Scientology: Religion or Racket?

Second of Two Parts


Joseph Martin Hopkins is associate professor in the Department of Bible and Philosophy at Westminster College, New Wilmington, Pennsylvania, where he received the B.Mus. He also holds the B.Th. (from Pittsburgh-Xenia Seminary) and Ph.D. (University of Pittsburgh).

The Founding Church of Scientology in Washington, D.C., is in a rather shabby row house. The living room has been converted into an office and bookstore, the double-size dining room into a lecture hall, and upstairs bedrooms into offices and classrooms. But despite this architectural nonconformity, to say nothing of its utter rejection of theological considerations, Scientology persists in calling itself a church. Moreover, it makes a special pitch to Christians by attempting to harmonize the teachings of founder L. Ron Hubbard with Scripture. Forty-four pages of the booklet Scientology and the Bible are set up in parallel columns with this objective. That often there is not the remotest correspondence between the Hubbard passages and the accompanying biblical quotations may be seen in the following examples:



THE FACTORS. 3. The first action of beingness is to assume a viewpoint.

St. John 1:5---And the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not.


St. John 5:17---But Jesus answered them, My Father worketh hitherto, and I work.

AXIOM 1. LIFE IS BASICALLY A STATIC. Definition: A Life Static has no mass, no motion, no wavelength, no location in space or in time. It has the ability to postulate and to perceive.

St. John 10:28---And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand.


Luke 4:32--37 (in which Jesus exorcises a demon from a man in the synagogue).


St. John 19:5--11 (Jesus before Pilate).

Although all these examples are from the New Testament, numerous comparisons from the Old Testament are given as well, the vast majority of them from the Book of Proverbs.

Absent from Scientology practice are the basic constituents of the Christian religion: reverent faith, prayer, worship, reading of and preaching from the Christian Scriptures, observance of the sacraments as instituted and explained in the New Testament.

But if Scientology is not a bona fide religion, what is it? An organization of quack psychologists who are exploiting the emotionally and mentally distraught for financial gain? This appears to be the consensus of the critics. When Scientology was banned in the province of Victoria in Australia, a government report described it as "the world's largest organization of unqualified persons engaged in the practice of dangerous techniques which masquerade as mental therapy." The report continues: "The theories of Scientology are fantastic and impossible, the principles perverted and ill-founded, and the techniques debased and harmful. In an article in Today's Health, Ralph Lee Smith concurs:

Couched in pseudoscientific terms and rites, this dangerous cult claims to help mentally or emotionally disturbed persons, for sizable fees. Scientology has grown into a very profitable worldwide enterprise . . . and a serious threat to health. . . . Scientology is a cult which thrives on glowing promises that are heady stuff for the lonely, the weak, the confused, the ineffectual, and the mentally or emotionally ill [Today's Health, December, 1968].

In 1963 the Food and Drug Administration raided the Founding Church and impounded 100 E-meters and books labeled with "therapeutic claims charged to be false." In February, 1969 the U.S. Court of Appeals overturned a Federal Court ruling supporting the Food and Drug Administration "until the Government can refute the claim that Scientology is a religion . . . protected by the right of freedom of worship." Judge J. Skelly Wright ruled, that until proven otherwise, the Scientology practice of "auditing" must be assumed to be comparable to the Roman Catholic confession, and Scientology literature comparable to Holy Scripture.

Articles exposing Scientology as a dangerous fraud relate numerous examples of persons who claim they were swindled by unscrupulous Scientologists. The Saturday Evening Post tells of a Florida millionaire who was fleeced out of $28,000 in processing fees in less than two years. According to Today's Health, a Los Angeles housewife marched angrily into court with the charge that she had spent $4,000 for Scientology processing "on assurance that it would help her overcome frigidity." The ironical outcome of her investment was that her husband divorced her. And Alan Levy, in the November 15, 1968, issue of Life, tells of his reportorial pilgrimage to Saint Hill (a sprawling English manor, thirty-one miles from London, that became Scientology's international headquarters in 1959) to enroll in an advanced course advertised at $390. Upon arrival he was informed that the cost of tuition alone would be $3,150, "plus living expenses, payable in advance." (Had the Scientologists smelled a rat?)

