What Is Scientology?

What Is Scientology?

And how is it different from Christianity?
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Q. What is Scientology? How does it differ from Christianity?

A. Thanks to Tom Cruise and other celebs, Scientology keeps popping up in the news. Tom famously dissed psychotherapy, Brooke Shields and some childbirth practices because of his belief in Scientology. Isaac Hayes, who was the voice of Chef, reportedly quit South Park after an episode put Scientology in a bad light. What exactly is Scientology?

Scientology was popularized by writer L. Ron Hubbard, who back in the 1930s was writing science fiction stories. Reader's Digest quoted Hubbard in the 1940s saying, "Writing for a penny a word is ridiculous. If a man really wants to make a million dollars, the best way would be to start his own religion." By the 1950s, Hubbard did exactly that by writing a book called Dianetics. The book explained the main concepts of Scientology. And the religion has indeed become a money-maker. Church of Scientology members are expected to pay fixed donation rates that have brought great wealth to the church.

The church is highly secretive about many of its beliefs and practices. But it's a seemingly scientific religion that tries to improve a person's spirit, which Scientology calls the "Thetan." Each person's Thetan, they believe, is damaged or suppressed by traumas and negative memories called "engrams."

Engrams are removed by an "audit," a one-on-one session with a trained Scientology counselor using a device similar to a lie detector. In an audit, you unburden yourself and eventually become a "Clear." An official inquiry in Australia found that auditing involves a form of hypnosis that takes "positive authoritative control" over the patient that the committee called "dangerous."

For Christians, Scientology is troubling because there is no understanding of Jesus as Lord and Savior, no need for redemption from sin, and no recognition of the personal God who loves us and longs to have a relationship with each of us. Those are big differences.

Marshall, a former pastor, is editor of Leadership Journal, a magazine for pastors.

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