Where prejudice exists it always discolors our thoughts -Mark Twain
Scientology describes itself as an "applied religious philosophy" addressing humankind's mental, spiritual, and physical well-being.
Note: See David John Carter's "An Essay on Scientology: Overview of the Cult's Ideology" for a concise description of Scientology's religious philosophy.
Note: See Perry Scott's The Scientology Comparative Theology page for a discussion of compatibility with other religions.
It shares some beliefs with many religions: for instance, the dual nature of humankind (immortal spirit and mortal body) and the attainment of spiritual awareness through the application of Church philosophy. Other beliefs are unique: the extraplanetary origin of the spirit and the use of an electro-psychometer ("E-meter ") in counseling sessions to measure the mental state of the individual. Scientology does not have a god figure and claims to be compatible with other religions. In reality, however, "mixing practices" is prohibited, and few, if any, other religions consider their beliefs to be compatible with Scientology's.
Do not engage in any rite, ceremony, practice, exercise, meditation, diet, food therapy or any similar occult, mystical, religious, naturopathic, homeopathic, chiropractic treatment or any other healing or mental therapy while on course without the express permission of the D of T, Case Supervisor and Ethics Officer.
-L. Ron Hubbard, HCOPL 15 Dec. 1976R. Rev 25 July 1987
Whether Scientology is a religion or not is a continuing controversy. Even the Church itself claims it is and it isn't at different times. Hubbard called Dianetics the "modern science of mental health" and claimed to have performed many scientific studies in its development, though he and the Church have never provided such data for public inspection. Hubbard later transitioned Dianetics into the Church of Scientology, supposedly for the tax advantages. Former members have testified to being instructed to wear clerical garb in order to appear "more religious".
The Church battled the U.S. Internal Revenue Service (IRS) for 26 years, attempting to obtain the tax-exempt status that other religious organizations enjoy. They were finally successful in 1993 (under questionable circumstances) and now claim to be officially sanctioned by the IRS.
In other countries Scientology has presented itself as a nonreligious philosophical or self-improvement organization (e.g., in Greece, Israel, Japan, and Mexico) to avoid problems with government regulations concerning religious groups. Germany considers Scientology to be a commercial enterprise.
For our purposes here, we will assume Scientology to be the church it claims to be.
Scientologists believe that a person is a spirit, called a thetan, dwelling temporarily in a physical body. Over many eons, thetans have forgotten their former existence as god-like beings with control over MEST: Matter, Energy, Space, and Time. Scientologists strive to return to this native state. Upon the death of the body, the thetan is recalled to an "implant station", run by evil forces (usually identified as "psychs"—psychiatrists or psychologists) to have its memory erased (the notion "to forget" is implanted) so it will remain under psych control. It is then returned to Earth, whereupon it finds and inhabits a new body.
Note: For legal reasons, the Church officially denies that its services have any medical benefits. Nonetheless, Scientologists are led to believe their physical conditions can be improved. They are forbidden to seek medical assistance without consent and Hubbard unequivocally stated that Dianetics and Scientology cure a variety of diseases and conditions. Since Hubbard is Source and his writings are Scripture, the notion of physical improvement through tech is basic Church doctrine.
At the lower levels of Scientology, such barriers consist of painful memories, called engrams. Scientologists hold the contacts (often called "cans" because of their resemblance to soup cans) of an E-meter , a device that measures galvanic skin response. The E-meter's needle movement is interpreted by the Auditor (a type of counselor) as an indication of the auditee's emotional state.
At higher levels of processing, spiritual barriers take the form of Body Thetans ("BTs"), which are the disembodied spirits of extraterrestrials who were brought to this planet millions of years ago and murdered. These spirits were then "implanted" with various false memories. Many cultural traits and customs (for instance, Christianity and Anglo-American society) are manifestations of these implanted impressions. Scientology explains that BTs cause all mental and physical problems and therefore need to be removed to allow the individual/thetan to come to the fore.
Scientology is based solely upon the works of its founder, L. Ron Hubbard (1911-1986), who is called Source. Hubbard claimed to be a writer , humanitarian , administrator , philosopher , artist , adventurer/explorer , master mariner , horticulturist , and war hero . Equally comprehensive are Hubbard's writings and lectures that make up the sacred scriptures of the Church, also called Source. There are scriptures for almost every facet of life: education, marriage, infant formula, controlling conversations, handling the media, attacking enemies, and infiltrating organizations.