The Mask of Scientology

On the first of October swedish television broadcasted a report concerning the front organizations of the Church of Scientology on the show “Uppdrag granskning” (Mission: investigate). Now the report has been annotated with English subtitles, and I’m happy to present it to all of you.

The Church of Scientology has as their policy to convert everyone to their faith. In addition, they explicitly motivate people to create support and public trust for the faith. This is done through different “front” organizations. In Sweden a number of municipalities have been tricked into buying their services without knowing of the ties to Scientology.

The facade

While watching the report I could not avoid noticing the similarities between Scientology and the “established” faiths, such as Christianity and Islam. Is there realy a difference between a cult and a religion?


28 Responses

  1. Well, faceless Roger, I looked it up and Merriam-Webster’s Online Dictionary defines a cult as “1: formal religious veneration : worship 2: a system of religious beliefs and ritual ; also : its body of dherents
    3: a religion regarded as unorthodox or spurious ; also : its body of adherents 4: a system for the cure of disease based on dogma set forth by its promulgator 5 a: great devotion to a person, idea, object, movement, or work (as a film or book) ; especially : such devotion regarded as a literary or intellectual fad b: the object of such devotion c: a usually small group of people characterized by such devotion”

    So in my own opinion, no, there are no differences. However…the truth of this question can not be found only in my answer. I think there are no differences. My very religious mother would tell you the difference is that cults find false Gods in whom to worship and they are sinful whereas religion and belief in God is good and right.

  2. Looking it up in a dictionary were ambitious I’d say. Ok, from these definitions one, two and three applies to this context. Take special note of the third, “a religion reguarded as unorthodox or spurious”. Compared to what?

    By stating other religions gods are false your mother fail to analyse her own religion from a neutral point of view. Your mother and myself are both atheists, I just go one god futher 🙂 .

  3. i’m no expert, but i’d say the biggest difference between religion and cult would be that cults are started and revolve around one person that is the active leader. just like in rock and roll….you ain’t worshipped until you’re dead!

  4. well, I’d wager to say that the devoted do not find JC or his Papa to be inactive leaders. With “miracles ” happening all the time and God’s presence whenever it suits you to say it is there…

    I think I’m offended for my mother. She’s close minded, judgemental and afraid to think beyond what she’s ever been told, but I would never say she’s an atheist. She is a monotheist and doesn’t like to explore questions that could challenge that. In my experience, that is the make up of the “truly religious”.

  5. I think it has to do with age. How long the belief system has been present in a culture marks whether it’s a cult or a religion. For example, the LDS church has been around a while now, and I think most would agree it’s made the leap from cult to religion.

    There’s a writer called Isaac Bonewits who wrote what he calls the “Advanced Bonewits Cult Danger Evaluation Frame” or ABCDEF.

    It’s a tool designed to help people decide whether a particular religious group (or similar) is similar to dangerous cults.

  6. A cult doesn’t necessarily need to have a leader with any special property. The roman catholic church have a pope, yet is commonly defined as a religion.

    I think age is only a correlation to the distinction, the real causation is the social acceptance of a belief. Christianity is a religion because most of us have been taught to accept and respect its claims.

    Megan: I don’t understand why you would be offended on your mother’s behalf, especialy since I didn’t make any personal attacks.

    My only point were that she holds all other religions to be incorrect, thus she is atheistic in regard to them. Note that atheism isn’t another religion, I’m not saying she isn’t a beliver of christianity. Atheism is simply to refute religious claims, and is a word that in one sense idealy shouldn’t be needed as discussed in another post on the blog.

    But if she understands why she thinks other religion are incorrect she should understand why I thinks all religions are incorrect.

  7. How many religions do you know of that declare people as “supressive persons” and make the rest of the followers disconnect from them.
    How many religions do you know of that file suits so damned much.
    How many religions do you know of that use Private Investigators to spy on people that are critical of said religion.
    I worked for them, they are a cult, no question about it.

  8. Well, not all religions are equal, but I know that followers of islam reward doubters of islam with a death sentence..

  9. In my view, cultic behavior is showing destructive behavior (as victim or perpetrator) when a religion shuts down critical thinking abilities and puts ‘group’ goals above people’s well-being.

    All religions have cultic fringe elements. Take the Catholic (?) monastries for example where you are not allowed to speak. Or take Roger’s example about Islam. However, mostly because they have to fight for their place, new religions tend to be more intensely cultic. Scientology for example is almost 100% cultic. This by itself is not bad, but it does constitue a huge risk, in that it almost inevitably leads to abuse. In its extreme, it are the Heaven’s Gate/Jonestown/Waco mass suicides. However, Scientology is pretty bad in this respect. You’ll find there is significant abuse of members and critics if you care to read up about it (see my link).

    You would expect the cultic elements to lessen, as the religions grow and gain credibility. However, I strongly believe Scientology will NOT become less cultic if it were to grow (it’s shrinking at the moment). To understand why, one needs to understand that all cults and religions use the same (roughly 10) phychological ‘tricks’ to lure people into cultic behavior. Examples are: taking people out of their social life, repetative chanting/exercises, drilling a new vocubulaire, vicious reaction when people show doubt, lovebombing, group think and letting people believe they are superior.

