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Scientology Is Not a Religion

Germany treats L. Ron Hubbard’s movement as a cult and a threat to democracy. The U.S. should follow its example.

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A woman holds a sign that reads “Brainwashing, No thank you!” in front of the Scientology Church and center on its official opening day Jan. 13, 2007, in Berlin. (Sean Gallup/Getty Images)

“In the 1930s it was the Jews. Today it is the Scientologists.” So read a full-page open letter, published in the International Herald Tribune on Jan. 9, 1997, to then-German Chancellor Helmut Kohl. Signed by 34 prominent figures in the entertainment industry—none of them Scientologists and many of them Jews—the letter went on to accuse the German government of “repeating the deplorable tactics” of Nazi Germany against the self-proclaimed religion started in 1952 by science-fiction author L. Ron Hubbard.

This initiative, endorsed by the likes of Goldie Hawn, Larry King, Dustin Hoffman, and Oliver Stone, was orchestrated not by the Church of Scientology but by Bertram Fields, lawyer to the sect’s most famous member, Tom Cruise. Yet it conformed to the Church’s campaign, started several years earlier, to brand modern Germany as akin to the Third Reich. A Scientology-sponsored ad that ran on Sept. 29, 1994, in the Washington Post, for instance, declared that 50 years after the Holocaust “neo-Nazi extremism is on the march in a reunited Germany.” In 1996, a Scientology advertisement in the New York Times stated, “You may wonder why German officials discriminate against Scientologists. There is no legitimate reason but then there was none that justified the persecution of the Jewish people either.”

By likening the German government’s treatment of Scientologists to Nazi barbarism, the Church of Scientology didn’t just draw a vulgar comparison: It turned the country’s official anti-Scientology posture on its head. Since the Church established itself here in 1970, the German government has waged a long-running legal and political battle against it. The government makes its logic plain: Because of its history of Nazism, Germany believes it has an obligation to root out extremists, and not just those of a political flavor. In the eyes of most Germans, Scientology is nothing more than a cult with authoritarian designs on the country’s hard-won pluralistic democracy.

While several governments around the world have set up commissions to study Scientology in order to determine whether it qualifies as a religion, Germany broke new ground when, in 1992, the city of Hamburg set up a “Scientology Task Force” to monitor the group, assist members who have left the Church and are thus cut off from their families, and discourage citizens from joining it in the first place. (That office, which maintained a vast and extensive archive of official Scientology documents, many of them classified by the Church, was closed due to government budget cuts in 2010.)

The former head of the Task Force, Ursula Caberta, has labeled Cruise “an enemy of [the German] constitution” and has not so subtly likened the Church to the Third Reich, calling it a “totalitarian organization that seeks to control everybody else, a dictatorship.” Hers is a view that an overwhelming number of Germans seem to share: A 2007 poll found that 74 percent favor banning Scientology. The German equivalent of the FBI, the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution (the Bundesamt für Verfassungshutz, or BfV), has been monitoring Scientology since 1997. On the BfV’s homepage, Scientology is listed alongside “Right-wing extremism,” “Islamism,” and “Espionage” as one of its focus areas. (The Hamburg government has even printed pamphlets warning about the dangers of Scientology in Turkish for the country’s sizable Turkish minority.)

Contrast this response to the attitude toward Scientology in the United States, where the Church, though largely seen as a celebrity curiosity, is a tax-exempt, legally recognized religious faith. When Katie Holmes filed for divorce from Tom Cruise two weeks ago, dozens of photographers were dispatched to stake out her exclusive Chelsea apartment building; lawyers took to the airwaves predicting the details of their settlement; and tabloids asked what would happen to Suri, the couple’s 6-year-old daughter. Hovering only in the background has been the Church of Scientology, whose role in the breakup remains as opaque as the SUV-driving stalkers shadowing Holmes in Manhattan.

Meanwhile, in Germany, it is Scientology that has dominated the headlines. “Life in the Tom-Cruise-Cult: A Berlin mother and her son report how they fell into the clutches of the dangerous organization,” shouted a recent front page of B.Z., a popular tabloid in the country’s capital. The German press has portrayed the Church, uniformly, as an evil sect that threatens not only individual Germans but the very basis of the country’s cherished postwar democracy. “The ideology of the organization is completely directly against our liberal-democratic constitutional order,” Caberta, the former head of Hamburg’s Scientology Task Force, told the newspaper. “Members are oppressed, exploited, and psychologically broken.”

On the surface, the German reaction might seem overwrought and apocalyptic. The same BfV report that labels Scientology anti-democratic, for instance, estimated that the group has only about 4,000 to 5,000 members in Germany—far fewer than the 30,000 the Church claims. And a handful of sober German critics allege that their country’s attitude to Scientology resembles a societal panic akin to the McCarthyism of the 1950s. (German commentator Joseph Joffe wrote at the height of the Scientology controversy in 1997 that no Scientologist “has ever been seen training in Germany’s dark forests with an AK-47 in hand.”)

True enough. Yet while Scientology may not represent a clear and present danger to the Federal Republic, its ideology is an authoritarian one, as the writings of its founder and its behavior toward critics and members attest. What might at first appear to be an overreaction—a symptom, perhaps, of the Germans’ tendency to take things too seriously, or of their longing for social ordnung—is an approach the United States should seek to emulate.


The broad contours of Scientology’s inception are well-known: In 1950, the pulp sci-fi writer L. Ron Hubbard published a self-help book called Dianetics: The Modern Science of Mental Health, which humbly claimed itself to be “a milestone for Man comparable to his discovery of fire and superior to his inventions of the wheel and the arch.” The book, described by the American Psychological Association as “as hodge-podge of accepted therapeutic techniques with new names,” was filled with astounding claims, like Hubbard’s discovery of something he called “the reactive mind” and that the average American woman attempted abortion 20-30 times in her life. Dianetics was a huge success, selling over half a million copies by the end of the year.

