Ethics and Community

Principles of Moral Thought and Action

In the last years of his life L. Ron Hubbard focused on what he saw as the decline in the overall moral climate of the modern world. He concluded that society had failed to produce a moral code suitable for the contemporary West, and as a result Hubbard decided to generate such a code based upon common sense and the basic human desire for survival (as opposed to a particular religious foundation). The result was the development of twenty-one precepts and an accompanying essay, The Way to Happiness, published in 1981 and widely distributed. Hubbard suggested that anyone following these precepts greatly improved their chance for happiness and survival in this life. The precepts include both the positive and negative versions of what Christians call the Golden Rule, some form of which appears in most of the major religious traditions.

1. Take Care of Yourself.
2. Be Temperate.
3. Don't Be Promiscuous.
4. Love and Help Children.
5. Honor and Help Your Parents.
6. Set a Good Example.
7. Seek to Live with the Truth.
8. Do Not Murder.
9. Don't Do Anything Illegal.
10. Support a Government Designed and Run for All the People.
11. Do Not Harm a Person of Good Will.
12. Safeguard and Improve Your Environment.
13. Do Not Steal.
14. Be Worthy of Trust.
15. Fulfill Your Obligations.
16. Be Industrious.
17. Be Competent.
18. Respect the Religious Beliefs of Others.
19. Try Not to Do Things to Others That You Would Not Like Them to Do to You.
20. Try to Treat Others As You Would Want Them to Treat You.
21. Flourish and Prosper.

The code, of course, was not created in a vacuum. From the early years of the church, Hubbard had thought deeply about ethical ideas and thus he created what he saw as a rational ethical system that builds on humanity's struggle to survive. Hubbard defined ethics as "reason and the contemplation of optimum survival." He taught that "Dishonest conduct is non-survival. Anything is unreasonable or evil which brings about the destruction of individuals, groups, or inhibits the future of the race." Hubbard called good those actions that promoted survival across the eight dynamics or realms of action. Good actions are constructive, and their opposite destructive. Reminiscent of John Stuart Mill's utilitarian approach, Hubbard taught that actions which aid the greatest number while harming the fewest are morally good.

Within Scientology, there is a high demand for ethical action, given the belief that both personal and collective survival depend upon it. Human beings daily encounter often ambiguous situations that sometimes pose a risk. The individual can learn to judge each situation relative to his or her power to produce survival-oriented results. Through time, it is believed, it is possible to improve any condition, and Scientology's ethical system proposes a set of steps or formulas that, if followed, will lead to improved conditions and life circumstances. To assist in dealing with ethical issues, each church has an Ethics Officer assigned to teach church members how to apply a Scientology ethic to their own situation.

Scientology's ethical principles have conflicted with more traditional systems at the point where Hubbard confronted the reality of unethical action, the existence of which demands some sense of justice, the righting of wrong or destructive actions. Hubbard concluded that justice exists to protect society, to shield individuals, social structures, and society in general from the destructive actions of antisocial behavior. In this spirit, Scientology developed an internal justice system to deal with unethical actions by church members. Integral to the system is the belief that punishment is self-defeating since it merely leads the individual to more antisocial behavior. Within Scientology, people involved in destructive behavior are guided first in making restitution to those harmed by their actions and then to take such additional actions as seem necessary to change their present condition. Church officials charged with handling counter-survival situations ideally seek to determine what has occurred and then to arrive at a solution that is beneficial to all concerned.

The most serious situations concern church members who are deemed to be committing ongoing destructive actions against the church itself. In the most severe cases, where those found guilty of such actions refuse either to reform or make restitution, expulsion from the church may be the only remedy. Scientology's harshest critics are former church members who have left over ethical issues, either those expelled by the church for what were deemed unethical actions, or those who left the church and subsequently have accused church leadership of significant ethical failures.


Study Questions:
     1.     What are a few of the guides listed within The Way to Happiness? What will followers gain if they adhere to these guidelines?
     2.     How are actions to be judged? What makes an action ethical?
     3.     How is justice regulated within Scientology churches?

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