all your thetans are belong to us

Scientology is a dangerous cult ran by abusive people. But UFO religions in general might be the future of organized faith on Earth.

teach the controversy scientology
Illustration by Amorphia Apparel

Gawker is probably not the most definitive source of news out there, but they do have a very interesting video of a big Scientology gathering, and by interesting, I mean disturbing. The head of the organization and former assistant to its founder, David Miscavige, claims that Scientology now has exactly 1,020,480,489 followers all over the world. How? That’s hard to say since Scientology is primarily a phenomenon of the Western world in which most people ascribe to some form of Christianity. To get a following that would put Scientology on par with Islam in popularity requires the equivalent of nearly everyone living on the European continent and half of the United States converting to their cause, but Scientologists don’t let little things like plausibility ruin their fun.

Scientology gets plenty of ridicule for a wide variety of reasons, from the paranoia of its managers, to its lack of rudimentary public relation skills, to the fact that it’s a profit driven hybrid of a corporation and a religious cult based on a poorly written story of a talentless sci-fi writer, which isn’t doing it any favors. The movement’s followers are often shunned and ostracized for enabling the rampant profiteering at the organization’s senior levels and the excessive exploits of its leaders have been thoroughly documented in very unflattering tones. Miscavige’s self-aggrandizing and aggressive rallies are not going to be doing the Church of Scientology any good for the foreseeable future because outside communities packed with its followers, Scientology is what’s known in the business world as a damaged brand. The only reason it’s still around is because it makes more than enough money from selling its pseudoscientific services to justify its existence.

But there’s an interesting point to consider about Scientology. The movement is young as far as religions go. We know who created it, how and why when we start criticizing it. However, why does the exact same scrutiny applied to this sci-fi faith become blasphemy when we apply it to older, more established religions? That was the question posed by Marina Hyde in The Guardian in October. Admittedly, her summary of Christianity was a simplification of esoteric and very elaborate traditions of ancient Judea being metamorphosed into something new as the kingdom was being crushed by the Romans and their proxy kings. However, back in its day, what we now call Christianity was a just tiny cult, members of which were shunned or simply dismissed. It took an emperor who channeled great amounts of money and good press to the movement to establish it as a formal religion in its own right and give it a platform from which to grow into one of the dominant global theologies.

And that leaves us with what may seem like a bizarre and outlandish thought. Could an enduring Scientology movement which survives our ridicule be one day just as big as Miscavige wants it to be in his fantasies and become a major religion centuries from now, empowered by world leaders who follow its tenets or think they can harness the zeal of movement’s followers for their own goals like Constantine did in 313 AD?

# oddities // history / pop culture / religion / scientology

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