In 1952, Hubbard decided to merge his bunk scientific claims with his science fiction and market the mixture as a religion. He called it Scientology, or, “the science of knowing how to know answers.” According to Church defectors, and now infamous thanks to South Park, Scientology’s theology is essentially a discarded Hubbard novel. Human beings are the composition of spirits (“thetans”) cast off from the bodies of space aliens detonated 75 million years ago in volcanoes on the planet Teegeeack (also known as Earth) by a galactic warrior named Xenu. Man’s problems today are attributable to “engrams,” or the mental memory of painful experiences caused by the presence of thetans on our humanly bodies, which one can get rid of only through a process of spiritual “auditing,” a sort of counseling session performed on a low-rent lie-detector machine called an “E-Meter.” Those who join Scientology often end up spending vast sums on auditing and other Church gimmicks, leading detractors to characterize Scientology as a pyramid scheme in which members pay ever-vaster sums of money to ascend the Church’s “Operating Thetan levels.” A typical story involves the grief-stricken, 73-year-old widow who took on a $45,000 mortgage to pay for auditing after Scientologists preyed upon her following the death of her husband.

A 1972 directive from Hubbard titled “Governing policy,” cited by the German government in its position against the Church, clearly characterizes Scientology as a commercial enterprise. “MAKE MONEY. MAKE MONEY. MAKE MORE MONEY. MAKE OTHER PEOPLE PRODUCE SO AS TO MAKE MONEY,” Hubbard wrote. In 1967, the IRS revoked the Church’s tax-exempt status, a decision reasserted by each and every American court to which the Church brought challenges over a subsequent 25-year-period. A 1984 U.S. Tax Court ruling, for instance, found that the Church “made a business out of selling religion” and that Hubbard and his family had diverted millions of dollars to their personal accounts. The Los Angeles Superior Court, meanwhile, deemed Hubbard “a pathological liar” driven by “egotism, greed, avarice, lust for power and vindictiveness and aggressiveness against persons perceived by him to be disloyal or hostile.”

Desperate for legitimacy, in 1973 Scientology launched Operation Snow White—a covert operation aimed at infiltrating governments. Scientology agents broke into IRS headquarters, bugged its offices, and dispatched private investigators to spy on individual agents—all in hopes of blackmailing officials. All this was permitted under Scientology’s “Fair Game” doctrine, which, according to Hubbard, demands that Church critics “be deprived of property or injured by any means by any Scientologist without any discipline of the Scientologist. May be tricked, sued or lied to or destroyed.” The plot was uncovered in 1977, and Hubbard’s wife and 10 other Church officials were sentenced to jail. Hubbard was named an unindicted co-conspirator.

But in 1993, Scientology finally did achieve tax-exempt status from the IRS—a massive victory in the Church’s quest for mainstream acceptance. It did so, according to the New York Times, only “after an extraordinary campaign orchestrated by Scientology against the agency and people who work there” that included the hiring of “private investigators to dig into the private lives of I.R.S. officials and to conduct surveillance operations to uncover potential vulnerabilities.” Scientology even set up a front group, the National Coalition of IRS Whistle-blowers, to battle the agency. As if to emphasize the capriciousness of the IRS’s decision, just a year before the agency’s reversal, a decision by the U.S. Claims Court rejected Scientology’s case for tax-exemption, citing “the commercial character of much of Scientology,” its virtually incomprehensible financial procedures” and its “scripturally based hostility to taxation.”

Now that the U.S. government recognized Scientology as a religious faith, the Church could claim that the policies of foreign governments amount to religious discrimination. Four months after the IRS decision, the U.S. State Department released its 1994 annual human rights report, which included a paragraph critical of the German government’s measures against Scientology—the first of what would become many such complaints.

While Washington ended its official skepticism of Scientology, European governments grew harsher in their actions against the Church. France, Spain, and Italy raided Scientology centers throughout the 1980s. In 1997, a Greek judge ordered a Scientology center in Athens shut down for “medical, social and ethical practices that are dangerous and harmful,” and an Italian judge ordered 29 Scientologists to jail in 1997 for “criminal association.”

But in no country has Scientology captured the public imagination—and served as the hotbed for international controversy—more than in Germany. In the summer of 1996, the youth wing of the Christian Democratic Union (then and now Germany’s ruling conservative party) called for a boycott of Mission Impossible. At around the same time, stories began appearing in the American press airing allegations from German Scientologists that their children were being barred from certain kindergartens. A state-owned bank shut down accounts belonging to members of the Church, and the provincial government in conservative, Catholic Bavaria announced that it would require applicants for public-sector jobs to declare any connections they might have to the Church. By the middle of the decade, what Frank Rich referred to as “the great American religious saga of the 1990’s” erupted on the other side of the Atlantic, with both sides accusing the other of acting like Nazis.


Some German government actions against Scientology have been so earnest that it’s easy for skeptics to mock them as overcompensation for the country’s fascist past. In 2009, for instance, Berlin’s Charlottenberg-Wilmersdorf district government erected a giant poster of a stop sign outside the Church’s headquarters to “express its opposition to the activities of the Scientology sect in this district.” But judging by the writings and political sympathies of its founder, the allegation that Scientology is an authoritarian movement cannot be so easily dismissed.

In his 1951 book, the Science of Survival, Hubbard devised a system of “tones” to measure human emotions. “The sudden and abrupt deletion of all individuals occupying the lower bands of the tone scale from the social order would result in an almost instant rise in the cultural tone and would interrupt the dwindling spiral into which any society may have entered,” Hubbard wrote. “It is not necessary to produce a world of clears [the Scientology term for enlightened person] in order to have a reasonable and worthwhile social order; it is only necessary to delete those individuals who range from 2.0 down, either by processing them enough to get their tone level above the 2.0 line or simply quarantining them from the society.” Promulgating less-mangled formulations of this idea is banned in Germany and other European countries.

Hubbard was a supporter of the Greek military junta (calling the regime’s constitution “the most brilliant tradition of Greek democracy”) and South African apartheid (“not a police state”). The forced relocation of blacks to rural townships, Hubbard wrote in a letter to then-Prime Minister Henrik Verwoerd, was “the most impressive and adequate resettlement activity in existence.” Hubbard suggested that his e-meters be used to interrogate anti-apartheid activists.

