Laura A. asks: What exactly do Scientologists believe?
Oh boy, we can already tell that the comment section for this one is going to be a ton of fun, so let’s just get straight to it. The Church of Scientology has a reputation as an infamously secretive and litigious organisation that hides its inner workings far from the prying eyes of the public. As a result, we kind of expected piecing together the church’s beliefs and stance on certain social issues to be a difficult, unforgiving slog. As it turns out, this wasn’t, on the surface, the case and the church is surprisingly forthcoming about both, although some feel there’s a veneer of insincerity in much of their official writings given what often leaks about their leadership to the press. It should also be noted that, as ever with any religion, beyond controversy within the church about specific precepts in terms of the official view verses what is practiced, individuals themselves can also practice the faith in their own unique ways, so saying what exactly the church believes is even more nebulous. Those caveats out of the way, let’s dive into it, shall we? So what do Scientologists believe?
Fortunately for our research the Church of Scientology maintains a fairly strong online presence and has an official website answering common questions members of the public have about their religion and beliefs. According to these sources the church “has no set dogma concerning God” and in theory, is remarkably liberal in its approach to personal morality. How this works in practise is debatable and the reputation of the church’s sometimes alleged draconian rules and strictly hierarchical internal power structure precedes itself. Likewise, noteworthy individuals who’ve spent time with the church and since renounced the religion outright have spoken of how non-conformity is strictly punished.
That said, within Scientology there exists only a singular deity known as the Supreme Being, a nebulous figure of which there is no official description and the religion has no set idea of what constitutes the afterlife. In the words of the church itself: “Scientology seeks to bring one to a new level of spiritual awareness where one can reach his own conclusions concerning the nature of God and what lies beyond this present lifetime.”
To this end Scientology is a rarity amongst religions in that individual followers are free to worship other gods and even celebrate other religious holidays or observe the rules of another holy text if they so wish, not unlike the Ancient Romans who were widely accepting of other deities, even almost universally openly embracing them. So, for example, a Sikh Scientologist can continue to wear a turban or follow the Khlasa, a Muslim Scientologist can fast during Ramadan, a Christian Scientologist can celebrate Christmas and a Jewish Scientologist can continue to abstain from pork without it being deemed to interfere with the duties of being a Scientologist. In fact, Scientologists are specifically instructed to respect the religions of others with the Church’s own “Moral code” stating: “The way to happiness can become contentious when one fails to respect the religious beliefs of others.”
For this reason, the Church openly takes part in seasonal Christmas celebrations, going as far to sell seasonal Scientology related gifts to members of the church such as at one point selling a CD player they inexplicably peddled for $500 dollars because they call it a “Clearsound Listening System” instead of something like a Walkman.
Like other religions, there are important days Scientologists are encouraged to celebrate including March 13 (founder L. Ron Hubbard’s birthday), May 9 (the day L. Ron Hubbard’s book, “Dianetics: The Modern Science of Mental Health” was released in 1950) as well as the day the first Church of Scientology was founded in your country of residence. In addition, the church also celebrates New Years Eve on December 31st, encouraging members to use it as an occasion to reflect on personal achievements.
Now, contrary to popular opinion, Scientologists don’t worship a giant prehistoric alien called Xenu, although the Intergalactic Tormentor does seemingly play a crucial role in the Church. For anyone unfamiliar with the story of Xenu, here’s a cliff-notes version of the alleged story for your edification.
Many millions of years ago an intergalactic space dictator called Xenu killed billions of his own people by dropping them into the volcanoes of Earth and vaporising them with hydrogen bombs. The souls of these aliens survived, however, and were captured by Xenu who, for lack of a better term, brainwashed them all by forcing them to watch movies which implanted various pieces of false information such as imagery of Christ on the Cross as well as the creation stories of almost every other major world religion. Scientology posits then that the souls of these aliens, called Thetans in Scientology literature, live on and inhabit the bodies of all living things, causing both mental and physical anguish. It is the belief of Scientologists that humans can harness the legendary power of the Thetan soul inside of themselves to attain various superhuman abilities with the ultimate goal of most Scientologists being to reach the level of Operating Thetan. Upon reaching the level of Operating Thetan an individual is said to achieve a state close to godliness and, according to leaked documents will have abilities ranging from telekinesis to being able to just know when a hamburger is cooked perfectly.
All this said, the church has notably never publicly acknowledged the existence of Xenu. Further, official church documents do not claim that people will ever be given hamburger cooking superpowers and has in fact attempted to actively suppress information related to becoming an Operating Thetan or Xenu that has leaked in the past. The church notoriously also only grants this level of knowledge of the faith to people who reach the rank of OT3, a process that can cost many thousands of dollars and years of investment and devotion to the church. This is all something that stands in stark contrast to the creation stories of other world religions which are commonly known and openly taught.
Moving on from there, as it is the belief of many Scientologists that all humans are simply conduits for an immortal alien spirit, the most basic tenet of Scientology is simply to “survive”, first as an individual, then as a species and finally as a component of the universe itself. Scientologists then believe in something known as the “Eight Dynamics” which are defined as the fundamental aspects of life from an individual to a universe-wide macro level. The ultimate goal of Scientologists appears to be to understand life in relation to the Eight Dynamics and eventually reach the final, eighth level, which occurs when an individual Scientologist becomes one with the concept of infinity, simultaneously existing within all things… Or at least that’s our author’s understanding of the literature he read. This stuff is complicated and often a bit nebulous…
Moving on, which is hard when what we’re moving on from is a story about an ancient alien genocide using infinite hydrogen bombs in tandem with exploding volcanoes, how does one worship as a Scientologist? In short, there doesn’t appear to be any correct way to “worship” per se and individual Scientologists are encouraged to instead follow what it called the “Code of Honor”.
