What do Tom Cruise, Jenna Elfman, John Travolta, Kirstie Alley and Isaac
Hayes have in common? Successful careers? Certainly. Wealth? Definitely. Fame?
That too! And, along with six million other people worldwide, they all share
the same religion: The Church of Scientology. Actress Kirstie Alley said: To
tell you the truth: without Scientology, I would be dead. I can personally
highly recommend it. Singer Isaac Hayes said: It is the path to happiness and
total spiritual freedom. Countless celebrities have given similar
recommendations and testimonies about Scientology.
Founded in the 1950s by writer and adventurer L. Ron Hubbard, the Church of
Scientology (CoS) has claimed numerous high-profile spokespeople in the past 20
years. But, though many Americans have heard celebrities interviewed about
Scientology, very few know what its about. Many of us may have heard of
Dianetics, but that best-selling book is only the first gateway into a
strange, sometimes secretive religious organization. Reports of brainwashing,
torture and abuse have frightened some people, and constant legal battles with
the government have given them a cult-like reputation.
Wandering in the wilderness
BY KAREN PRESSLEY
For nine of my 16 years in Scientology, I lived in a remote southern
California desert valley with 800 other staffers at the International
Management headquarters. Our base was enclosed by security fences with barbed
wire. We were driven to our offices, wore quasi-military naval uniforms, could
not watch TV, could not go onto the Internet or have personal computers or
telephones. We spent 16 hours a day working at our jobs under dictatorial
leadership with no time for family life.
Women staffers were not allowed to have children. Those who had come onto
staff with children (prior to that rule) lived separately from their children
and only saw them about every two weeks. Their children were housed 10 miles
away on a remote ranch called Happy Valley and were supervised by Scientology
staff. Parents and children rarely spent time together.
Scientology security staff received and read our mail before we received it
to ensure that no external influences like friends, family or business
associates were trying to affect us or sway us against Scientology. Security
also monitored our phone calls from friends and family to protect us from being
influenced by the calls and to ensure that we did not disclose any confidential
information about Scientology affairs to our callers.
Why did I tolerate these controls and violations of my own human rights? I
was taughtindoctrinatedto believe that my dedication was the greatest good that
I could bring to help mankind by providing total freedom to the world through
Scientology. And why would such promises appeal to me? Its taken me years of
painful reflection and self-criticism to answer this question.
Scientologylike some of the other religious movements, sects and cults that
sprang up like weeds in the last half of the twentieth centurypromises its
followers they will achieve immortality in this life by following a series of
prescribed processes. This approach is very appealing to people who have a
hunger for spirituality and a desire to find answers about the mysteries of
life but who have no understanding ofor relationship withGod.
Scientology even told us that we could become god-like by following its
detailed procedures. If we did what we were told, we would experience inner
abilities we didnt know we had and achieve the kinds of success in life we
never could have imagined. Our self-esteem would continue to grow until we all
realized that we were our own divinities.
Joining Scientology was like going through a drive-through restaurant. There
was a big menu and the promise of fast service. And we were in the drivers
seatnot some ancient God who dictated a moral system that told us what was
right and wrong.
Instead, through Scientology we could follow a rational and scientifically
proven pathway through all the confusion in life, achieving total freedom from
all entrapments and experiencing total control over all aspects of life.
Years laterafter becoming a ChristianI made a shocking discovery while
reading the Bible. Scientologys promises are surprisingly similar to Satans lie
to Adam and Eve in the garden of Eden. Satan promised they could be like God if
they did what he said.
Other Biblical truths were revealed after I escaped from my life as a
Scientology staffer and eventually turned my life over to Christ. One was this:
Not all spiritual paths are equal; not all religions lead people to God. In
fact, some faith systemslike Scientologyare utterly false and destructive. Many
Biblical passages address this point, but one of the most direct is 1 John 4:1:
Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether
they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world.
False prophets are as much a reality today as they were in the first century
when John wrote those words.
How I wish I had known caring Christians who might have reached out to me
and explained the Truth in a way that was loving and sensitive. They might have
satisfied my search that had led me into a counterfeit faith that offered me a
way of making sense of my life without any real relationship with God. An
encounter with an on mission Christian could have saved me 16 years of
wandering in the wilderness.
Karen Pressley left Scientology in 1998, surrendered
her life to Christ in 1999 at First Baptist Church of Woodstock, Georgia, and
now works in Direct Evangelism at the North American Mission Board.
But what matters for Christians is not what the world or the media think,
its what God thinks. Lets examine Scientology and find out whats at the center
of this mysterious, modern American religion.
Based on the teachings of the late L. Ron Hubbard (better known as a science
fiction writer than as a religious leader), Scientology is a religion that
tries to unlock the potential of every human being. Each persons soul, called a
thetan, has the possibility of becoming divine and gaining great power. This
requires breaking free from the behaviors and constraints their own mind and
history have placed on them. Memories containing pain or unconsciousness from
conflicts in past lives are called engrams.
The goal of Scientology is to help people clear away these engrams through
special counseling sessions (auditing) so that they can find their full
potential. Hubbard believed that man is good and rejected the teaching that man
has a sinful nature. He believed, It is despicable and utterly beneath contempt
to tell a man he must repent, that he is evil.
Real life religion
The idea of breaking bad habits and having a positive mental attitude are good
goals, but Christians know that the human soul is not divine and that
repentance is necessary.
Heres how Scientologists apply their beliefs in real life.