In 1966—in one of the strangest episodes in a very strange life—Hubbard spent some three months in Rhodesia, now Zimbabwe, in an attempt to ingratiate himself with the white minority government’s Prime Minister Ian Smith, who had just unilaterally declared Rhodesia’s independence from the United Kingdom. Hubbard, who believed he had been Cecil Rhodes in a past life, strode around the country sporting the same style hat worn by the great imperialist and tried to present Smith with a new constitution he had written for the country. On its website describing the “worldview” of Scientology, the Baden-Württemberg branch of the BfV cites Hubbard’s use of the racist British expression “wog” to describe non-Scientologists, “a term thrown around liberally among Church staff,” according to Janet Reitman, author of the acclaimed new book Inside Scientology. The Church’s claim that psychiatrists were responsible for the Holocaust—an argument it brought to Germany with an outdoor traveling exhibit in the 1990s—is also something that rankles Germans, not to mention German Jews.

Ironically, the German government bases much of the strict policy toward Scientology upon rulings by U.S. courts. One of the three major U.S. legal findings that the German government cites in a long and detailed explanation of its policy is a 1994 California case, which stated that the Church’s activities took place in a “coercive environment.” The German government also cites a 1997 Illinois Supreme Court ruling regarding allegations that the Church’s vindictive and cynical legal strategy against the Cult Awareness Network, whereby it sued the organization—a support group for cult members and their families—into bankruptcy, assumed its name, and then operated it as a Scientology front. “Such a sustained onslaught of litigation can hardly be deemed ‘ordinary,’ if [the Network] can prove that the actions were brought without probable cause and with malice,” the court found.

Though the Church has won successive attempts by the German government, at both the federal and provincial level, to ban it outright, it still exists in nebulous legal territory, permitted to operate but not recognized as a religion or a nonprofit organization. (Germany isn’t stingy in its designation of tax-exempt status; according to the government, some 10,000 groups are tax-exempt, including the Mormon Church and Jehovah’s Witnesses.) The German government cites a history of court rulings claiming that the Church is in fact a commercial enterprise: For instance, a 1995 decision found that the Church is “masquerading as a religion in order to make a profit.” But the government goes further than the courts in arguing that Scientology represents a unique threat to German society. This is a view that cuts across partisan lines as the leading political parties—the Christian Democratic Union, its Bavarian sister Conservative Social Union, the Social Democrats, and the liberal Free Democrats—all ban Scientologists from membership. According to a 2010 report by the BfV, Scientology “rejects the democratic system; its long-term goal is a social order in which it is the sole authority.”

In 2007, Tom Cruise hoped to shoot the film Valkyrie, a docudrama about German officers’ plot to kill Hitler in which the Scientology star played ringleader Col. Claus Schenk von Stauffenberg, in Germany. When German military officials attempted to prevent filming in the building where the plotters were eventually executed, all the hoary old arguments likening contemporary Germany to Nazism came back to the fore. But many Germans saw Cruise’s assuming the role of the German hero as galling. Berthold Graf von Stauffenberg, the colonel’s eldest son and himself a former general in the West German army, voiced widespread German feeling when he said, “The fact that an avowed Scientologist like Cruise is supposed to play the victim of a totalitarian regime is purely sick.” (The German government, in a surprising turn-around, later agreed to let Cruise film inside the Defense Ministry.)


Around the world, a handful of politicians have urged their governments to prosecute Scientology as a criminal conspiracy. Three years ago, a Paris court found the Church guilty of fraud and fined it $900,000. That same year, a member of the Australian Senate, Nick Xenophon, delivered a speech in which he described Scientology as “criminal organization that hides behind its so-called religious beliefs.” After calling for an investigation into the Church’s tax-exempt status during a television interview, he began to receive letters from ex-Scientologists across Australia detailing what he described as “a worldwide pattern of abuse and criminality,” including torture, forced confinement, and coerced abortions. (Xenophon’s call for a parliamentary inquiry into the Church was ultimately rejected by the Australian government.) In 2007, following a 10-year investigation, a Belgian prosecutor called for the Church to be labeled a criminal organization and recommended that up to 12 Church officials face charges for the illegal practice of medicine, violation of privacy, and use of illegal contracts. The State Department criticized the move, stating that the United States would “oppose any effort to stigmatize an entire group based solely upon religious beliefs and would be concerned over infringement of any individual’s rights because of religious affiliation.”

But it was not long ago that the U.S. government came close to cracking down on Scientology. In a New Yorker profile last year of Paul Haggis, the Academy Award-winning director of Crash who recently defected from the Church, Lawrence Wright reported that the FBI was investigating Scientology on charges of human trafficking. According to Tony Ortega, the editor of the Village Voice who has long written about the Church, the bureau was preparing to raid Scientology’s California international headquarters—using footage it had shot with drone aircraft—based upon evidence that a defector had given them about “an office-prison made up of two double-wide trailers where fallen officials were kept day and night, sleeping on the floor and being forced to take part in mass confessions.” The probe was ultimately called off for unknown reasons.

But a series of high-level defections over the past several decades demonstrates just how dangerous the Church has become. This month, Tanja Castle, the former executive secretary to Church leader David Miscavige, told the story of how, in 2004, she had to physically flee the Church’s California headquarters, jumping over a razor-wire fence. She had been forced by Church leaders to “disconnect” from her husband, who had been accused of financial misconduct. “We were first discouraged, and then not allowed to communicate with each other, or see each other, or be a married couple,” she told an ABC affiliate in California.

Earlier this year, a former Scientology executive named Debbie Cook told a Texas court that, in the summer of 2007, she had been held in a prison-like compound called “The Hole,” with 100 other Church members. According to the Tampa Bay Times, which covered the case, “They spent their nights in sleeping bags on ant-infested floors, ate a soupy ‘slop’ of reheated leftovers and screamed at each other in confessionals that often turned violent.” Cook further “described a 12-hour ordeal at the California base where she was made to stand in a trash can while fellow executives poured water over her, screamed at her and said she was a lesbian.”


For obvious reasons—beginning with the Constitution, and the fact the United States was founded by Europeans fleeing religious persecution—most Americans are loath to do anything that would appear to infringe upon someone else’s religious liberty. Though some of us may find each other’s religious convictions, or religion itself, strange, few believe that it should be the government’s role to tell other people how, if at all, to pray. And so while the consensus in the United States may be that Scientology is a bit nutty, the general attitude, owing to Americans’ dedication to individual liberty, seems to be: live and let live. The problem with Scientology is that it is not content to let other people “let live,” certainly not those who join the Church or criticize it from the outside.

