I had an interesting comment from Lawtears which I would have published if it hadn't linked to his profile and his anti-Scientology blog. (See my rules about what I publish).
What he said was this: At the anonymous demos, there's guys there that will say scientology is a cult because X,Y,Z happened. What I'd love to know is what your X,Y,Z is, that makes scientology NOT a cult. What are these 3 things (or give me more or less) that make you sure that, yes, scientology is the way for humanity and not a cult?
First of all let me say that Scientology is the way for people who want it. Religion is not something you can force on people. It's been tried in the past and it has brought only misery and suffering. Just look at the last 2,000 years of history alone for many horrible demonstrations of that.
Now we come to the "C" word, "Cult". If we are going to discuss that word then we should define it so we know what we are talking about. Until not very long ago, the mid-1970's in fact, the word "cult" meant: 1. Attentive care; homage; worship. and 2. A system of religious belief and worship. (See Webster's 1913 dictionary: Cult.) In the late 1970s the word was changed to have a sinister meaning. I recommend you read this article on how that happened, it is extremely enlightening: The Lies Behind Bigotry (Chapter 1).
After its redefinition, the word "cult" didn't have a clear cut definition but it had very clear cut connotations. A "cult" was a bad thing, a nasty thing, an evil and destructive thing. It was something to run away from screaming. You may think I'm being funny, but actually those are the concepts that have become associated with the word.
So for the purposes of this discussion let's use the definition given by the Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance: Cult (you'll have to scroll down to almost the bottom of the page to find it).
The definition I'll use for this discussion is the one they say is used by the "anti-cult movement", which is: a small, evil religious group, often with a single charismatic leader, who engage in deceptive recruiting, brainwashing and other mind control techniques
So let's break that down.
small - Scientology is not small. The number of Scientologists around the world is a disputed figure, the Church estimates it at 10 million , anti-Scientology elements say it is much less. However, if you take a look at two things: a) the number of Scientology Churches, Missions and Groups (7,500) and b) the amount of press on the subject. You'll have to admit that it isn't "small".
evil - that is such a difficult word to deal with, isn't it? One man's meat is another man's poison. I can only refer you to what is in Scientology books and what is on the Church's website. Take an unbiased look and decide for yourself. I'd suggest you start with the Scientology Video Channel and then move to Scientology Basic Books.
often with a single charismatic leader - L. Ron Hubbard was our "single charismatic leader" for many years. I personally don't know why having a "single charismatic leader" is a problem. Didn't Christianity, Islam, Buddhism and many other religions have the same? Don't musical groups, corporations (e.g., Apple) and other groups have "single charismatic leaders"? If you want make that something bad then go ahead.
who engage in deceptive recruiting - If you want to know what Scientology is all about then go to the Scientology Home Page or buy a Basic Book or watch the videos on the Video Channel. It's all there. I'm sure that anyone with the ability to read can figure out if Scientology is something they want to be "recruited" into at that point. There is no deception. What we believe is all out there.
In fact no one is allowed to take Scientology services unless they themselves have made the decision to. For example, if a child is being pressured by parents to take a course in Scientology and the child isn't interested then the kid will not be allowed to take the course. It is against the rules of the Church for a person to take services unless they have chosen for themselves.
Before you can take any major service in a Scientology Church you will be asked if you are there on your own determinism. If you are not then you won't be allowed onto the service.
who engage in ... brainwashing and other mind control techniques - this whole idea of "brainwashing and other mind control techniques" has been completely debunked in the USA. The use of such terms as "Magnetic attraction, compulsion, captivity, enslavement, kidnapping" first began in the 19th century when the Mormons were attacked by mainstream Christian bigots. This vile tradition has continued and was given a fresh coat of "scientific" paint in the 1970's by such disgraced "experts" as Margaret Singer and the old "Cult Awareness Network". You can read a very thorough academic analysis of this in the article: "Brainwashing": Career of a Myth in the United States and Europe
Another article which examines these ideas is: Conversion and "Brainwashing" in New Religious Movements. It's a long article so you have to be seriously interested in the truth to spend the time to read it.
Another article which sums up and links to a huge amount of evidence is: "Liar, Liar": Brainwashing, CESNUR and APA
So according to the experts there is no "brainwashing and other mind control techniques".
Finally, the "cult" word also has the connotation that the target of the word is not a religion. There are innumerable religions experts who have written papers on the religious nature of Scientology: More Research on Scientology.
Heck, even the IRS has recognized Scientology as a religion. You may not like the IRS, but one thing you can't fault them on is sticking to the rules they create. They make a rule, they enforce it. They examined the Church of Scientology and they gave it a clean bill of health.
Also, governments and courts of law all over the world have recognized the religious nature of Scientology: Governments and courts of countries worldwide recognize the religious character of the Church of Scientology
So, that's my answer. What do you think?