    My point is that Scientology founder L Ron Hubbard, once he found out how to do this, scripted this process and integrated it deeply into his philosophy. He than issued a decree that these procedures are to be followed literally. As an example, per POLICY members are forced to disconnent from critical family members (SP/PTS). It is for this reason that Scientologists can indoctrinate new members without the guru being around.

    It also means that Scientology, in my opinion, is an inherently dangerous, immoral and harmful organization.

    Some governments recognize this (Belgium, France, Germany, Greece, Russia and Kazachstan are monitoring/banning them). However, the most significant abuse and criminal activities takes place in the US and US goverment isn’t doing a damn thing about it.

    A shame.

  10. “taking people out of their social life, repetative chanting/exercises, drilling a new vocubulaire, vicious reaction when people show doubt, lovebombing, group think and letting people believe they are superior.”

    Except for perhaps the lovebombing, that sounds like the Marines!

    Any veterans wish to comment?

  11. You left out the “confusion technique” which is so prevalent in the $cientology doctrines. A confused person has their conscious mind busy and occupied, and is inclined to draw upon unconscious learnings to make sense of things. Confusion might be created by ambiguous words, complex or endless sentences, pattern interruption or a myriad other techniques

    To quote ol’ LRon:

    “Now, if it comes to a pass where it’s very important whether or not this person acts or inacts as you wish, in interpersonal relations one of the dirtier tricks is to hang the person up on a maybe and create a confusion. And then create the confusion to the degree that your decision actually is implanted hypnotically.”

    L. Ron Hubtard Lecture

  12. Their recruitment methods resemble those ads on TV that promise endless wealth if you join Amway or a similiar pyramd scheme. Just sustitute complete freedom for endless wealth. In any case the wealth and freedom are just illusions.

    Their leaders speak just like any CEO out of corporate America. Very calm and resonable. Its just that the truth is left out.

    Their ethics is that the end justifies the means.

    Now some questions:

    Do they still use typewriters in Sweden?


    Is Scientology Doctrine actually laid out in comic book form?

  13. Upstate: interesting analogy.

    Of course we don’t use typewriters, save for special cases such as in the documentary. Obviously the reported opted to create a certain atmosphere in his movie.

    I would guess the doctrine would be layed out as a document, but who knows.. Anyone with direct knowledge here?

  14. Hi all,
    I am Italian, I am a scientologist by more than 10 years (as you can see I am not died and I still have the money to pay an internet connection).
    I sincerely don’t think there would be need and/or possibility to classify Scientology. The dictionary definitions can fit some of the characteristics of Scientology but the point is that in Scientology there is no blind belief…
    Nothing is imposed… nothing is believed because LRH has written it.
    Anything is experimented by each person: you decide if it’s like that for you and if you can use this in your own life. That’s why this is more “technology” than religion or cult.
    I have tried to find a religion in my life that could give me “answers” but answers I could understand myself and not imposed things: “You have to believe”… I found it in Scientology.
    This is not an ADV, believe me.
    The only thing I wish – in the name of God – is that anyone will have the possibility to look one time in his life to what Scientology really is: not on the internet but reading a book or simply looking at a video: the problem nowdays is that many people are blind and many others are working to make them more blind. I coud accept a friend that has studied 1 book saying me “This is a scam” but I don’t accept people who don’t even know what it means “Scientology” to spend one word on it.
    Each step I make in Scn I do it with the 1st time criticism and I don’t even know which will be the benefits I will get in details… but things happen..
    Thank you for this space and for reading: Look with your own eyes!

  15. Our Italian friend has got some things right and some things wrong.

    He is wrong in claiming critics do not know Scientology. In fact, most critics have read a lot of scriptures, though they focus on the advanced courses. They are, I’m sorry to say, the uncoherent babblings of a deranged fanatic. I once took up a random manuscript determined to read the whole of it. It happened to be ‘False purpose rundown’ (Google this + Wikileaks to find it). It is about his amazing discovery that 20% of all people are psychotic (including journalists and government people), and that this is because they have hidden crimes for which psychiatrists are somehow to blame. I am not joking unfortunately.

    He is right in that Scientology has very useful tools. Besides a conman and a madman, Hubbard was also a genius. He picked up some usefull and down to earth courses here and there and put them in the beginning on your journey as a Scientologists.

    The mind control techniques mentioned earlier are than used to get you to extrapolate the gains of these courses into a rocksolid belief that the crazy advanced stuff will give you super powers.

    For example, what Italians is writing is a very good example of the confusion techniques that Sally mentioned.

    Oh..and Italian implied that critics do not know the meaning of Scientology. It means the study of truth. Catchy isn’t it?

  16. Italian: So, how much have you spent during your 10 years? Haven’t you ever reflected over the fact that what you describe as a personal search requires personal investment? I find it strange moral and spiritual philosophy would require anything but reflections of ideas.