The differences in historical traditions of American individualism and European communalism should not be used to discourage a tougher American approach to dealing with the Church of Scientology. Revoking its ill-gotten tax-exempt status is the obvious first start, followed by an end to criticism of foreign governments, such as Germany’s, for doing precisely what the U.S. government should be doing: investigating Scientology as a harmful enterprise, with the ultimate aim of shutting it down. Congress should establish a commission, as have many other governments, to investigate the Church and its activities and actively warn citizens about its dangers. Such policies should be seen as no different from a public-health measure, like long-existing, widely popular government campaigns to discourage smoking.

Nearly 50 years ago, the Australian state of Victoria launched just such an investigation into Scientology. “There are some features of Scientology which are so ludicrous that there may be a tendency to regard Scientology as silly and its practitioners as harmless cranks,” the Board of Inquiry into Scientology found. But the activities of the Church were no laughing matter. “Scientology is evil; its techniques evil; its practice a serious threat to the community, medically, morally and socially; and its adherents sadly deluded and often mentally ill.” The Church was gradually shut down in several provinces but fought back hard, winning nationwide legal recognition in 1983.

Scientology isn’t just about space aliens and brainwashed actors jumping on couches. The relative handful of high-profile adherents obscures its many everyday victims, people whose lives and families have been destroyed by this cult. It may not be the role of a government in a free society to prevent its citizens from making unwise decisions. But surely it should take reasonable measures to prevent the unscrupulous and deceitful from brainwashing and abusing people. As Katie Holmes can no doubt attest, it’s long past time Americans stopped joking about Scientology and started treating it like the Germans do.


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MarkStark says:

What a pleasure to read such an informed and thorough article about Scientology in relation to their status in Germany.

In May, 2011, the Simon Wiesenthal Center presented Tom Cruise with its highest Humanitarian Award, for his support (financial) of their center. For some of us who are familiar with both the totalitarian nature of Scientology, and the history of the Holocaust, this was appalling. Cruise is obviously supporting the Wiesenthal Center, on behalf of Scientology, so that this space cult can portray themselves as innocent, misunderstood victims. Anytime a former member speaks out about being abused, the cult will try to silence them by calling them liars, or even psychotic, as they did with Marty Rathbun, a former top executive in the cult. Cruise is a high school dropout. His knowledge and understanding of the Holocaust is limited to movie scripts.

David Miscavige, the current leader of Scientology, beats his staff and his wife Shelly has not been seen for over 5 years. He “disappeared” her. He is that powerful.

Scientologists want to say they are very sensitive to “religious persecution” although Hubbard claimed it wasn’t even a religion, but that it was a science. He began what he called “the religion angle” just to avoid medical associations and later taxes.So, now they’re playing the “religious persecution” angle to the hilt.

Thank you for quoting judges. Hubbard was a pathological liar. Just because Tom Cruise is brainwashed and influential, that does not change documented facts. Anderson’s movie THE MASTER, which portrays the essence of Scientology with startling accuracy, is going to change the public’s attitude about this cult. Too many people assume Tom Cruise is a great guy, so whatever he believes and does must be fine also. It simply isn’t true. Anyone who watches Tom Cruise’s famous video, understands that he is deluded beyond what one can hardly believe is possible.

    brynababy says:

    I’m glad you told us about his donations to SW Center, which is the home of the Museum of Tolerance. I am not going to renew my membership therefore and my refusal will be accompanied by a note explaining why. We have just been victims of a terrible scam, losing almost $100,000, by a few loyal members of Scientology.

    Andy Howell says:

    When is The Master out? Very interested to see how well that goes down. I for one will be watching.

Here in Canada, Scientology is classified as a para-Religion and is right below Satanism on the alphabetical list. In the last census there were 1,525 Scientologists. There are almost certainly fewer now.

I like the way Stephen Kent of the University of Alberta classifies them. He calls them a multinational with a small religious component.

I was a member for about two years beginning in 1970. Back then, I noticed that there was a disproportionate number of Jews in my local organization. I had to guess that Jews, being on the edge of mainstream religion in Canada, had less trouble going to another group on the edge than a Christian might. Even the president of the local organization was Jewish.

Hubbard stated repeatedly and in writing that Scientology was not a religion. He wrote a personal letter, now in FBI files, referring to the “religion angle” and how it would work in court. He said that the religious aspect was a matter for the accountants and the lawyers. Sadly, another Jew, one Fred Goldberg of the IRS saw it differently. Under tremendous pressure from Scientology lawsuits, he gave them religious status in the eyes of the tax office. The previous decision by the American Supreme Court, however, said that they were not a religion.

People call it religious cloaking.

Yeppir says:

Thank you very much for a comprehensive, well-written article. Now if only more people would see and understand this cult the way this author does – and the German people do – then perhaps we would be well on our way to clearing the planet of scientology’s evil and totalitarian influence and stopping the harm it causes its adherents. And thank you Mark Stark for a insightful comment.

Marilyn Krone says:

We should revoke it’s tax free status. Scientology is a cult. Just
because they are a minority that “cries out” should we call it a
religion? Does the squeaky wheel always get oiled? My ancestors came
over in 1609 from religious persecution. Americans say freedom of and
for but it is also from religious persecution. Isn’t this what my
ancestors ran from?

We have to wake up and stop our over reaching PC politeness or we will
have religious zealots or cult activists be running our lives. Where do
we run to next?

iwikler says:

If the author of this Article thinks Scientology is a cult, does he also think that Mormonism is a cult? What’s the difference between a “cult” and a belief sysyem (i.e., an accepted religion? Is it the number of members the alleged cult has?) If so, what is the tipping point? I’ve heard rabbis say that Christianitry is just a “cult” of Judaism and that Islam is not a legitimate religion of the “children of Abraham” (Jews and Christians).
Tom Cruise can believe and think whatever he wants. He can jump up and down on Oprah’s couch. That doesn’t make him a cult follower or a Neo-Nazi. On the other hand, laws in Western European countries prohibiting the religious (and scientifically-provern benefits of) practice of circumcision do make worry about religious intolerance and discrimination against those groups that have observed that ritual for thousands of years.

    MarkStark says:

    There’s a hundred interesting and unique issues having to do with Scientology, and whether they are a cult or not, is just not that interesting. However, books and articles have been written on what constitutes a cult, and Scientology fits their definitions perfectly. Control, believing they are elite and the “only ones,” destined to rule the entire “sector of the galaxy,” and attacking and even attempting to destroy those people who are critical of them.

