4.    What are the new controversies associated with Scientology?


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