Founder L. Ron Hubbard's financial relationship to the Scientology enterprise has come under investigation. When world headquarters were moved to Saint Hill ten years ago, Hubbard imposed a 10 per cent assessment on all fees collected by Scientology centers across the world, payable to him. At that time the annual take by the Founding Church alone reportedly approached $200,000. In 1966 Hubbard received a $240,000 fee from the movement for "the good will of his name" (Time, August 23, 1968). Two years later he "forgave" the organization a $13 million debt for "services rendered," a move described by Time as an "understandable act of charity considering that he has boasted to friends of having $7,000,000 stashed away in two numbered Swiss bank accounts." When the organization ran into stormy weather in the British Parliament, Hubbard bailed out and headed for the Mediterranean on his 3,300-ton yacht, with its blue-uniformed crew of 200 sailors and students. There he dabbles in oceanographic research while the furor created by his controversial brainchild continues unabated. In August, 1968, he cabled Saint Hill, "I have finished my work. Now it's up to others."

Even if we assume complete honesty and sincerity on the part of its practitioners and promoters, Scientology must be viewed as a dangerous and menacing cult---psychologically, socially, physically, and spiritually.

Psychologically. Submitting to dianetic processing for the treatment of deep-seated anxiety or emotional disturbance is like going to the village butcher for a gall-bladder operation. Psychologists have condemned the technique as "amateurish and potentially dangerous meddling with serious mental problems" (Today's Health, December, 1968). Just how "auditing" endangers mental health may be seen from this description in the article in Today's Health:

Instead of discussing present reality, the auditor wishes to push the preclear into a world of fantasy. . . . When the preclear is eager to cooperate, is fully under the sway of the auditor's will and the apparently scientific verdict of the E-meter, he accepts the auditor's statement that he is suppressing something even if he can't remember anything. Sooner or later he begins to exhibit symptoms resembling those of schizophrenia. These symptoms are encouraged; the preclear is given to believe that the hallucinations he is experiencing are factual incidents of the thetan's past, and that his discovery of them is the high road to health and freedom.

Socially. British Health Minister Kenneth Robinson warned that Scientology is "socially harmful." It has been so judged because it was formerly the practice of Scientology auditors to counsel "disconnection" in cases of "familiar suppression." In my interview with Miss Anne Ursprung, head executive of the Founding Church, she assured me that the church, evidently bowing to criticism, no longer advises this. But Scientology is socially harmful for other reasons. Through the combination of interior group loyalty and exterior rejection, Scientologists have developed the self-image of a persecuted messiah sect. This has resulted in hostility toward those who find fault with their beliefs and practices. For of the ten resolves in "The Code of a Scientologist" stress this sensitivity. Perhaps the tenth, "To engage in no unseemly disputes with the uninformed on the subject of my profession," explains why Miss Ursprung, subsequent to our interview, has refused to respond to my repeated efforts to contact her by mail and by telephone to obtain further information. During the interview, I asked her reaction to the numerous attacks on Scientology in the press. She observed that Scientology, like Christianity in Roman times, is a new religion---radically different, often misunderstood, and therefore persecuted.

Another liability of Scientology is its utter lack of social concern. It could hardly be criticized for this omission were it to abandon the pretense of being a religion. But to pose as a church, while neglecting the responsibilities of a church in the community, nation, and world, is reprehensible. Scientology offers society nothing except an expensive and highly dubious method of psychotharpy, the goal of which is self-improvement, self-mastery, personal happiness. The door to salvation is shut to those who cannot afford to pay the price of processing. Nothing is said about the plight of the poor, the sick, the homeless, the oppressed.

Also socially harmful is Scientology's unscriptural law of retaliation. "Never fear to hurt another in a just cause," admonishes the Code of Honour. And the Scientology code contains the pledge, "To punish to the fullest extent of my power anyone misusing or degrading Scientology to harmful ends." Apparently the Scientologist is to be his own judge, jury, and policeman.