    Read about what happened to writer Paulette Cooper and then get back to us whether it’s all that important what they are called. Critics usually think of them as a cult instead of a religion, because Hubbard himself said they were not a religion. Historically, they took on only the disguise of a religion, the trapping of a religion to deceive and fool people. Are you fooled?

    Scientologists are nearly as nutty as Heaven’s Gate, whose male members cult off their testicles, as they awaited the mothership Applewhite promised them. In fact, Scientology is even more convoluted, contradictory and goofy than that. Religious scholars can’t even touch their secret comic book crazy, because it defies analysis. They don’t have a theology. Hubbard made up stuff as he went along, and a lot of it is either borrowed (like from Freud) or just crazy BS.

      Dick Stanley says:

      “Hubbard made up stuff as he went along, and a lot of it is either borrowed (like from Freud) or just crazy BS.”

      Similar to, uh, Mohammed, and his obvious borrowings from Judaism? In addition to the crazy stuff, like marrying children, worshiping meteorites, and flying horses to heaven?

      Thanks for the good article.

Don’t even try to compare scientology to other religions. Aside from their beliefs, there is crime, isolation and ongoing abuse. I’m so sick of people writting comments like “well no different than other religions. BS. if I don’t go to church, nobody is stalking me. If I don’t make a donation, i’m not in debt to them. Nobody forces me to distance from my loved ones. It’s not the same and it’s not a religion. I wish the feds in the US would finally see the light, but even if they do, once a president (Clinton) endorses it, what can they do about it? Clearly Obama, doesn’t want to touch this with a 10ft pole, but that’s really heartbreaking and it is a threat to our democrocy. All this info, from various countries, stories of hell and nobody has the balls to stand up to Miscavige and shut this cult down. This was a great article, I wish it would’ve touched on the other avenues of their expansion and more abuse and death like Narconon. Clinton paved their way to get bigger and continue to function. How does that not conflict with our constitution??? How can a president take warmth to a group who caps freedom of speech and expression. How can the current powers to be, allow forced abortions and abuse of children who are the future. It is dispicable that this continues to go on when so many have suffered across the GLOBE. United nations, can they do something?

I’m not a follower of Scientology… actually I’m a follower of South Park… but I just don’t understand how Germany can deny it the status of a religion when they don’t do the same to Islam.

    avalpert says:

    I don’t follow the comparison – how is Islam less a religion than Christianity or Judaism?

      Never seen an excerpt of Scientology demanding the death of Jews… not in the future… not waiting for an event… but really asking it’s people to kill other philosophies if it is prudent.

      “The Day of Judgement will not come about until Muslims fight the Jews , when the Jew will hide behind stones and trees. The stones and trees will say O Muslims, O Abdullah, there is a Jew behind me, come and kill him. Only the Gharkad tree, (a certain kind of tree) would not do that because it is one of the trees of the Jews.” (related by al-Bukhari and Muslim).Sahih Muslim, 41:6985, see also Sahih Muslim, 41:6981, Sahih Muslim, 41:6982, Sahih Muslim, 41:6983, Sahih Muslim, 41:6984, Sahih al-Bukhari, 4:56:791,(Sahih al-Bukhari, 4:52:177)

      If Islam is a religion then so is throwing a virgin in a Volcano like Aztecs.

        avalpert says:

        Fine, but when Christians demanded that we convert or they would kill us was it not still a religion? Just because some religious activities ought to be forbidden in a secular society, even one with Freedom of Religion, doesn’t make the ideology behind those activities any less of a religion.

        Offer me a definition of religion that would include Christianity and Judaism but exclude Islam and we can discuss it – otherwise, your non-sequitur between the cult of Scientology and Islam’s theological issues is out of place.

          the recent SMART case proves my point. Islam is now trying to prove it is political. They know it. It doesn’t want to be a religion. It’s more

          avalpert says:

          How does that prove your point? When Evangelical Christians engage in politics does that make them not a religion? Does AIPAC mean Judaism is no longer a religion?

          you are comparing unlike things. in fact the founding fathers were very aware of the issue you are dealing with. It’s why the constitution allows religion to influence state and not the state to influence religion. Islam is not a religion to begin with. It doesn’t even want to be… as we can see by what is going on in Detroit with SMART.

          avalpert says:

          Why don’t you give me your definition of religion – because frankly, saying it doesn’t want to be a religion despite having 1400 years of theological belief revolving around a supernatural God would revolutionize our understanding of what a religion is.

          perhaps you should ask Thomas Jefferson what he thinks of Islam. I believe he was who created the distinctions.

          avalpert says:

          So, you agree that Islam is a religion then? Because all these sources you have just offered treat Islam as if it is a religion.

          Rather than cite an Atheists’ article where he call Islam a religion and quotes a Deist who lists it among a list of religions, wouldn’t your argument be better served by offering a definition of religion that actually excludes Islam?

          All you have done so far is show that you, and others, dislike Islam, but you have done nothing to show it isn’t a religion.

          Where did you see Adams saying Islam was a religion and even if they felt it was (which they don’t) why would you accept the limited terminology of the era when it is very obvious that these men are saying it is a danger to the Republic? The point is that these men noted that this was not acceptable. These men defined what religion was in the United States and they clarified their contempt for an ideology that is genocide. Further you are way off subject. We are talking about Europe where it is deemed acceptable to ban Scientology and not Islam.

          avalpert says:

          The part where he defines in relation to their view of who is a prophet of God – a primary defining factor of a religion. And I am not accepting their limited terminology – I am accepting based on all modern definition of what religion is from both an Academic and Theological perspective. And yes, they did feel it was a religion as evidenced by the quote from Jefferson in the article YOU provided as evidence – you know the one, where he listed it among the religions that Virginia wanted to protect the freedom of.

          And how am I off subject – you are the ones who brought up the founders, not me. I am just responding to your assertions – which as of yet include no definition of religion itself. You are clearly not interested in a logical discussion since have provided no logical basis for your assertion. Islam meets the criteria of every formal definition of Religion I have ever seen – advocating the murder of those who don’t believe in your religion is right in line with the history of other religions and doesn’t violate any aspect of any definition of such I have seen.

