Founded by L. Ronald Hubbard in 1954, The Church of Scientology considers his teachings, including the popular book Dianetics: The Modern Science of Mental Health, as its essential texts. Scientology teaches that the human mind is often restricted by its subconscious thoughts (the "reactive mind") and needs to be freed from negative thoughts (called "engrams") under the direction of a counselor (called an "auditor") in order to release its everlasting spirit ("thetan"). Once all of the engrams have been removed, the Scientologist is able to live spiritually free, a state called "Clear." The Church of Scientology functions through its autonomous churches and through missions. There are nearly 8,000 Churches of Scientology, Missions, and related organizations with over 20,000 full time staff in 164 countries. Each church is locally governed and licensed to teach Scientology using its standardized materials and methods. In a few countries, the Church has been forced to litigate the issue of its religiosity, either affirmatively or in response to alleged criminal activities. The Church has prevailed in most of these cases, and its religious bona fides have been recognized in most contexts. Some of these decisions, including decisions by the Cassation Court in Italy and the High Court in Australia, have established the standards regarding religious recognition that all religions must meet.
Quick Fact Details:
Followers: The disparity between occasional estimates of 8-15 million adherents and the number provided here — 500,000 — is due to different working definitions of membership. The larger estimates are considered to reflect an accounting that includes everyone who has attended a Scientology class or bought one of the Scientology texts.
Headquarters: The Church of Scientology has various headquarters, including the one in Clearwater, recognized as the spiritual headquarters, and the Religious Technology Center in Riverside County, California, which serves as an administrative center.