Physically. According to Hubbard's "non-germ theory of disease," most of the diseases that plague mankind, including arthritis, allergies, sinus infections, ulcers, tuberculosis, cancer, and even the common cold, are psychosomatic and can be cured through Scientology. The subtle deception of Scientology is that there is just enough truth in it to make it work in many cases. If, as one of the Doctors Mayo once said, 70 per cent of our ills are mentally induced, then any method by which afflicted persons can be persuaded that they are being helped or cured will prove effective. This, of course, is the key to the success of Christian Science, Unity, hypnotism, and even much healing that takes place through orthodox Christian channels. The danger in these approaches to physical disability is that the afflicted person will abandon professional medical treatment in favor of mental therapy and thus expose himself to the possibility of disastrous physical and mental consequences.

Spiritually. Scientologists' veneration of Hubbard approaches Christians' veneration of Jesus Christ. Pictures of him and quotations from his writings adorn the walls of the various classrooms and offices of the Founding Church. A sculptured bust of Hubbard is displayed prominently at the front of the lecture hall. Hubbard evidently is considered infallible in matters of Scientology belief and practice. Answering the charge that the sect is therefore authoritarian, Sir James Hort replied, "You're free to disagree with him, and if you do that's fine---Scientology is not for you." With such an authority, who needs the Bible? Scientology further asserts that only it can rescue man and the world from the predicaments in which they find themselves. With such a savior, who needs Christ? Scientology inculcates the notion that man is the master of his own destiny---that the engram-erased brain is capable of overcoming all obstacles and solving all problems. With such a mechanism, who needs God? Scientology offers gnosticism as a substitute for the Gospel.

As Paul deplored the legalism that diverted the Galatian Christians from the doctrine of salvation, by faith alone, so evangelicals must deplore those false premises that divert Scientologists from God's grace in Christ: the naïve assumption that our human nature is untainted with evil, that man's computer-brain is capable of errorless understanding and judgment, that perfect knowledge automatically produces perfect behavior, that human repentance and divine grace are unnecessary, and above all that God (most Scientologists will grant his existence) is really irrelevant to the human situation.

Scientology: religion or racket? Or is there a third option? Is it instead an organization of theologically disoriented persons who, in the absence of intelligent understanding of and commitment of Jesus Christ and his Gospel, have fallen prey to a false gospel of spurious knowledge and vain methods of self-improvement? Our churches must assume a share of responsibility for the situation that has given rise to this and indeed all other heretical deviations of our time. For the cults, as J. K. Van Baalen has said, are "the unpaid bills of the church." It is doubtless true that many of Christianity's dropouts are turned off by the Gospel itself and not merely by the churches. But it is also true that the standard denominations, generally speaking, have been guilty of promoting a crossless churchianity that demands practically nothing of its members. Is it possible for a person to unite with the church and remain a church member for many years without knowing Christ, Christian doctrine, the Bible, and the true meaning of Christian discipleship? Tragically, the answer is yes.

I asked Anne Ursprung whether the transition from Christianity to Scientology had involved much shifting of gears on her part. She replied that it had not, that even as a Southern Baptist she had always been convinced that man's nature is basically good. What is the answer? A tightening up of church discipline? An educational campaign to combat biblical ignorance and doctrinal confusion? A return to fundamentals in home training, pulpit utterances, youth programs, and community and world outreach? All these. But above all, exercise of extreme care that those inducted into church membership, particularly young people, have a genuine experience of Christian conversion---and that beyond their initial commitment they are nurtured into maturity of Christian faith and life. In these ways---and only in these ways---the churches can help to prevent the erosion of their membership by Scientology and other misguided and misguiding cults.

Hopkins, Joseph Martin. "Scientology: Religion or Racket?" Christianity Today 7 November 1969: 6-9; 21 November 1969: 10-13.

[Part One]

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