          So I’ll ask again, to give you one more shot at showing yourself to be a rational, intelligent man instead of a ranting ignoramus, what definition of religion would you use which excludes Islam but includes Christianity?

          “what definition of religion would you use which excludes Islam but includes Christianity?”

          the one that Islam defines for itself.

          avalpert says:

          And you think that is what exactly?

          the same opinion as the NYTimes article on Jefferson before the NYTimes scrubbed their website

          avalpert says:

          Well, since I have no idea what article you are talking about nor a time machine to go back to before it was ‘scrubbed’ why don’t you just say it…

          John Quincy Adams: The precept of the Koran is perpetual war against all who deny that Mohamed is the prophet of God. The vanquished may purchase their lives, by the payment of tribute; the victorious may be appeased by a false and delusive promise of peace; and the faithful follower of the prophet may submit to the imperious necessities of defeat: but the command to propagate the Muslim creed by the sword is always obligatory, when it can be made effective. The commands of the prophet may be performed alike, by fraud, or by force.

          What Jefferson really thought about Islam. – By Christopher Hitchens – Slate Magazine

Mr. Kirchik, you got it right. Years ago, out of curiosity, I attended a Scientology rally, and listened to their speakers. Not only are they a cult, but they have a definite goal to rule the world. A main difference between Scientology and Islamofascism is that so far no Scientologists are suicide bombers. Give them time.

The millions of dollars scientology is exempt from could greatly help other issues, important issues. I don’t care what you believe in, when a religion defaces or devalues human life, any exemptions should lost.

41953 says:

If Scientology is a cult, so are other fringe “religions,” and in this category I would include the Nation of Islam.
Be that as it may, as a civil libertarian, I do not support any government action against it.

    Then either you are not a civil libertarian or you just haven’t ever been exposed to scientologists in any number. They believe in a eugenics like approach to mental illness. They support quietly murdering people. They kidnap and imprison people. They usurp for themselves the priveleges of the exutive and judicial branches of our government. They encourage law enforcers to violate the seperation of powers in cities like Albuquerque where they have a foothold. Their teachings are antithetical to the Constitution. Their practices are tyrrany. In businesses where scientologists work, they gang up on fellow employees to punish them for completely uncontroversial free speech. I think you must be a scientology troll. Otherwise you wouldn’t even try to use libertarianism to defend a cult that will destroy libertarianism.Please stalk me. I want to put you in jail.

      41953 says:

      Why then have there been no prosecutions?

      What do you mean by calling me a “troll” and writing “Please stalk me. I want to put you in jail.” That makes you sound as crazy as the Scientologists.

        Hey, buddy, thanks for essentially being a bigot — at least in your comparison of Islam to Scientology. Your disrespect to Islam is astounding. Stay classy, jerk

MarkStark says:

One other respect in which Scientologists are absurdly off when comparing Germany’s treatment of Jews during WWII to the prejudice Scientologists face is on the concept of scapegoating. While Scientology officially scapegoats “the evil psychs” for all the ills of today’s world, dating back to Xenu, 75 million years ago (evil psychs assisted the tax collectors), no one really scapegoats Scientology for anything.

In other words, no one blames Scientology or Scientologists for anything that’s wrong in the world other than Scientology’s abusive behaviors and deceptive bait & switch advertising, within their own organization, deceptive front groups, and their attacking of people who write about them or criticize them. We want to inform people who unwittingly fall victim to their promises, of things like “having all the answers.” Not too long ago, Scientology tried to jail anyone that published anything about Xenu on the web! No Xenu for you, until you’ve paid your $300,000 into the scam. Hubbard, first class loon that he was, claimed a person could die of pneumonia if they found out about Xenu before they were ready. He lied.

Hubbard claimed “the evil psychs” are trying to control government and the world, and the only way to “salvage the planet” is for Scientology to take over the world first, and defeat them.

The problem facing the criminal organization of Scientology is loss of income, and members leaving, as more inside the organization wake up, and more people outside are informed of their secret beliefs and abusive, controlling practices. How is that issue comparable to what happened to Jews in WWII?

World leaders don’t meet with Tom Cruise, because they are looking to Scientology for answers to world problems, as Tom Cruise claims. Obviously, they meet with him because he’s a popular movie star, and they think it is cool to hang with him, or it will help their popularity and get attention for them.

I wish Scientology did have “all the answers” or even some of the answers. Unfortunately, it is smoke and mirrors, the placebo effect, and a lot of wishful thinking and deception.The quackery involved is atrocious. Just look up Hubbard’s claims for The Introspection Rundown, or his ideas about the Helatrobus Implant. The man was nuttier than a fruitcake.

Le_Dingue says:

This is how Scientology should be reported! Very well written, concise and well referenced.
The headline is the most important (yet blindingly obvious) truth that US authorities need to act upon:
Scientology is not a religion!

Human beings are the composition of spirits (“thetans”) cast off from the bodies of space aliens detonated 75 million years ago in volcanoes on the planet Teegeeack (also known as Earth) by a galactic warrior named Xenu.

That’s not a very informative sentence. Human beings are a composition? What’s a composition? Isn’t it a piece of writing or music?

And the aliens were detonated? Usually we say you detonate a bomb. You don’t say human beings were exploded. It’s odd.

    MarkStark says:

    The frozen aliens, flown here in “spaceplanes” that looked like DC-8s, were placed around volcanoes and then exploded with nuclear bombs. Boy, you’re picky, since this guy’s article was exceptionally well written and well researched. As for Hubbard’s lore, we are compositions of (or “composed” of, if you prefer) clusters of dead space alien souls, which cling to our thetan, and a “meat body” in there somewhere. When a Scientologist dies, they speak of him dropping his meat body, as his Thetan reports to an implant station on Mars for a new one.

      Thanks, Mark. Jimmy is a skilled writer. I am familiar with his work but that sentence was hard to understand. Your additional info helped but not entirely. It sounded like the thetans were the souls of the dead aliens not the souls of human beings on which those of the aliens are grafted – which is what you seem to be saying.

      This stuff is obviously made up by a science fiction writer. It’s hard to believe that modern people think it is literal truth. But the other religions have impossible stories as well and society at large thinks it’s normal for people to believe them.