Scientologists teach some positive moral values. They have aggressive anti-drug
and anti-smoking campaigns. Their drug rehabilitation program, Narconon, has a
high success rate. They are actively involved in education programs for
children and rehabilitation for criminals. The Way to Happiness, a
booklet distributed by the CoS, promotes a moral and ethical code that teaches
children: Honor and help your parents, dont be promiscuous, dont do anything
illegal, do not murder, and be industrious.
The Church of Scientology has had major problems practicing the values they
teach. The CoS may preach honesty and good citizenship, but they are also on
record as having more legal problems than any other major religious group. They
hold the record as the most litigious religious organization in the United
States, according to Scientology by Kurt Van Gorden in Kingdom of the
Cults. In 1977, members of the CoS were indicted for covert spying against
the United States government in an operation that included more than 5,000
Scientologists. Other even more serious charges of brainwashing members,
extorting large amounts of money, and threats made against investigators make
it impossible to trust the ethics of Scientology. Some ex-members have even
claimed to be tortured or prevented from leaving.
L. Ron Hubbard led a suspect life for a spiritual leader. Rumors claimed that
Hubbard started Scientology as a money-making scheme or a fake religion. But
apart from those, Hubbard is known for his bizarre background including
interest in the occult and black magic. Credited sources for his book,
Dianetics, include pagan shamans, Sioux medicine men and modern
psychology. Hubbard is known to have been a bigamist (he married his second
wife while still married to his first wife), and numerous quotations show his
belief in extraterrestrial life, reincarnation and evolution. Far from being a
moral role model, Hubbard seemed mainly interested in growing the wealth of his
organization by any means necessary. He even claimed that lying, cheating and
violence were acceptable to use against opponents of Scientology, even though
his other public writings contradicted that.
The Even More Ugly
The CoS has many marks of a cult. Besides bizarre beliefs, the Church has
raised suspicions about the ability of members to leave without restraint.
Members are often isolated from their families and drained of their personal
savings through psychological manipulation. (See sidebar Wandering in the
wilderness, p. 38.) The devotion of members is given not to a living God and
His Word, but rather to the writings of one man, L. Ron Hubbard. The fact that
members often pay to receive spiritual services such as auditing also raises
Sharing with ScientologistsForget about hype youve
read in celebrity magazines or any of their propaganda about themselves that
might intimidate you. The simple truth is they are lost, they are separated
from God, and most likely they have never heard the gospel.
Listen and be lovingThe most important thing is not
to be curt, short, cold or antagonistic to them. The only way theyll accept
anything you say is if you are different by demonstrating Gods love through
your attitude toward them.
Pray for themPray that God would convict them of
their sin. Pray that their eyes would be opened to the truth. Pray that their
hearts would be softened to the gospel. And pray that they would be protected
from the Evil One.
Determine their level of involvementIf they are new,
they have not been as heavily indoctrinated as they will be by the time theyre
at the state of Clear. Find out if theyre satisfied with their services and how
much money they have spent trying to find out the truth. Let them know that,
although they are being told they have to pay to find total spiritual freedom,
receiving eternal life through Christ is a free gift from God.
Terms to know
ClearA person free of engrams. All Scientologists
aspire to become Clear. Until that point, they are known as pre-Clear.
E-MeterA device used in auditing sessions (similar to
counseling) to help identify engrams, often compared to a type of lie
EngramMental-image pictures of past events which
contain pain and unconsciousness, considered the reasons for failures and
unhappiness in life. The goal of Scientology is to erase engrams.
M.E.S.T.The Scientologist expression for matter,
energy, space and time. Operating Thetans are not restricted by these
components of the universe.
ThetanThe spirit or soul: who the person really is. A
person is a thetan with a body and a mind. An Operating Thetan is a Clear
person who has fully realized his or her divinity.
Establish personal relationshipsAllow them to get to
know you a bit, so they can see how much you love the Lord and learn the
changes He has made in your life. Encourage them to tell you about their
background before they became Scientologists, find out what led them to their
involvement in Scientology and why they were searching. As with any member of a
false religion or cult, its important to demonstrate your commitment to God and
your genuine desire to have a relationship with that personnot as a convert,
but as a friend.
For more information, or to receive a Belief Bulletin about
Scientology and other cults, contact Interfaith Evangelism at the North
American Mission Board, email@example.com.
Comparison of beliefs chart
Most believe in a Supreme Being, but it is up to the individual to decide
who or what that being (or beings) is.
There is only one God. He revealed Himself in the flesh as Jesus Christ and
seeks a relationship with us (Deut. 6:4; John 1: 1-14).
A great teacher and man of compassion.
Jesus is the Son of God and Savior of the world.
Selected writings of L. Ron Hubbard.
Old and New Testaments are Gods Word (2 Timothy 3:16-17). Nothing else has
the same authority.
Man is basically good; only engrams are bad.
Man is created in Gods image, but is born sinful (Romans 3:10).
The reactive mind, composed of engrams.
Man is unable to keep the law of God (Romans 3:23). Unlearning bad habits or
behaviors is good, but cannot save us.
Auditing until the person is cleared of their reactive mind and achieves
Salvation comes through accepting Christ by grace through faith (Romans
Rebirth (reincarnation) until the thetan (soul) is liberated from the
constraints of matter, energy, space and time.
After death, all people will face Gods judgment based on their relationship
to Him (Revelation 20:12-15).
William G. Wells is an editor on the
Mission Education Team at NAMB.
A Southern Baptist Convention entity supported by the Cooperative Program and theAnnie Armstrong Easter Offering® ©Copyright 2013 North American Mission Board, SBC