Note: We have started the process of reorganizing our research resources on Scientology, the Church of Scientology, and its related entities, front groups, and issues. When this project is complete, all Apologetics Index research resources on Scientology can be accessed in this Scientology topic. Until then, most of the resources will still be located here
Note: the link points to the article as archived at the Internet Archive. Retrieving the text can be slow.
After an embarrassing string of high-profile defection and leaked videos, Scientology is under attack from a faceless cabal of online activists. Has America’s most controversial religion finally met its match?
Scientology is declining, and probably is on that slow path to extinction that so many ideologies travel. It is difficult for us to recognize this trend because we are so close to events, so I will identify some causes and indicators in this chapter. The long term prognosis, however, seems clear. Now I doubt that I will live sufficiently long to see the group disappear completely, since other ideologies linger for decades, and occasionally centuries, after they have lost their vitality. Nevertheless Scientology will likely only become a chapter in a history boo when someone in the future writes about the cults, ideologies and ideologies of the late 20th and early 21st centuries. That chapter will comment on how and why it was declining, if not dying, some 60 years after it began.
I reach this conclusion about its demise and eventual death by comparing the reality of Scientology in Europe and the United States today with a model of religious success developed several years ago (and later refined) by sociologist Rodney Start (1987; 2003), based upon research that included the Mormons. Whatever we may think of Mormonism, it is one of the world’s most successful newer religions, now with over fourteen million members worldwide (if official statistics are accurate). Scientology will never reach that level of success. Globally, a high estimate of its membership may be 100,000, but probably there are far less than 75,000 or less, with numbers dropping.
Scientology leader David Miscavige has been trumpeting his church’s “milestone year,” but the mysterious religion is alienating scores of its most faithful followers with what they call a real estate scam. With anger mounting and defectors fleeing, this may be more than a fleeting crisis; it may be a symptom of an institution in decline.
Although the church claims its beliefs are not incompatible with Christian faith, an evaluation of what Scientology teaches in the areas of God, man, the creation, salvation, and death proves this is not so.
Veteran television actor Jason Beghe tells the Village Voice that the Church of Scientology will be feeling blindsided by the YouTube video of him that hit the Internet on March 14.
Long-held frustrations with the church motivated Beghe to leave Scientology seven months ago, after he had spent about 12 years in the organization as one of its most celebrated success stories. Over the course of about a year, he negotiated his “disassociation” with the church, trying to give every indication to church officials that he was parting on good terms.
In reality, he says, he was already planning to go public with damning allegations about L. Ron Hubbard’s controversial religion.
The Church of Scientology owns, by most accounts, more historic buildings in Hollywood than any other entity and is one of the community’s biggest property owners. […]
“The fact they are buying all of these expensive and historic properties — it is not surprising people are going to be a little bit alarmed by that,” says Hugh Urban, a comparative religions professor at Ohio State University who studies the organization. “When you couple that with statements Hubbard and Scientologists have made about building a new civilization, it is not surprising that people would be at unease.”
Among the hot-button points: Scientology’s designation as a religion exempts the group from paying some property taxes on buildings used for spiritual purposes (affording the church an annual savings of at least hundreds of thousands of dollars); the belief by Urban that the group has purchased the historic properties simply to imbue itself with historical significance; the claim by defectors that the historic-building program is simply part of a public relations and marketing campaign designed to bolster the church’s ranks of celebrity adherents (there are many) and distract from the group’s controversies; and issues raised by defectors about Scientology’s labor practices as they relate to the restoration of historic buildings.
The St. Petersburg Times has a long history of Scientology coverage.
• See our Scientology news tracker & news archive
• While we are reorganizing our Scientology section, additional articles can be found here.