For the most part, members of the church are asked to keep in mind the Code of Honor while living their day to day lives, with this Code being fairly benign. In fact, most of the Code wouldn’t seem out of place plastered over a picture of a sunset being shared on Facebook by your grandmother. For example, the Code of Honor includes gems of wisdom like- “Never regret yesterday. Life is in you today and you make your tomorrow.”
And, “Be your own adviser, keep your own counsel and select your own decisions.”
However, some elements of the Code are altogether more, shall we say, unsettling given the reputation of the church and certain stories told by former members of how individuals are allegedly brutalised emotionally to make them more compliant. For example, an item like, “Never fear to hurt another in a just cause.”
Likewise entries from the Scientology Code of Honor like, “Never desert a group to which you owe your support,” and “Never withdraw allegiance once granted” have also caused some controversy among some.
On this note, individual Scientologists are purportedly expected to swear fealty to the Church and to allegedly sign billion year contracts when they join the Sea Org (a pseudo-military faction of the Church comprised of its most dedicated members) and that people who leave the church of their own accord have allegedly been harassed by current members for years after the fact. Although, to be fair on this one, openly leaving any religion can occasionally cause some harassment from those who are still participants. Humans are gonna human.
Whatever the case, this brings us to the issue of Suppressive Persons. “Suppressive Persons” is a somewhat vague term used by Scientologists to describe anyone who the church deems an “antisocial personality”, more or less an enemy of the church and its day-to-day operations. Anyone from Hitler to all psychiatrists make the list on this one. That said, officially the church’s position is that while it dislikes Suppressive Persons, it doesn’t necessarily bear ill-will against them. Unofficially, however the classification has been used as a scarlet letter to silence criticism and those who’ve been labelled SP’s by the church have, as noted previously, been allegedly stalked and harassed by more fanatical members of the church. A good example of this can be seen in the feature length Louis Theroux documentary, My Scientology Movie, which shows the titular documentarian being followed around by a camera crew allegedly sent to make a documentary on him by the Church. It’s all very meta.
In regards to psychiatrists, as Vice so aptly sums it up, Scientologists allegedly “really, really hate them” and have blamed the profession for everything from the death of George Washington to the 9/11 attacks. (If you’re curious, we cover what actually killed George Washington here.) The position of the church on psychiatry is perhaps no better summed up than by the fact that the church covertly co-founded a museum unimaginatively called “Psychiatry: An Industry of Death” demonising the profession.
In regards to social issues, the church is somewhat more liberal than other religions in some ways. For example, officially the church has no stance on either abortion of the use of birth control and contraceptives, stating: “The Church of Scientology does not mandate a position on these subjects. They are an individual’s personal choice and Scientology parishioners are totally free to decide for themselves.”
In addition, Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard once made it clear to his flock that he had no interest in what they got up to in the bedroom and would no longer seek to control or limit the kind of sex individuals had. It should be noted here that, despite this, Hubbard had previously spoke out against both sexual promiscuity as well as so-called sexual deviancy, included in this homosexuality. Of course, people can grow and change, and change their minds, but those other comments still provide a bit of controversy to this day.
Regardless, in more recent years, the church has taken a far more liberal stance, stating that they don’t discriminate based on gender, sexual orientation, race or creed. To quote: “Because people are spiritual beings, gender of a minister is not an issue in Scientology. Scientology is a meritocracy. There are no “glass ceiling” limitations based on race, gender, ethnicity or similar criteria for individuals who serve as ministers or as executives in the Church’s ecclesiastical management.”
That said, this official stance has been challenged by some who’ve since left the church and it has been claimed that homosexuals are allegedly frequently abused for their sexuality and there are allegations the church has attempted to “cure” gay members. Likewise, many former female members of the church have alleged being exposed to astonishing levels of sexism and misogyny during their tenure with the church.
In the end, in theory Scientology is a remarkably pliant and liberal religion which offers and individual almost unprecedented freedom among religions to set their own moral compass as long as they strive to live a good life. In reality, however, it has been strongly alleged that this isn’t really the case in practice, with the official teachings marred by the reputation of the inner workings of the church itself. What’s the truth of any of this? We’ll leave that for discussion in the comments below as we don’t want to get sued…. Allegedly… 😉
On this note, the author of this piece, Karl Smallwood, actually tried calling the Church of Scientology to inquire about their beliefs and get some official quotes, but didn’t really get very far because the church representative spent most of the time encouraging Mr. Smallwood to visit a local church to speak to a representative in person rather than answering questions over the phone. Being an author here at TodayIFoundOut, it should be noted that this is impossible owing to being kept chained in a basement, where our glorious leader, may he reign forever, graciously gives us nutrient supplements and coffee so that we may continue our noble work of educating the world. Our author also notes he took one of the Church’s fancy online personality tests, but couldn’t access the results because the Church of Scientology would only give them out in person, and the nearest office they had was 60 miles from the basement he is kept in. While a church representative would be welcome to come to us, Mr. Smallwood notes he would not recommend this, as it’s likely said representative would find himself also chained up in the basement and recruited for the expansion of our writing team.
On the note of recruitment, it should be noted that nobody really knows how many authors we have here at TodayIFoundOut, nor how many Scientologists there are and the church itself has repeatedly been accused of massively inflating figures related to its membership. On this note, while the church claims membership in the tens of millions, more conservative estimates based on leaked information from high ranking members of the church place the number of practising Scientologists at less than 50,000. Worldwide.
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