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Doctrines of Scientology

Doctrines of Scientology

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Published by Flower
Religious scholars faced with the question of how to define religious practice in today’s changing and pluralist society have examined the essential characteristics of all faiths and how these factors are manifested in the Scientology religion.
Religious scholars faced with the question of how to define religious practice in today’s changing and pluralist society have examined the essential characteristics of all faiths and how these factors are manifested in the Scientology religion.

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Published by: Flower on Apr 30, 2008
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any consider they alreadyknow the answer to thequestion, “What is areligion?”The definitions employed from oneperson to the next almost always aredefined by personal religious heritageand experience, yet history has demon-strated that this perspective is a perilousone. Such approaches have given us theCrusades, the Spanish Inquisition, hun-dreds of years of bloodshed in the Netherlands and elsewhere in Europe,and the troubles of Northern Ireland.
More commonly, restrictive app-roaches to defining religion lead to lessviolent but nonetheless equally destruc-tive forms of discrimination and other
 Religious scholars faced with the question of how to define religious practice in today’s changing and pluralist society have examined the essential characteristics of all faiths and howthese factors are manifested in the Scientology religion.
DefiningReligion ina PluralisticSociety
violations of human rights — particu-larly against members of new or unfa-miliar faiths.For centuries Western thinkersapproached the subject from the uniqueperspective of Judeo-Christian tradi-tion. This approach revolved aroundtwo fundamental but related doctrinalconcepts — a belief that there is a per-sonal creator God separate and distinctfrom man, and that man’s highest activ-ity is the worship, supplication and ven-eration of this god. If a set of beliefs didnot manifest these doctrines, it was notregarded as a religion.This doctrinal approach alsoreflected the way Western scholarsanalyzed religious thought and prac-tice from the very beginning of civi-lized society until only relativelyrecently. For hundreds of years theterms “religion” and “Christianity”were virtually synonymous. HenryFielding’s sarcasm in “By religion Imean Christianity, by Christianity Imean Protestantism, by ProtestantismI mean the Church of England asestablished by law” aptly caught theprevailing belief of the times. In fact,England refused to treat Judaism as aproper religion for purposes of charitylaw until as late as 1837.This deceptively simple standard bywhich religions were judged not onlyclosed the doors to many religions butopened the doors to persecution —underscoring that “defining” religion isfar more than an issue of academic con-cern. From it, uneven treatment, dis-crimination and even violence haveflowed.Fortunately, as contemporary societybecame more global and the variety of religious expression in the West blos-somed, scholars and others began to
cover that the doctrinal approachcould not be applied easily to religionsnot grounded in the Judeo-Christiantradition — a discovery that eventuallybrought about an enlightened changein view. The inherent bias of the tradi-tional approach to defining religion was
Churchof Scientology
It is the Eastern view that all religions, despite diversebeliefs and practices, are merely different paths leading tothe same ultimate reality. As an ancient Japanese poemstates, “there are many paths at the foot of the mountain,but the view of the moon is the same at the peak.”
particularly obvious when indigenousor Eastern religions were at issue, sincemany of them either have no God orSupreme Being, let alone a personalcreator God, or tend to view religion asan integral part of everyday life.Indeed, in many indigenous reli-gions there is little belief structure, andsome Eastern religions such as ZenBuddhism and Hindu Bhakti view doc-trine as ancillary and even a hindranceto spiritual advancement. Moreover,how could anyone deny the religiosityof Theravada Buddhism and Jainism,which have no Supreme Being, whenboth predate Christianity by five cen-turies? What of the many Hindu sectswhich, while recognizing numerousgods, clearly subordinate them to theultimate goal — union of the “Self”with the “Absolute”? And what of Taoism, which cannot be defined butonly “discerned,” or Confucianism,where character is the goal and wis-dom the path to attaining it?
Modern religious scholars nowagree that the test for religion mustbe objective and cannot be based onconcepts drawn from any one partic-ular tradition. Use of a definitionthat is biased toward a particular reli-gious tradition is certain to discrimi-nate among religions, and has indeedresulted in varying levels of religiouspersecution. Rather, experts havebroadened their view to achievewhat Professor Bryan Wilson, ReaderEmeritus in Sociology, OxfordUniversity, calls “ethically neutraldefinitions” consisting of “elements[which] came to be recognized asconstituting religion, regardless of the substance of the beliefs, thenature of the actual practices, or theformal status of the functionaries intheir service.” In this way a religion’sbeliefs and practices can be inter-preted fairly and without bias.
There still are many different waysof defining religion. In more recentyears the trend has been toward analy-sis through “comparative religion,”which approaches the understandingof a religion through cross-culturalcomparisons of its component parts.This approach and the context fromwhich it developed are discussedbelow.
Defining Religion ina Pluralistic Society

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