Saturday, July 04, 2009

Will Scientology Survive?

Church of Scientology of Hamburg (Scientology ...Image via Wikipedia
Someone found the Beacon recently by using "will Scientology survive" as a search term. It's an interesting question because it gets to the heart of the problem with much of the criticism of Scientology. Let's have a quick run through the state of the church at present.

The Church is currently using its reserves to pay for new buildings, advertising, legal representation and other PR efforts, but that not very much of this is translating into "raw meat". Added to that, it seems that many people are fleeing the church not out of a rejection of Scientology beliefs but because they have issues with the way their church is being managed, be it the allegations about slappy Miscavige or resentment at the fact that having spent a small fortune on Hubbard books and courses they are being told that these courses and books were wrong, and that they would have to pay out another small fortune again to replace them. Public scientologists appear to be becoming more outspoken from individual perspectives; the level of control that once existed in the church is weakening as Scientologists embrace the internet not to, for example, deny the existence of the OT3 mythology in the scriptures, but to defend the existence of the mythology. We can only assume that this is because, for all of Miscavige's posturing, he is no longer able to command respect, obedience and "duplication" from his parishioners. Scientology is an unlocked cage, and it appears that more and more people are trying the door out for size.

But this is not Scientology, this is the Church of Scientology. Most hardened, long-term critics, despite believing that much of Scientology's belief system is nonsense, even dangerous nonsense, nevertheless realise that people are free to believe what they want. Occasionally these beliefs will spill over into behaviours that are dangerous or threatening, but that is a discussion for a different day. What is crucial here is that the problems Scientology currently have stem from the church and not the belief system. Admittedly, due to Hubbard and Miscavige's micromanagement, the line between the church and the religion is uncommonly slight, but most Scientologists will recognise that undergoing auditing is a religious observance of a different quality to cleaning windows with newspapers or forgoing air freshener.

The problems stem from the church, but they also belong to the church. The church here is the ongoing concern, which is an interesting difference that Scientology has to a lot of other religions. Anyone can pick up a bible and become a Christian. It's independent of any kind of organisation. Christian churches obviously help, by offering community, confirmation and religious services, but none of these are integral to a belief in Christianity. And as much as the Church of Scientology would have you think otherwise, the religion of Scientology can exist independently.

This is what makes such an irony of the Church's bleating about religious persecution when society makes attempts to curtail its less ethical behaviour. The legal case in France, for instance, is about fraud, not about belief. The ISPN numbers that have been banned from editing Wikipedia were banned not because of belief but because of a group of people breaking the rules governing the editing of Wikipedia pages. Believe what you like, but the same rules apply to you as apply to everybody else. It really is that simple.

That's why one of the most fruitful things you can do when confronted with Scientologists waving about their freedom of religion is to ask them where they stand on the Freezone. The Church of Scientology has, without the authority to do so, placed itself in a position where it and only it can declare who is and isn't a Scientologist. It's for the individual to claim that, not the church. That's the true spirit and meaning of religious freedom, but the Church does a great deal to prevent people outside the church from pursuing that religion. They talk the talk of religious freedom but they certainly don't walk the walk.

You would assume that any Church would welcome believers, whether or not that belief is expressed within its organisation. It's certainly true that believers of whatever faith seem to get along better than believers and non-believers. So why does the Church of Scientology differ? It's because the belief system of Scientology within the church is not based on "free faith". People do not come to Scientology and develop a deep-rooted belief in its view of the universe without a great deal of pressure and control. These are, and lets be candid, cult mechanics. These mechanics are embedded in the workings of the Orgs. If you take Scientology out of the Orgs then, although it is not completely free of manipulative tricks, it will need to be a much more robust philosophy if it is to survive. More to the point, if you take Scientology out of the Orgs then suddenly the RTC has been divorced of a source of revenue.

But it is the money stream and the control that is at the heart of all the trouble that the Church is currently up against. The thing that is an attempt to keep the Church going is the same thing that is seeing its membership dwindle and its coffers run dry. Unless it reforms, it will fail.

But the existence of the Freezone, and the fact that a fair few (but not, I suspect the majority) of those who leave the Church still class themselves as Scientologists suggests that, although it won't necessarily be in rude health, the religion itself will survive the organisation that invented it.

1 comment:

  1. Scientology is a sad cult. I predict that Tom Cruise, in the next 10 years, will modify his unflagging support of this failing cult. Wake up people!!


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