Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Scientology: How is it a religion?

JR said in a comment ... it doesn't seem like a "religion" to me. It seems more like a philosophy, or a self-help program. So where does the "faith" come into the equation? (the full comment is here)

Hey JR,

You ask a really good question.

Most people in the West were brought up in the Judeo-Christian tradition and so they quite naturally think of religion in Judeo-Christian terms. This tradition revolves around two fundamental concepts — a belief that there is a personal creator God separate and distinct from man, and that man’s highest activity is the worship, supplication and veneration of this god.

So when a religion comes along that isn't like that, people raised with those concepts have a hard time seeing it as a religion.

Luckily for Scientology there are plenty of existing, recognized religions with long histories, that don't follow the Judeo-Christian norm. In the East there are religions that don't have any god and some that have almost no belief structure. Examples would be Zen Buddhism, Hindu Bhakti, Theravada Buddhism and Jainism. The last two have no supreme being yet predate Christianity by five centuries.

So Scientology is more comparable with Eastern religions than Western religions. In fact most Scientologists regard Buddhism as the existing religion most similar to Scientology, and most religious scholars agree with that.

If you want to get the full concept of what I'm talking about above then there is an entire book on the subject online here:

- Scientology: Theology & Practice of a Contemporary Religion (HTML)
- Scientology: Theology & Practice of a Contemporary Religion (PDF)


SomethingNice said...

It's also important to point out that Dianetics (in 1950) started out as an effective approach to the mind (and "mental image pictures" in the mind), gradually building into the larger (applied, practical) philosophy of Scientology. Around 1952-1954, when the spiritual nature of life became too obvious to ignore, it became a religion and the Church of Scientology was founded in 1954.

If the books are studied and applied in sequence, the growing spiritual discoveries leading to the religion of Scientology becomes more obvious.

"Here we had mental image pictures, and up to that time I had been studying them and their behavior... [then] I found out what was looking at the pictures. And described it ... and found myself suddenly in the field of religion, whether I wanted to be or not, there I was. Very simple - the human soul was the fellow ... man was his own spirit."

L. Ron Hubbard, interview with Dr. Stillson Judah, Professor of Religious History, in "Ron: The Philosopher, The Rediscovery of the Human Soul", pages 39-40

Only Love Can Do That said...

Hello! I'm a Buddhist, and I would disagree that we have "almost no belief structure." Many branches of Buddhism have been developed over the centuries, but all of them to my knowledge believe a great many things which are very important to them.

For instance one common & very core belief of Buddhists is the Four Noble Truths. We believe that these are true, and even that they're noble! Often people get distracted by the first one, "There is suffering." This is not the whole story of Buddhism, just a basic acknowledgment that there is a certain problem to life, a restlessness of the human spirit.

The second truth is a little more reassuring: "The origin of suffering is craving." Buddhists believe that it's possible to figure out where all this suffering comes from, to trace it to its root. So at least we can find out what's going on here. When you look at the root of every suffering, you find that it comes from craving, desiring, wanting, trying to make or keep solid that which is truly fluid. Life can only change, so suffering emerges every single time you try to make it stay the same.

The third truth is brighter yet: "There is an end to suffering." Buddhists believe that it's possible to go right to the root of suffering, and to solve it. We believe there are people in history who have solved the problem of life and gone beyond their own suffering, who we call "buddhas", meaning simply ones who are awake. So this truth is meant to be an inspiration, to apply oneself and see if we just can't solve this thing.

The fourth truth is the happiest truth of all: "The solution to suffering is the Eightfold Path." Not only can it be done, but the way to do it is known, held right in hand. We Buddhists believe that we have found a way out of the jungle of suffering. Not bending too much toward any extreme, not putting "the width of a piece of rice paper" between ourselves and the experienced truth of life, with sincere effort and continued concentration, we believe that our true nature can be found.

Grahame said...

Hey "Only Love",

That's very cool data on Buddhism.

I think Buddhism is great. IMHO I think much of what you find in western religions has its roots in Buddhism and Hinduism.

On the amount of "belief structure" - all things are relative. I think if you compared what is in your branch of Buddhism and compare it to most branches of Christianity you'd find that there are a lot more beliefs in Christianity (e.g., miraculous things that happened to Christ in the Gospels, the existence of angels, devils, heaven, hell, etc.). But I'm no expert so I could be completely wrong.

BTW, I don't have a problem with a religion having beliefs or not. I think religion is a vital and intimate part of human existence and religions such as Buddhism have kept the light of hope burning in this world for millennia.

J.R. LeMar said...

It's funny. Last year I did a blog on Myspace about Scientology and one my friends commented that he had read Dianetics years ago, and that it reminded him of Buddhism. And he pointed out that many people question whether or not Buddhism is a "religion" as well, since the only otherworldly belief they seem to have is reincarnation, which I think Scientologists also share. But I know even less about Buddhism, I just have one little book of quotes from Buddha.

I'll check out those links later on.

SomethingNice said...

"Scientology's closest spiritual ties with any other religion are with Orthodox (Hinayana) Buddhism with which it shares an historical lineage. But even here the relationship is based mainly on friendship and the recognition of the being as a spirit rather than on any organizational ties."

L. Ron Hubbard, "Religious Philosophy and Religious Practice", The Organization Executive Course, Volume 6, page 517.

"Hinayana 'hi-nu'yaa-nu or 'hee-nu'yaa-nu
"A major school of Buddhism teaching personal salvation through one's own efforts"