The rise of Scientology as a religion
Around the world, many scientists still debate on the term Scientology. More specifically, there is a debate between USA and Germany regarding Scientology as a religion or religious claims. Many of the scholars researching on this subject keeps on attending the events associated with Scientology in order to examine the term and many of them have concluded that Scientology is religious in nature. For example, a respected British sociologist of religion Bryan R. Wilson (1962) found that Scientology must indeed be regarded as a religion. In his work he compared Scientology's belief system with 20 features generally found within what he called "known religions". The religious scientist also dismissed the historical information of the era of 1950s about Dianetics, which shows that Dianetics is a mental therapy and Scientology a science. The work of Kent, 1997 and Miller, 1987 shows that Scientology is a kind of religion as they found this as a marketing device which helps in generating returns and against this money no one has to pay taxes. In addition to this, there is no intervention of government against it for allegedly practising medicine without a license. However, in those countries in which the Scientology wants to enter, it is facing strong opposition. In such region they claim Scientology as an institution and not a kind of religion. Still, most of the Scientologiest claims this practice as a kind of religion and view their commitments as a religious one. From legal as well as scientific perspectives, no can can claim any institution as religion merely on the belief in supernatural beings and even if the doctrines or the origins of the system are highly suspect. Further, as the devotion of followers was a far more prominent reality than legitimacy, so, Maz Weber also excluded charlatans from his identification of charismatic figures. Weber specified three types of charismatic figures, the third kind of charismatic figure were those who were represented by (the founder of a major faith) and are very sophisticated swindler. Moreover, from the perspective of social science, a system can be believed to be religious if there is presence of supernatural elements supporting the system. The social science does not give much importance on the accuracy of the supernatural elements. Apart from Weber many other social-science scientist such as Atack, 1990; Kent, 1996; Miller, 1987 also exposed many religious founders who believe their institution to be a kind of religion.
The studies on this topic shows that even if Scientology cosmology and soteriology are considered to be a kind of religion because of its supernatural elements, there are very thin chances that the society and the government will grant Scientology a religious status for gaining various societal benefits. Many people view Scientology as a multifaceted transnational corporation and not a religion because it has a single element of a religion. Apart from supernatural elements, a religion must also have a secular dimension related to pseudo-psychiatric practice, social services, pseudo-medical practice, cultural productions, business operations, political aspirations and alternative family structures. One of the most salient features of Scientology is the totalitarian.
The most serious problem an individual finds while making a judgement regarding the religious nature is lack of availability of a particular and adequate definition of religion. Till date many scholars have given various definitions of religion and in short all such definition can be broadly divided into two main groups. The one group of definition consists of those in which cultic organizations are considered for defining religion and the second is that group which considers the way of life for defining the religion.
In the views of some of the scholars around the world, there are three criteria that a system must meet in order to determine its religiosity, and Scientology meets all the three requirements. These requirements are a belief in some Ultimate Reality, such as the Supreme or eternal truth that transcends the here and now of the secular world; religious practices directed toward understanding, attaining or communing with this Ultimate Reality; and a community of believers who join together in pursuing this Ultimate Reality. The concepts which come under the Ultimate Reality transcending the material world of Scientology is that of the thetan and the dynamics which consist of the world full of spiritual beliefs and thoughts (which is the seventh dynamics); and the Supreme Being (which is the eighth dynamics). The Scientology life rite ceremonies such as naming, marriage and funeral services includes the second element. However, Scientology tries to enhance its spiritual awareness and makes an attempt to understand both; spiritual world and Supreme Being through the religious services of training auditing. The third element is of vital community of believers and it is found at any church of Scientology at any point of time in the entire day. Thus, the believers feel that Scientology is a religion and is the most traditional sense of the term. The main feature of Scientology is that it helps human beings to become aware of their deeds and spiritual nature, and in addition to this, it makes them aware of God and nature and behaviour of people around him. Scientology is a form of religious tradition in which people are practicing for the last thousands of years in order to embrace the truth written in the holy books such as the texts of the Vedas and the wisdoms of Buddhism. Like all other religion, the main motive of Scientology is also the dream of peace on the earth and the salvation of man. The only thing that distinguishes Scientology from religion is that it offers a precise path for bringing about spiritual improvement in the world with absolute certainty.
Professor Ninian Smart, founder of the first Religious Studies Department in England and Professor of Religious Studies at the University of California, Santa Barbara suggested a model for differentiating between a religion and some similar form of social organization. As per Smart, a religion should include most of the elements if it is not possible to include all the elements. He defined it as "a set of institutionalized rituals identified with a tradition and expressing and/or evoking sacral sentiments directed at a divine or trans divine focus seen in the context of the human phenomenological environment and at least partially describe by myths or by myths and doctrines".
Irving Hexham conducted a study to find out whether it is right or not to call Scientology a religion and in his survey he found that Scientology qualifies as a religion in terms of Stark and Bainbridge's definition. The scholar referred several literature and survey a small sample of the population in order to reach to this conclusion. Thus, on the basis of the two of the widely acceptable definitions of the religion, there is no doubt that Scientology is also a kind of religion. The scholar further found that the religious aspect of Scientology has been increased in the last two decades or so.
One cannot differentiate between a good religion and a bad religion or a true religion or a false religion. Same goes with the Scientology. Scientology cannot be true or false, neither it can be good or bad. It is just another kind of religion. Some of the scholars felt that as a Christan they do not believe in the concept of Scientology, as a belief system which is at par with that of traditional Christan teachings. However, none of the teaching such as the teachings of Buddhism, Mormons (Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints) or any other affiliated religion will regard these views as dogmatic and narrow. Still, Irving Hexham feels that like all other religion, Scientology is also a kind of religion and thus it deserves equitable treatment under law.
Scientology is more than a system of belief, it is an applied religion which plays a significant role in the life of the community and congregation. It enlightens the lives of human beings by the way human beings practices a religion which delivers higher spiritual ability and understanding and in addition to this, it provides practical solutions to all the real life problems that a man can face in his day to day life. In the deepest and most traditional sense, Scientology is a religion and this system is concerned with the full rehabilitation of man’s innate spiritual self, capabilities, awareness and immortality and his relation with the god. Scientology also believes the same fact that man is put here to work as per his own salvation and by doing this regularly he will be able to connect to the Almighty. This term further state that salvation drives the human beings and basically all the persons on the planet are equal and good. Furthermore, the term Scientology emphasis on attainment of brotherhood with the universe. Man has to solve his problem own, Scientology will just provide him a means so that he becomes capable enough to overcome the problems.