    If there is no blind faith or imposing how come a disturbingly high amount of defectors speak of manipulation and threats, and why are they and those critical to scientology pursecuted?

    Scientology is centered around a certain tale, which were presented in the documentary. If you haven’t watched it please do so in order to answer my question in the case you haven’t reach the required step. What are the proof that this tale is true?

    There is no need to belive anything rediculus in order to form a sound moral base and find spiritual insight.

    Btw, if you have been given access to the central doctrine, is it a document, or a comic? (I’m asking in all seriousness)

  17. “While watching the report I could not avoid noticing the similarities between Scientology and the “established” faiths, such as Christianity and Islam. Is there realy a difference between a cult and a religion?”

    If there was no difference between a cult and a religion, then all religions would be cults, and all cults would be religions. Yet any serious study of cults shows that many of them have no religious component at all — the political cult of Lyndon LaRouche, for example, or the many “therapy cults” which have existed through the years which claim to have the sole secrets of physical and/or mental health and demand obedience from followers in return for bestowing these health benefits. (It’s worth remembering that Scientology operated in exactly that fashion, promising the benefits of the so-called “modern science of mental health” and physical benefits such as protection from radiation sickness, for years before Hubbard decided to pursue what he called “the religion angle”.)

    If not all cults are religions, then clearly yes, there is a difference between a cult and a religion. The defining characteristic of a religion is simply the nature of the ideas at the religion’s core. The defining characteristic of a cult, by contrast, is not the nature of the ideas but the manner in which the ideas are used as a tool to exert power over the followers for the benefit of the leadership.

  18. Hmmm… Antaeus, I still don’t see much of a difference, — other than a difference of “intensity”…

  19. To Sally: where did the quote come from exactly? Name of lecture?
    Date of lecture?

    To Dave O’Maley – Could you please name the critics you speak of?

    Just trying to get specifics here.

  20. […] by Antaeus Feldspar « Bottle Shock: 4 BPA Free Water Bottles Endure Torture Testing … […]

  21. Tyson Koska —

    “Hmmm… Antaeus, I still don’t see much of a difference, — other than a difference of “intensity”…”

    Well, I pointed out that there is a fundamental difference in what makes a religion a religion and what makes a cult a cult. But if the only difference you see is a difference in “intensity”, I would still suggest that it’s misleading to consider that “[not] much of a difference”.

    After all, is there any married person in the world who does not, at some point, do or say something thoughtless and insensitive that hurts their partner? I think we can agree that there is no such thing as such a perfect marriage partner who *never* does such a thing. Therefore, what is the difference between the best possible marriage partner, who does such things very seldom, and the most vicious and abusive marriage partner, who not only does cruel things to their spouse on a regular basis, but does them deliberately and with malice aforethought — except a difference in “intensity”? And yet in reality there is all the difference in the world between the partner who loves you and wants to nurture you and sometimes makes a mistake, and the partner who sees you as trash to be mocked and abused for their entertainment.

    Tina —

    It seems to be one of the “Technique 80” lectures that LRH gave in Phoenix, AZ: 20 May 1952 “Decision.”

  22. Antaeus: If you mean established religions doesn’t use their ideas as tools to enforce leadership over followers, then I must have unknowingly been living on another planet until now.

    We are not free to redefine words as we see fit. Most people agree things like homopathy is not called religion, and great devotion to someone/thing use a different meaning for the word “cult”. We could use the more general word dogma, which means to hold something without or contrary to evidence.

    But let’s assume your argument holds. Clearly Islam is a prime candidate to be categorized as a cult as even moderate belivers interpret the quran literary. But in practice it is called a religion. This speaks to the argument that cults are called religions when they have been accepted by a majority.

  23. To Tina:

    Basically there are four types of critics:
    1. Academics (like Toureztsky and Hunt). I should point out that there is also a body of scientists (google cesnur), that we call cult-apologists, who are of the opinion that the cult problem, to the degree it exists altogether, is a self-fullfilling myth created by the cult critics. The discussion in this thread is in fact one of the oldest still ongoing academic debates in existence. Read they apostacy article on wikepedia for more info on thisl.

    2. Ex-members. They are certainly knowledgeable, alhough one could doubt their truthfulness. In my view, the Scientology horror-stories, tend to be truthful because they are very consistent and underwriten by policies which have been leaked to the internet.

    3. A group of mostly young people called Anonymous, of which I am a member. Their names are not known, and my name is in fact not Dave. They operate Anonymously in order to stay safe of the cult’s intimidation tactics (google fair game). Italian’s critique that critics do not know the first thing about Scientology is aimed at them, as we are mostly young and new to the anti-cult scene. Although we always have new members, who are still reading up, I say that thousands of Anonymous member have by now a bacholor level of understanding about how mind control works and how cults operate.

    4. Old Guard, the name bestowed upon non-academic critics by Anonymous. They have sometimes been volunteering as a cult-critic for decades. Most have dedicated that time to building up huge reposatories of incriminating evidence against the cult on various websites. Example are Andreas Helal-Hund who runs and Mark Bunker runs

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