      Other religions also have used the practice of ostracizing apostates and heretics. Spinoza is a famous example. And we’ve seen religious people harrassing that little girl recently in Jerusalem. My impression is that they are the traditional religious and most of us have simply left that era behind.

      So I can’t see how there is any reason to have Scientology banned. Or to say that the myths of any community are not a religion.

    Andy Howell says:

    I used to get a lot of Scientology guff in the mail for an ex resident. It’s all written like that.

Hershl says:

Scientology got its tax exempt church status in the US by threatening and intimidating the head of the IRS.

He resigned shortly after he gave this ruling which was 180 degrees opposite to what he and his colleagues had been saying for years.

Several high up officials in the IRS who were aware of this perversion of justice resigned in protest of his actions.

Congress promised to look into the matter but…..shock….later changed its mind.

This was all detailed in an expose in the NY Times which was published at the time.

I wrote to my congressperson and they promised to pursue it but it never happened.

When L. Ron Hubbard, the science fiction writer who dreamt up this business, was asked why he began the organization, he replied, ” I am selling the suckers a piece of blue sky.”

Scientology is a business, mafia-like enterprise, hiding behind the tax-exempt status of a religion.

It should not only be banned but its officials prosecuted for the innumerable crimes they have committed.

Crime is crime. When religeous freedom prevents crime from being punished, religeous freedom and it’s particular place in the American Constitution must be questioned. Scientology isn’t the only corrupt organization that takes advantage of tax exempt religeous status in the US. They have that in common with the church of jesus christ christian and the church of the creator as well as others mentioned in earlier comments. Belief is one thing. Behaviour is another. Any religeon who’s tennets are more restrictive than the constitution itself should not be protected. Any religeon that sets up it’s own courts, prisons, police or legislature and turns those tools against American Citizens is a hostile regime.

Andy Howell says:

Fascinating article James. It’s not a silly little celebrity eccentricity. It’s dangerous. End of story.

L.Ron Hubbard was a snake oil salesman. Even his son disowned him. I read the Holy Book of Scientology “Dianetics” in 1993 as one of my investigations into comparative
religion/belief. It is D grade sci-fi. Makes the Raelians and Urantians seem
reasonable. They prey on the ignorance and lack of self confidence of people
and get them into the cult. The senior management of scientology are experts at
working out how to rope extremely wealthy “stars” into their sect. People like : John Travolta; Tom Cruise etc. Even Australian billionaire businessman and heir James Packer flirted with them for a few years before he got out in 2008.

KeepOnLearning says:

The tone of this article, and the hate-mongers’ comments in the Discussion section, sadly prove every point of the 1997 exposé campaign of Kohl’s corrupt government:

– Toadying German media remain tools of a criminal government (witness Kohl’s personal shame when his criminality and slush funds were exposed).
– His exposure proves Scientologist’s long-term accusation: People who viciously attack Scientology are in some way criminal, or else they would not feel so compelled to fight against a clear and innocent force for good.
– Every day, hate-mongers (some paid, some just mentally obsessed) scour the Web for any chance to denigrate a religion whose parishioners staff inner-city literacy and math-learning centers, hand out anti-drug literature to schoolchildren, and fly to disasters to relieve victims’ suffering and the logistical burdens of first-responders (fire, police, EMTs).
– What are the names of all government officials so deeply in the wallets of drug and news corporations that they risk their public credibility by attacking an anti-drug religion?
– Why has not one major German newspaper or news site ever run the Scientologists’ views of life, family values, personal accountability, mutual help and lack of government dependency? You’d think the German government wanted to quash all those productive ideas so it could continue its new march toward nationalized socialism.
– Where is coverage of all the awards and thanks with which saner governments thank Scientologists for these public services? You won’t find them in German media because it is either too narrow-minded or too fully controlled. Enter Germany; exit honest reporting.
– There is a very clear “unholy trinity” at work in Germany:
(1) The German government wants to pretend it’s doing something useful when it’s actually failing on every meaningful front.
(2) German media, eager for news handouts and stories, prints what Papa says to print.
(3) Drug companies give government and media staff under-the-table bribes to continually attack–for 40 years–the only church that stands up for the rights of the hundreds of thousands of patients abused by psychiatric drugs and the psychiatric industry.
So if you believe the smut in the article–or the hateful vitriol in the Discussion section–you need to reassess your morality. You’d be on the same side as dope-dealers, criminal psychiatrists, the psych-med divisions of Big Pharma, and the enemies of the German Constitution.
Freedom of religion is protected in Germany.
At least for today.

    Argaman says:

    You are clearly a troll for Scientology, and it appears you haven’t even read the article. Try rereading it and questioning what the Scientology leaders tell you.

      KeepOnLearning says:

      More than I sigh at your willful ignorance, I am saddened by the appearance in this otherwise beneficial site of such a bigoted, one-sided, and poorly fact-checked article. Its only purpose is to incite ill will toward Scientologists and to engender discord among faiths.

      From your off-target remarks, you didn’t pay attention in those classes where others, at least, analyzed prose. The article exemplifies Germans’ dunderheadedness and their ease of being led lockstep down any path that a government and its media send them.
      You state that, in your mind, any defender of Scientology is a “troll.” You are the textbook example of thinking in generalities. Do you often phone into the Rush Limbaugh show praising your mentor’s trenchant perspicacity? (Read twice to ensure comprehension.)
      I weep for those who may try–though it would only be for a very short time–to have an intelligent conversation with you.

AriShavit says:

excellent article.

herbcaen says:

what really happened is that multitudes of people, already infected by mad cow disease, were subject to repeated broadcasts daily from the Pyongyang based BBC and the Tehran Guardian until their minds shut down and they turned into anti-Jewish robots. Soon the economy of England ceased to function as bands of zombies wandered the streets of London, where they gathered around synagogues carrying scythes and pitchforks, and screaming “Hitler was right” in Urdu

It appears that Scientology actively seeks out members of the Abrahamic religions for membership. I came across the results of the CoS survey a couple of years ago which indicated that half their US membership are practicing Christians. They have been assiduously wooing the Nation of Islam, and its leader Farrakhan has told his flock they should go to Clearwater to do scientology auditing. Kidman and Holmes both came from what appear to be deeply Catholic families.

Anyone who looks at all into the murky origins of Scientology (eg Hubbard’s occult activities in the 40’s) are left in no doubt of the anti-God stance of the CoS despite its protestations to the contrary. Their logo is a Christian cross, such as Christians use to recall the resurrected Jesus Christ.

Hubbard’s son said that Hubbard thought of himself as The Beast 666 from Revelation in the Bible. So attracting people into the CoS and then weaning them off any prior religion (as Cruise tried to do with both Kidman and Holmes) would in a small but significant way actively subvert God’s purposes. Jesus preached about the disproportionate influence of yeast and salt. Nowhere does one find a religion making more use of this principle than the Church of Scientology. Unfortunately it has an agenda which is totally contradictory to the Abrahamic religions.

Below is a section of the CoS ‘Tone Scale’. Here are the emotional states which Hubbard advocates destroying in ‘Science of Survival when he calls for ‘the sudden and abrupt deletion of all individuals occupying the lower bands…’. I note that he would annihilate anyone expressing sympathy…..2.0Antagonism1.9Hostility1.8Pain1.5Anger1.4Hate1.3Resentment1.2No sympathy1.15Unexpressed resentment1.1Covert hostility1.02Anxiety1.0Fear0.98Despair0.96Terror0.94Numb0.9Sympathy0.8Propitiation0.5Grief0.375Making amends0.3Undeserving0.2Self-abasement0.1Victim0.07Hopeless0.05Apathy0.03Useless0.01Dying0.0Body death- 0.01Failure- 0.1Pity- 0.2Shame- 0.7Accountable- 1.0Blame- 1.3Regret- 1.5Controlling bodies- 2.2Protecting bodies- 3.0Owning bodies- 3.5Approval from bodies- 4.0Needing bodies- 5.0Worshipping bodies- 6.0Sacrifice- 8.0Hiding-10.0Being objects-20.0Being nothing-30.0Can’t hide-40.0Total failure

Jerry Waxman says:

I don’t think Scientology is a threat to democracy in any country. But it is a dangerous cult, and this should be understood in Israel, where Scientology has had a presence for several years.

JustCallMeMary says:

I love it when when journalists do their homework on Scientology. Thank you so much for this excellent article. As a former long time member, I can confirm much of what you’ve written. A Totalitarian Movement, indeed!

Sadeh Adam says:

Hmm. They are probably right. Then again, Orthodox Judaism says that 2/3rds of the World Population will die in violence at the time of the Messiah…so I’m not really sure how that computes to a valid religion?

    avalpert says:

    Um, no it doesn’t. You seem to be confusing Judaism and some Christian denominations.

      Sadeh Adam says:

      I dunno? Is the Prophecy of the Book of Zecheriah not accepted by Orthodox Jews? Because 2/3rds of the World Population die, and the other 1/3 bow to Jerusalem. I think the exact words are something like their eyes will melt in their sockets, and toungues rot in their mouths.
      I’m not trying to be a jerk- for real- but that’s what the Prophecy is. And the Aleinu ends with a reference/passage from that book.
      I’m sure most Orthodox Jews in actual reality don’t hope for this. But still. It’s a really violent Messianic vision.
      Now- put that in real world context. We have the National religious in Israel becoming a demographic majority, and having an avowed Messianic theology. In a State with Nuclear Weapons.
      This is scary for a lot of people- for real.

        avalpert says:

        It is not generally understood as meaning a literal future war. View of the coming of the messiah in Orthodox Judaism is a complicated subject and there is no single understanding (as ‘Orthodox; Judaism itself isn’t really a single movement or denomination) but it is all very different from the Christian perspective.

        In the real world context, the national religious are nowhere near a demographic majority in Israel )the Ultra-Orthodox are <10% I believe) and have no notion of bringing the end of days through waging war – that just isn't part of the theology. The only people who are scared of that are those who are ignorant of the true beliefs of the people they are scared of.

rich james says:

Very good article. I don’t think the German government are over-reacting at all. I would like to see more countries protecting the vulnerable from this sort of group. Scientology is a cult, a very rich, well organized and powerful one but a cult nevertheless and one that should not be supported by tax free status when they exploit their followers so shamelessly and engage in illegal activities and the abuse of followers and harassment of opponents and ex-followers. I did an introductory ‘course’ at a centre years ago and was intrigued at first but the 2 guys who ran the centre were obviously only interested in making money out of gullible people, they wanted exorbitant amounts for their training and the centre was in a shabby, run down old building. I remember one young woman who was working for them for $50 a week and living in the building. I feel sorry for people who get caught up in it and waste 20 or 30 years of their life before the reality dawns on them that it’s just a cult.

Hasn’t this Scientology hack of an attorney died yet?

While it may be true that there are only an estimated 5000 to 10.000 Scientologists in Germany, it’s not the number that counts, but the ideas that they are trying to enforce: seek out and put aside other thinking individuals, put them in KZs (“RPFs”), or dispose of them (see original Hubbard instructions here, in engl.: All of Hubbard’s instructions are law or future world law. Hitler’s Mein Kampf had some 200.000 words which showed clearly his intentions, with deeds following later. Hubbard’s “scriptures” consist of 40 mill. (!) written and spoken words, all of them LAW, and his many behavioural designing techniques (The “Tech”) create human fighting machines. It’s 1933 all over (see Paulette Cooper, Auschwitz-survivor, who describes Scientology is the worst ever happening to her), but nobody is listening to any warnings. So Germany is right to observe this anti-human movement. But OPC-officials don’t understand the Scientology-Newspeak, so they can’t OBSERVE anti-human DEEDS (exception: Baden-Württemberg), with actual anti-democratic deeds happening right before their eyes. So they are giving up the observation very soon, also being pressured by the US-government because the data, that are accumulated in those 40 to 100 and more “confidential files” are a wealth of data for any kind of data-mining.
Right now, one of his products, Führer Miscavige, is apparently ruining Scientology, which is not true, since new Hubbard-clones (Rathbun, Rinder) are waiting to take over control, then showing off with a “human Scientology-Religion”. Then CIA and NSA (who took over Scientology a long time ago (Clinton-era, 1993) can data-mine friend and foe.
Scientology is not a religion but a potential political and social threat.


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Scientology Is Not a Religion

Germany treats L. Ron Hubbard’s movement as a cult and a threat to democracy. The U.S. should follow its example.